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Title: Life's Basis and Life's Ideal: The Fundamentals of a New Philosophy of Life

Author: Rudolf Eucken

Translator: Alban G. Widgery

Release date: September 14, 2013 [eBook #43719]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Marius Masi, Greg Bergquist and the Online
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Translated by W. R. Boyce Gibson
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And by W. R. Boyce Gibson


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First published December 1911
Second and Revised Edition, February 1912











I. Statement and Criticism of individual Systems of Life


(a) The Older Systems


1. The Religious System


2. The System of Immanent Idealism


(b) The Newer Systems


1. The Naturalistic System


2. The Socialistic System


3. The System of Æsthetic Individualism


II. Consideration of the Situation as a Whole, and Preliminaries for Further Investigation


(a) The Nature of the New as a Whole and its Relation to the Old


(b) The Condition of the Present


(c) The Form of the Problem






I. The Main Thesis


(a) The Ascent to the Main Thesis


1. Man as a Being of Nature


2. The Growth of Man beyond Nature


3. The Inner Contradiction of the New Life


(b) The Development of the Main Thesis


1. The Main Thesis and the Possibility of a New System of Life


(a) The Development of the Spiritual Life to Independence


(b) The Demands of a New System of Life


(c) The Spiritual Basis of the System of Life


(d) Human Existence


(e) Results and Prospects


2. The Transformation and the Elevation of Human Life


(a) Aims and Ways


(b) The Nature of Freedom


(c) The Beginnings of the Independent Spiritual Life


(d) The Transcending of Division


i. The Spiritual Conception of History


ii. The Spiritual Conception of Society


(e) The Elevation of Life above Division


II. The More Detailed Form of our Spiritual Life


(a) The Problem of Truth and Reality


(b) Man and the World


(c) The Movement of the Spiritual Life in Man


(d) The Emergence of a New Type of Life


1. Life’s Attainment of Greatness


2. The Increase of Movement


3. The Gain of Stability


(e) Activism, a Profession of Faith


III. The Spiritual Life in Man in Conflict and in Victory


(a) Doubt and Prostration


(b) Consideration and Demand


(c) The Victory




Introductory Considerations


I. Requirements for the Form of Life as a Whole


(a) The Character of Culture


(b) The Organisation of the Work of Culture


II. The Form of the Individual Departments


Preliminary Remarks


(a) Religion, Morality, Education


1. Religion


2. Morality


3. Education and Instruction


(b) Science and Philosophy


(c) Art and Literature


(d) Social and Political Life


(e) The Life of the Individual







With the consent of the author the title “Life’s Basis and Life’s Ideal” has been adopted for this translation of “Die Grundlinien einer neuen Lebensanschauung,” with the hope that thereby the purpose of the work will be more directly indicated than by a literal translation of the German title. It is hoped, further, that the title adopted will make an appeal to the general reading public. To make such an appeal is not the desire of every writer on philosophical subjects: but in the present instance it is the case. The author feels that he has a message for the present time, and one that is vital to the true interests of all. It has been remarked, and the present writer would be among the first to acknowledge the truth of the statement, that the voice is that of a prophet in the sense of an ethical teacher, rather than that of a philosopher in the more technical sense. Nevertheless, the use of a philosophical terminology, and the constant implicit reference to the results of philosophical endeavour in the past and present, combined with the peculiarities of the author’s own views, make it difficult to understand his message. To non-philosophical readers who are not already acquainted with the more popular works which have been translated under the titles of “Christianity and the New Idealism,” “The Life of the Spirit,” and “The Meaning and Value of Life,” the present work will appear of considerable difficulty. Difficulty in such a work is, however, by no means necessarily an evil, for it may compel more careful reading and thought. The present work is the latest and best general statement, by the author, of his philosophical position. By some reference here to certain ideas, principles, and aims of the philosophy, the attention of the reader may be drawn to those aspects which, in personal contact with the author, one comes to feel are regarded by him as of most importance. It is not invariably so, but in this case to know the man is to gain immensely in the power to understand and appreciate the message. He inspires us with his confidence and enthusiasm, even when we have doubts as to the adequacy of his philosophical creed. His philosophy is, indeed, the outcome of an attitude of life. To know the man is to understand more fully than from all his written works what he means when he speaks of the development of personality and spiritual individuality. Whatever may be the value of what is written about Professor Eucken’s position, no substitute can be found for reading his own words in as many of his different expositions as possible.

Should anyone seek in this work for a systematic discussion of philosophical problems on the lines of traditional Rationalism, which, though often assumed to be dead, still asserts a strong influence upon us, he will not only look in vain but will also lose much that is of value in that which is offered. The aim of the philosophy is not to discuss the basis and ideal of thought, but to probe to the depth of life in all its complexity, and to advance to an all-inclusive ideal. The starting-point for us all is life as we experience it, not an apparent ultimate, such as the cogito ergo sum of Descartes, the I ought of Kant, or the pure being of Hegel. At the outset, therefore, it is necessary to note the nature of the relation between philosophy and life. Philosophy arises within life as an expression of its nature and general import. Life may assume various forms, may be, that is, of different types; with different individuals and societies it is organised in divers ways. Life so organised, having certain definite tendencies, is called by Professor Eucken a system of life. In the philosophies of life which arise in these types or systems of life, life becomes more explicitly conscious of its own nature. Further, a philosophy of life is also a means of justification and defence of one system of life in opposition to other systems. Life as experienced, as organised in some way, is prior to any definite intellectual or conceptual expression of it. On the other hand a type of life may be influenced and modified by changes in the accepted philosophy of life, or by the adoption of a new philosophy. A philosophy, therefore, is to be judged by the system of life it represents and by its spiritual fruitfulness. As the roots of the differences between philosophies are in the systems of life from which the philosophies arise, the conflict is primarily not between theories, but between systems of life. The ground of the author’s general appeal thus becomes apparent. The problem is a vital one; in one form or another, at one time or another, everyone is faced with it: how shall I mould my life? And it is here that we must insist upon the importance of Professor Eucken’s contention that we have to make our decision for one system of life as a whole, and thus for one philosophy of life as a whole, as against other systems and other philosophies taken as wholes.

Life as experienced is a process, a growth; and in this growth it oversteps the bounds of the philosophy in which at an earlier stage it expressed itself, and according to which it strove to fashion itself. The need for a new philosophy is then felt. Generally, the need is for a philosophy more comprehensive and more clearly defined than any of the previous philosophies. Now, Professor Eucken contends that none of the philosophies of life which are common among us in the present time are adequate to represent and guide our life at this stage of its development. He calls us to turn for a few moments from the rush and turmoil of modern life to “come and reason together” as to life’s basis and ideal. In justification of his view, and in accordance with his own principle that we must start with life as we experience it, he considers in the first place the common philosophies of life of the present time in relation to the systems of life from which they spring. Few will disagree with his negative view that Religion—at least as ecclesiastically presented—Immanent Idealism, Naturalism, Socialism, and Individualism involve limitations, and sometimes unjustifiable tendencies and claims, and are inadequate to satisfy the age. His next and chief endeavour is to indicate the direction in which a new philosophy is to be sought, and also tentatively to sketch the outlines of such a philosophy. In the nature of the case—as life is a process—no such philosophy can be regarded as complete. It can and should strive to take up into itself all that is of value in the discarded philosophies. Any attempt to outline a “new” philosophy will be judged by how far, with the incompleteness on all hands, it takes the different threads of life, and blending them into a unity aids their growth individually and as a whole.

Brief reference maybe made here to an attitude, common in the present time especially among English-speaking peoples, which the author does not explicitly mention. I mean the attitude of Agnosticism. This, he would contend and it would seem rightly, is in the main theoretical and does not, as such, correspond to or represent a system of life. The agnostic’s system of life is formed of aspects of the systems discussed, with a strong tendency to Naturalism. The case of Huxley, who coined the term Agnosticism, is an excellent example: notwithstanding his frequently insisting with considerable force upon truths essentially idealistic, no one can doubt the predominant naturalistic tendency of his thought. As a rule the adoption of the attitude of Agnosticism is an attempt, as Dr. Ward has so clearly and forcibly argued in his “Naturalism and Agnosticism,”1 to escape from the difficulties of Naturalism, which in the end it betrays. Agnosticism is, in fact, only an assumed absence of a theory of life. Professor Eucken would insist that the instability of the position is intolerable in actual life. Life’s demand for unification, for consciousness of a meaning and a value, drives us beyond it. “Mere research,” he writes, p. 272, “can tolerate a state of hesitation between affirmation and negation; it must often refrain from a decision in the case of special problems. Life, however, cannot endure any such intermediary position; for life, such hesitation in arriving at a decision must result in complete stagnation, and this would help the mere negation to victory.”

The great objection to all the systems of life mentioned is that they are too narrow, and in some aspects superficial. The new system must unite comprehensiveness with depth. The insufficiency of intellectualism is now generally recognised: the desire of the age is to do justice to the content of experience. Though the new system of life is to include all that is of value of earlier systems, it is by no means an eclecticism, for it has its integrating principle. This we shall best see by considering the method and the result of the philosophy. Life as experienced has already been referred to as the starting-point. To whatever extent we may seem, on the surface of experience, to be under the antithesis of subject and object, when we probe deeper we recognise that both are within life: they are a duality in unity. Here again reference may be made to the above-mentioned work2 of Dr. Ward, in which probably the best exposition in English of this same truth is to be found. Life as experienced is not simply the empirical states of consciousness: its basis lies deeper. The method of the philosophy is in consequence described as noölogical in distinction from the psychological method, which treats of man out of relation to a world, and ends with the examination of psychical states; and from the cosmological method, which treats the world out of relation to man and aims chiefly at comprehension in universals of thought. Expressed in another way, life is fundamentally spiritual. Self-consciousness is the unifying principle: it is only by relation to life as self-conscious that we can predicate meaning or value. All that is regarded as true and valuable in all the above-mentioned systems presupposes this relation. The self-conscious life is not to be confused with the subjective life of the “mere” individual. In fact, there is no “mere” individual, for in all there are tendencies which transcend the limits of individual experience. For example, life includes the relation of man and world; and the life of society is more than a mere sum of the lives of the individuals. Perhaps a more correct way to state the author’s position is to say that the individual shares the self-conscious, or, otherwise expressed, the spiritual life which transcends nature, the individual, and society. This world-pervading and world-transcending self-conscious life—the Independent Spiritual Life—may be regarded as an absolute or universal life. The pursuit of the ideals of truth, goodness, and beauty carries us far beyond considerations of the welfare of the individual, or the society, or even humanity as a whole. In our activities we often attain something quite different from and far better than that at which we aim. Nevertheless, unless truth, goodness, beauty, and all tendencies leading to them are self-consciously experienced they have neither meaning nor value: viewed universally, they presuppose the Independent Spiritual Life. The highest development of the spiritual life known to us is personality, our “being-for-self,” which is not to be identified with subjective individuality. We are not personalities to begin with, but have the potentiality to become such through our own effort. Personality is our highest ideal: in it, as self-conscious experience all other values for us are included. The author calls us, therefore, from that excessive occupation with the environment in which we forget ourselves, to spiritual concentration and the pursuit of spiritual ideals. The spirit of his message may be expressed in words familiar to all: “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul.” Remembering that life is fundamentally self-conscious or spiritual, it may be said that life’s basis and life’s ideal is life itself—life completely self-conscious and following out its own necessities. The basis of man’s life is the Independent Spiritual Life which is appropriated but not created by him in his striving for a comprehensive and harmonious personality. The ideal of man’s life is such a personality. The more man “loses his life” in the pursuit of the ideals of truth, goodness, and beauty, the more surely will he “save it,” the more comprehensive, harmonious, and spiritual in nature will he become. Then he will realise himself as a personality, and become conscious of his unity with the Independent Spiritual Life. The dominant Idealism of this philosophy of life is evident: but the meanings of truth, goodness, and beauty are different from what they appear to be in many of the older presentations of Idealism. Truth, goodness and beauty are not abstract ideals but concrete experiences. The present writer has long been of the opinion that much of contemporary idealistic philosophy, including that of Professor Eucken, might be better termed Spiritualism than Idealism.

If life as experienced is a process, it is not difficult to understand that importance should be attributed to history. In the author’s exposition not only is constant reference made to historical development, but the nature of history is made a definite subject of discussion. I would call attention to this aspect of the author’s work: it appears a means of doing more justice to the content of experience than is done in most forms of Idealism. On the one hand a Rationalism which tends to shut out the historical as transient and merely appearance is avoided, and on the other a Historical Relativism which denies all stability and permanence is strenuously opposed. While the absolute and eternal—the Independent Spiritual Life—is the presupposition of the temporal manifestation of the spiritual life in man, for man the historical is real. The form of our spiritual life is due to our own acts and decisions. It is in this connection that the fundamental nature of our spiritual effort may best be seen. The author’s voice is that of a prophet in so far as his whole exposition is presented as an endeavour to arouse men from their apathy and from the pursuit of what they themselves know to be unsatisfying ideals. The importance attached to spiritual effort in his philosophy leads Professor Eucken to adopt the term “Activism” as a definite philosophical badge. The activistic note is evident throughout, much more so perhaps in the present volume than in those which have preceded it. The significance of this emphasis is most clear in its bearing upon our relation to the past and the present. The present is neither to be dominated by the past nor sacrificed to the future, but the past is to be appropriated by our activity in the present, and the present, while possessing reality and value in itself, looks forward to the future. Historical content, spiritual endeavour in past, present, and future, must be unified by a common task. The past is ours only so far as we appropriate it. Spiritual inheritance is not the same as natural inheritance. We may by our spiritual effort adopt or reject ideas or a system of life which have come to us from the past. The character which the past will have for us will depend on our present spiritual condition. All spiritual progress involves a break with the past. In the same way we may take up an attitude of antagonism to the confusions which exist in modern life, and we may follow a new course. All this is not to deny the value of history in itself and for our present efforts: the reverse of such a denial is nearer the truth. For if we realise the depths and independence of our own life we are not only in a position to understand and appreciate the movement of history, but, by the nature of life, we are then driven beyond the mere present. The past relives with a new spiritual meaning in the consciousness that makes it its own. History is more than a succession of facts; it must be revalued as a present experience. Life is not subjectively individual, and to realise it we must find our place in universal tendencies which are working themselves out in history. The content of history cannot be pressed into the narrow scheme of moral effort and attainment, as that is usually conceived, but in it all spheres of life assert their independent right. History is not an evolution of categories, but a conflict of concrete realities, of systems of life, of personalities. Though the great man cannot be understood out of relation to his time, he is not simply a product of the social environment. The great man strives to raise the time to his own level. It may be said that in order adequately to appreciate the author’s position in regard to history the book translated into English under the title of “The Problem of Human Life as viewed by the Great Thinkers from Plato to the Present Time” should be read in the light of the general principles of his philosophy. The reality of evil and of antitheses in life are fully acknowledged; but by the spiritual life being thereby called to assert its independence and to strive to overcome them they may be a factor leading to good. Evil, so regarded, is not explained away, but the solution is essentially a practical one. The theoretical problem of evil remains an enigma to us. The author’s message is positive, not negative: it is a call to pursue definite positive aims rather than to eradicate painful experiences. “Not suffering, but spiritual destitution is man’s worst enemy” (p. 314).

It has been said with, it would seem, a large amount of truth, that the philosophy of Hegel has been most fruitfully studied on English soil. There is reason to believe that it will be somewhat the same in the case of Professor Eucken’s philosophy. His debts to Kant and Hegel are obvious, but it is interesting to notice that the points in which he more especially diverges from Hegelianism are largely the same as have been emphasised in England. The importance he attaches to personality and ethical activity, his insistence upon human endeavour as a determining factor in reality, and his emphasis on the dialectic as being not one of categories but of concrete realities, are in accord with much of the best of recent English philosophical thought. In the present work there is much of value for those who—while dissenting from such perversions as Pragmatism—hold what is commonly termed a “Personal Idealism.” The position of our author is not the same as that of English Personal Idealism, nevertheless his work aids it in many ways, and especially in its insistence upon the distinction between personality and subjective individuality. A comparison of some of the views of the three philosophical writers who have been most discussed in our time—the late Professor James, M. Bergson, and our author—would be of interest. To enter upon a systematic and exhaustive comparison here is far from my intention, but a few points may be suggested. The modes of exposition, which in a greater or less degree indicate the respective methods, manifest striking contrasts: in many respects the positions of M. Bergson and Professor Eucken appear totally dissimilar. The acquaintance with natural science, and the constant reference to its data, that we find in the works of M. Bergson, are not found in those of our author. Their place is taken, however, by what some will regard as more interesting, and even more important, an acquaintance with the present condition of human life, and also a constant reference to history. Common to these writers is a reaction against formalism and intellectualism, and in one form or another there is in their writings a strong element of empiricism. Freedom in some sense is insisted upon by all; though so far as we may judge from their published expositions there seem to be considerable differences of view in this matter. Together with this assertion of the reality of Freedom, both M. Bergson and our author definitely acknowledge the reality of Necessity and recognise the importance of struggle in development. Neither writer claims that we can gain more than the knowledge of a direction in which the solution of the problem may be sought. Our author himself might quite well have said, though with application in the main to different classes of facts, what M. Bergson has said: “It seems to me that in a great number of different fields there is a great number of collections of facts, each of which, considered apart, gives us a direction in which the answer to the problem may be sought—a direction only. But it is a great thing to have even a direction, and still more to have several directions, for at the precise point where these directions converge might be found the solution we are seeking. What we possess meanwhile are lines of facts.3...” “But what is this new reality,” writes Professor Eucken (p. 135), “and this whole to which the course of the movement trends? The more we reflect over the question the more strongly we feel that it is a direction rather than a conclusion that is offered to us in this matter....” There is another passage from M. Bergson the quotation of which in the present context is justified by its harmony with so much that Professor Eucken himself says with regard to man’s ideal of life: “If, then, in every province, the triumph of life is expressed by creation, ought we not to think that the ultimate reason of human life is a creation which, in distinction from that of the artist or the man of science, can be pursued at every moment and by all men alike; I mean the creation of self by self, the continual enrichment of personality by elements which it does not draw from outside, but causes to spring forth from itself?”4 Whether in the works of the late Professor James there is evidence of a lurking desire for an Absolute may be left undiscussed. M. Bergson certainly gives more than a hint of something like an Absolute. Of the absolutist (not rationalistic) tendency in the philosophy of our author there can be no doubt. Notwithstanding the antagonism to intellectualism shown in this philosophy, the influence of Hegel seems evident in its absolutist tendency. Dr. Ward has justly said that, “with Hegel, the Absolute seems at one time to be a perfect Self with no hint of aught beside or beyond its own completed self-consciousness, and at another not to be a self at all, but only the absolutely spiritual—art, religion, and philosophy—the over-individual ends, as they are sometimes called, which become realised in subjective spirits: not self-conscious Spirit, but simply the impersonal Spirit in all spirits.”5 How far a corresponding criticism is applicable to the ideas of the Independent Spiritual Life, and the spiritual life in humanity and the world, in the present philosophy, its readers must be left to decide.

The relation of philosophy to life as Professor Eucken conceives it may justify him in treating primarily of what may be called in a special sense the problems of life. The difficulty of the problems of the theory of knowledge no one will deny, though many are impatient of considerations of them. In any general appeal such as we have to do with in this work it is almost impossible to deal seriously with them. Still the problems of the theory of knowledge force themselves upon us, and will not be thrust on one side. The late Professor James did his best to leave us in no doubt as to his position in this matter: we have more than a glimpse of the attitudes of M. Bergson and Professor Eucken. We await, however, as likely to aid us in a fuller understanding and estimate of the philosophy, the volume the author has promised us on the theory of knowledge. Whatever the points of similarity may be in the views of those mentioned, we cannot fail to note the differences—to some of these in the case of Pragmatism the author has himself called our attention; further, we cannot mistake the dominant Idealism of the philosophy of life here presented to us. One word must be said as to the author’s attitude towards Mysticism; an attitude that has not always been understood. The Mysticism he opposes is of the type that is virtually the negation of the Activism which is to him fundamental. But when that is recognised, the careful reader cannot fail to see that, ultimately, the philosophy is essentially mystical.

As I understand it, the suggestion that our author’s philosophy would form a rallying-point for Idealists of various kinds is a tribute to its unity and comprehensiveness, of which there can be no doubt. Roughly, we may take up one of two attitudes to the work of a philosopher. We may accept his general point of view, his main principles, in a word his “system,” however tentative, and modify it in detail. On the other hand we may reject his main position, and yet find much to accept in his working out of various aspects of detail, and we may incorporate this in some other general system. It is not for me to state here the attitude I take towards, or the difficulties I feel in, the philosophy; I think that there will be few who will not gain much from the inspiration and originality which are shown by the author. For his own philosophy of life he seeks no other treatment than that which he has meted to others: a sincere endeavour to understand its basis and its ideal. His hope is that however much its limitations may be pointed out, the truth in it may be acknowledged and appropriated, if possible in a higher view. The acquisition of a higher view would cause no one more real joy than Professor Eucken.

I have to thank the author for his personal kindness in the discussion of some difficult points and in the revision of a portion of the proof sheets. At his suggestion or with his consent a number of small alterations, as, for example, in the titles of sections, have been made from the present German text. Owing to an accident, the time for the preparation of this translation was unfortunately curtailed: I should be indebted for any suggestions for its improvement. I am indebted to the Rev. Felix Holt, B.A., for reading through the whole in manuscript and making many valuable suggestions. For all defect and error I alone am responsible.


Cambridge, October 1911

1 “Naturalism and Agnosticism.” 3rd Edition, 1906. Vols. I. and II. A. & C. Black.

2 Ibid. Vol. II. Lects. xiv.-xx.

3 Hibbert Journal, October 1911: p. 26.

4 Ibid. p. 42.

5 “The Realm of Ends; or, Pluralism and Theism” (1911), p. 46.


I have taken the opportunity given by reprinting to revise the whole. I have made a number of alterations rendering the author’s meaning more clear. My thanks are again due to Mr. Holt for his help.


Caverswall, Stoke-on-Trent,
    January 1912


We may hope for a friendly reception of our investigation only by those who acknowledge that that which occupies us here is a real problem. It is hardly open to dispute that life in the present time displays a serious incongruity between an incalculably rich and fruitful activity with regard to the material, and complete uncertainty and destitution in respect of the spiritual, side of life. Attempt after attempt is made to deliver us from this state of perplexity, and to give more soul and unity to a culture which outwardly is so imposing. But in the main these attempts are far too irresolute in their advance from superficiality to depth, and from individual appearances to the whole: in their innermost nature they are under the influence of the temporary conditions beyond which they wish to lead us. In truth, we cannot make an advance in relation to our life as a whole unless we win a new basis for it. This, however, we cannot do without raising the problem of our relation to reality, and, if it is in any way possible, moulding this relationship in a new way: further, we can be of service in the satisfaction of the needs of the time only when we gain an independence of it and a superiority to it.

Here, therefore, so far as the realm of conviction is concerned, we have a task for philosophy. The confusion that reigns, however, makes the way difficult for philosophy also; and sets insuperable limits to its power. We do not meet in immediate experience with facts upon which a new type of life might be based: much toil and trouble are necessary to arrive at that, which, when it is once attained, may seem to be simple and easy. He who finds the problem too complex, and shirks to expend the necessary effort, can do nothing else than resign himself submissively to the prevailing confusion. To-day we are unable at first to sketch more than the outlines and to indicate fundamentals: we must be quite sure of the basis and the main tendency of life if we would undertake the construction of systems; and yet it is just these things which are to-day the subject of agitation and conflict. Not for a moment do we doubt the imperfection of our own attempt; we can but hope that others will take up and pursue the matter further.

Notwithstanding these limitations and this trouble, an urgent inner necessity compels us to recognise that there can be no enduring life of genuine culture unless humanity is inwardly united by common aims. More and more clearly this main question is seen to be involved in all the particular questions of the time; more and more does it become evident to us that our achievement in individual matters can be but insignificant, if life as a whole is in a state of stagnation and exhaustion. Though some who may already have taken up a definite course, or who in their attention to work in some special sphere have lost all sense for the whole, may refuse to consider the matter, yet wherever life is still flowing, and where fresh impulse resists the tendency to division which deprives it of all soul, to deal with the problem will be felt to be a necessity. Above all, therefore, we trust in the young, who, among all cultured nations, are striving for a deeper and nobler life. The more successful this striving, the sooner shall we advance from a state of confusion to one of order and clearness, from a realm of illusions to the kingdom of truth, and in face of the chaotic whirl of appearances we shall attain stability within ourselves.


Jena, Christmas 1906









He who strives after a new philosophy of life confesses himself thereby to be of the conviction that the philosophies of the present no longer satisfy mankind; and so we must begin by giving reasons for sharing this conviction. In doing this we hope to be able to take a positive survey of the present situation as a whole, and also to gain a firm starting-point for the course in which the new is to be sought, and not simply to remain fixed in a mere negative attitude. A precise statement of the question is the first condition for a correct answer; to satisfy this requirement is the chief concern of the first part of our treatise.

Philosophies of life, representations of human life as a whole, surround us to-day in abundance and court our adherence. The fusion of rich historical development with active reflection gives occasion to the most diverse combinations and makes it easy for the individual to project a representation corresponding to his circumstances and his mood. Thus, to-day, the philosophies of life of individuals whirl together in chaotic confusion, gain and lose the passing favour, displace one another, and themselves change kaleidoscopically. It is not the concern of philosophy to occupy itself more closely with opinions so accidental and so fleeting.

There are, however, philosophies of life of another kind, conceptions of life, which unite and dominate large numbers of people, hold up a common ideal for their activity, and constitute a power in the life of universal history. These philosophies of life are rooted in particular concrete forms of life, in actual combinations of working and striving, which with dominating power surround the individual 4 and point out his course. With such ascendancy they may seem to him to be unassailable and a matter of natural necessity; in reality they are a product of the industry of universal history, and from this point of view appear merely as attempts to comprehend the boundless stream of life and to win a character for our otherwise indefinite existence. For at first we stand defenceless and helpless in face of the wealth of impressions and suggestions which throng upon us and draw us in opposite directions. Only in one way are we able to prevail: life must concentrate and acquire a controlling centre within itself, and from that begin a process of counteraction. We lack distinction of centre and environment; we need an inner aspiration, an aspiration which seeks to draw the whole of existence to itself and to mould it in its own particular way. This, however, is impossible, unless at the same time a philosophy of life, a profession of faith as to the nature of the whole, a justification of our undertaking, is evolved. A philosophy of life established in this manner will be incomparably more powerful, and fuller in content, than the mere foam on the surface of time.

Nevertheless, with all its advantages, such a philosophy of life, like the corresponding system of life itself, is not ultimate truth: it remains an attempt, a problem which, ever anew, divides men into opposing camps. For the experience of history teaches us that the effort after concentration and an inner synthesis of life does not follow one clear, direct course throughout, but that different possibilities offer themselves and, in course of time, struggle upwards to reality. Different systems thus advance by the side of and in opposition to one another, each making the claim to undivided supremacy, to a superiority over all others. Philosophies of life now become means and instruments to justify and to establish such claims. They must enter into the severest conflict one with another, and the strife keeps up a powerful tension and pressure because here, by means of the ideas, tendencies of life compete with one another; because not mere representations of 5 reality but realities themselves struggle together. It is manifest from the existence of these last problems that we do not grow up in a finished world, but have first to form and build up our world. We are concerned not merely with interpreting a given reality, but first of all with winning the true, primary, and all-comprehensive reality. By this our life is made uncertain and laborious, but it is raised at the same time to an inner freedom and a more genuine independence.

And now for the first time we see in its true light the fact that its own views of life can become inadequate to an age. For the fact that an age lacks an inner unity, that cogent reasons drive it beyond the extant syntheses, is now a sign that it is not clear and certain as to its own life. To open up a way for a new synthesis, to organise life more adequately, becomes the most pressing of all demands, the question of questions. Even the most cautious and most subtle reflection will not lead us far in this matter; all hope of success depends upon our life containing greater depths, which hitherto have not been fully grasped, and more especially upon a transcendent unity present in it, which hitherto has not come to complete recognition. All thought and reflection is thus called to direct itself to the comprehension of such depths and of such a unity. Everything here depends on facts; on facts, however, which do not come to us opportunely from without, but which reveal themselves only to the eye of the spirit and to aspiration.



It must be admitted that the first glance at the present conditions of life shows a chaotic confusion. A more careful examination, however, soon discloses a limited number of schemes of life, which, although they are often combined by individuals, are in their nature distinct and remain differentiated. We recognise five such systems of life: those of Religion and of Immanent Idealism on the one hand, and those of Naturalism, Socialism, and Individualism on the other hand. For, two main groups may be clearly distinguished: one, older, which gives to life an invisible world for its chief province; and one, newer, which places man entirely in the realm of sense experience; within these groups, the ways again lead in diverse directions. Let us see what each of these organisations makes out of life; on what each supports itself; and what each accomplishes. Let us see also where each meets with opposition and in what it finds its limits; and this not according to our individual opinion, but according to the experiences of the age.


1. The Religious System

The religious organisation of life has influenced us in the past with especial power. This has worked in the form of Christianity, which, as an ethical religion of redemption, occupies a thoroughly unique position among religions. 7 As a religion it unites life to a supernatural world, and subjects our existence to its supremacy; as a religion of redemption it heightens the contrast between the two worlds to such a degree of harshness that a complete revolution becomes a necessity; as an ethical religion it regards the spiritual life as a power of positive creation and self-determination, and insists upon a complete change of the heart. Arising in an age of decay, an age weary of life, it confidently took up the conflict against this faintness; it did not carry on this conflict, however, by a further development of the natural world and of culture, but through the revelation of a supernatural order, of a new community of life, which, through the building up of an invisible Kingdom of God—which wins a visible expression in the Church—becomes to man in faith and hope the most certain presence. Christianity ratified an affirmation of life; still, it did not accomplish this immediately, but by the most fundamental and definite negation; and thus to a cursory consideration it might appear to be a flight from the world. In reality, it unites the negation and the affirmation, flight from, and renewal of, the world; the deepest feeling of, and the happiest deliverance from, guilt and suffering, and thereby gives to life a greater breadth as well as a ceaseless activity in search of its true self. Religion does not mean a special domain by the side of others; its intention is rather to be the innermost soul and the supreme power of the whole life. Through its ideals and its standards it lends to the whole sphere of life a distinctive character; it leads to a definite organisation of mankind and offers powerful opposition to all dissipation, all merely individual caprice. It comes to the individual as a supreme power which brings to him salvation and truth, shapes him for the highest ends, and connects his thought and feeling with an invisible world.

With such an undertaking Christianity has exercised most deep-reaching influences on the course of history; in the first place it implanted a new vitality in an exhausted humanity; then in the Middle Ages it worked to the education of a new race; and now that it has become mature 8 it has not ceased to exercise strong, though quieter, influences: considering all the facts, it appears to be the most powerful force in history.

But all the greatness of past achievement could not prevent a strong movement from arising in the Modern Age against Christianity; a movement which still continues to increase in power and which undermines the position of Christianity, where outwardly it still appears quite secure. It is true that there never was a period when it was not opposed by individuals, but through the lack of any spiritual import these isolated oppositions had never combined so as to produce a united effect. An effect of this kind was first produced with the emergence of new systems of thought and new streams of life since the beginning of the seventeenth century; as long, however, as this movement was limited to the cultured classes and left the masses untouched, that which existed in it as a menace did not produce its full effect. It was the conviction of Bayle, that the spirit of the Enlightenment would never permeate the masses. In the nineteenth century this “unexpected” happened, and the nature of spiritual endeavour and the disposition of men join together in an assault upon Christianity; an assault which no one with insight will call anything but dangerous.

The thing most evident and most talked of is the subversion of the old conception of the world; a conception which is usually associated with Christianity. This conception is less and less able to assert itself in face of the triumphant onward march of modern science. The representation of nature, like that of human history, has been broadened immeasurably and at the same time has acquired inner unity, law, and order; a direct intervention of a supernatural power is felt more and more to be an intolerable derangement. The earth, hitherto the centre of the whole and the chief platform upon which the destiny of the universe was decided, sinks to a position of more correct proportion, and man is much more closely linked to nature and fitted into a common order. How then can that 9 which takes place in him decide what shall be the destiny of the whole?

If we would withdraw from this shattered conception of the world, as from a mere external matter, to the substance of Christianity, this substance must be much more clearly and much more forcibly present to us than it really is. For, in this change we are concerned not simply with individual phrases, but with the whole mode of thought. We have learnt to think far more causally and critically; we perceive the peculiarity of the historical circumstances in which Christianity arose, and, along with this, become aware of a wide disparity from the circumstances of the present. We question all historical tradition as to its grounds, and so overthrow the weight of authority; our thought has become throughout less naïve and we strive to transcend the form of the immediate impression. From this point of view it comes about quite easily that the religious mode of thought appears to be a mere anthropomorphism, a childlike, imaginative interpretation of the world, which, to an intelligence equipped with the clearness of objective consideration, can pass only for a stage in evolution, which has once for all been overcome. Such is the teaching of Positivism, and it is just in this reference to religion that its influence extends far beyond the limits of the positivistic school.

The change of thought would not be so far-reaching and so dangerous if it did not give expression to a change of life as a whole; but this is what it really does: the Modern Age through the whole course of its development sets a universal—a system—over against the religious system of life. That all departments of life should subordinate themselves to Religion, that every activity has value only so far as it either directly or indirectly furthers Religion, appears to the Modern Age a much too narrow conception, and one which is a mischievous denial of the truth that these departments of life contain. So the different branches of the spiritual life—for example, science and art, politics and economics—liberate themselves radically from the supremacy 10 of Religion, and this is felt to be an incalculable gain in freedom and breadth. Since, unimpeded, the new life increases in comprehensiveness, and draws the whole content of reality into itself, it seems to rest firmly and securely in itself and to need no completion of any kind whatever.

Religion, however, must first seek a place in this new life. It finds this place with greater difficulty, in that modern life, as it works out its own peculiar characteristics, ever more directly and ever more harshly opposes Christianity. The initial assumptions of the two are fundamentally different. Early Christianity spoke to a generation which had become perplexed concerning the rationality of the universe and concerning its own capacity; a generation which could attain to an affirmation of life only through the building up of a new world in contrast to that of sense impression. The world, then disdained, has acquired in the Modern Age an ever-increasing power of attraction. New peoples and epochs have grown up, which have a feeling of power and wish to exert the force of their youth in work upon the surrounding world; this world meets such a desire since it shows itself to be still in the midst of change and full of problems. If formerly the world surrounded man as an unchangeable fate, it now proves to be capable of change and of upward development; man can work and strive to transform it into a kingdom of reason. The more that power and object unite in this, the more victorious is the advance of work; the nearer the world is brought to man’s inner life, the more does it become to him his true and only home. The idea of immanence comes to have a magical sound; everything which oversteps the boundary marked out by the work of the world soon comes to be regarded as a flight into a realm of shadows, into an “other” world. Satisfaction is obtained in life in grappling with realities; in the display of masculine strength: while the religious attitude to life, with its waiting and hope, and its expectation of supernatural aid, seems lifeless, feeble, and altogether lacking in spirit.

At the same time, all capacity for understanding the 11 world in which Christianity set the soul of man disappears. That world was one of pure inwardness, a world in which the fundamental relation of life was that of the spiritual life to its own ideal conception, to absolute spirit; a world in which the questions of character and of the determination of the will were the chief problems. To earlier Christianity that world was anything but a mere “other” world; rather it constituted that which was nearest and most certain; the chief basis of life, from which the world of sense first received its truth and its value. But the more significant the world of sense becomes to man, and the more powerfully it draws his affections to itself, the more does the relation to this world become the fundamental relation of life; the more does that pure inner world fade, and the more it appears to be something artificial, shadowy, something added as an afterthought; and the turning to it comes to be regarded as a flight into an “other” world. Christianity must necessarily be alien and unintelligible to anyone who feels the world which was to Christianity the chief world to be a mere “other” world; for him all the contentions of Christianity are inevitably distorted, and every element of joyful affirmation and heroic victory which it contains obscured; the whole must present a miserable and morbid picture. Now that the centre of life has changed its position in relation to the world, is it possible to avoid the consequences of a growing tendency to displace and dissolve Christianity?

The inner world was to Christianity essentially a realm of conviction and decision, a relation of will to will, of personality to personality: free action, in power and love, in guilt and reconciliation, formed the essence of all events and gave to the world a soul. Only as ethical, personal power did the spiritual life appear to find its own depth and to be able to govern the world.

Here again the Modern Age takes a directly antagonistic course. Its work is considered most of all to lead beyond the subjectivity of man to the content and under the objective necessity of things. For we seem first to attain 12 genuine truth when we place ourselves in the world of fact, reveal its relations, and take part in its movements; we have to follow the objective and immanent necessities of things; to interpret every particular case from the standpoint of these necessities and to harmonise our own conduct with them. Life seems to acquire greatness and universal significance only insomuch as the process comes before the effect, the law before freedom, fixed relations before the resolution into individual occurrences. To the Modern Age, not only has nature been transformed into a continuous causal chain, but in its spiritual activity also the age forms great complexes, which, through the force of logical necessity, are placed beyond the influence of all caprice, and of all the interests of the narrowly human. From the point of view of such an evolution the realm of ethical life appears to be a mere subjective sphere; a tissue of human opinion and striving; something which falls outside of genuine reality and which can never be forced into its structure. To continue in the position of early Christianity is looked upon as a remaining at a lower level of life; conceptions such as freedom of the will and moral judgment are regarded as childish delusions which are the more decidedly rejected the more the new life displays its fundamental character. Again, with a transvaluation of all values, that which to Christianity was the highest in life and dominated the whole is regarded as a mere accompanying appearance; indeed, a danger to the energy and truth of life.

Hence a mode of life has arisen which not only regards the answers of Christianity with indifference, but does not even recognise its problems; and this mode of life is attracting to itself more and more the convictions and energies of mankind. Even now the antithesis which the centuries have prepared is being forced with unmistakable clearness into prominence. It was possible for us to deceive ourselves with regard to its implacability so long as a rationalistic and pantheistic way of thinking presented Christianity in the most general way, and tried to comprehend its nature as something universal, and at the same time placed nature 13 and the universe in the transfiguring light of speculative consideration. But, in the course of further experience, that mode of thought has been severely shaken and appears more and more to be a mere aggregate of phrases; and so the antitheses face one another unreconciled and a decision is not to be evaded. In this matter mankind is under the influence of a strong reaction against the religious, and especially the Christian, mode of life. Throughout many centuries Christianity has given life a unity and has thrown light upon reality from its standpoint: further, it has presented its way as the only possible one; one to which everything which in any way strives spiritually upward has to adapt itself. If the truth of the whole now falls into doubt, everything which was intended to give to life stability and character is soon felt to be heavily oppressive and intolerably narrow; and everything which in that mode of life was accidental, temporal, and human advances into the foreground. We clearly perceive that much passed current as true only because we had become unaccustomed to ask questions concerning it, and also that many things owed their acceptance not to their inner necessity, but only to social sanction. With such feelings it may come to be considered a great deliverance to shake off the whole, and a necessary step towards truthfulness of life to eliminate every aspect of that mode of life which through custom or authority continues to exist.

These tendencies are tendencies of reaction with all their one-sidedness. But can we deny that a great change of life has been accomplished, a change which reaches far beyond these tendencies, and which is still working itself out? That which previously was most proximate to us is now made to recede; what held currency as absolutely certain must now be laboriously proved, and, through continual reflection, loses all freshness and power to convince; immediate experience, axiomatic certainty, immovable conviction are lacking. The self-evident certainties in the light of which earlier ages lived and worked are wanting, and we are compelled to acknowledge that some things become uncertain, 14 even impossible, when they cease to be self-evident. Again, it cannot fail to be recognised that we are tired of a merely religious way of life; we feel its limitations; new needs are awakened and seek new forms of life and expression; even the traditional terminology displeases us; even the acutest dialectic cannot lend to the old the power of youth.

Of course the matter is not finally settled by these judgments of the age. For, a later age is not the infallible judge of an earlier; much which to us moderns seems certain may soon become problematic; much which satisfies us may soon be shown to be inadequate. It may be that the old is capable of asserting the ultimate depth of life in contrast to the new; that the world of inner spiritual experience which it discloses may finally show itself superior to every assault. But, in any case, the new contains a wealth of fact not only in individual results but in the whole of its being; through its emergence it has transformed the whole condition of things; it is impossible to decry it as a mere apostasy and to appeal to the consciences of individuals. It may be that spiritual power here stands against spiritual power in a titanic struggle for the soul of man: victory must fall to the power which penetrates to the primary depths of life and is capable of taking possession of what is true in the others. But if in this the older view of life is inwardly superior, it can develop such superiority only by its own complete renewal and energetic inward elevation, through the most fundamental settlement with everything antagonistic in an all-comprehensive whole of life. Yet how deeply the age is still involved in its search! How far it is from the conclusion! For the present, as far as the life of culture is concerned, Religion has fallen into complete uncertainty; its chief support and realm lie not within but outside of that life. It is this which makes all affirmation of Religion weak and all negation strong; it is this which threatens to stamp, as something subjective and false, every conception of a “supernatural.” Religion has become uncertain to us not merely in single doctrines and tendencies, but in the whole of its being, in its fundamental 15 contention as to the nature of life; and what it offers in the traditional form in which it has come to us no longer satisfies a life which has been aroused to greater breadth and freedom.

2. The System of Immanent Idealism

By the side of the religious system of life, for thousands of years, now as supplementary, now as contradictory, there has been another which may be designated as Immanent Idealism. The latter system is not so fixed and overawing a structure as the former, but with a quieter force it penetrates the whole of life. It is not of a simple nature, but is found in many different forms; still, there exists so much in common in these that they clearly exhibit and emphasise one common tendency. Like the religious system, this Idealism also places life primarily in a world of thought, from which it organises sense experience; it is distinguished from the former system, however, in that it never separates the two worlds one from the other, but conceives them as related elements or aspects of a single whole. They are related to one another as appearance and reality, as cause and effect, as animating and animated nature (natura naturans and naturata). The divine is not so much a power transcending the world as one permeating it and living in it; not something specific outside of things, but their connection in a living unity; it does not make demands and present us with problems so much as give to the world its truth and depth. Thus, reality appears as an inwardly co-ordinated whole: the individual finds his genuine being only as a part of this whole. And so, here, the fundamental relation of life is that to the invisible whole of reality; with the development of this relation, that which seems lifeless becomes animated; the elements which seem isolated are brought together; and the world discloses an infinite content and gives it to man for a joyous possession.

But it would be impossible for man to accomplish the 16 transition from appearance to reality, if he were not rooted in the fundamental permanencies and if, in the comprehending of the world, he did not find his own being. If this is the case, however, and if, through courageous turning from the superficiality to which he in the first place belongs, he is able to set himself in the depth of reality, then a magnificent life with the widest prospects opens out before him. For, now, he may win the whole of infinity for his own and set himself free from the triviality of the merely human without losing himself in an alien world; he may direct the movement of life to a positive gain, since he guides it from within and from the whole. This life will find its centre in the activities which bring man into relation with the whole and broaden him from within to the whole; thus, in science and art spiritual creation becomes the chief concern; its forceful development allows us to hope for an ennobling of the whole of existence. With this creative activity as centre, the rest is regarded as its environment, its means, its presupposition; but there remain a clear distinction and gradation between that which a creative life evolves immediately, and that which forms a mere condition for this and may never become an aim in itself. Thus, the beautiful is separated sharply from the merely useful; the inner life from all preservation of physical existence; a genuine spiritual culture, as the revelation of the depth of things, from all perfecting of natural and social conditions, from mere civilisation. Here life finds an aim and a task in itself; they are not presented to it from a transcendent world; but it can evolve a morality in the sense of taking up the whole into one’s own volition, the subjection of caprice to the necessity of things.

A life thus full of content and joyous activity arose when Greek culture was at its height, and exercised its influence through the course of the centuries; Christianity also soon laid aside its original suspicion against this life and joined it to itself. This life, however, first attained complete independence and self-consciousness in modern culture so far as this culture followed the way of Idealism. It is felt 17 to be superior to Religion and hopes to be able to shape the world of man more satisfactorily than Religion can. In this system formulated conceptions and perplexing doctrines of the divine are not necessary, as they are in Religion, because the divine is present immediately in the process of life and surrounds man on all sides. Man’s powers are not drawn in a particular direction and nothing is discarded, but everything is to be uniformly developed and unified in an all-inclusive harmony; natural instincts are restrained and ennobled through their relations in a larger whole. A power of organisation is displayed which reaches the finest vein of the soul, throws the genuinely human into relief in contrast with environment and tradition, and makes it the matter of chief concern: with all this it deepens life in itself and finds incalculable treasure in such depth. Everywhere there is powerful effort and creative activity on the part of man, but at the same time the consciousness of an invisible order; a joyful affirmation of life, but at the same time a deliverance from unrestrained curiosity and coarse enjoyment; a breadth and a freedom of life, and with this a clear consciousness of the greatness but also of the limitations of man. Such was the state of conviction in the classical period of German literature.

This form of life has, with remarkable quickness, been relegated into the distance; with all its external proximity it has become inwardly more alien to us than the world of Religion. All this has come to pass, however, not so much through direct conflict, which its free and comprehensive nature could scarcely provoke, as through inner changes of conditions and strivings, which have now thrust other facts into prominence and driven men to other tasks. The transformation could hardly have been effected so quickly and so fundamentally if this mode of life did not involve fixed limits and problematic presuppositions which we have now become fully conscious of for the first time.

It is the aristocratic nature of this Immanent Idealism which first awakens suspicion and opposition. Spiritual 18 creation, from which it expects complete salvation, can take possession of and satisfy the whole soul only where it breaks forth spontaneously with great and powerful effect, where, with overwhelming power, it raises man above himself. An incontrovertible experience shows us that this takes place only in rare and exceptional cases; there must be a union of many forces before man can rise to such a height and be swayed by the compulsion of this creation. Now, it is true that the gain of such red-letter days carries its effect into ordinary days and that from the heights light pours down upon lower levels. But in such transmission there is a serious and inevitable loss in power and purity; indeed, in veracity: that which fills the life of those producing it and arouses it to its highest passion easily becomes to the receiver a subsidiary matter, a pleasant accompanying experience. Thus we see epochs of organisation follow upon times of creation, but we see that such organisation sinks more and more into a reflective and passive reproduction. Such organisation tends to become mere imagination; the man imbued with the spirit of such organisation easily seems to himself more than he is; with a false self-consciousness talks and feels as though he were at a supreme height; lives less his own life than an alien one. Sooner or later opposition must necessarily arise against such a half-life, such a life of pretence, and this opposition will become especially strong if it is animated by the desire that all who bear human features should participate in the chief goods of our existence and freely co-operate in the highest tasks. It must be observed that this longing is one which, at the present time, is found to be irresistible. And so the aristocratic character of Immanent Idealism produces a type of life rigidly exclusive, harsh and intolerable.

But not only does this type of life lack complete power and truthfulness in regard to mankind as a whole; it is subject to similar limitations in relation to the world and to things. All success in our relation to the world and to things depends on the spiritual constituting the thing’s own depth, 19 on things finding their genuine being in it, and where this depth is reached, on the visible world uniting with it willingly, indeed joyfully, and moulding itself solely and completely for spiritual expression. Spirit and world must strive together in mutual trust and each must finally be completely involved one in the other; reality must build itself up, if not at one stroke, at any rate in ceaseless advance as a kingdom of reason. A solution at once so simple and so easy bluntly contradicts the experiences of the last century. Both without and within the soul of man an infinite concreteness makes itself evident, which withstands all derivation from general principles, all insertion into a comprehensive scheme, obstinately asserts its particularity, forms its own complexes, and follows its own course. The realistic mode of thought of the Modern Age has brought this aspect of reality to full recognition. If the spiritual life cannot take complete possession of things, if a realm of facts continues to exist over against it, it may be doubted whether the spiritual is of the ultimate being of the world and reveals the reality of things, or whether it merely comes to them from without and only touches their surface. In the latter case external limitation becomes the cause of an inward convulsion. This is a fact which we find corroborated when we come to reflect that Immanent Idealism treats the spiritual life in man much too hastily and boldly as absolute spiritual life; that it attributes to human capacity, without further consideration, that which belongs to spiritual life in general. The experiences of modern life place the particularity and insignificant of man more and more before our eyes; they enable us to see with what difficulty and how slowly any kind of spiritual life whatever has emerged in the human sphere, and with what toil it maintains itself there; they insist that, if the spiritual life is not to sink down to a mere appearance to man, a sharp distinction must be made between the substance of the spiritual life and the form of its existence in man; in every sphere modern life puts questions which lead beyond the position of Immanent Idealism. Immanent 20 Idealism seems to treat the problem of life much too summarily and not to penetrate sufficiently to ultimate depths.

The conflict between Immanent Idealism and modern life is still more keen in regard to the problem whether reality is rational. It is essential to this Idealism to affirm this rationality; it need not conceive it as present in a complete state, but it must be sure of an advance to it; the movement of reality, with its antitheses and conflicts, must pass in elements of reason. Immanent Idealism tolerates no inner division of the spiritual life; wherever spiritual movement emerges, there can be no doubt concerning the aim; the development of power must bring the right disposition with it; every limitation can come only from weakness or misunderstanding; there can be no radical evil. With an optimism of this kind the leading minds of German classical literature are imbued; but how much, in the midst of all the progress of civilisation, in the nineteenth century the appearance of the world has been darkened! We see now with complete clearness the indifference of the forces of nature towards the aims of the spirit; we see the incessant crossing of the work of reason by blind necessity; we see the spiritual life divided against itself, eminent spiritual powers drawn into the service of lower interests, and carried away by unrestrained passion. In a time of extraordinary increase of technical and social culture, we see the spiritual life win scarcely anything, in fact, seriously recede; we see it become perplexed concerning its main direction, and oscillate in uncertainty between different possibilities. We experience in every sphere a violent convulsion of the spirit. How can Immanent Idealism satisfy us under such circumstances; how can it assure to our life a firm basis?

Indeed, we may now doubt whether Immanent Idealism signifies a type of life at all; whether it is not simply a compromise between a religious shaping of life and a life turned towards sense experience; a via media, which as merely transitional is only able to maintain itself for a time. The historical experience of the Modern Age 21 seems to show that the latter hypothesis is the true one. At the beginning of the epoch Religion stood in secure supremacy and the divine acted on man from a sovereignty that was supreme over the world. Then the divine came ever closer to the world that it might spread itself over it and permeate it, till finally there was no longer any separation, and God and world blended together in a single whole. At first this seemed a pure and a great gain: the divine put off all rigid sovereignty and spoke to us immediately out of the whole extent of life; the world was related, through the power of the divine, to an inner whole and, illuminated by it, received a transfigured appearance. And yet this solution was only apparent; it contained an inner contradiction, which ultimately was bound to break forth with a power of destruction. The divine had developed its power and its depth in opposition to the world; will it retain that power and that depth if the opposition ceases; will not the renunciation of supremacy, the fusion with things, rob it of all distinctive content? As a matter of fact, with this increase in proximity and extension, the divine fades and dissolves more and more; ever less power proceeds from it: and so the world is ever less transformed and elevated by it; its transfiguring light is dissipated and its inner relations are broken. From being a life-penetrating power Pantheism becomes more and more a vague disposition; indeed, an empty phrase. The living whole, which in the beginning raised things to itself, has finally become a mere abstraction which cannot hold its ground before vigorous thought. Thus, with an immanent dialectic, such as historical life often enough shows, the movement, since it strove for breadth, has been destroyed in its life-giving root; it has abandoned the basis from which it derived its truth and power. Immanent Idealism shows itself to be one great contradiction; a fascinating illusion, which, instead of reality, presents us with mere appearance.

Of course, Immanent Idealism is not finally refuted by such doubts and difficulties; it puts forward demands 22 which need to be satisfied in some way; it contains truths which in some manner must be acknowledged. What would become of human life if it should abandon its striving forwards to the whole; its spiritual penetration of the world; its advance in greatness and breadth; its joyous and vigorous nature; the excellence of its disposition? But the indispensable truth that is involved in Immanent Idealism must be brought into wider relations, and thus made clear and modified, so that it may be more secure and more fruitful in its effect. Meanwhile, we see that here also we are in complete uncertainty; that which was intended to give a firm support, and to point out a clear course to our life, has itself become a difficult problem.


No attack from without and no relaxation from within could have brought the older systems of life into the state of chaos which we actually find them to be in, if the experience of sense had not become far more to man and had not given him far more to do than in earlier times. Hitherto genuine spiritual life seemed to be able to unfold itself only in energetic detachment from the world of sense; it reduced this world to a subordinate sphere which received its position and value only from a transcendent order; thus, all tarrying with the things of sense seemed to be a sign of a lower disposition, a falling from the heights of human life.

This view has been radically altered by the course of the Modern Age. When the invisible world became uncertain to man and the life directed towards it shadowy, an intense thirst for reality, for a life out of the abundance and truth of things, arose, and only the visible world seemed to promise satisfaction. This world had been seen previously in a particular light which is now felt to be artificial and distorting; if this light fails and the world can 23 unfold itself unaffected, it shows a far richer content, far firmer relations, far greater tasks. All this is more especially because the world no longer appears to be something finished, but as still in process and as capable of a thorough-going elevation; because great possibilities which human power is able to awaken still lie dormant in it. In diverse directions sense experience advances far beyond the older form; Natural Science analyses the visible world into its single components and makes it penetrable to our thought, and at the same time technical skill wins power over its forces. In the political and social sphere men find new tasks not only in regard to isolated questions, but throughout the whole of its organisation, and great hopes of an essential elevation of life are raised. The individual also appears more powerful and richer, in that the decay of traditional ties gives him complete freedom for his development. Even if, in the struggle for the control of life, these movements in many ways fall into contradiction one with another, still, in the first place they unite in advancing the world of sense in man’s estimation, in fixing his love and his work there, and in also making men more and more disinclined to consider the life-systems rooted in the invisible. Sense experience presents itself ever more decidedly as something which can tolerate neither partner nor rival; the life directed towards it loses more and more the nature of being an opponent, which it hitherto had, and it undertakes to shape our whole existence characteristically in positive achievement and also to satisfy the spiritual needs of man completely. All this signifies an entire reversal of the order of life; for, since the world which formerly had seemed secondary now becomes predominant, indeed exclusive, all standards and values are changed, and the old possession appears also as a new gain. It is true that the new mode of thought misses the advantages which a long tradition gave to the old: but in place of this, it has the charm of searching and finding for itself, the joy of first discovery and successful exertion; here an infinite horizon is disclosed; before the research and effort of man 24 lies an open way. Endeavour derives particular power and confidence from the conviction that the new is nothing else than the old and genuine, but hitherto misunderstood, nature: it is a return of life to itself, to its plain and pure truth, which permits us to expect a new world epoch. And so mankind, exalted in mind and with cheerful courage, enters upon the course which promises so much.

1. The Naturalistic System

The movement towards giving sole attention to the world of sense cannot make sure progress without a more definite decision concerning the main agents and the main direction of work. Different possibilities here offer themselves; three, however, in particular. In reality, these have all evolved, sometimes blending together and strengthening one another, at other times crossing and hindering one another.

None of these movements has displayed more energy and exercised more power than that which makes the sense experience of surrounding nature its basis, and strives to include man’s entire being within this experience. This is Naturalism, which, starting out from the mechanical conception of nature, which has been developed in the Modern Age, applies the ideas thus obtained to everything, and subordinates even the life of the soul to them. The movement originated at the dawn of the seventeenth century, when an independence and autonomy of nature began to be acknowledged. Nature had been covered with a veil of explanation, mainly æsthetic or religious in character, which gave it a colour corresponding to the prevailing disposition, but at the same time excluded the possibility of a scientific comprehension. A comprehension of this kind could only be attained by getting rid of all subjective addition which had been made by man, and by investigating nature purely by itself. Since Descartes and Galileo that has been accomplished, and nature now appears as an 25 immense web of single threads, as a complex of fundamentally mobile, but soulless, elements, whose movements take simple basal forms, while the combination of these elements produces all constructions, even the most complicated. This mighty machinery never points beyond, and as it runs its course solely within itself, so it requires to be understood solely from itself. Everything spiritual is thus eliminated; this realm of fact has no implication of aims, or of a meaning of events.

This new scientific conception of nature had first, with much toil and difficulty, to wrestle with the traditional, naïvely human, representation; this was chiefly a matter of reducing first appearances to their simple elements, and of constructing the world anew from these. By this process, nature at the same time became accessible to the operation of man. For, the technical control of nature presupposes the analytic character of research; only such a research, with its discovery of the single elements and tendencies, places man in a relation of activity towards nature; while in earlier times only an attitude of contemplation had been granted to him. Natural Science thus created a new type of life, a life energetic, masculine, pressing forward unceasingly.

This life, like science itself, in the first place forms a special part of a wider whole. As the expulsion of the soul from nature at first brought about a strengthening of the soul in itself, nature was the less immediately able to govern the whole. The individual of modern times strengthened and asserted himself against nature, and insisted upon a realm of independent inwardness. The contest was a severe one; yet the more nature was seen to extend, on the one hand, to the infinitely great, and, on the other, to the infinitely small, the more fixed relations it showed, so much the more overwhelmingly did it draw man to itself, the more did its conception tend to include the inner aspects of the soul also. The final blow in the struggle was given by the modern theory of descent, since this theory asserts man to be the product solely of natural 26 forces, and maintains that everything which man ascribes to himself as characteristic and distinctive is derived from a gradual development of natural factors. And so nature is exalted as an all-comprehensive world—nature, that is, as represented in the modern mechanistic theory, which is thus transformed into a final theory of the world, a naturalistic metaphysic. The human and spiritual world, which hitherto had been felt to be an independent realm in contrast with nature, appears henceforth as its mere continuation, as something which fits completely into a wider conception of nature.

A conviction of this kind must fundamentally alter the position of the spiritual life, as well as its magnitudes and values: and this conviction is no mere theory, but desires and strives to take possession of the whole of existence and to change its form completely. Indeed, a particular naturalistic type of life arises and wins a powerful influence over the thought and activity of the time.

Naturalism denies all independence of the spiritual life, which it regards as nothing more than an adjunct to the realm of nature, and one that can only exist along with sense existence, as a part of or as a supplement to it. Spirituality has, therefore, to subordinate itself and conform entirely to the life of nature; it can never produce and guide a movement from itself, never evolve a basal and comprehensive activity, never withdraw itself into its own sphere as into an independent realm. All self-existent spirituality fades to a world of mere shadows; whatever makes itself felt in us can only become a complete reality by winning flesh and blood through the appropriation of physical forces. Life, thus understood, possesses nothing in itself; it receives everything from its relations to the environment with which it is bound up: thought brings forth no new ideas; all ideas are merely abbreviations of sense impressions. Effort can never realise purely spiritual values; the essence of all happiness is sensuous enjoyment, however refined that may in some cases be. The naturalistic system of life receives a more definite delineation from the 27 representation of nature, which the mechanical theory, together with a theory of descent adapted to it, sketches and impressively holds up to the present age. By this theory nature is completely resolved into a co-existence of individual forces, which, within the narrow bounds of existence, must clash violently together, and assert themselves one against the other in ceaseless conflict. This conflict, however, is a source of progressive movement, in that it brings together, establishes, and employs everything useful for self-preservation; it keeps life in a state of youthful freshness, in that new conditions continually arise and demand new accommodations with respect to the biologico-economic environment. A biologico-economic mode of thought is evolved which revolutionises all previous estimations of values. Everything intrinsically valuable disappears from the world; its expulsion seems a deliverance from a confused, indeed a meaningless, conception of things; the useful, that which promotes the interests of living beings, each after its kind, in the struggle for existence, becomes the all-dominating value. No mysterious being of things is apprehended in the True; but those presentations and systems of thought are called true which ensure that the best accommodation to the conditions of life shall be attained, and which just in this way hold the individuals together. No longer does a Good speak to man with austere demand from a transcendent sovereignty; but that is good which, within our experience, is of service to the preservation of life. The Beautiful, also, is subordinated to the useful, and it is solely by its value in relation to this that it asserts itself. In everything, it is only one’s own welfare, the interest of individual preservation, that directly inspires conduct; but real life shows man in so many relations, so closely implicated with his environment, that he can strive for nothing for himself without also striving for others. This extension of interests has no limits; there is nothing in the whole of infinity which could not in this way become to man, indirectly, a means of self-preservation and thus an object of desire.


The naturalistic type of life extends from the most general of impulses to every branch of activity, and forms every department of life in a distinctive fashion. Knowledge depends entirely upon experience; every speculative element must be excluded as a subjective delusion; in all its branches knowledge is nothing else than a broadened Natural Science. Art may not pursue imaginary ideals; it finds its single task in the faithful and simple reproduction of the natural environment. Social life and endeavour will develop, above all, natural powers, and will seek to adapt itself to the conditions given by nature, and, rejecting all aims based upon mere imagination, it will care chiefly for the physical welfare of the whole, as the source of all power and of all success.

It is not difficult to understand how this form of life was able to win and carry away the minds of its contemporaries. In the first place it has the character of simplicity and immediacy, which, in contrast with the complexity and the remoteness of the traditional position, appears a great advantage. For, in this scheme, life, with all its multiplicity, is dominated and unified by the idea of natural self-preservation; and the things which immediately affect us, which lie physically and psychically near to us, come most directly into relation to this aim. It is a further tendency of this scheme of life to bring the whole of existence into a state of activity and restless advance. For the state of conflict which prevails under the naturalistic system allows nothing to persist merely because of its present existence or through the weight of tradition, but everything must always be reasserting its right to existence; it must stretch and extend itself in order to be useful in the life of the present. That which cannot satisfy this test is unmercifully thrown over as a dead weight. It is also of great importance to the theory in question that nature and the world are involved in ceaseless change, and that, along with the conditions of life, the requirements also alter: the matter is one of continually accommodating oneself anew; and so life is placed entirely in the present, and the 29 fixity of an absolute conception and treatment of change yields to the instability of a relative one. Last of all, and most especially, life according to its own conviction bears the character of truth. For human striving appears to attain the firm basis of reality, and to become truthful in itself only when it is definitely related to the surrounding world; while, so long as it trusted to the capacity of the subject—which fondly imagined itself independent—it fell into unspeakable error. Only when delivered from subjectivity, only when fixed within the web of the whole of nature, does life seem to awaken out of a dream, and to become fully real, a genuine, securely grounded life.

The energy of negation which this theory employs and with which it drives out everything which has become old adds strength to the elements of assertion and positive achievement in these changes. In this theory there is nothing indefinite which could soften the opposition, nothing mediatory which could overcome it, but, distinctly and harshly, affirmation and negation stand face to face and call for a plain decision between them. Whatever remains in doubt and under suspicion is forced into the background, indeed eliminated altogether, through the victorious onward march of modern Natural Science and the increasing triumphs of technical skill, which seem to demonstrate, immediately, the truth of the naturalistic type of life. Thus, this movement spreads in a mighty flood through humanity, and seizes with a particular power the classes which are struggling upward, and which meet science and culture with a faith yet undisturbed. In matters temporal there is hardly anything which seems able to withstand such an attack.

Nevertheless, that which gains the support of many contemporaries is not thereby proved to be the supreme power and the final truth. In that movement there may be far more, and something far more important than it itself admits. It may be that it achieves that which it does achieve only with the help of elements of another kind; perhaps, indeed, it is able to maintain its truth only in so far as it enters into broader relations in a wider whole and 30 thereby changes its meaning essentially. Whether such is the case can be ascertained not by reference to subjective opinion, but by an examination of the life of humanity.

Now, the first movement of opposition is produced in just that sphere which seemed Naturalism’s strongest bulwark, that is, Natural Science, the Natural Science based on mathematics and physics. Only the most fleeting survey can lead to the confusion of Natural Science with Naturalism; in reality, the naturalistic thinker cannot with justice acknowledge any exact Natural Science, and a natural scientist cannot be naturalistic in thought in consequence of his science, but only in spite of it. For, Natural Science is anything but a mere copy of the sense impressions which we experience; its origin and progress are due to the fact that thought fundamentally acts upon and transforms those impressions. If our intellect were no more than Naturalism can logically make it out to be, it could, at most, only refine the animal presentations a little; it never could have advanced beyond the single presentations to a representative conception of the world as a whole. Such an advance can be achieved only by thought raising itself above the stream of appearances and placing itself over against it; but how could a mere bundle of perceptions, to which Naturalism reduces the intellect, achieve this? Incomparably more unity of being and freedom of operation are necessary for this achievement than such a bundle could produce.

In earlier times, no doubt, man went very much astray in the interpretation of his environment; he transferred his immediate feelings into it; he coloured the whole world in human colours, and associated with its realities as with beings of the same nature as himself. But even the error shows a seeking and an interpretation; the simple putting of the question proclaims a being becoming superior to mere nature. The most important thing, however, is that man has not regarded the matter as finally settled with this anthropomorphism; he has come to regard it as inadequate and has pressed forward to a new way of 31 thinking. What could drive him to that change but a desire for truth, and how is such a conception as truth attainable from nature? And if thought has succeeded in breaking through the misty veil of anthropomorphism and seeks things in their own relations; if an objective consciousness of the world has emerged, a consciousness which is as different from the immediacy of sense impressions as the sky is distant from the earth, has not man also grown in himself beyond mere sense impression; is it not a work of thought which supports and governs the whole construction, and differentiates genuine nature from appearance? How much power of comprehension and of relating together is exhibited even by Natural Science, in that it analyses the sense presentation of the environment into its single elements, ascertains the laws of these, and traces the movement from the simplest beginnings right up to its present stage of development. All activity of thought is thus subject to a certain reproach in that it must continually bring itself into relation to perception: nevertheless it will interweave all that is imparted to it by perception into a framework of thought—transform it, in fact, into a realm of thought. Spirituality is bound; but how dull an individual must be to confuse such a bound spirituality with mere sensuousness!

The error of Naturalism is obvious; concerned solely with the object and its form, it entirely leaves out of account the psychical activity which is involved in the perception of an object; it overlooks the life-process within which alone we can have knowledge of an object and occupy ourselves with it. As soon, however, as we regard the object from this point of view, it will be transformed and will assume far more spiritual traits. Reality will then burst asunder the framework into which Naturalism desires to press it.

The type of life which Naturalism gives rise to also contains more than Naturalism is able to explain. At first sight it seems as though man is taken up completely into a wider conception of nature; as though his life obeys its 32 forces and impulses exclusively; as though all his asserted superiority to nature is simply imaginary. As a matter of fact, in this turning to nature, man, with his spiritual activity, stands not within, but above, nature. For he does not appear as a mere piece of nature, but experiences it and thinks over it: its kingdom, its organisation, its stability become to him a joyful possession and a widening of his being. The spiritual life has developed in relation to nature; nature has not welded it together. The same may be said of the idea of the increase of power, which constitutes the main gain of life in the naturalistic system. For, in the naturalistic type of life power is not directed towards externals, as in nature, but is experienced and enjoyed, and only thus does it constitute a source of happiness; yet how could it be that, without an organisation of life in an inner unity which transcends individual occurrences? Thus, the intellectual and the technical control of nature which the Modern Age has acquired attracts men and prevails over them chiefly as a growth of life, as an increase of self-reliance. Even material goods, wealth and property, do not determine the endeavour of the man of culture so much through sensuous enjoyment, the limit of which is soon reached, as through their possibilities as means to activity and creation, to the advancement of human capacity. It is this in particular which has filled the material civilisation of the present with the spirit of restlessness and extravagance, and gives it its demoniacal power over men. It is this relation alone which explains and justifies the present estimate of material goods, so much higher as that is in modern culture than it was in the older systems of thought, which branded as unworthy all endeavour directed to the acquirement of such things.

In short, even Naturalism in no way eliminates the subject with its inwardness; rather in its own development it everywhere presupposes the subject. It does not shape life out of mere and pure nature, but out of a close union of a transcendent spiritual life with nature, and out of an energetic insistence upon elements of nature within the soul. 33 However, man experiences not so much the things themselves as himself in the things; the relating together, the surveying, the experiencing of the whole is always a spiritual performance. This performance makes something different out of nature, just as the naturalistic culture that is striven for is different from the state of nature that is found at the beginning. The misconception of the relation of nature to the mind; the postulation of nature without mind, in place of nature with mind, makes Naturalism self-contradictory and untenable. Naturalism therefore struggles vainly against the following dilemma: if it is really in earnest in the elimination of spiritual realities, it must inevitably destroy its own fundamental basis and, as a system of life, must break down; while if it in any way acknowledges a transcendence of nature, and a transcendence just in that which is fundamental to it, then it is necessarily driven beyond itself.

But such contradiction in the basal position must be present through the whole development of Naturalism and must make all its factors variating in colour and double in meaning, since at one and the same time they involve the spiritual element and reject it, eliminate it and bring it into the foreground, the former openly and explicitly, the latter concealedly and implicitly. Such is the case, in particular, with the fundamental conception of the struggle for existence. In the context of Naturalism, this conception can signify nothing else than the preservation of natural existence, of mere life; such a conception, however, is as incapable of comprehending the whole wealth of the work of civilisation and culture as it is of developing within itself. If the preservation of existence in this sense were really the highest aim, then, all the work of humanity, incalculable and great as it is, all the toil and creative activity of history, would be without result; in no way would it lead beyond the starting-point; we should, of course, have life, but nothing along with and in life. Indeed, the movement would be a continual retrogression, for the experience of the present shows us clearly enough 34 that the conflict of life becomes ever more difficult, toilsome, and embittered. If all this toil does not yield more than was possessed in the original condition, that is, physical existence, then this implies that we have to make an ever greater detour to establish that which formerly devolved upon us immediately. In such a case our life would be a continual sinking, a toil continually increasing in difficulty, in order that we might simply be something, without being anything in particular. Or, will anyone assert that there is no retrogression when the achievement of the same aim costs ever more effort, ever more labour and turmoil of spirit?

The fact is that Naturalism also gives to life, which is seen to be thus immersed in conflict, some kind of content, which it conceives as increasing continually in the course of the movement, and as attaining for us through the conflict an ever richer and more comprehensive existence. But how can a conception such as that of the content of life originate in mere nature? How can it be even conceived unless life possesses some consciousness of itself, unless there is a transformation of what is external into something internal—a thing which nature can never accomplish?

With the conception of the struggle for existence, the useful becomes the preponderant power of life; it attempts a transvaluation of all values, since it lays stress rather on the relation of things to us than on their own nature. The conception won acceptance from and power over the minds of men because it was a complete change from the generally accepted explanation, and at the same time seemed to simplify matters greatly. Unfortunately, on further consideration this transformation proves to be a complete reversal of the general scheme of life, indeed a destruction of it. Man, it is true, does not preserve his physical existence without toil; he must continually win it anew, and nothing can occupy him which does not acquire some relation to this necessity and make itself consistent with it. But the further question arises, whether anxiety for the useful is also able to crush out that which is distinctive and 35 characteristic in the world of humanity. If we recognise the limits of the endeavour after the useful, we shall soon become doubtful concerning its claim to be the sole aim of conduct. That endeavour is spent solely on the welfare of the individual; it can never free itself from reference to the individual, and never, beyond that perceived, can it take up anything as an aim in itself. Interest is centred solely upon the external products of the activity of men and of the process of nature, and not at all upon what men and nature are in themselves. We find here nothing but isolated spheres of existence which are devoid alike of inner relation to themselves and to one another.

Now, Naturalism can appeal in its own defence to the fact that real life shows its individual departments to have thousands of inter-relationships, so that the welfare of the individual is inseparably bound up with that of his environment, his family, his home, his state; and that therefore, in order to prosper himself, his endeavour must be for the good of these also. It may even serve his own interest to give up a direct advantage in favour of a greater indirect one. Further, Naturalism is able to assert that, however little the inner disposition of others may affect us directly, this disposition can acquire a value for us in so far as its persistence alone assures to us a continuance of achievement. As considerations of this kind may be extended without limit, there is nothing in the whole breadth of existence which the utilitarian view of life need reject.

But, in the midst of all this extension in breadth, this development of life retains a fixed limitation in its inner nature, which cannot be transcended: we can never strive for the alien, the other, the whole, for its own sake, but only as a means for our own welfare; everything inward becomes a matter of indifference if, sooner or later, it is not transformed into an external result. Human life, however, through its own development has grown beyond this limitation; if not in the breadth of existence, yet in its inner nature and at its highest, it manifests something significantly more. Man is capable of a love which values another, not because 36 it hopes for this or that which is useful from him, but because with the whole of his existence he is valuable to it. Man is capable of a love which can lead him to the willing subordination, indeed the joyful sacrifice, of his own existence; of a love in which the first self dies and a new self is born. “Love is the greatest of all contradictions, and one which the understanding cannot solve, since there is nothing more impenetrable than this individuality of self-consciousness, which is negated, and which yet I should retain as positive” (Hegel). Into what a state of poverty humanity would fall if a genuine love of this kind were struck out of the number of its possessions! But can Naturalism in any way understand and estimate such an inner expansion of the heart, such a Stirbe und Werde [a dying to live], to use the words of Goethe?

A deliverance of life from the mere ego is effected in another direction in work. Of course, work also stands in close relation to the preservation of life; it must demonstrate itself to be in some way useful. But work would never fill the soul and attain to anything great if it did not also become an aim in itself; if it were not carried on in complete submission to the object and according to its requirements. How low all educational endeavour, personal guardianship, all work for humanity would sink; how humanity would lack all self-forgetting devotion to it, all bold pressing forward; and how unintelligible the joy in a life’s vocation would be, if the idea of utility solely and entirely determined conduct, if the chief concern were always how the work paid! Should we not sink, in such a case, into a slavery which would enthral man far more oppressively than any command which a tyrant could be capable of?

It is true that on the average level of existence much is turned to the service of the merely useful which was produced from love and work, and this reversal of spiritual goods may be the first thing which comes definitely under our notice. In order, however, even to be so applied and reversed, they must originally have been generated in some 37 manner, and this original generation can never proceed from the useful, but only out of the inner force and compulsion of the object, as, for example, in the case of the great transitions of thought, of artistic creation, and of religious conviction. And, as these have proceeded from inner movements, so they have also brought about powerful inner changes. They have not altered this or that in a given world in order to make it more comfortable to man, but with an energetic revolution have transformed our world from its very foundations, and have constructed a new world in contrast to that which immediately surrounds us. How much or how little individual men, or indeed even mankind as a whole, have appropriated of this; how far man has corresponded and still corresponds to the necessities of his own nature, is a matter and a question in itself: in the spiritual life of humanity the new magnitudes are extant, and they operate here as norms for testing all achievement. At the same time, they show that our life and our nature are of a kind different from what Naturalism represents them to be. However much Naturalism may boast that it is possible for even the highest to be drawn into the service of the merely human, with all its boasting it has not explained the origin of the highest: can a thing proceed from its own shadow? The naturalistic attempt to trace everything back to the useful really reverses the condition of affairs and results in inner destruction wherever disposition stands first. For conduct changes its character completely according as it is regarded as a mere means, or as an end in itself; according as its aim is striven for directly or only indirectly. Do such things as love, fidelity, honour deserve these names if the thought of selfish advantage is their motive power? It lies in the nature of certain things that they must be treated as ends in themselves and as matters of primary concern: to degrade them to a subsidiary position is in their case only a finer kind of destruction; to be opposed to utility is an attribute inseparable from their very being. Where disposition is valued only as a pre-condition of achievement, as in Naturalism, 38 at the highest only a tolerable appearance, a substitute for a genuine disposition, can be reached in the whole moral sphere. Naturalism affords us an example of such a substitution when it sets up an altruistic action, that is, an action which produces something useful to another, in place of an inner expansion of life, which takes the other up inwardly into our own volition and being, and which alone leads beyond egoism. Naturalism is able to overlook all this; is able to make what is the secondary view of things the primary one; the derived, the original; is able to put the relation to human perception in place of the thing itself, only because its interest is so completely occupied with external relations that it does not independently evaluate the inner; and again, because a reflection that appeals to the understanding hinders all immediate relation and spontaneous appropriation. Otherwise, it also would feel how deep, how intolerable, a degradation of man ensues if his innermost experience, his striving after truth, his wrestling for unity within himself, his love, and his suffering are made a mere means to physical self-preservation, and are thus regarded from the point of view of utility.

If we glance over the life of universal history, we see that a history of a distinctively human character extricates itself from the machinery of nature only through man’s acquiring an independence over against his environment, evolving a life conscious of itself and from it exerting a transforming power upon all presented to it. Only thus does a civilisation grow up in contrast with the mere state of nature. In civilisation and culture man enters into conflict with the infinity of the external world, but he cannot carry on this conflict victoriously without setting an inner infinity in opposition to that external one. In the struggle between these two worlds the life of man is transformed no less than the appearance of reality. More and more the visible world becomes an expression of an invisible one; more and more life draws the world into itself and finds the chief problems in its own sphere. Thus life becomes raised above simple physical preservation; that which serves in 39 this preservation is regarded as a condition only and as something preliminary.

Among the peoples situated nearest to us, this tendency has taken different forms; but the separation of creative spiritual activity from all mere utility is common to all. Thus, Greek culture gave birth to a life resting in its own movement, a life satisfied in itself. In the sharpest manner it marked off the beautiful, that which could produce pleasure immediately and of itself, from the merely useful, everything which served something else. It lauded the life filled with the perception and appreciation of the beautiful as the only free life, and pronounced every other way of life to be servile. Further, if in Christianity, in the comprehensiveness of its relations, the care for the welfare of the narrowly human takes up a great amount of attention, and a utilitarianism of a religious kind is evolved, the height of its creation and disposition is not affected: in it the winning of a new life superior to all selfishness, the becoming one with the divine, is the one end in itself. If Clement of Alexandria could say that, if it was a matter of choosing between the knowledge of God and eternal bliss, he would have, without hesitation, to renounce the latter, or if Thomas à Kempis said, “I would rather be poor for Thy sake than rich without Thee. I choose rather to be a pilgrim with Thee on the earth, than without Thee to possess heaven. For where Thou art, there is heaven; but where Thou art not, there is death and hell”—then these are not merely the lofty sayings of individuals, but a faithful expression of that which gave to the whole system its world-penetrating and world-reviving power.

The Modern Age, too, which has conceded so much to utilitarian striving, is in the innermost essence of its effort far removed from the spirit of mere utility. For, from the two poles of its life, from the subject as from the object, it breaks through all that is simply “given” and forms a new, self-existent world. In modern times the subject frees itself from the environment, places itself proudly over against it, and finds its securest experience in the self-certainty of 40 its own life. At the same time it in no way renounces the surrounding world; but through the activity of thought it reconstructs that world, and in this conceptualises and idealises all its magnitudes. The more the subject becomes assured of seeing all things spiritually and scientifically by means of its own organisation, the more true is it that all sense experience is sustained and modified by spiritual power. Natural self-preservation cannot possibly satisfy the striving of the subject. For this striving can never be reduced to a mere means, but finds its power, as its joy, in becoming a world in itself; in the proud maintenance and establishment of its own nature in face of every opposition; in the impression of its particularity upon the infinity of things. On the other hand, over against the circumstantiality of man, great systems of thought are formed; evolve a characteristic content and independent powers; and, as forces in the life of universal history, press forward their consequences with inevitable necessity. These systems seek to bring reality under their sway, and do not manifest the least concern with regard to the continuance and the interests of man. Science and art and the political and economical aspects of life afford examples of what we mean. Accordingly, in the modern world and in the modern man, two movements towards infinity clash together, and from these there arise great commotion and violent unrest. Whatever may remain enigmatical in this, the fact of the transformation of the first, the sense experience of things, is beyond doubt. It is also beyond doubt that man, regarded spiritually, does not find himself a member of a given world, but must first seek and make clear his fundamental relations to the world. From this position Naturalism, with its naïve assertion of the finality and permanence of the sense impression, appears to be an intolerable dogmatism.

Naturalism is seen to be far below the highest point of universal historical development; it cannot appropriate the experiences and results of that development; it consists of a confusion of naïve and scientific modes of thought, 41 which win the adherence of many individuals, but which, through their contradictions, can never guarantee to life genuine stability and a clear course. Only because it evolves in the atmosphere of a world of another kind, and thereby imperceptibly enhances its own conceptions, does it appear at all plausible. Nevertheless, even so, it is a mischievous confusion of thought which must act detrimentally upon conduct. Those especially will be opposed to it who recognise in human life great tasks and severe perplexities, and desire that the highest powers and clearest thought shall be called forth for the accomplishment of those tasks and the solution of those perplexities. But Naturalism, obscuring, as it does, the inner problems of life; with its backwardness in the movement of universal history; and with its attempt to take from human life all proud and free self-consciousness, indeed all soul, can tend only to reduce the energy of life.

The rejection of Naturalism by no means signifies failure to appreciate the increased attention to nature, out of the wrong interpretation of which Naturalism has proceeded. Not only has visible nature become more to our knowledge; it has also become incomparably more to our life. The fact that we feel ourselves conditioned by it, and have become more closely associated with it, can be fully appreciated and must force us to a radical revision of the traditional form of life. Such a revision, however, can be successful in achieving its aim only if the new experiences are systematised to form a consistent whole with the remaining facts in a comprehensive, universal life; spiritual endeavour is solely and alone capable of offering this universality and of accomplishing this task.

2. The Socialistic System

The socialistic system of life is often closely bound up with the naturalistic, and blends with it so well as almost to form a single whole; indeed, there is so much affinity in 42 their fundamental principles that the one may appear to be the completion of the other. But when we come to details, we find that a different character and a different emotional life are yielded according as the relation to nature or to human society governs life; especially as we are parts in an infinite nature, or as we place our own province in the foreground and seek a new form for it. On the one hand knowledge takes the lead, on the other activity. While the former, according to its nature, is more concerned with reaching a consistent whole, the latter feels the contradictions of experience most intensely. With the one progress appears to be a gradual accumulation, with the other it does not seem possible to dispense with a radical change; while the former is broader in its outlook, the latter has more warmth of enthusiasm. Through the domination of thought and life by the problems of society, a distinctive form of culture may therefore be expected.

In modern life different motives have led to a closer unity of men on the basis of experience. Religion no longer accords to the individual firm support as in earlier times, and with every advance of scientific research nature is removed inwardly further from us; ceaseless criticism and reflection tend to prevent us more and more from comprehending the whole as a unity. Man, thus isolated in the whole, seems to himself to be lost, unless he succeeds in discovering relations between himself and others of the same nature as himself, and unless in co-operation with them he helps to build up an independent realm of their own, which may lend support and value to the life of the individual.

In the Modern Age social life has tended to this end under the influence of fresh impressions and new prospects. Hitherto that life was under the influence of an invisible world of thought, especially of one of a religious kind. The union of men had particular presuppositions and was realised in a particular manner; here, the more closely a certain group held together, the more sharply was it separated from others; the calling forth of power in one particular 43 direction meant diverting it from other tasks. A changed mode of thought was also able to take exception to the view that the ties which bind men together came from a transcendent order, which is now felt as an “other” world and is the subject of doubt. At first, therefore, we are apt to think it a pure gain if modern society no longer concerns itself with these invisible bonds, and regards the union as arising solely and entirely out of the immediate experience of life. For then there is nothing to hinder the balanced development of all the relationships of men among themselves; the social life serves no other end, but finds its task and happiness in itself, and in its actuality is disturbed by no kind of doubt.

With this deliverance from all external constraint, a positive advance of the life of society on the basis of the Modern Age is associated. A life more free in conduct, and which through progress in the arts ceaselessly expands, brings men nearer to one another, and forces them into closer union; action and reaction accelerate each other. The opinions and strivings of the masses are determined more easily and exercise more influence; the whole and its influence upon the individual become incomparably stronger. At the same time, the energetic attention that men bestow upon the surrounding reality throws into bold relief relations which have existed from the earliest times, but which hitherto have not been prominent, and enables them to acquire a greater value for life. Since the old appears in a new light, and the new arises, diverse streams of social life are formed, and through their diversity operate to the strengthening of the main tendency.

Modern Sociology shows the individual to be far more dependent upon the social environment, upon general conditions, than we are wont to assume from the first impression, which usually throws differences into relief and overlooks common traits, generally fails to pay sufficient attention to the growth of the individuals, and is too apt to take the positions which they possess as essentially the result of their own work. In contrast to this, the one 44 thing which now has power to impress us is the fact that the dependence reaches back to the earliest beginnings; that the individual has become what he has become through the overpowering influences of heredity, education, and environment. Further, the conviction that the differences lie within ascertainable limits, and that there is a certain average level throughout all the multiplicity of life, is gaining a firmer hold. To ascertain these average levels now becomes the chief problem of knowledge, and to realise them the chief task of practical political provision. Inner changes are also brought about. The fact that, with these changes, responsibility, guilt, and desert are transferred more and more from the individual to the society tends to call forth more humane sympathy and more mildness of judgment, and tends to discredit the excessive self-esteem of a self-righteous Pharisaism. At the same time it constitutes a powerful motive to work for the whole; to strive to raise the whole, morally and physically; to develop a social morality and a strong feeling of solidarity.

To the modern man, therefore, the life of the State advances through changes in content and form. The State, which in the Middle Ages had to leave all problems of inner training to the Church, in its new function of culture State now assumes all tasks, influences the whole life of the individual, and is confident in its power to transform our existence more and more into a realm of reason. Along with this there is a strong tendency to place the State increasingly on the power and insight of individuals; all through the nineteenth century this tendency won an ever more overwhelming power. The more activity we bestow upon a particular sphere of work, the more valuable does it become to us, the nearer does it stand to our inner nature. Thus, the ancient mode of thought, that the individual is a mere member of the political organism, and that he receives his tasks and obtains his power from it, was able to be revived.

With this the stronger emphasis laid upon national peculiarities, and the more definite self-assertion and more vigorous development of nations are associated. Formerly 45 national character had been veiled and, as far as the spiritual ideals of humanity are concerned, as though lost. Now nations appear as points where the spiritual life manifests itself and concentrates distinctively. To work out their peculiarities clearly, and manfully to assert them in the competition of peoples, promises great gain for the organisation and energising of life; for the first time, the divine seems to pass into daily toil on earth.

Most of all, the modern organisation of labour, with its enhancing of technique and its advance beyond the capacity of production of the mere individual, heightens the power of impression of the picture as a whole. Work brings about a deliverance from the passivity of the subject; it organises itself into independent complexes, which develop into a state entirely foreign to our nature. It produces its own motive powers and necessities, and requires from the individual the strictest obedience. The performance of the individual attains a value only in definitely ordered co-operation with others; it loses all worth if he attempts to ignore this relation. This is shown with particular clearness in the evolution of the factory with its production by machinery. It is shown further in every specifically modern work in administrative government, in military organisation, in knowledge and education. Everywhere we find great organisations; an enormous growth in the capacity of the whole, but a sinking of the individual to a mere link of the great chain, a proscribing of all individual will. If all thus depends upon the whole, the success of endeavour and the happiness of life will be decided chiefly by the organisation of the whole. It is not to be wondered at, then, if the antitheses which arise in reference to this organisation agitate people in the strongest degree; if a faith in the omnipotence of political and social forms grows up, and if over these the keenest fight rages.

In this connection there is no problem which gives rise to greater complications and severer conflicts than that in regard to the preservation and raising of the standard of material existence. If, in general, we attribute incomparably 46 more value to the material in life than was done formerly, so here also the problems of modern labour reach their climax. The organisation and concentration of labour have made by far their greatest progress in this matter; a gigantic accumulation of capital on the one side and of labour power on the other has intensified to the uttermost the opposition between man and man. In this conflict more than in any other the whole being of man comes into play; here, therefore, the most powerful passions flame up. No wonder that, if the thought of a fundamental re-organisation rises to the surface, it wins an influence amounting to fascination, arouses the hope of an essential advancement of the whole of human existence, and impels men to vigorous activity.

Thus, then, this sphere, in which fact is regarded as principle, and in which the problem of the development of society is elevated to a position of importance above all others, and seeks to impress its stamp upon the whole of life, is first and foremost. From this point of view the organisation of society is the central problem of all culture, and a distinctive social culture, a social system of life, is evolved. But that which emerges at this point with especial power and clearness would not have been able to win men so quickly and influence them so strongly if it did not constitute a high-water mark of a wider movement, of a general tendency of the modern man to regard the social relation as being of the essence of life, and to shape life anew from this. Viewed historically, this tendency arose as a reaction against the practice of placing the individual in the foreground, a practice which since the beginning of the Modern Age had been resorted to in the most diverse departments of life. What was felt to be unconditionally right in opposition to the bondage of the Middle Ages has, in the course of time, shown a reverse side. Many painful experiences have led us to favour a movement in the direction of the whole again; and so it comes about that all hope of amelioration is able to be regarded as inevitably bound up with the complete victory of this movement.


A distinctive social type of life can be formed and can strive for supremacy only if great problems arise within society and if its position in the whole of our life is capable of and in need of change. It will soon be seen that the case is so in respect of both these things; and also that two movements, one more general in kind, and another more precise but also more uncertain as to its goal, are connected.

The point at which the new development of life institutes a new demand is the relation of the individual to the means of existence and the goods of culture. Formerly an aristocratic order preponderated, which allowed only a few to share in the abundance of these goods, while it was only afterwards that the many were able to partake of the poor remains. In material, as in spiritual, things man was concerned less with the equitable distribution of the possessions of humanity than with increasing them. The matter of chief importance, and this with regard to questions of inward culture also, appeared to be in some way to incorporate the contents and goods within the sphere of human existence, and to fix them there; the extension of these goods among men was a matter of secondary consideration, and often one that was only very lightly thought of. The limitation to a small chosen class, indeed, seemed to be quite indispensable for a secure and worthy organisation of life. Thus, this culture acquired its character at the highest levels of society, and from there descended in diminishing degrees to lower levels: it was regarded as inevitable that in this descent much should be lost, and that the less privileged classes must perforce be satisfied with very little.

A movement in opposition to this state of things arose in the first place among the individuals who were placed in the background by such an organisation, and who, not convinced of the validity of the doctrine of the immutability of their fate, began to make comparisons and to ask questions. Their desire was not merely for more happiness, but for spiritual advance also. In humanity there is an energetic striving and advance, and in this a far greater spirituality and a far keener thirst for truth are often shown in the classes 48 of the people who are struggling upward and pressing forward than in those classes which from early times have had possession of power and wealth and which are hampered by a feeling of self-satisfaction.

That which at first is striven for by merely a part of mankind acquires, through its inner necessities, a power over others also, and becomes a requirement of the whole. We experience here what earlier was called the power of ideas in history, that is, the fact that in certain periods certain thoughts and demands acquire an overwhelming power of penetration and impel men to a line of conduct which is even opposed to their special interests. We may so far speak of the supremacy of the social idea in the present, as not only in the disposition of individuals but also through organisation and legislation there is an endeavour to bring help to the poor and the weak, to raise those who are struggling upward, and to convey as directly as possible both material and spiritual goods to all who bear human features. It is not only that this appears a matter of justice; a rejuvenation and an energising of the whole of culture are also hoped for. Without a radical rejection of all that which in the traditional position has decayed, become alien, or is now artificial; without a deep-reaching simplification and a greater proximity to the soul, how could all partake of culture, and how could it become a concern of all? The old demand of leading educationalists, of Comenius and Rousseau, of Pestalozzi and Froebel, the desire for a rejuvenation of our culture antiquated as it is in many respects, seems to be approaching its fulfilment now that the matter is a concern of the whole of mankind.

However, this striving, which in itself cannot be rejected, enters upon a narrow course and at the same time upon much that is problematical, in that it unites with the positivistic tendencies of the age in the rejection of all invisible connections and in the restriction of life to the experience of sense. Instead of the whole, we now have the average and the masses, and instead of a creation from the whole, a building up from below; the needs of the masses are the 49 main motive power of life. But as with the masses the chief questions are those of the physical preservation of life, and of economic existence, it seems as if, with their solution, with the deliverance from oppressing cares and necessity through a radical revolution, a complete state of happiness and a ceaseless spiritual advance of humanity are assured. Material welfare, which in earlier organisations of life was so depreciated, in the new system becomes the matter of chief concern; it is regarded as that which more than anything else leads to the development of every power and makes culture the truth for the whole of humanity.

The life of society is thus seen to be full of problems. Nevertheless, the position of society in our life as a whole has been changed and raised. We have become far more uncertain concerning our relation to ultimate and universal reality; we doubt the possibility and the validity of first winning, through religion or speculation, a world beyond human experience, of the conveying it to that experience, and from the point of view of such a world giving the human its light and setting it its task. In short, the centre of life has changed from the object to the subject; we know that we cannot abstract from our own nature our spiritual organisation, but that we carry it into every aspect of the whole; that we see and form the world through man. With such a transition, the movement from man to world becomes the chief movement of life; and the conception of man will decide the nature of the conceptions of life and of reality. Henceforth greatness may be attributed to these only if human nature is capable of an advance beyond what it appears to be in the first impression. That, however, will scarcely be possible unless humanity is conceived as a whole and, with such a unity, has more power and depth than it has as it exists immediately before us. This also will operate to the strengthening of the social order, in which sense experience controls thought.

Thus, many different factors unite to make the condition of mankind as it is, that is, the state of society on the basis of experience, the starting-point and final aim of all 50 endeavour, and the relation of man to surrounding men the fundamental relation of his life. But, as in the case of culture as a whole, the individual departments of life must also win a distinctive character if the welfare of the social whole, the achievement for man and the influence on man, becomes the all-controlling task which sets the aim and points out the way for all activity.

In this context science does not reveal hidden depths of things, but aids man in winning power over appearances; it leads him to a more zealous and a more active life. Art does not lift him into an ideal world; but, within experience, softens the pressure of existence and fills life with pure joys. Morality does not subject our conduct to an invisible order, but directs man beyond himself to men around him; it develops the feeling of solidarity and raises the standard of the inner relationships of society. For religion as the revelation of an “other” world there is no room; this world shows in humanity an object worthy of reverence; so understood, religion also must work to the inner elevation of society.

In everything that which distinguishes the individual is thrust into the background to make way for that which is common; work has in the first place to concern itself with that which is common to all. In that here science makes man the chief study of man, it considers him especially as a social being and finds its chief theme in the knowledge of social conditions. Similarly, the chief subject of art is not, as was formerly the case, the doings and experience of individuals, but the forceful representation of these social conditions. The raising of the general level becomes the chief care of all practical activity, as also of education. According to this scheme the individual is of consequence and of worth only through those elements of the common life which he brings to expression, and through the way in which he reacts upon that life. The industry of universal history is understood, therefore, not from that which relates primarily to individuals, but from that relating to the movements and destinies of society.


Such an estimate of the whole involves a conviction which seldom finds expression, but which silently exerts its influence everywhere: the belief in a summation of reason by the organisation of individuals into a whole. Only a belief of this kind is able to establish the supremacy of the mass over against the individuals, also in spiritual things; only such a belief is able to justify the hope of a victory of the good in the sphere of humanity.

The net result of all these ideas and tendencies is a co-ordinated system of thought, a distinctive type of life. In this system man is first and foremost a member of society; he originates in it; he remains in it; and his activity carries implications far beyond his own life. Not community of labour only joins him with his fellows, but also the general tone of thought and feeling. This type of life is not one without sacrifice; for it has to give up many things which in earlier times seemed a secure possession and were a source of joy. Yet these things were only illusions which vanished, and mankind seems to find a compensation, more than equivalent for all that has been lost, in that it is more closely united and through this wins new powers; and henceforth out of its own capacity can venture to take up the struggle against every irrationality of existence, and to advance its own well-being without constraint. A life is therefore evolved, conscious of its limits, but at the same time active and courageous.

In this manner, then, transcending all subjective opinions and wishes, a distinctive social culture has arisen, and its growth and results are clearly evident to us. Through combination of forces and through diligent activity on behalf of one another, and this with the aid of a highly evolved technique, we have brought about a magnificent elevation of our being; necessity and disease have been successfully fought against; the standard of education and the amount and kind of joy in life have been raised in many ways; in life and suffering men have been drawn together inwardly and associated together with a greater degree of solidarity. If one accepts the creed of the socialistic 52 movement in the narrower sense: that human society can be placed on a new basis and at the same time raised essentially in its achievement, one can conceive that social culture may grow to the comprehensiveness of culture in general, and arouse the hope of a kingdom of reason among men.

But here also there is a limit set to things, not from without, but from within; not from a rationalising criticism, but through the actual facts of the life of humanity. This limit appears with especial clearness when we consider the relation of the individual, together with his work, to the society in which he stands. If social culture should be regarded as absolute culture, the individual must spend himself solely and entirely in relation to his environment; all his activity and endeavour must be exerted in achievement for this culture—must, indeed, be regarded as a mere part of a common work. In such a system man could never attain an independent position and a superior right in opposition to society. Let us examine whether the experience of history establishes the truth of this system or whether it does not much rather show the opposite to be more correct.

It was only in the earliest state of culture, and under very simple conditions of life, that the individual was solely and entirely bound up with the social organism, simply a member of family, of tribe, and such like; entirely swayed by custom, authority, and tradition. All further evolution was a differentiation and led to the greater independence of the individual. There came a time, however, when, in contrast with his mere membership of the society, the individual felt himself to have arrived at a state of maturity; when he questioned the right of the traditional order, and ultimately found himself coming into opposition with the whole of society; his own thought thus became the chief basis of his life and the measure of all things. At first that 53 may have appeared an impious break and a destructive negation; in reality, the positive results which have been thus effected could never have been produced out of a mere revolt. For, a deepening of life in all its branches went hand in hand with the individual’s attainment of independence; now, for the first time, Religion developed a personal religious experience, and Art filled man’s whole soul; now only did Science set a distinctive world of thought in opposition to the traditional presentation; and so the whole of life gained enormously in independence, mobility, and depth. How could this point have been reached if an immediate relation to reality had not emerged in the soul of man; if an inner world had not been formed from this reality, as the representative of which the individual might feel superior to the society and, from inner necessities, criticise the prevailing condition of things? The fact is that all deepening of culture, all awakening of life to self-consciousness, is a rising above the life of society, a summoning of the individual to creative activity. Never have real advances in Religion, Science, and Art, or great transformations of life, originated out of a combination of the activities of the majority. Only in isolated cases has an incomparable individuality, supreme in the entire range of creative activity, been reached, and spiritual tasks been treated as ends in themselves, without which there is nothing great. Only out of the necessity of spiritual self-preservation, only as an overcoming of intolerable contradictions within our own being, could creative activity find a sure direction and a lofty self-confidence in order to lead the whole of humanity along new paths. The individuals in whom this was accomplished were, to be sure, under many influences from historico-social life; but, to overlook the essential elevation above the entire domain of merely human interests into a realm of self-conscious truth, which was accomplished by these individuals, one must confuse the conditions with spiritual activity itself.

As this spiritual life has transcended social life from the beginning, in the same way its effects are by no 54 means exhausted in that life. It has, it is true, exerted its activity upon the social environment, and, after the initial opposition has been overcome, has often been superabundantly honoured; but even so, it has been accepted in isolated and external relations rather than in the whole of its being, and in its appropriation through society it is apt to lose what is best in it. Ever anew, even after centuries and centuries, it has attracted aspiring souls to itself, and has always been able to offer something new to them; in fact, in its essence it stands not in time but above it. The more such genuine creative activity and production in all its spheres become unified, the more a kingdom of truth spreads like an arch over the whole machinery of human history, and, measured by the standards of that truth, human standards are seen to be extremely low, like the size of the earth when contrasted with the region of the fixed stars. This realm of eternal truth, however, reveals itself immediately only to the soul of the individual, who must convey it to society.

Such an estimate of spiritual depth in the individual is quite compatible with the fact that in the course of history the individual has often fallen into utter uncertainty; has felt destitute and lonely, and has passionately sought a support in society. For the individual may cut himself adrift from the invisible connections in which his greatness is rooted; he may base himself on his own isolated power and groping intellect. When he has indeed done this, he has soon perceived and experienced his insufficiency; after such experience he has longed for the building up of a new society by spiritual activity, and when this has been attained he has fled to it as to a sure haven. Men strove for such a society in the later period of Antiquity; one such was founded by Early Christianity, by which the centre of life was transferred from the individual to the society. But in this transition the individual did not again become simply a member of society. For the new union that was sought could not come to men from without, but could proceed only as a result of spiritual endeavour; for its origin and 55 in the early stages of its life it required great creative personalities of the kind of Augustine; for its preservation it needed appropriation by individuals, who unless they made an independent decision could not come to a complete knowledge of the truth. Wherever such individual activity languished, the inwardness of life at once became weak; the whole threatened to lose its spiritual nature and to be transformed into mere mechanism. But after, in the course of history, the individual has developed so far as experience shows him to have done; after that, as microcosm, he has found an immediate relation to reality and to himself, his transcendence may for a time be obscured, but he can never be deprived of it. As the individual has grown strong only as the representative and champion of a culture that is spiritual, as opposed to one that is merely human, so at the same time that spiritual culture asserts itself and criticises all which limits man to his own sphere. After having attained a greater comprehensiveness, a pure self-existence, and other standards toilsomely enough, a narrowly social culture must be absolutely intolerable to us.

This assertion is valid especially in regard to the social culture of the present. That culture, as we saw, makes significant and justifiable demands which have arisen from historical conditions; but its right gives place to error, if these demands are made the central point of life as a whole, and everything else subordinated to them. The unsatisfactoriness of this system of culture and the impossibility of achieving its aims would be still more manifest if it did not constantly supplement its own results out of the other organisations of life, and did not boldly and unjustifiably idealise the man of experience.

This social culture may be shortly described in some of its tendencies: (1) Work for society was the compelling motive in the shaping of this life of social utility. Some such social principle may suffice for the distribution of goods; it never suffices for their original production. We saw how spiritual experience can arise only from the compulsion of an inner self-preservation, in which man 56 does not think in the least of the effects on others, but of himself and the object. Only that effort which has sprung up without regard to its mere utility has been able to achieve great things. If, therefore, merely social culture rigidly binds up vital energy with the direction of all thoughts on the effect, in the long run it must seriously degrade life. Can we deny that in the chief departments of the spiritual life the present already clearly shows tendencies to such a degradation? And can this be otherwise when we only more widely diffuse the inherited possession, but are unable to increase it through our own activity?

(2) Social culture makes the judgment of the society the test of all truth and requires from the individual a complete subordination. It can do this, as we saw, only under the assumption that reason is summed in a judgment by the people as a whole; but, in face of the experiences of history and the impressions of the present time, can this assumption be ratified? Upon its emergence, truth has nearly always been championed by a minority so small as to be hardly discernible; and what in its case is called victory is usually nothing else than the transforming of the struggle from an external into an internal one. He who continues firm in his faith in the victory of truth does so because he trusts, not so much in the wisdom of the majority as in a reason transcending all that is empirically human, and which begets a truth with power to constrain. The present gives us the opportunity of testing this assertion by an example. We see movements of the masses in plenty, but where do we see great spiritual creations arise from the resulting chaos? Even Socialism in the narrower sense has to thank but a few men for its vital power and character, as, for example, Marx; the masses are indeed a condition and an environment, but never as such the bearers of creative activity.

(3) Where man, as he is, governs all thought, his well-being, his complacency, an existence as free from care as possible, and as rich as possible in pleasure, will become the highest of all aims. But would not one find an inner emptiness, a monotony, even more intolerable than any 57 suffering if this aim were reached and life were freed from all pain and necessity? Intelligible as it is that, to the classes whose life is spent in hard struggle against necessity and care, the deliverance from these appears the highest good and an assurance of complete happiness, it is just as unintelligible that anyone who is conscious of the work of universal history and the inner movement of humanity can share such a belief. For that movement has given rise to difficult problems and severe conflicts within the soul of man; a wrestling for a truth and a content of life, where we now drift hither and thither on the surface of appearance; a longing for infinity and eternity, where now a finitude and a past fascinate and charm us; a clashing together of freedom and destiny, of nature and spirit. The tendencies and tasks which this movement produces may for a time be thrust into the background, but they continually reappear and claim their right. It is a foolish undertaking to try to make man happy by directing him to give up what is distinctive in him, and to give his striving a less worthy character.

(4) From a radical improvement of the conditions of life, the socialistic way of thinking expects a continuous advance of culture and an increasing ennoblement of man. To some extent this expectation would be justified if a strong spiritual impulse and a sure tendency towards the good were found everywhere; if it were only a matter of opening the door to an inner striving that was everywhere operative; only a matter of removing restrictions. The actual picture of human conditions corresponds but little to such an optimism. How small a place spiritual impulse has in human conduct and effort! How wearisome to the indifferent and reluctant average man any thought of spiritual goods becomes, and what severe restrictions moral development meets with in selfishness, avarice, and jealousy! The impressions which reality gives speak too plainly in regard to this for even the believers in socialistic culture to be able to hide the facts from themselves; but it is noteworthy enough that not that which they see with their eyes and grasp with their 58 hands determines their judgment, but that which, unconsciously, they add to it: an invisible humanity, a greatness and a dignity of human nature, a nobility in the depths of the soul; conceptions for which, in this context, there is not the least justification.

All these considerations show clearly enough the limits of simply socialistic culture, and the sharp contradictions of its adherents. This culture only throws man back increasingly upon the merely human, and unmercifully holds him firmly fixed in it. It chains him to his own appearance and suppresses all tendencies towards depth. It knows nothing of life’s consciousness of itself; it knows no inner problems, no infinite development of the soul; it cannot acknowledge a common life of an inner kind, but must derive all from external relations. At the same time it excludes all understanding of the movement of universal history; for the chief content of this movement constitutes just those problems which Socialism regards as foolish delusions. To be sure, the striving after an inner independence of life has brought much error with it, and it may involve much that is problematical. But that a longing after such independence should arise at all and prove itself able to call forth so much endeavour sufficiently demonstrates that man is more than a mere being of society; more than a member of a social organism.

Ultimately, socialistic culture presupposes, in its own development, a greater depth of life than it is itself able to produce. It can make so much out of its data only because it assumes in them a more comprehensive and a deeper world of thought. Like Naturalism, Socialism reaches a tolerable conclusion only by much plagiarism from the old Idealism, before the principal conceptions of which it crosses itself as before something atrocious.

This inner inconsistency of socialistic culture, its remaining bound up with something which inwardly it contradicts, is most plainly shown by the historical experience of the Modern Age. Men were at first led to take up the movements towards the strengthening of society chiefly by the 59 expectation that the invisible forces in human existence would be invigorated, and by the hope that the inner life of men would be raised. The more they have cut themselves adrift from these invisible connections and have placed themselves simply on the basis of experience the more have they lost in spiritual content.

The movement towards the modern free State arose in association with religious strivings; the desire for political independence attached itself to and inwardly grew from the longing for more complete equality before God. The more this relation to Religion and, further, to an invisible realm receded into the background, the more difficult did it become to guard the striving for freedom from being diverted in the interests of individuals, classes, and parties; the more did the movement inwardly lose by external expansion. We saw that the idea of nationality acquired power from the conviction that there results in an independent people an individualisation of the spiritual and divine which is the first thing to ensure to existence a definite character and a firm support. So long as this conviction predominated, each people had a great inner task in reaching the highest point of development of its nature, and, what is more important, did not need to direct its energies upon externals. With the obscuring or the complete surrender of this spiritual foundation, a blind adoration of one’s own country, an increase of unfruitful pride of race, a passionate struggle for external expansion and power, inevitably accompanied by the surrender of humanity and justice, threatens us.

When in the nineteenth century the modern idea of the State again came into currency, the State came to be regarded—as, for example, in the system of Hegel—as the realisation of an absolute reason, and desired to be honoured as something “earthly divine.” Its leading administrators, however, men of the kind of Altenstein, were imbued with the philosophic spirit; were men who could be regarded as philosophers in Plato’s sense. To-day we still hear of such spiritual bases of the State, in syllabuses 60 of courses of study; but we count so little on a philosophical training that when anyone gives any sign of such a training he is regarded with astonishment as a rare exception. Even the socialistic movement in the narrower sense, the longing for an economic revolution, at first stood in close connection with philosophical endeavours, and the hope of an inner ennobling of humanity, the hope of raising the whole of culture, worked in it as a powerful motive force. More and more, out of this a mere desire for power and enjoyment has developed, a passionate struggle of class against class, of interest against interest, and how this might lead to an inner elevation of humanity is not apparent. The more socialistic culture, in its pressing forward, has cut itself loose from a richer and more inward culture and has trusted solely to its own resources, the more distinct have its limitations become, the more has its incapacity to include the whole of human existence been made evident.

To assert this does not mean to depreciate the significance of the facts which the social tendency has made us conscious of and the tasks which it has imposed upon us. Not only do the advance into prominence of the economic side of life, and the desire for a more energetic realisation of a social organisation in this direction, remain unimpeached, but there are demands of an imperative kind which extend beyond the scope of this narrow conception. The increasing isolation and separation of individuals make us feel the desire for reunion more and more strongly. Man, with that which is near him and in him, acquires an ever greater significance for the shaping of our life and our world; from no other point of departure than from him can we attempt to reach the depths of reality and from these to build up a realm of reason.

Socialistic culture, however, treats these problems, to which it gives rise, far too externally and too meanly to hold out any hope that its method can lead to their solution; and so, as we see it immediately before us, it brings truth and error into a melancholy mixture. Only 61 a broader conception of life could bring about a differentiation and give to each factor its right. In this case also the promised solution of the problem is seen to be itself a problem.

3. The System of Æsthetic Individualism

The naturalistic and socialistic tendencies unite in the modern life of culture for action in common. How near they stand to each other, notwithstanding all their differences, our accounts of them will have shown. Not only do both make the world of sense the sole world of man, but both also find life entirely in the relation to the environment, be it nature or society. Again, both maintain that all happiness arises from work upon this environment, whether the work be in the main scientific and technical, or practical and political. Thus the culture of both systems bears throughout the character of a culture of work; in one as in the other great complexes of work arise, and draw the individual to themselves; all trouble and effort are for the sake of the result; in both a restless progressive movement surrounds us and directs all reflection and thought to a better future. With such a tendency we have grown closer to the environment and we have ascribed more value to the world and to life. With an ever-increasing activity, a proud self-consciousness has developed in humanity.

But the limitations and defects of such a culture, centred as it is upon results, could not remain concealed. The age, alert and fond of reflecting upon its own nature, has been compelled more and more to perceive the negation that accompanied the assertion made in that system. The striving for results alone made care for the soul impossible; the being fitted into a complex whole impaired the development to complete individuality. The more industrial and social activities have become specialised, the less significant has that part of human existence become which is embodied in the individual as such, the more have all 62 aspects of his nature other than those involved in his work degenerated. The continual thought of the future, the impetuous movement ever onward and onward, also threatens to destroy all appreciation of the present, all self-consciousness and independence of life. If we exist merely in order to serve as means and instruments to a soulless process of culture, does not the whole enormous movement finally amount to nothing, if it is not experienced and appropriated?

Once such questions arise and make man concerned about the meaning and the happiness of his life, a sudden change must soon take place. Man may at all times fall into error concerning the aims of the culture of work; indeed, concerning work itself. It may appear to him as something which, originally his own creation, has broken loose from him, placed itself in opposition to him, enslaved him, and finally, like a gigantic spider, threatens to suck his life’s blood. From this point of view it may be regarded as the most important of all tasks again to become master of work, and to preserve a life inwardly conscious of itself, in contrast with the tendency of work to occupy itself solely with externals; to realise a true present in contrast with the restless hurry onward and onward; a quietness and a depth of the soul in contrast with work’s bustle and agitation. To those with such a conviction the culture of work must seem sordid, secular, profane, and in contrast a longing for more inspiration, more soul, more permanent splendour of life will arise.

Many movements of this kind make themselves apparent in the present; the longing for a return of life to itself, for more joy and more depth in life, grows ever stronger and stronger. Of all these movements, however, one stands out with definite achievement—one which, upon the basis of the present and with the means of sense experience, seeks a remedy which, while in these two aspects it shares the general initial assumption of the culture of work, within the limits of this assumption is entirely opposed to this culture of work. We mean the system of Subjectivism 63 and Individualism. In that this system is blended with a kind of art of its own, and gains strength from this, it boldly undertakes to govern and shape our whole existence.

He who wishes to rise above the culture of work without transcending the region of experience will scarcely discover any other basis than the individual with his self-consciousness, his “being-for-self.” For, however far work with its influences may penetrate into the innermost recesses of the soul, there always remains something which is able to resist it. Something original seems to spring up here, which fits into no scheme and bows down to no external power.

If, therefore, a newly aroused longing for greater immediacy and happiness in life drives man once more to the subjective and to the individual, he can emphasise this factor conceptually in order to depreciate the other systems of life. For, whether the individual belongs to an invisible world of thought or to a visible structure, his task and his worth is then assigned to him by the whole; his activity will have a definite direction determined by the whole, and his power will be called into play only so far as it fitted into the framework of the whole organisation. If all such relation to the whole is discarded, and the individual becomes bold enough to place himself simply upon his own capacity, and to acknowledge no other standard than his own decision, an infinite course seems to open up before him. What lies in him is now able to develop with complete freedom, and he need take neither a visible nor an invisible order into anxious consideration. The individual, raised to such sovereignty, will make far more out of himself, and will mean far more than the narrow and often over-awed individual of earlier ages. True, even in earlier times opposition from the individual was not lacking, but the circumstances of the Modern Age are especially conducive to his development and recognition. We know how the modern man extricated himself from the ties which bound him, and how he boldly placed himself in opposition to the world. We know how much more freely thought rules in modern life; how much more deeply an over-subtle 64 reflection penetrates everywhere and takes all stability from things. We know, too, how the external form of civilisation, with its acceleration of intercourse, and its development in a thousand directions, sets the individual more free. Is it to be wondered at if the modern individual regards himself as the centre and undertakes to shape the whole of life from himself?

The individual can attain complete independence only when he liberates his soul from all external connections, from every objective relation, and, as a free subject, simply lives his own states of consciousness. This is achieved above all in the disposition—transcending all form and shape and bound to no particular object—which has obtained an independent position chiefly as a result of the Romantic movement. In this a complete detachment of life, an inward infinity, and a complete independence seem attained; every individual has his own course and his own truth; no limit is set to life, no command given, but he can with the utmost freedom develop every impulse and exhaust its possibilities according to its nature. Thus a life arises, profuse and extremely active: a life fine and delicate in nature; a life which is in no way directed beyond itself.

But all agitation, profuseness, and refinement could hardly have prevented this emotional life from becoming hollow, if, when it turned to the individual, it had not united to itself another movement, which is flowing with a powerful current through the age. We mean the movement towards art, and beyond that towards an æsthetic conception of life. From ancient times there has always been an antithesis of an ethical and an æsthetical fashioning of life: of a preponderance on the one hand of the active, on the other hand of the contemplative relation to reality. Emphasis on the activity of man has led to the formation in modern systems of life of a culture of work and utility. An æsthetical, contemplative mode of thought can with good reason feel itself superior to that culture. In contrast to utility, it promises beauty; over against the heaviness 65 and weariness of the way of life of a culture of work, it promises a joy and a lightness; in opposition to effort, hurriedly and continually striving further and further, it promises an independent self-consciousness, and an inward calm. But, as this movement towards art blends with that towards the subject it lapses into a narrow course and assumes a distinctive character. Here, art has less to comprehend the object than to stimulate and please the subject; it will strive less after content and a further construction than with lyrical cadences, to give expression to changing moods. It has a difficult task given to it which can only approximately be solved—the task of expressing something fundamentally inexpressible and resisting all attempts to give it form. But in that art undertakes such an impossibility, and exerts its power to the uttermost, it brings about a refinement of the soul as well as an enrichment of expression. It enables much to be grasped and comprehended which, without it, passes like a fleeting shadow. It permits the observation of the most delicate vibrations of the soul, and throws light into depths which would otherwise be inaccessible.

A distinctive type of life is thus formed from the side of literature and art, and this feels securely supreme over all the embarrassments of the culture of work and of the masses. The centre of life is transferred into the inner tissue of self-consciousness. With the development of this self-consciousness, life appears to be placed entirely on its own resources and directed simply towards itself. Through all change of circumstances and conditions it remains undisturbed; in all the infinity of that which happens to it, it feels that it is supreme. All external manifestation is valuable to it as an unfolding of its own being; it never experiences things, but only itself—that is, its own passive states of consciousness—in the things.

A life of such a kind gives rise, in different directions, to distinctive tendencies, which, through their antithesis to the traditional forms, are sharply accentuated. This system thinks especially to turn the whole of human existence 66 into something positive, to limit it on none of its sides, to raise it everywhere to activity, joy, and pleasure. In the older systems of life, especially in the religious, it finds far too much feeble renunciation, far too much sad negation: such a depreciation of life is henceforth to give way to a complete and joyful affirmation. But an affirmation appears to be possible because in this system, through that reference to and excitement of subjectivity, all that in any way affects man is transformed in activity and advance; because before all else the subject feels its own life in every experience and takes pleasure in this. It must be added that the self-refinement of life, its mobility and delicacy, free it from all the heaviness of existence, and that the free play of forces which exist here transforms the whole of existence into something lightly poised. We find this to be especially the case when we turn to art, which joins beauty to power, or, rather, strengthens life in itself through its embodiment in the beautiful.

This free, joyous, and as it would seem purely self-conscious life is throughout of an aristocratic and individual character. In that it is adapted to the old experience, that to only a few is given the power and the disposition for independent creation and independent life, it addresses itself to these few and summons them to the greatest possible development of the individuality of their nature, to the most decisive detachment from the characterless average of the masses. For, without a completely developed consciousness of individuality, without an energetic differentiation and isolation, life does not seem to attain its greatest height. Thus the matter is one of making all the relations and all the externals of life as individual as possible. Everything which places the development of life under universal standards, and, through these, limits that development, is rejected as an unwarrantable limitation and an intolerable restriction. This individualising of our existence extends also to the matter of our relation to time. One moment may not be sacrificed to another; the present may not be degraded to the status of being a mere 67 preparation for the future, but every moment should be an end in itself, and, with this, life is considered as being solely in the present. And so life is a ceaseless change, a perpetual self-renewal, a continuous transition; but it is just this which preserves to life its youthful freshness and gives to it the capacity to attract through every new charm. Hence this system presents the most definite contrast to the interminable chain and the gigantic construction which the culture of work makes out of the activities of the individuals.

Æsthetic Individualism appears most distinctive in the way it represents the relation between the spiritual and the sensuous. It cannot take its attention from the external world, in order to centre it upon human perception, without strengthening the psychical. But, as its own system is based upon sense experience, it is impossible for it to acknowledge an independent spirituality and to contrast it with the sensuous; the spirituality which it recognises always remains bound and blended with the sensuous. For it an entirely mutual interpenetration is the highest ideal, a spiritualising of the sensuous, and a sensualising of the spiritual to an exactly equivalent degree. This high estimate of the sensuous, and the endeavour to harmonise the spiritual with it, put this new system of life in the sharpest opposition to the older systems, especially to religious Idealism, in which the supremacy of the spiritual is essential.

From such a basal character this system evolves a distinctive relation to the individual values and spheres of life. Artistic literary creation becomes the soul of life; the source of the influences for the fashioning of a new man. The social, political, sphere is reduced to the level of a mere outside world, which urges less to activity on our own part than provokes a sceptical and critical attitude. The lack of attention to all that which fits man into a common order, be it into the State with its laws, or the civic community with its customs and arrangements, permits the free relation of individual to individual in 68 social contact, friendship and love, to develop so much more forcefully. In particular, it is the inter-relationship of the sexes, with its many-sidedness and its inseparable interweaving of spirituality with sensuousness, which occupies thought and dominates literary production. Strike out the erotic element from specifically modern literature, and how insignificant the remainder would appear! It is also in the relation of the sexes that this scheme of life insists on the fullest freedom. There is a marked tendency to regard an acknowledgment of fixed standards and of traditional morals in this connection as a sign of weakness and of a narrow-minded way of thinking.

Since this scheme seeks to realise an æsthetic conception of life and an artistic culture in opposition to all the restraint of tradition and environment, it will come into particularly severe conflict with traditional religion and morality. It must reject religion, or at least what hitherto has been called religion, because, with its blending together of the spiritual and the sensuous in a single world, it can by no means acknowledge a world of independent spirituality; its thought is much too “monistic” for that. It must reject religion also for the reason that, with its immediate affirmation of life, it cannot in the least understand the starting-point of religion, the experience and perception of harsh inner contradictions in our existence. Religion, with all the heroism that it truly shows, is here regarded as a mere lowering of vital energy; a chimera which pleases the weak.

In relation to morality the matter is not much different. A foundation of morality in the necessity of its own nature is lacking in this system. What motive could move a man who whole-heartedly accepted Æsthetic Individualism to acknowledge something external to the subject as a standard, and in accordance with this standard to put a check upon his natural impulses? Indeed, with the denial of spiritual activity and the division of the world into for and against, the entire antithesis of good and evil loses its meaning and its justification. Reality appears from the point of view 69 of this system to be rent in twain in an unwarrantable manner at the command of a human authority. What is usually called morality is considered to be only a statute of the community, a means by which it seeks to rob the individual of his independence and to subordinate him to itself.

All this reasoning presents itself as an offspring of our own time, and wishes to establish the correctness of its claims on its own ground through its results. Yet it by no means lacks historical relations: often in the course of the centuries the subject has shaken off every constraint and sought a solution to life’s problems in its own realm. This happened, first among the Sophists; then in a form less marked and with more direct attention to happiness in Epicureanism; later, in proud exaltation and in a titanic struggle with the world, in the Renaissance; and again in a more delicate and more contemplative manner in the Romantic period. Tendencies from all these operate in the Æsthetic Individualism of the present time and enrich it in many ways, though their contributions are not always free from contradiction. But, even with these historical elements, Æsthetic Individualism is essentially a modern product; and it cannot be denied that it has won a great power in the present; a movement of culture in this direction is unmistakeable. It is the very nature of this scheme of life not to hasten to a definite form, and for this reason it does not manifest itself with very definite features; but, with invisible power, it is everywhere present and creates a spiritual atmosphere from which it is difficult to withdraw ourselves. Notwithstanding all the attacks it is subjected to and the doubts as to its validity, it draws power continually from both the main tendencies which it unites; from the evolution of the subject and from the growth of art. Thus, here again we are concerned not with mere subjective willing and wishing, but with an actual movement in universal history.


Whether this movement be the primary and the all-dominant remains to be examined by consideration of the total possessions of humanity. Such an examination is in this case peculiarly difficult, because in Individualism and Subjectivism diverse forms mingle together and give to the movement very different levels. There is, therefore, an obvious danger that, viewing these forms from the position of an average level, at which we may attempt to arrive, we may judge one too severely and another too leniently. And yet we cannot dispense with the assumption of such an average level; only, it must not be applied mechanically to the individual forms which are so numerous.

In forming our judgment in this matter, it is necessary in the first place to distinguish the aims and the methods of the scheme of life. There can hardly be any doubt or dispute concerning the aims. For, if we are called to give to life an independence, a content and a value; to raise it to complete power; to press forward from anxious negation to joyful affirmation; to reduce the monotony of existence; to organise the whole realm of individuality so that it shall be fully clear; and if, at the same time, the fact of the degeneration of the inner life through a culture of work lends to such demands the impressiveness and the voice of a present need, it is difficult to see how this system is to be effectively opposed. Æsthetic Individualism here appears as the champion of truths which may be obscured for a time, but which, nevertheless, continually gain in significance in human evolution as a whole. A further question is whether its aims, which cannot be rejected, are attainable along the ways which Individualism follows and beyond which it is not able to go; whether the means suffice for the attainment of the end. If this should not be the case, we are in presence of a great difficulty, in that something, in itself of the highest necessity, is desired, but is desired in a way which not only is inadequate to the aim, but directly contradicts it.

And yet that is how the matter really stands. It is essential to Individualism—with this it stands or falls—that it 71 lead to an independent life, to a self-consciousness; that it transform our whole condition into something of positive value on the basis of sense experience. That the actual condition of human reality, the nature of human experience, inexorably resists such a transformation, and that on this account the individualistic scheme of life is contradictory, we intend to indicate more in detail.

Man desires a self-conscious life, a deliverance from all external ties, a removal of all oppressions. This desire is a lofty one, but one which, as things are, is very difficult of attainment. For not only in what happens to us, but also in the innermost depths of the soul—in our spiritual constitution—we are bound up with an overwhelming and impenetrable world. The mechanism of nature as well as the organisation of society surrounds and visibly and invisibly coerces us. At first sight we are no more than parts of an immense whole, and appear to be completely determined by that which happens in this whole; we come from it and sink back into it, and every moment we are dependent upon that which takes place around us. What is Individualism able to do against such forces, and what does it succeed in achieving towards life’s attainment of independence? The means it employs are the arousing of an unrestrained mood, and the withdrawal of life to the greatest possible concentration in its own passive states of consciousness. Because by these means man is in some measure relieved from the oppression of things, he imagines himself to be fully free. But is he free simply because he appears to himself to be so; free, to take the example of Spinoza, in the way in which the stone thrown up into the air might during its motion suppose itself to be free? As a matter of fact, as everyday experience shows us, it is just in his moods that man is least stable and least lord of his own soul, and that the most diverse circumstances, physical and psychical, visible and invisible, great and small, influence and compel him. The transitoriness of appearances, which form the matter of fact as far as moods are concerned, is lacking in all firm relation, all inner construction of life; 72 for nothing is more mobile, nothing more subject to sudden changes, than mood—nothing except the surface of the rolling sea, or a reed shaking in the wind. The life of mood is, in reality, a purely superficial life; a projection of the psychical nature on to the surface of the immediate passive states of consciousness. Life in this case attains no depth, content, or independence, but only subjective opinion, the mere semblance of independence. We shall see that Individualism so persistently offers the semblance instead of the real thing that it has come to believe that with the production of the semblance it has acquired the reality. Life can only attain a real independence when it has been widened to a realm in itself, when inner relations, antitheses, problems thus become evident; and when, through the exercise of activity upon these, an inner world is raised up, which confidently places itself in opposition to the endlessness of the soulless world and is able to take up the struggle with it. We must show unrelenting hostility to any attempt to identify mood with inner spirituality, with the soul’s self-consciousness; for, really, there is no greater contrast than that between simple disposition and spiritual depth, between the man of mere sentiment, with his dependence and vacillation, and the personality rooted in an inner infinity.

And so the independence and the predominance of the individual over the social environment, which Individualism asserts, are nothing more than an appearance. For what is offered in this system is far less a self-conscious life and an undisturbed pursuance of our own course than the inclination to say and do the opposite of that which is said and done by the majority of those who surround us. It is easy to see that life, as a matter of fact, always remains related to its environment and to the standard of that environment; and that what is represented here as independence is nothing but a different kind of dependence, an indirect dependence. To the endeavour of Individualism to provide a free course for the individual with his particularity it is scarcely possible to offer any opposition. Unfortunately, however, 73 intention and realisation are different things, and Individualism is apt to assume as something simple and self-evident that which of all things is the most difficult, that is, individuality itself. Just as Socialism promises a sure advance of life as a result of the removal of external hindrances, so Individualism expects a magnificent advance of an inexhaustible individualistic culture, if only the statutes by which the community oppresses and limits the individual are annulled. What, then, is the real state of the matter? Are men so full of spiritual impulse that it is only necessary to open up a course for it? And further, does that which is peculiar in a man signify, as a matter of course, that he is an individuality with some sort of value?—and is it at once capable of forming a centre of life? How indefinite and how lacking in consistency the psychical nature of man usually is! How much that is lofty and how much that is mean, how much that is noble and how much that is vulgar, is found here! Shall this chaos display itself and be extolled as an individuality? In truth, an inner unity appertains to a genuine individuality, and the ascertaining and realisation of this are not simply a gift from nature, but a result of spiritual endeavour. To attain to a genuine individuality requires an energetic concentration of life; an overcoming of the spirit of indifference; a unifying of the multiplicity of experience; often, also, a transcending of sharp contradictions. How difficult it has been for even the most prominent individualities—men such as Luther, Kant, Goethe—to find their true selves, that is, the essence of their being, the aspect in which their strength lay! How great a problem, and what an object of the keenest conflict, their genuine individuality formed to them! How could a task of such difficulty find fulfilment, and life a unification and elevation, in superficial and fleeting mood? If in order to make men independent individuals it sufficed to declare them so, we should indeed be much further advanced than unfortunately is the case.

The new life ought not to be simply autonomous, independent and individual, it should also be powerful and 74 great. Is the mere evolution and cultivation of sentiment able to give such power and greatness to an unrestrained passivity? Of course, in its own estimation unrestrained mood can raise itself high above the whole world, and so magnify the supposed independence as to give rise to a feeling of supreme power; but again, it is only a representation of power, a semblance of power, and not a real power, that is reached. Mere mood and genuine power constitute an irreconcilable antithesis. Attention to and cultivation of sentiment may refine life; it will at the same time weaken and dissipate it. Power develops and grows only in grappling with resistances, whether they be outside or within one’s own soul. Life will acquire a powerful character only where an active spirituality is acknowledged, which, drawing from its own nature, holds up standards and aims to the actual condition of reality, especially to its own soul, and undertakes to change this condition in accordance with the requirements set by these standards and aims. Æsthetic Individualism, however, as we saw, conceives of the spiritual life as chiefly receptive and contemplative; as an appropriation, a mirroring and an enjoyment of an existent reality. Thus for it the spiritual life might be closely connected with this existent reality, indeed might be one with it; but at the same time the view robs that life of the power of arousing and elevating, of independent construction and secure advance.

An aristocratic character, the separation of an exoteric and an esoteric sphere, has been distinctive of an æsthetic conception of life from ancient times even until now. The fact appealed to in justification of its assumption of this character is beyond doubt: it is that, not only in art but in all spiritual creation, only few among those creating or reproducing stand high; that genuine creation always comes about in opposition to the mediocre; that if it identified itself with the interests and conditions of the majority it would be deeply degraded, indeed inwardly destroyed. But this is a contrast between spiritual creation and human circumstances, not a division of humanity according to two sets 75 of circumstances; in truth, fewer of the really great than of those great in their own estimation have boasted of greatness. For the genuinely great have been occupied far too much by the demands of their task, and been too deeply conscious of the inadequacy of human capacity, to have been able to indulge in a reflection upon and a vain enjoyment of themselves. The infinity of the task by which, rather than by other men, they measured themselves made even the highest result appear inadequate to them. It is necessary to Individualism to represent the unmistakeable distinction between a culture that is genuinely spiritual and one that is merely human, as a difference between two classes of men; and it is only because it knows no objective restraint, no inner necessities, and can measure men only with men, that it is able to believe itself justified in looking down upon other men from its standpoint—as though the mere profession of faith in its programme at once effected an elevation of nature.

The undertaking to transform life completely into something of positive value, suddenly and directly to advance to complete affirmation of life, is associated with the desire for power. So far as this is simply a desire to abandon an irresolute and narrow mode of thought, false humiliation and self-belittlement, and mere accommodation to circumstances in tasks where the beginning is difficult and calls for great effort, we may frankly admit its justification. But the matter is not so simple as it is represented in this train of thought. Ultimately no spiritual movement which would win mankind can give up its claim to a final affirmation of life. Even the most completely pessimistic systems, systems of absolute negation—as, for example, the original Buddhism—could not conquer wider areas without making that negative milder and transforming it into an affirmative. But the question is whether, after all that humanity has experienced and suffered, a quick and immediate affirmation is possible; whether the way to a final affirmation does not lead rather through an energetic negation. So long as the restriction which life felt seemed to come from outside only, 76 and not to reach the inner recesses of the soul, as the prevailing mode of thought in Antiquity represented the case to be, the decisive rejection of all suffering, the proud armouring of the soul against all pain, could be accepted as the crown of all virtues. In face, however, of actual experience, Antiquity could not continue to hold such a conviction. For good or for evil, it was compelled to regard suffering as something more important and to occupy itself more with it, and, until Christianity opened up new paths, it fell into the danger of losing all vital energy. Whatever position one may take up with regard to the dogma and the tendencies of Christianity, the fact cannot be struck out of history that it has laid bare infinite perplexities in the soul of man in regard to his relation to the world, and at the same time has taken up suffering into the centre of life, not to perpetuate it, but to rise above it by the revealing of a world of spirit and of love. This has not made life easier, but more difficult; yet at the same time it has made it greater, deeper, and more inwardly determined. Every scheme of life which light-heartedly professes to be able to lead us quickly over suffering and to cast it off proves itself to be intolerably superficial, if not frivolous. Superficiality easily triumphs over men and becomes their first opinion; men seem to welcome first every way of thinking which makes life comfortable and presents no demands of any sort. But the problems of our existence, and the longing for genuine and not merely illusory happiness, remain, and in face of the seriousness of these problems it soon proves to be fleeting and vain to try to find satisfaction in that which is simply comfortable.

The case is no different in regard to Individualism and the problem of morality. The value of an energetic opposition to laws of convention and external etiquette is beyond question; but it should not be forgotten that such a conflict has been carried on within the sphere of morality and religion from ancient times; that in every age that which was spiritually highest has forcibly withstood the efforts of men illegitimately to claim absolute validity for their 77 statutes and tendencies. But Individualism commits the error of asserting that the mean morality which is reached at the average level of humanity constitutes the essence of morality, and in so doing excludes from itself the feeling for everything great and deep which lies within morality. With all its talk of greatness and breadth, Individualism makes life narrow, since it leads man solely to the cultivation and unfolding of his own passive states of consciousness, and permits the pleasure-seeking ego to draw everything to itself and hold it fast there. Everything, however, which exists beyond his sphere it interprets as a mere “other” world, and thus declares all submission to the object for its own sake, all forgetfulness of self, all becoming more comprehensive, and all renewal through genuine love, to be only delusory. Further, in this system, in which natural impulse governs everything, the conceptions of responsibility and guilt, and with this the antithesis of good and evil, must be held to be the result of a narrowly human way of thinking, as something which, though serving no real purpose, still alarms men and overawes life. Yet through the development of a spiritual activity which places it in a more inward and free relation to reality, humanity has really advanced beyond the position in which man acted as a part of mere nature. In this, too, Christianity also marks a great advance; we have only to picture to ourselves the life-work of Augustine in order to have a clear example of the separation of a genuine morality, as the expression of a new world based upon freedom, from the attention to and cultivation of natural instincts. The greatest thinker of the Modern Age, Kant, has only established this distinction in a newer form. In this connection responsibility and guilt, as transcending nature, also become a witness of greatness; they give expression to the fact that man is an independent co-operator in the universe, and regards the world as in some sense his own; to the fact that life does not simply happen to him, but also through him. For, along with freedom and its world, the old world of given existence remains and holds us fast, not merely 78 externally but inwardly also; life is a severe conflict between higher and lower, between freedom and destiny. With so much that is complicated and perplex, life must be regarded as in the highest degree unfinished. But just because of this it involves an incalculable tension, and even in its constraints and pains it leaves the self-preservation and the welfare of the mere subject at a level far beneath itself. When, therefore, Individualism, neglecting the movement of universal history, wishes to limit us to this mere subject, and, effacing all dividing lines, calls upon us to submit to every force which plays upon us, and to enter into the glad enjoyment of life, there is really no difference between this and advising a man, who has gone through the many and difficult experiences of life, to throw to the winds all he has thus gained, and to please himself again with the games of childhood.

The position is similar with regard to the relation of the spiritual and the sensuous, as Individualism represents it. It is rightly opposed to both a monkish asceticism and a conventional, feigned, low estimate of the sensuous; it is indeed with good reason that Æsthetic Individualism defends the right of the sensuous. But to give the sensuous its right does not mean to permit it to be joined together in an undifferentiated unity with the spiritual, as though it were of equal value. Naïve ages were able to strive for a perfect balance of spiritual and sensuous; but, with the increasing depth of the life of the soul, a division has resulted which no toil and no art can simply remove again. Now, therefore, either the spiritual will be dominant over the sensuous or the sensuous over the spiritual. In Individualism, with its amalgamation of the spiritual and the sensuous, by which all claim to spiritual activity, and therefore to all independence of spiritual life, is given up, the sensuous will inevitably dominate over the spiritual. The result is simply a degeneration of the spiritual, a refined sensuousness; and it is defenceless against an intrusion of vulgar pleasure. Will any one seriously assert that we find ourselves to-day in a naïve position in relation to sense?


In this respect, as in all others, the strength of Individualism lies chiefly in criticism; its refined perception makes it especially capable of apprehending clearly the errors of the traditional conceptions of life. Its influence, however, suffers from the contradiction which it involves, in that it purposes to solve the problems, to which only an independent and self-determining spiritual life is equal, with the means of sense experience. Such a spiritual life is to be attained only by transcending this sense experience. Owing to the fact that Individualism places its sole attention upon the surface of sense experience, its aims, in themselves of the highest necessity, must be distorted and grossly misrepresented. Independence, greatness, and certainty—ever hovering before life—cannot be attained by Individualism in reality, but only in picture and semblance. And it can lend to this appearance a moderate power of conviction only because, just in the same way as the other modern organisations of life, it enriches itself imperceptibly from the same traditional modes of thought and of culture, in opposition to which it stands, and of which the impelling motives are to it a sealed book.

Thus, in truth, it does not offer mere and pure subjectivity, but subjectivity on the basis of a rich life of culture, which it is itself unable to produce, but without which it would lapse at once into complete emptiness. The æsthetic-individualistic scheme of life proves to be a phenomenon, accompanying a ripe, indeed an over-ripe, culture. An independent culture, with its labour and its sacrifice, it is unable to produce.

To reject Æsthetic Individualism means to attack modern art and its service to life just as little as to reject Naturalism and Socialism is to estimate meanly modern natural science and present social endeavour. On the contrary, it may be said that, as Naturalism has no keener antagonist than modern natural science, so modern art, with the energy which is bestowed upon it and with its many-sided expansion of the soul, stands not in agreement with but in opposition to Æsthetic Individualism. For, indeed, a creative 80 artist of the first rank has never subscribed to a merely æsthetic conception of life. Still, however much artistic endeavour and a merely æsthetic conception of the world may be associated by the individual, in their nature they remain differentiated, and no appreciation of art is able to justify the æsthetic conception of life, which subjects all life to a contradiction; works against life in striving to attain its own ends; neglects the development through the centuries; and, instead of the substance hoped for, offers only opinion and appearance. How can life find a support in this?




From the description that has been given of the modern systems of life, we have seen that the Modern Age is by no means homogeneous, and that the conception “modern” has more than one meaning. Culture, in particular, has a character fundamentally different according as life finds its basis on the one hand in something external to itself, in nature, or in society, or on the other hand in the subjective states of consciousness. But that a common striving is present in spite of every difference, indeed of every antithesis, is proved by the energy with which all deny and reject the older form of culture and its transcendence of sense experience; by the vigour of the struggle against that which is regarded by the more modern systems as mere phantasy and deception, but which nevertheless continues to dominate social life. The kinship of these systems extends, beyond a common acquiescence in a negation, to a common affirmation. On all sides a thirst after a more forceful reality, and a more imposing immediacy of life, is to be found. Sense experience manifests itself throughout as fuller in content and more plastic; and so the chief point of support is found within it, and, though in different ways, the whole of life is organised from it. Still, granted that this could be effected only in opposition to the traditional conduct of life, the new is by no means desirous of remaining in a state of mere opposition. It 82 seeks rather to unite the opposing elements to itself, to adapt them to itself, and to satisfy to the fullest extent the ideal demands of human nature. It is an attempt entirely to renew and completely to revolutionise life—a vast undertaking! Whether it has succeeded, or whether it is still engaged in bringing the attempt to a successful issue, is the problem that we had to investigate.

As far as our chief question is concerned, our result was a decided negative. True, much that is great and much that may not be lost again has been achieved. The new systems of life have indeed appropriated whole groups of facts; have invigorated whole groups with new powers; have revealed new tasks of the most fruitful kind, not only in the individual but also for the whole; and have given to life dominating impulses and a powerful impetus. But all this becomes a doubtful gain, indeed it threatens to become a loss, if particular experience and achievement desire to govern the whole of life, and to impress upon it their own peculiar stamp. Not only does life become intolerably one-sided in such a case, but its wealth of experience is cut down in order to fit it into the given framework. We also saw that a serious inner inconsistency originates. For a long period this inconsistency may be concealed, but where any great energy is present in life, it must break forth with a disturbing force and become intolerable. Since the modern systems regard the whole of life as arising from relation, whether it be to the environment or to the subjective states of consciousness, they must reduce everything inward and universal to the level of a derived and secondary product; they must repudiate and oppose an original and independent spirituality, a self-conscious inner world. Such an inner spiritual experience has evolved through the whole of history, and transcends all forms of life-organisation: it is impossible to explain it away. The modern systems must themselves experience this. For they could not possibly transform the abundance of diverse appearances into an organised whole; they could not pass from universal to universal, 83 without presupposing and employing the same transcendent and encompassing inner world, which directly they attack. At the same time, however, they give to every factor of life a position and a depth wholly inconsistent with what they are justified in doing with their own mode of thought. They cannot perform their own tasks without drawing incessantly upon another kind of reality, one richer and more substantial. In truth, they are something other, and something far more than they believe themselves to be. Does this not show, beyond possibility of refutation, that they do not fill the whole of life?

The contradiction immanent in the modern systems of life is especially apparent in the fact that they are unable to banish supersensual powers and to limit life to sense experience, without attributing to sense experience more content and more value than that which experience itself justifies, and which, to be consistent, they should not overstep. The naturalistic thinker ascribes unperceived to nature, which to him can be only a co-existence of soulless elements, an inner connection and a living soul. Only thus can he revere it as a higher power, as a kind of divinity; only thus can he pass from the fact of dependence to a devotional surrender of his feelings. The socialist bases human society, with its motives mixed with triviality and passion, on an invisible community, an ideal humanity, which he clothes with the splendour of a power and dignity that transfigures the immediate appearance of society. It is only in this way that he is able to direct his whole effort upon the welfare of mankind, and to expect a pure victory of reason within its sphere. The individualist in his conception exalts the individual to a height far more lofty than is justified by the individual as he is found in experience; for his thought, the individual is far more powerful and far more prominent and noble than immediate impressions indicate. Only thus is he able, from the freedom and the development of the individual, to hope for the beginning of a new epoch.

In these newer systems of life the conception of reality 84 as a whole is also subjected to the same groundless and, likewise, false idealisation. As in these systems nothing may be acknowledged which transcends sense experience, there can be no universal which pervades and holds together the manifold. This being the case, reality must be a co-existence of single pieces; but no one will readily confess himself of this opinion. A pantheism, vague to the highest degree, is therefore seized upon as a cure-all, that man may have something which permeates and connects; but of this something, however, all more detailed description is lacking, and is carefully avoided. A conception so vague allows us at the same time to think and not to think something; at the same time to affirm and to deny. It seems to accomplish so much and to demand so little; it makes the impossible possible; and offers the most convenient asylum to all indefiniteness and confusion. It is a pity that in all this it is not a reality that surrounds us, but a mere fata morgana which deceives. And a conception so vague is to displace religion and accord support to the new life! Truly, this requires a stronger faith than that with which the older religions were satisfied.

The modern systems of life desire a more forceful reality; in this they set work an aim which cannot be rejected. The course they have entered upon, however, does not bring them nearer to this aim, but rather removes them further from it. Neither the self-evidence of the senses nor the oscillation of mood can ever represent genuine reality to a being who, for good or for evil, has once learned to think. Many and varied impressions may come and go in sense experience; but their abundance cannot prevent the chief conceptions, by which they are here accompanied, from receiving a character abstract and vague in the highest degree. We hear continually of the whole, of reason, of power, of evolution; but all these conceptions have no stability and little content; they are like shadows and phantoms which vanish as soon as we wish to take hold of them. So, by an irony of fate, just those modes of thought whose chief impulse was the desire for more reality dissipate, 85 dissolve reality. We see that the spiritual life may be denied by the individual, but not driven from the work of culture. It is true that immediate experience, outer and inner, has become much more to the present age than it was to earlier ages; but it has become so only through spiritual endeavour. If, therefore, the Modern Age now turns definitely against this spiritual activity, to rob it of all independence, it destroys that which first gave it its own power.

The modern systems of life have raised the standard of human existence enormously in regard to power and content; but they have done this at the cost of its spiritual concreteness. They have suppressed the life of inner spiritual experience and denied the problems of man’s inner nature. They know of no grappling of man either with the infinite or with his own nature; they recognise no conflict between freedom and fate, and no inner development of the soul. And all this because their view of life as a whole takes away all depth, and transforms existence into a mere series of appearances. Thus, for anyone who regards such depth as the basis of life, and who, therefore, will not reject the experience and the result of the work of universal history, it becomes a necessity to reject and oppose the modern systems as guides of life. The more explicitly and exclusively they are presented, the more decided must his opposition be. For, what shall all the gain on the circumference of life profit man if through attention to that the centre of his life becomes empty and weak, if there emerges no content and no meaning in life itself? What is the value of all the advancing and refining of human existence if it does not bring with it a genuine spiritual culture and an inward elevation of mankind?

The increasing experience and perception of such limitations in the new may lead men to give more attention again to the old. The striving to transcend mere sense experience can no longer appear as a mere flight into an “other” world of dreams, or as due to a feeble and cowardly disposition; it may now be admitted rather as a deeply 86 rooted endeavour to reach greater depths of life. Yet such a relaxation of the opposition to the old, and such an inclination to estimate it more highly, by no means justifies us in simply taking it up again in the form in which it lies before us. For to this not merely the modern system of life, but the whole development of life and work, is opposed. The contradictions and doubts which have grown up in the course of this development are not in the least overcome by the failure of the modern systems of life. For we do not find ourselves confronted here with an “either—or,” in which the invalidity of the one alternative immediately establishes the validity of the other; but both may be inadequate. So we remain surrounded by the old and the new, under powerful influences from both, but not in a position to accept either the one or the other exclusively.


This situation, with its juxtaposition of the new and the old, is so full of confusion and perplexity that only a feeble disposition is capable of acquiescing in it. In the old we respect or surmise a depth; but this depth does not know how to give itself a form suitable to the present, or to influence us with the means available in our own time. The new directs all our attention to the immediate present and fills us with its intuitions; but this present becomes superficial to us, and with increasing power a desire for more substance and soul in life rises up in opposition to it. The old lifted us to the proud height of a new world, but this height showed signs of becoming severed from the rest of existence, and lapsed therefore into a state of painful insecurity. The new builds up from the experience of sense, but it finds no conclusion without going beyond this experience and thus contradicting itself. The old regarded the spiritual life of man, if not man himself, as occupying the centre of all and thereby fell into the danger of a 87 hastened conclusion and of an anthropomorphic conception of reality. The new takes from man every position by which he is especially distinguished, and ignores all connection with ultimate depths, but in so doing it overthrows more than it intends; it undermines nothing less than the possibility of all spiritual work, all science, all culture.

And so we find ourselves in the midst of contradictions, drawn first in one direction, then in another: that we are at a crisis in life as a whole and in culture, that we are in state of spiritual need, cannot fail to be recognised. This crisis is made all the more acute through the peculiarity of the historical circumstances which have led up to it and the social conditions which surround us. Historically, we are under the influences of two cultures: one older, which up to the seventeenth century was in undisputed supremacy and which has asserted its authority up to the present day, especially in regard to the arrangements of social life; and one newer, which, after the influence of many varied preliminary tendencies, has arisen since that time with the energy of youth, and which, in the minds of individuals, has easily become the dominant power. The two cultures had different starting-points and followed different main courses. The old culture carried within itself the experiences of Greek life, the inner progress of which may be seen especially in the development of its philosophy. In the old culture endeavour was driven more and more beyond the world of sense to a world of thought, in which it went on from a universal to an ethical and ultimately to a religious conviction. To the thought of Greece, as she grew old, the world of sense experience sank more and more in reality and value, and life found its basis and chief realm of experience in a region transcending sense. Christianity definitely established this view of life, and made the invisible Kingdom of God the true home of man, the most immediate and the most secure that this life knows.

New peoples then grew up in this way of thinking; peoples who still had their work before them; to these, the break with the world of sense came more as the 88 imposition of an overpowering authority than as due to their own experience. This fact constituted a point of weakness in every way; but no serious complication arose so long as these peoples were not yet ripe for spiritual independence. As soon, however, as this was the case, it was inevitable that contradictions should manifest themselves, and that a newly awakened impulse should urge the movement into an entirely opposite direction.

That is what really happened; the main tendency of life is now directed just as much upon the world as earlier it went beyond it; it has been transferred from the invisible to the visible, from the supernatural to the natural. We see this most clearly in the case of religion, which, as though with immanent necessity, runs through the sequence of a predominant transcendent Theism, a Panentheism, a Pantheism—gradually becoming colourless—an Agnosticism, and a Positivism. Everything supernatural disappears from thought, and life is concerned solely with sense experience. Thus, finally, we appear to have arrived at the same point as that from which the Greeks started out: the Monism of the most modern coining, for example, is hardly to be distinguished from the Hylozoism of the ancient Ionian thinkers. But is the whole result of the movement of universal history really only a deception? Has it simply brought us back again, from the false paths that we have tried, without according us any kind of positive profit whatever? We have become men of another kind; we think and feel differently; we have built up a rich culture, have transformed the world, have created a spiritual atmosphere; and we are capable of striving after infinite life and ultimate truth. Could all of this spring out of mere error? If that were so, should we not be compelled to reject the whole of this as phantasy and deception? But if the error was a means and an instrument in the attainment of truth, and if mankind in its going out from itself and in its return to itself is inwardly developed, where does the boundary between truth and error lie, and what is the meaning of the whole? 89 So here again we lapse into uncertainty; history, to other ages a secure support, leads us into still greater doubt.

Finally, we must add to this crisis of culture the onward march of the social movement, which continually increases in power; the passionate longing of ever-growing groups of men for immediate participation in culture and the joys of life. Such movements may accomplish themselves within a fixed and acknowledged sphere of culture and of life; what changes they then bring lie within this sphere; they do not place the whole in question. Thus, the democratic movements of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries left certain principles of religious conviction untouched; they left the conception of the world entirely unchanged. But the matter is quite otherwise when a movement of this kind comes in contact with a culture which is inwardly unstable and which is growing uncertain concerning its final aims. We cannot fail to recognise what a great danger of degeneration there is under such circumstances. The masses, thus struggling upward, then seek their own way of life, and in so doing they naturally concentrate their attention upon that which lies immediately before their eyes and affects their immediate well-being. From this position they will advance all the more quickly to a certain conclusion, in that they are unconcerned with the experiences and perplexities of the work of universal history, and therefore, with unclouded enthusiasm, expect complete truth and pure happiness from freer exercise of their powers and the rejection of all authority. If we wish to ignore the dangers to culture which thus grow up, we must either estimate man as he is too highly, or spiritual tasks too meanly. Until the present, an independent spiritual life, making man more comprehensive in being, raising and freeing him, has manifested itself only at individual points; in the first place in chosen individuals, from whom it has been conveyed to the common life. The spiritual world made its appearance as a power superior to the interests and the opinions of individuals and of the masses. Only in such transcendence of the merely human did it develop 90 any characteristic content, find an inner unity, arouse respect, and lead man beyond mere nature. If all this should now become different, if man in the mass should come to feel himself to be the measure of all things, and should relate all to his perception as the centre of infinity, would not a severe contradiction arise between human enterprise and spiritual necessity, and would not the full development of this opposition threaten the whole state of culture with a violent convulsion? Ultimately the inner necessities of our being would certainly win the day against all errors of superficiality, but what severe conflicts and losses the division must cost!

The consideration of all these facts reveals us under the power of different, indeed antagonistic, movements, and most especially in the midst of the great struggle for supremacy between the visible and invisible world, as the conflict between Positivism and Idealism gives expression to it. Life for us contains two movements, one of which starts from the centre and the other from the circumference; the former cannot embrace the fullness of reality, and its basis is also insecure; the latter gives no inner unity to life and lowers the standard of the whole. As each of these main tendencies again divides, movements the most varied surround us, tear us asunder, and crush our souls under their oppositions. God and reason have become uncertain to us, and the substitutes that are offered—nature, society, the individual—fail to satisfy us. The unrest and uncertainty that arise from this are not limited to a single sphere, they extend to the ultimate basal principles of life. The new mode of thought declares the chief world of the ancients to be a delusion; but we saw its own world dissolved in shadows and schemes by spiritual activity. Since the one dissolves the reality of the other, we are threatened with the loss of all definite results; our own being becomes a dark problem to us; we know neither what we are nor what we are not.

The impression that we get of the condition of the present as a whole may also be represented in the following 91 manner: the historical movement of humanity unfolds an incalculable wealth of life; this life, however, cannot reach its own highest point and cannot win a character of a spiritual kind unless it organises itself into a whole, unless it attains an inner synthesis transcending all isolated states. Such syntheses have been realised, and have led to distinctive organisations of life; but these organisations have all proved to be too insignificant and too narrow, and none has been able to overcome the rest and to embrace the whole wealth of life. So life as a whole has broken them down; and since it has thus lost all inner structure, it must inevitably fall into a state of rapid degeneration, and must threaten to lose all content and meaning.

The evil effects on the development of life that are caused by this convulsion and division, and by the lack of a dominant tendency; how this condition leads to the destruction of everything simple and self-evident, and lends to an unrestrained reflection an unwarrantable power; how it robs endeavour of all its main tendencies, and permits true and untrue, good and evil, to run confusedly together, all this and much else is to-day so much and so widely discussed, and presents itself with such overpowering clearness to our vision, that its description need not detain us even for a moment.

Ought we to submit to this disintegration and degradation of life as to an inevitable destiny, or is it possible to work against it and to strive after a unity transcending the division? The fact that the division makes so strong an impression on us and that we feel it to be so intolerable is at once in favour of the latter alternative. How could this experience be possible if all multiplicity did not fall within a comprehensive whole of life—if our nature were not superior to the oppositions and did not drive us compulsorily to seek a unity? The life which, in distinct contrast to decaying Antiquity, flows through our age in a powerful, ceaselessly swelling flood; the unwearied activity of this age; the excellence of its work; its passionate longing for more happiness and fullness of life, 92 all forbids a hasty and light renunciation. It is true that there are hard contradictions, and that spiritual power is at present not equal to cope with them; but this power is not a given and fixed magnitude: it is capable of an incalculable increase. Thus we ought not to be too ready to assert that the limitations of the age are identical with the bounds of humanity, and we ought not faint-heartedly to discontinue the struggle for a unity and a meaning in life.

This problem cannot be acknowledged without at the same time being admitted as the most important and the most urgent of all problems. For, on the decision concerning the whole, that concerning the spiritual character of life depends, and, as this character extends through the whole of life, every single matter will be differently decided according to the decision concerning the whole. Only purely technical and merely formal matters of work may remain unaffected by the problem, but wherever a content comes into question it will at once arise and manifest its urgency. This problem, therefore, will not suffer itself to be thrust into the background; we can neither dally with it nor turn aside from it. The individual, indeed, in his sphere of free decision and of independent action can withdraw himself from the question, but he can do so only at the price of the debasement of the quality of his life, only in that, from an independent co-operator in the building up of the ages, he becomes a dependent under-worker.


Only a few words are now necessary to come to a more definite understanding concerning the form of the problem, which, with compelling force, rises into prominence out of all this complexity. Where the convulsion is such a fundamental and universal one as it shows itself to us to 93 be, it is of the first importance to rise above the existing chaos, and to avoid all that which, even indirectly, would lead us back to it. Many of the aids which would-be healers of the time’s evils recommend with vigour therefore need not be considered.

Every attempt to make a direct compromise between the different forms of life, to appropriate eclectically this aspect from one and that aspect from another, is inadequate. The view that none of the systems of life could have won so much power over mankind without containing some kind of truth, which may not be lost, has, to be sure, a good deal of truth in it. It is first necessary, however, to attain a position from which this truth in each case may be ascertained and rightly appreciated; and we can only reach such a position in opposition to the confusion which surrounds us.

A recourse to history and an adherence to a high achievement of the past promise just as little help. One thing is certain: history cannot be eliminated from our life; its highest achievements invite us to consider them again and again. But what is to be accepted by us as “high,” indeed, what as “spiritual” history, is not at all definite without further consideration. It is what is esteemed in our own conviction as true and great which decides in this matter. We look at history from the position of the present and with the spirit of the present. If, therefore, as we saw, the present has fallen inwardly into a state of complete uncertainty and doubt, our consideration of history must be affected in the same way; and, of course, not its external data, but its inner spiritual content and meaning must be made uncertain. At the same time, we cannot fail to recognise that in reference to the central problem with which we are concerned, the present situation is quite peculiar, and lacks historical parallel. Sharp contrasts have always been found in human experience; and in transitional periods in history they have been felt with painful acuteness. But never did they so extend over the whole of life and so deeply affect fundamentals; never was 94 there so much uncertainty with regard to what should be the main direction of endeavour, and the meaning of all human existence and man’s relation to the universe, as in the present. Everything which to earlier ages appeared an inviolable possession has become to us a problem. What gain, therefore, in respect of the chief matter could a return to the past bring? In his investigation of the far-off ages the scholar may for a time forget the present: the attitude of mind which may result in bringing him fame for his work would be dangerous and destructive as a disposition of the whole of mankind. For we cannot treat that which is foreign to our nature as something of our own, without losing our distinctive character and degrading our own life to one of mere imitation.

Further, it has become impossible to strive for the ideal by selecting from the realm of experience a single point and treating it as an archimedean point, as absolutely fixed, and shaping our life from it. Descartes attempted to do this with his “I think,” and Kant with his “I ought.” But it is very doubtful whether there is an archimedean point in man; whether to make such an assumption is not to over-estimate man. The experience of history shows further that that which some have taken as absolutely primary and axiomatic has been regarded by others as derivative, and has been explained in an entirely different manner. The presentationalist does not deny the actuality of thought, or the naturalistic thinker conscience; but he understands it as a subsidiary phenomenon, and therefore can find no support in it. How then can that overcome all doubt which itself calls forth serious doubt?

A whole sphere can be withdrawn from the confusion and used to overcome it just as little as can a single leading point. For the uncertainty with regard to the whole extends far into every individual sphere; and such a sphere may appear, to one in one way, and to another in another.

Science is not infrequently treated as though it were enthroned on high, supreme above all the struggles and the 95 doubts of existence, and as though, from its sovereign capacity, it were able to give a secure content of truth to life. It is true that science has much in its forms and in its work which is not the subject of dispute; but that with which we are here concerned—its intrinsic value, its spiritual character, and its place in life as a whole—is by no means a matter beyond dispute. As a matter of fact, every system of life has its own assertion in reference to this problem: to each to know signifies something different and is capable of something different. Whoever decides for one of these assertions concerning the nature of knowing has at the same time made a decision concerning the systems of life. He stands not outside, but in the midst, of the struggle. The same thing holds good with regard to morality, which is often welcomed as a secure refuge from the doubts of science. For, however certain it may be that in this sphere also there is no difference of opinion in respect of many things, as, for example, concerning the goodness or badness of certain types of conduct, still, the more we come to be concerned with principles the more do problems arise. In the immediate present the fact is most unmistakably clear that in this field also the fight does not rage around the interpretation of a given and acknowledged fact, but around the fact itself. What a different purport and meaning morality has in the systems of Religion, Immanent Idealism, Naturalism, Socialism, and Individualism respectively!

Finally, the attempt to give to life stability and peace by turning to the subject, to personality, as to a point removed from all perplexity, also fails. We should be the last to place a low estimate upon personality, but the conception receives its meaning and value only in its spiritual connections, and without these it soon becomes nothing more than a mere term, which blurs and blunts the great antithesis of existence. If that which is called personality exists as a merely individual point by the side of things, then we can never discover how occupation with things is capable of transforming life as a whole. If, however, in 96 this activity we should win an inward relation to infinity and a spontaneity of life, then this admission involves a confession concerning reality as a whole which can never be justified by a theory which regards the mere individual as the starting-point. That the idea of personality implies a problem rather than a fact is indicated by the different conceptions of it which we meet in the different systems of life. In considering personality, Religion thinks of the immediate relation of the soul to God; Immanent Idealism, of the presence of the infinite at the individual point; Individualism, of the supremacy of the free subject over against the social environment. It is only by reason of the common terminology that we fail to recognise how great the differences are in the thought on the matter; how that which one regards as of value in personality is severely attacked by another.

All these attempts therefore prove to be inadequate because they lead back to the state of uncertainty they were meant to overcome. To reject them, however, involves us in a certain assertion, which to some extent points out the main direction which further investigation must follow. No external compromise can help us, but only the winning of a transcendent position which is capable of giving to each factor its right without reduction; no flight into history can lead us to the truth, but only an activity of the present, not, however, of the present of the mere moment, but which embraces the work of universal history; no placing a single point or sphere into a supreme and all-dominant position can help us to overcome division, but only a conflict for a new whole; no mere turning to personality is of value before a sure basis is given to it from the whole! All leads us to this conclusion: we must strive for a new system of life. And to achieve this is not impossible, for, as we saw, a system of life is not imposed upon us by fate, but must arise from our own activity. If the systems which have previously been formed no longer satisfy, why cannot mankind evolve others? Or is it 97 proved that the existent forms exhaust all possibilities? A too narrow conception of life was seen to be a common defect of all these systems; its richness broke through the attempted unifications, and with this they fell into irreconcilable contradiction. Should not a synthesis be possible which would do more justice to the whole extent of life; which need not deny and exclude so much; and which might also unite what at first seems absolutely contradictory? Doubtless such a synthesis would not be achieved all at once; it is inevitable that growing life should involve many discords and movements within itself. Yet this synthesis would present itself at least in a manner similar to that of the extant systems; and, since it strives after something human, it must always be mindful of its limits.

Should such a universal synthesis be at all possible, it must certainly be something which is to be found and disclosed rather than something which simply is to be produced from ourselves. How could we hope to advance to it if it were not somehow involved in the depth of our being, and in our fundamental relation to the world, and if it did not already exist here in some way? It is a matter, therefore, of arousing to fuller independence and at the same time of raising inwardly something which exists within us; of recognising something new and even astonishing in the old and the supposedly self-evident, so that the truth of the universe may become our truth and give power to our life.

A task of this kind is a matter of the whole soul and not merely of the understanding; it is a concern of humanity, not of the individual alone. Of that which the single individual may contribute towards the attainment of the aim it is hardly possible to think humbly enough. And yet each has to use his power to the best of his ability; if in cases of great necessity and of ill-fortune in matters of an external kind the individual considers it only right to hasten to help, how could he withdraw himself where 98 the task is the satisfying of a spiritual need of mankind? Still less than in the former case is he able to disregard the matter as something alien and indifferent to himself. For, in the struggle for the whole, he fights at the same time for the unity of his own being, for a meaning for his own life.








Our inquiry ended in a definite negation; it showed the present condition of things to be marked by severe internal conflict and in danger of dissolution from within. Many movements of thought and life cross, disturb, limit, and oppose one another. Since what to one seems a wholesome truth seems to another pernicious error, all inner community of life disappears, and with it all firmness of conviction and joy of creative activity. The more these conflicting tendencies develop the more do they crush and destroy all the traditional elements of our life; the more are the spiritual contents and goods, which the necessities of life compel us to adhere to, deprived of their basis in the depths of the soul. The confusion which prevails in the present time, with its continual change, its rapid alteration of circumstances, its power to convey the most diverse impressions, its production of ever new combinations, might even attract and entertain us if it were no more than a drama. But if the confusion is more than this, if it includes our destiny and is meant to signify the whole of our life, then, by reason of its detrimental effects upon the whole of life and upon man’s inwardness, and by reason of its lack of content and soul, it must completely fail to satisfy us, and must provoke an energetic resistance. True, a condition of things so full of contradictions has also its advantages; it accords to the activity of the individual the greatest liberty and gives him a feeling of supremacy; its dissolution of everything previously regarded as fixed enables uncontrolled feeling and unstable mood to acquire power, and at one time to flatter man pleasantly, and at 102 another to carry him away impetuously. The individual’s attainment of freedom, however, gives as yet no content to life; and the feeling of supremacy is as yet not a real supremacy. These feelings and tendencies, which, within a wider whole of life, certainly serve to add to its animation, inevitably lead to a state of vagueness and emptiness when they put themselves forward as the whole. The supposed aids which are offered us are no more than mere pretences; and they become dangerous and harmful so far as they deceive us concerning the seriousness and tension of the situation.

The feeling of tension was increased through the historical treatment which accompanied our inquiry. For, from the point of view of history, the present confusion shows itself to be not a temporary obscuring of an indisputable truth, or a tendency on the part of man to become feeble and weary in the appropriation of such a truth, but to involve in doubt the basal nature of truth itself: the meaning of our life as a whole was seen to have fallen into uncertainty. The systems of thought, in the light of which we have hitherto regarded reality and steered the oncoming flood of appearances, have broken up and dissolved. We have become defenceless in face of the impressions of the environment which affect us with increasing force, and impel us now in one direction, now in another. It is not simply this or that aspect in human existence, but the whole of man’s nature which has become problematical in this dissolution. Formerly, the chief result of the effort of universal history had seemed to be that man rises more and more above nature and builds for himself a realm with new contents and new values. Now, the desire to be something higher than nature appears to be a bold presumption; the idea that man has a special position is ably contested, and every distinctive task is denied him. Man appears to be far too insignificant and to possess far too little freedom to be able to take up arms against the world and to obtain the mastery of it. Doubts such as these are all the more painful because they are the result of our own work; in that we 103 toiled, investigated, and pressed forward, we undermined the foundations of our own life; our work has turned with destroying power against ourselves. With the increase of external results, life as a whole has become increasingly hollow; it has no longer an organising and governing centre. Is it to be wondered at if the finer spirits of our age are weary, disheartened, and repelled by the feeling of the disharmony of the whole of present culture, which calls for so much effort from man and yields him so little genuine happiness; speaks of truth and lives from semblance and pretence; assumes an imposing mien and utterly fails to satisfy when confronted with ultimate problems? Is not the power of attraction, which the figure of St. Francis of Assisi was recently able to acquire, an eloquent witness to the reality of the longing for more plainness and simplicity in life? And yet we cannot take up again the position occupied by an earlier age; we cannot take up a past phase unchanged. No return to the conditions of the past can bring satisfaction to the spiritual needs of the present, for a device of this kind always leads by a detour back again to the starting-point. Ultimately, it is from ourselves alone that help can come; and we can have recourse to no means other than those of the living present.

First of all, our state of necessity must be admitted to the full, and the danger of a further degeneration of life in respect of its spiritual nature adequately estimated. It is always a gain to obtain a clear idea of the condition of the matter in question and to grasp the problem as a whole. For, through this, we are saved not only from illusions leading to error, but also from the authority of the mere present and from a feeling of anxiety and fear in the presence of contemporary opinion. If this age is in a state of such uncertainty; if it achieves so little for that which concerns the foundations of our spiritual existence, then neither its agreement can impress us, nor its opposition appal us; but the endeavour to make life firm again can seek confidently what is needful for it, and, with care in regard to what it shall affirm and deny, can follow the way which its own necessities point out.


One fact in particular must tend to increase our confidence in this endeavour: the fact, namely, that a negative result, which proceeds from our own work, cannot be a mere negation, but must contain an affirmative element within it. From what reason could the traditional systems of life have become inadequate to man other than that they do not satisfy a demand that we ourselves make upon them, and must make upon them? It is plain that we need and seek more than we possess, and this seeking betrays that our being is wider or deeper than was assumed in those systems. Why did each of the different systems become inadequate, unless it was that life itself rejected as too narrow the standard involved in them? Why was it impossible to regard the different systems as having a certain validity, to allow them to continue side by side, and divide our existence amongst them, if not because we cannot possibly give up all claim to an inner unity? If, then, the present confusion is rooted in a wrong relation between our desire and our achievement, we need not faint-heartedly surrender ourselves to it. It is plain that there is something higher in us, which we have to arouse to life and realise to its fullest extent. We may be confident that the necessity of our being, which gave rise to the desire, will also reveal some way by which it may be satisfied.

A closer consideration of the results of our inquiry leaves no doubt with regard to the direction which research has to take to accomplish its task. Diverse, fundamentally different systems passed in review before us; each came forward as the unadorned and true expression of a reality that seemed common to them all; their struggle appeared to be a conflict concerning the interpretation of this reality. It became evident, however, that the conflict is, on the contrary, in regard not to the interpretation but the fundamental nature of reality; different realities arise which are irreconcilably opposed. The systems do not originate in a common and secure basis: the basis itself is sought, and may assume various forms. The conflict 105 therefore is much more over ultimate problems than is usually supposed; it arises primarily out of the nature of life itself, out of the inner movement which advances against the illimitable world around us, and seeks to gain the mastery over it. Our life and our world acquire a definite character only by our taking up such a movement of counteraction, the particular nature of which decides over all further moulding of life. We have seen that when we ourselves became active we took up and emphasised one of the possibilities which lie within the range of our life, and held it as supreme over all the rest; we took as the fundamental relation one of the relations of which our life is capable, as, for example, the relation to God, to the immanent reason of the universe, to nature, to society, to one’s own individuality. A particular sphere of life was thus marked out; a scheme of life was yielded which appeared capable of taking up all experience into itself: according to the starting-point adopted, we sketched a distinctive outline and sought to include the whole content of human industry, man’s universe of work—as we might call it—in order to lead to our own perfection. This scheme, assumed to be true, then had to show what it was capable of; a powerful effort was brought forth to overcome the resistance of a world which, even when it was grasped from within, still remained alien to our nature; and, ultimately, to form the whole into a unity. We were not, as it were, an empty vessel into which a content flows from outside, but we generated from within a movement which went onward and onward, and desired to take up everything in itself; it was a matter of radically transforming the external into an inner life. We could succeed in this only in that life self-consciously pressed forward to win new powers; formed connections, branches, and graduations; accomplished an inner construction; and with progressive self-elevation became an all-inclusive whole, which did not possess a reality by the side of itself, but itself became complete reality. Thus, life took possession of the world only in that it widened itself from within to the world, and, 106 in the appropriation of everything alien to it, advanced from the original outline to full concreteness.

According to the results of our inquiry, the chief decision in the struggle with regard to the nature of the world also depends upon our type of life. We convinced ourselves that there was no conception of life common to the different systems, but that from its starting-point, throughout its whole development, each of them shaped life differently from the others; and we saw that the differences even went as far as complete opposition. Each system of life had its own kind of experience; each formed its own instruments for the appropriation of the world; each saw of the infinite that in particular which corresponded to the main direction of its own movement. A consideration of all the facts makes it quite clear that a decision depends neither upon externals nor upon the individual, but upon the inner life and the whole; and further, that cognition does not give a solution to the problems of life, but that life itself has to reach a solution through its own organisation and construction, its own advance and creative activity.

However, that which was the compelling and deciding power in the systems of the present day—the struggle for life itself—has not attained to complete recognition in them. Rather, they were too quick to begin to occupy themselves with objects, and sought to show themselves superior in this respect to their rivals; the attention to results prevented the correct appreciation and estimation of experience itself. The impossibility of coming to an agreement concerning the object then forced us back to the life-process; and we were led to the view that the object appeared different because we ourselves placed something different into it, and that we saw less the object itself than ourselves and our life in the object. Thus we were induced to place our attention chiefly on the subject; but then there was a strong tendency to leave the world outside as a special realm; and the division of work between subject and object drove us still further into uncertainty. 107 In the midst of such confusion, we did not come to the point of making a decision; we did not attain the position from which alone an agreement is possible; at one time one system, at another time another carried us away. We failed to recognise that, however much we come into contact externally, we live spiritually in separate worlds; that, while using the same expressions, we speak different languages, and therefore cannot possibly understand one another.

The gain is by no means an insignificant one, and a distinctive treatment arises, if we become clearly conscious of the fact that the shaping of the process of life itself is the chief object of conflict; that the movement is not one between world and life, but lies entirely within life; and that the essential matter is the perfecting of life itself. The recognition of this fact leads us to an immanent mode of treatment that has many advantages. The facts involved are now seen to lie deeper. The source of experiences is not so much the relation to the environment as the movement and expansion of life itself. Striving and conduct may now involve a certain concreteness; indeed, the actual experiencing of limitations and negations may lead to an elevation above them. The type of life does not seek to justify itself, to show its truth, through harmony with an external world; it is justified by its own advance, its increase in strength, and its upward growth. It is only a justification of this kind, a justification within its own realm, that can acquire a power to convince and to restore again to life that concreteness of which, in opposition to the excess of unrestrained reflection and vague feeling, it is to-day in the direst need. If we desire to arise above this state of division, and to attain a greater unity, we can achieve our aim only by the power of an inner unification of our life.

Instead, therefore, of considering the internal from the point of view of the external, we must consider the external from the point of view of the internal; our knowledge must be essentially a knowledge of self, our experience an 108 experience of self, if we would come any nearer to the attainment of the aim. Our inner nature is not given to us as something complete; it has first to be aroused to life and developed; we need to attain to a state of self-determining activity if we would reach the highest that we are capable of. From the recognition of the necessity of greater activity, and of seeking the roots of the problem at greater depths, we become aware of a new relation of thought to life. Although thought may involve certain fundamental forms, and may adhere to them in all its activity, it is life in its totality, as we understand it, which first gives to thought its more detailed form, a characteristic nature, clear aims and sure tendencies. Thought, therefore, is inseparable from the movement and the advance of life; all hope of progress rests on the hope of a further deepening of life; a revealing of new relations, and a development of new powers. It is not from mere knowledge, but only from the movement of life as a whole that we can make any advance; but the life here referred to is one that includes knowledge, and not one that takes up a position independent of knowledge, and, in opposition to it, bases itself on supposed practical needs.

A treatment such as the one we have indicated has to be followed in the investigation upon which we are about to enter. The chief aim of this investigation is to reveal and to call forth life; it is not its chief aim to interpret life in conceptual terms. It is from this position, therefore, that we ask the question—which the conflict of the different systems of life forced upon us—whether a unity transcending the oppositions exists in us and can be aroused to life through our self-determining activity. It is from this position also that we ask the further question—which springs out of the struggle between the older and the newer modes of thought—whether ultimately man must give up the superior position which from early times he has adjudged himself, 109 or whether an inner elevation is possible which gives him the power to cope with new tasks and new conditions. Whether such a treatment leads to a positive result is a question of fact; and what the answer to this is cannot be decided by a preliminary consideration, but only by the actual investigation.




The most expeditious way of arriving at a comprehensive conception of human life is to begin with the impression which we get of it as a whole; ascertain what problems arise from this, and seek to make what headway we can in solving them until we reach a stage where the necessity of a particular assertion becomes apparent. From the outset, however, the attention will be centred chiefly upon that which differentiates human life from other forms of life existing within our knowledge; it is from a consideration of this that we shall most readily see the whole in its proper light.

I. Man as a Being of Nature

No one doubts that human life forms the highest point of development that comes within our experience; that it is in some way more than mere animal life. But what it is that is characteristic in human life as distinct from animal life, and how it is to be interpreted, is a matter of dispute. From the earliest times there has been a great diversity of opinion and conviction concerning this matter, and absolutely contradictory views have been maintained. Some thinkers have believed it possible to regard human life, in spite of its uniqueness, as essentially the same as that of the animal, and to trace back all difference to a difference in the quantity of the fundamental nature which they all possess; these thinkers did not concern themselves with presenting the higher as developed from the lower by a 111 gradual growth. Others, on the contrary, regarded human life as something essentially new and in its very nature distinct—the beginning of another kind of world—and denied to the uttermost a derivation from lower forms; these held it to be impossible to avoid the recognition of a break between animal and human life. According to which of these positions was accepted, life obtained a fundamentally different prospect and a fundamentally different task; activity necessarily had different aims and sought different paths; the conflict around this problem affected the whole sphere of existence.

As a result of the movements and experiences of the nineteenth century, this conflict has entered upon a new stage. In earlier times the decision had generally been made as a result of the immediate impression of the civilised man who was conscious of his superiority; it did not seem possible for him to lift himself far enough above his environment; the life of his soul, through its distinctive spiritual character, seemed to be as distinct from every impulse which nature exhibited as the sky is distant from the earth. Science and art, morality and religion were accepted as an original possession of man and as the power which had dominated his life from the beginning. He appeared to be a higher being; and to direct all thought and endeavour towards the strengthening of the distinctively human was regarded as the chief requirement of life.

The movements which have arisen in the Modern Age have led to a radical change in our treatment of this question: this change is chiefly due to science. Modern science breaks down the authority of the immediate impression, and, in contrast with it, projects a new representation of the world. Man is no longer looked upon as occupying a position of lonely elevation, but is seen to be in the closest concatenation with nature around him, and is regarded, finally, as a mere part of its machinery. Many movements of thought tend toward this conclusion and support one another. The physical relationship which exists between man and the animals could not have been so clearly perceived, 112 and traced with such exactitude of detail by modern science had not the fixed boundaries, which in our representation had hitherto divided the life of the human soul from that of the animals, been abolished. The new view was further supported by the results of a keener investigation into the nature of psychical life, since in this investigation the traditional conception was analysed into its individual constituents, and it was sought to explain from their combinations even the highest spiritual achievements. The result of this modification of ideas was that the inner life of man was assimilated much more closely to nature than before; the juxtaposition and the succession of occurrences gained in significance; it was recognised that relations did not hold from the beginning but are developed gradually. The forces and impulses which were operative in this development seemed to have arisen from an actual process of nature, without any co-operation of human caprice. Our psychical life appeared to be nothing more than a continuation of nature. The great divergence between the heights attained in experience, and the theories that were formulated to account for them, caused no misgivings because the idea of a gradual evolution during an indefinite period of time was sufficient to bridge the widest gulf. At the same time the conception of society allied itself with that of history and lent its support to the general tendency. Every higher aspect of life that was accepted formerly as a proof of a supernatural order now became a witness to historico-social relationship and, with its new interpretation, lost its old mysteriousness. All this was, of course, only on the assumption that human life brings nothing essentially new with it. Not the least doubt as to the validity of this assumption came to those who entered upon this train of thought.

Thought was able to follow this course with the greater confidence because it went hand in hand with a change in practical life. By reason of the development of modern life, man’s relations to the environment have become increasingly significant to man. Modern industry and 113 physical science have led him from a preponderatingly contemplative relation to his environment to an active one; infinite prospects have been disclosed; the forces of nature have been pressed more and more into the service of mankind. But even in the service which they render man these forces have won a power over him, since with a determining power they keep his activity and his thought bent upon themselves. The material side of life has escaped from the mean estimation in which it had previously been held, if not in the conduct of individuals, yet at the height of spiritual culture: to the present age it has become the indispensable basis of all development. The social movement, with its summoning of the masses to complete participation in happiness and culture, supports the tendency to estimate material goods more highly. With the cessation of oppression and necessity, and with the increase of material well-being, a general advance and an inner development of life seem assured. The whole tendency which we have considered exhibits man as solely and entirely a part of nature, even though nature may be conceived of more broadly than it was formerly; and the life of the society and of the individual as being determined by natural forces and subject to natural laws. How, along with this tendency, the traditional conception of the world has been completely transformed; how biology, in the sense of natural science, has been taken as the leading point of view for the explanation of life, it is unnecessary to follow further, since our consideration of the naturalistic system of life has already given us an insight into this matter.

2. The Growth of Man beyond Nature

But even after we had seen an older type of life disappear and a new one with the power of youth rise up, gain mastery over souls, and transform conditions, despite all its triumphs the new movement manifested limitations—limitations which did not arouse the criticism of the thinker, 114 but with the compulsion of an actual power the opposition of the developing life of mankind. That which we became aware of in this connection will become even more clear to us, and impel us to seek for new aims, if we now concentrate our attention upon the process of life and follow it throughout its experiences.

There cannot be the least doubt that we belong to nature: no one can fail to recognise that it penetrates deep into the life of the soul, and to a marked extent impresses its own form upon that life: the boundary therefore is not between man and nature, but within the soul of man itself. But whether nature is able to claim the whole life of the soul, or whether at some point there does not arise an insuperable opposition to such a claim, is another question. Even the most zealous champion of the claims of nature cannot deny that man achieves something distinctive: we not only belong to nature, we also have knowledge of the fact; and this knowledge is in itself sufficient to show that we are more than nature. For in knowledge, be it in the first place however meanly conceived, however much concerned with the simple representation of external occurrences, there is a kind of life other than that which is shown in the simultaneity and succession of events at the level of nature. For it is a characteristic of knowledge that in it we hold the single points present together and connect them into a chain; but how could we do that without in some way rising above the mere succession and surveying it from a transcendent point? In this survey we pass from earlier to later, from later to earlier; and at the same time we are able to hold the multiplicity together: there must be a unity of some kind ruling within us; but the mechanism of nature can never produce such a unity. A transcendence of nature therefore is already accomplished in the process of thought, even when it only represents nature, only displays it to our consciousness. Intellectual achievement, however, is by no means exhausted in the representation of nature. The development of a new scientific conception 115 of nature sufficiently demonstrates, as we saw reason to believe, that thought has far more independence than such representation implies; that in arranging and transforming phenomena it opposes itself to the environment. For the scientific conception of nature is not offered to us immediately as something complete; it has to be won from the naïve view with toil and difficulty. In order to arrive at this scientific conception, thought must have a position antecedent to the impressions, must become conscious of itself, realise its own strength, and in its activity lead from universal to universal. The work of thought is not simply transitional: without its continuance that which has been gained would be quickly lost. Mere existence gives to nature no present reality for our thought and life. To follow the pathway to reality involves the overthrow of manifold delusions; and this necessitates such a longing for truth, and a power to gain truth, as only a thought, which transcends the sense impression, can produce. Not only is transcendence of nature demonstrated through the fact of the existence of thought with such independence, thought also carries within its being unique demands, measures the life of nature by their standard, and in that life recognises limitations not simply on this side and that, but also in the inner being of the whole. Thought cannot possibly be satisfied with the state of things as they are presented; it desires to illuminate, penetrate, and comprehend it; it asks “Whence?” and “Why?”—it insists that events must have a meaning and be rational. And from this point of view it feels the mere actuality of nature—which excites no opposition within its own sphere—to be a painful limitation and constraint, something dark and meaningless. To thought, a life which is swayed by blind natural impulse must be inadequate, indeed intolerable. Similar conflicts arise in other directions. Thought embraces a whole and demands a whole; it cannot refrain from passing a judgment upon the whole. If this treatment is applied by thought to nature, the predominant concentration of life in the single 116 individuals and their juxtaposition will appear to be a serious defect; all the passionate strivings of the individual beings cannot deceive us concerning the inner emptiness of the whole. For in nature there is nothing that experiences the whole of this movement as a whole; makes the experience self-conscious and something of value in itself. In the movement of nature everything individual is sacrificed; and there seems to be nothing to which this sacrifice brings results which are experienced as a good. The same holds good of a culture that resolves human social relationship into a simple co-existence of individuals, regards them as battling together in the struggle for existence, and believes all progress of the whole to be dependent upon their ceaseless and pitiless conflict. Even if such a conflict leads to further external results, there is no spiritual product: the results are experienced by no one as an inner gain. The indescribable meanness of this whole culture, swayed as it is solely by the spirit of egoism; the slavish dependence to which this culture condemns man; the rigour of the individualism that rules in it, cannot possibly escape from the criticism of thought. Thought, in transforming this condition of things into an experience—that is, in making us conscious of it—at the same time makes it impossible for man to accept it as final. Since it makes us more conscious of the limitations of this state of life, thought demonstrates—and that through this very consciousness of its limitations itself—that our whole existence is not exhausted by that individualisation and detachment, but that there is a tendency of some sort within us which strives towards the unity of the whole.

Problems no less complex arise in relation to time. Looked at from the point of view of nature, no inconsistency is felt in the fact that only a short span of time is granted to the life of individuals; that they come and go in most rapid succession. For here the individuals do not rise to the consideration of anything beyond their own time; their presentation and desire are exhausted 117 in the present; they feel no longing for a continuation of life. The position is radically changed with the entrance of thought. Thought does not drift along with time: as certainly as it strives to attain truth, it must rise above time and its treatment must be timeless: a timeless validity appertains to truth, a comprehension of things “under the form of eternity” (sub specie aeternitatis). To a being who, in his thought, rises to comprehension of experience from the point of view of the eternal, all temporal limitation, and especially the short duration of human life, is a source of surprise and a contradiction. The rapid sequence of generations, the perpetual decay of all that impels us so forcibly to desire life and holds us so firmly to it, seem to deprive our endeavour of all its value, and give to the whole of existence a shadowy, phantom-like character. Feelings of this kind have been aroused anew in our own time. The restlessness of the activities of our civilisation and the lack of real meaning in this civilisation, which to the present age seems to constitute the whole of life, need only to be clearly and forcibly comprehended by thought, and all its bustle and all its passion cannot prevent the emergence of an acute feeling of its dream-like nature.

The feeling of the lack of reality and depth in the life of nature will become the keener in proportion to the degree of independence thought evolves. For the more thought finds its own basis in itself, the more will it treat nature as an appearance, the more clearly will it recognise that sense, with all its obviousness and palpability, does not guarantee the possession of truth; for truth comes to us only through thought. In thought, therefore, the world of nature loses its immediacy and becomes a realm of appearances and phantoms.

A consideration of all the facts leads us to the result that a life consisting solely of nature and intelligence involves an intolerable inconsistency: form and content are sharply separated from each other; thought is strong enough to disturb the sense of satisfaction with nature, 118 but is too weak to construct a new world in opposition to it. Life is in a state of painful uncertainty, and man is a “Prometheus bound” in that he must needs experience all the constraint and meaninglessness of the life of nature, and must suffer therefrom an increasing pain without being able to change this state in any way.

The experience of our time confirms this conclusion in no indefinite manner. Since, with regard to the material and the technical, we have attained heights never before reached, the bonds between us and our environment have increased a thousandfold, and our work has united us more closely with the world, we seem now for the first time to attain a sure hold of reality. At the same time, however, the activity of thought, and with it unrestrained reflection, have also increased immeasurably in modern life. This reflection forbids all naïve submission to the immediacy of nature; destroys all feeling of security; and comes between us and our own soul, our own volition. We are thrown back once more on to the world of sense, that we may seek in it a support and a scope for our life and effort; and from the point of view of this world the work of thought appears to be a formation of clouds. But this formation persists; draws us back again to itself and, with all its insubstantiality, proves strong enough to make us regard the physical as appearance. Our life is divided into two parts which cannot and will not coalesce. The emergence of a new life, which can do nothing but comprehend the other in thought, and which, while it is indeed capable of depreciating the other, cannot itself advance further, is seen to involve a monstrous inconsistency.

If the union of nature and intelligence produces so much confusion, we are inevitably led to ask whether man does not possess in himself more than thought; whether thought is not rooted in a deeper and a more comprehensive life, from which it derives its power. It is not necessary that such a life should be manifest to us in all its completeness; we shall also be compelled to acknowledge it as a fact even if in the first place it has to struggle up in face of 119 opposition; however, in its development it must show distinctive contents and powers which could not be the work of a subjective reflection. If there is a life and a development of this kind, it will be necessary for us to comprehend it in its various aspects and tendencies, and only when we have accomplished this may we endeavour to obtain a representation of the whole.

Now, developments of life which defy limitation by the mechanism of nature and set a new kind of being in opposition to it do, in truth, appear. We recognise such developments in the processes by which life liberates itself from bondage to an individualism and its subjectivity, and afterwards attains a self-conscious inwardness. We may consider both these developments somewhat more in detail. So far as man belongs to nature, his conduct is determined solely by the impulse to self-preservation; every movement must either directly or indirectly tend to the welfare of the individual; everything may be traced back to what happens to the individuals. This by no means indicates a distinct separation of man from his environment. For even the mechanism of nature closely unites that which happens to the individual with that which happens around him; the individual can progress only in so far as he is united with others: he cannot advance his own well-being without advancing that of others. Even in a “state of nature” man takes his family, his nation, and the whole of humanity indeed, up into his interests; and as this tendency is not bounded from without, but may be immeasurably refined and extended in an indefinite number of directions, it easily comes to appear that this involves an inner deliverance from self, and that another is of value to us for his own sake. But it is no more than an appearance; for with all the external agreement the inward separation is far greater, and amounts to opposition. Within the limits of nature we can certainly concern ourselves with something which is only indirectly useful to us; but we can never be concerned with anything which is devoid of all use to ourselves; we cannot take such a 120 direct interest in the welfare of others as will tend to our own disadvantage. If experience gives evidence of such an activity and such an interest, in so doing it demonstrates a transcendence of nature. Now, experience does give such evidence, and indeed with irresistible clearness. A witness to this is seen in the zeal with which man habitually attempts to give to his struggles for mere self-preservation a better appearance, a semblance of conduct performed out of genuine regard for the interests of others. To what purpose all this trouble to acquire such an appearance; for what reason this hypocrisy which permeates the whole of human life; and whence this appearance itself if we belong solely and entirely to nature? Further, whatever elements of semblance there may be in the general state of human life, the development of that life is by no means nothing but semblance. The social life of man is not explicable as a simple collection of individuals related to one another in different ways; but in the family, in the state, in humanity as a whole there is evolved an inner unity, a sphere of life with distinctive values and contents. And as it is of the nature of these to transcend the ends and aims of the individuals, to arouse other feelings and stimulate to other efforts, so their demands may be directly opposed to those of individual self-preservation. Man sees himself compelled to decide whether he will pursue his own welfare or that of the whole: from the necessity of a decision it is impossible to escape. However much in the majority of cases self-interest may preponderate, we cannot dispute the possibility of his acting in direct and conscious opposition to his own interest; of his subordinating and sacrificing himself; and of his doing this “not grudgingly nor of necessity,” but willingly and gladly; of his feeling this subordination to be not a negation and a limitation, but an affirmation and an expansion of his life. All who strive for some essential renewal and elevation of human life base their hope and trust upon such a disposition. A renewal and an elevation of life involve far too much toil, conflict, and danger; they demand a renunciation 121 and a sacrifice far too great for them to be commended to us by consideration of our own welfare, or for them to dispense with the necessity of counting upon an unselfish submission, a sincere sympathy, a genuine love. That which was produced with glowing passion in heroic beginnings must with a quieter warmth pervade all progress also. An inner community of minds is indispensable if the whole of culture is not to become a soulless mechanism and inwardly alien to us. It is true that the external way of regarding the facts of life often fuses together as one, lower and higher, a continuation of nature and the beginning of a new life. Language also supports this tendency, since it indicates fundamentally different psychical states with the same terms. Yet the love in which the union with others is sought only in order to advance one’s own interests, and the love which finds in this union a release from the limitations of the natural ego, and gains a new life, remain distinct. The sympathy which feels the sufferings of others to be unpleasant because one’s own complacency is disturbed by them, and which in consequence fades away and disappears as soon as the sight of the suffering comes to an end, is absolutely separated from a sympathy which extends to the soul of the other, and possessing which, in order to contribute to the relieving of the other’s need, one willingly sacrifices one’s own complacency: a sympathy, therefore, which extends its interest and help without limit beyond all that simply has to do with the relation to the environment. How much real love and genuine sympathy the experience of humanity shows is a question in itself. Even as possibilities of our being, as matters of thought which occupy our attention, and as tasks and problems, they give evidence of a development of our life beyond the limits of nature.

This forgetfulness of self is a kind of deliverance of life from the limitations and the interests of the individual: a new relation of man to man, of person to person, thus arises and brings about an essential change, indeed a complete transformation of aims and feelings. The deliverance 122 is effected in another direction with the emergence of a new relation to things, to the object. In the realm of nature everything that is external has a value for man only as a means and an instrument to the advancement of his own welfare; from the point of view of nature, it is impossible to understand how a thing could attract us on account of a content and a value of its own. As a matter of fact, the object does attract us and acquire a power over us in this manner, and this not merely here and there but over a wide area in movements which affect and transform the whole of life. Nothing else differentiates work—viewed spiritually—from other activity, and nothing else elevates work above other activity than this: that in work the object is inwardly present; and that man may make its moulding and extension a motive, and find this a source of joy. This seems to be something self-evident, only because it happens daily to us and around us; and we do not recognise a new type of life in it, simply because in human life it is usual to find that work only gradually attains complete independence. For it is the pressing necessity of life, the impulse to self-preservation, that first arouses us from our natural inactivity and compels us to occupy ourselves with things; and in this change from inactivity to activity it is our own advantage that we first seek. But that which to us, to commence with, was simply a means; that which was perhaps most unwillingly done, begins to attract and hold us more and more for its own sake; becomes an end in itself, and is able so to charm us that it forces the idea of utility completely into the background. It is possible for work to become so attractive, and of such a value in our estimation, that to ensure its success we can make sacrifices, and can pursue it in direct opposition to our own welfare. Only when the object is regarded and treated in this manner can it win an inner proximity to us; reveal to us its relations; develop characteristic laws; make demands upon us and call forth our power to meet them. In this way it constrains us, but the constraint is not exerted 123 upon us from without, but proceeds from our own decision and activity. We do not feel the relation to be an oppression, but rather as a witness to our freedom; in the subordination to the object we feel that we are caught up into a life more comprehensive, clearer and richer than any we can develop from the subjective. We reach a stability and a calm in ourselves, and have within our own being a support against all vacillation and error. Work, therefore, produces relations which on the one hand unify the endeavour of the individual and fashion his life as a definite whole; and on the other, bind humanity into a creative community. In the former case we have vocation, with its demands and its limitations, it is true, but with them also its strengthening and its elevation of life; in the latter complexes of work develop in whole departments of life, in which the individuals find themselves side by side and are ultimately united into the community of an all-inclusive whole of culture. From this something is evolved which is independent not only of the choice but also of the interests of mere man: a kingdom of truth, a world of thought transcending all human subjectivity is formed. Thus we see something grow up within the human sphere which leads man beyond himself, and which is valid not simply for him but even in opposition to him. The whole matter bristles with problems: from the point of view of the life of nature this new life must appear to be an insoluble riddle; and yet it has far too much value and certitude to be banished as imaginary.

Along with this detachment of life from the mere individual and the mere subjectivity of man, there is a liberation from external ties, and the development of a self-conscious spirituality. As at the level of nature life is spent in the development of relations with the environment, in action and reaction, so the form of life in man remains bound, since the life of the soul cannot dissociate itself from the experience of sense. The apparent inwardness that is evolved at this level is simply an after-effect of sensuous feelings and desires. So far as the life of nature 124 extends, the forces and laws of the life of the soul will only refine what the external world exhibits in coarser features. The mechanism of nature also extends into human life; natural impulses of conduct, as well as association of ideas, reveal the fact that the life of the soul is in complete dependence upon natural conditions. From this point of view it seems impossible that inwardness should ever become independent. The actual experience of human life, however, shows that what is thus regarded as impossible is indisputably real. The detachment from the mere subjectivity of the ego and the development of universal values, which exist over against us, can be effected only if the basis of life lies deeper than the contact with the environment. It was a work of thought which brought about the transition and gave birth to the new life; only with the help of thought did it ever become possible to form relations of a new kind and to rouse man’s interest in them. The realities which arose were not of sense but conceptual, ideal. The more this movement increased in extent, the more human existence was transformed into realities of thought. Is not such a transformation evident when in ourselves we see before all else, not the sensuous being of nature, but a personality or an individuality; when in relationship with one another we form the idea of the state, and feel that we are ourselves members of the state; when we regard and value the cognate beings around us from the conception of humanity? As a matter of fact, a strong tendency in this direction runs through the whole history of humanity: sense does not disappear, but is taken up more and more into something conceptual; the world of thought gives us increasingly the point of view from which we fashion our lives. We find a progressive spiritualisation of religion, of morality, of law, of the whole life of culture. In everything life seeks a deeper basis; an inwardness wins an independence of the environment, and exercises on the environment a transforming power. The relations and the order of the realities of thought manifest a law different from that of sense presentations 125 with their mere juxtaposition. For in the former case an inner unity, an objective relation is evolved, and the significance of the individual member is estimated according to its position in the whole. The distinctive attributes in a conception form no mere collection, and the statement of a syllogism no mere sequence; rather, in both, a comprehending act of thought grasps the manifold and arranges the separate elements according to their relationship within the whole. The course of presentation with its mere succession is by no means simply suppressed through this development of thought; it persists and governs consciousness on the surface. But the surface is not the totality of the intellectual life; through it and transcending it an activity of thought manifests itself, forms new connections, and maintains itself against all opposition.

Accordingly, the power that thought exercises is fundamentally different from the physical power of association, or even of custom. In the case of thought there is an insistence upon a consistent and related whole which, even though externally insignificant, produces most powerful effects. If contradictions exist in our world of thought and condition of life, they may become intolerable, and the desire to remove them lead to the emergence of impetuous movements. If, on the other hand, we recognise that certain things which formerly seemed to be unrelated, even though they existed side by side, are really inwardly related; or if, again, an assertion involves a consequence that has not hitherto been deduced, then the demand, that these things shall be unified and this consequence developed, is capable of breaking down even the strongest opposition. In this matter an invisible is capable of more than a visible power. Of course, thought in isolation has not such a power; it acquires it only through its relation to a wider life and in championing the cause of that life. For thought is wont to defend the life of the individual, of a people, a historical situation of humanity, on the one hand from an abundance of inconsistencies, and on the other from dissolution and incompleteness, without any conflict growing out of it. 126 Life as we experience it immediately is anything but a regular logic of the schools. In itself simple perception of the fact that an inconsistency exists, or that ideas which have been regarded as valid require further development, need not arouse the feeling of man and lead him to assert his activity; he can acquiesce, and leave the condition of things unaltered; he can voluntarily resign himself to the inconsistencies and incompleteness. But, nevertheless, there is a point at which this condition of inconsistency can be endured no longer, at which to transcend it becomes the dominant task of life. This point is reached when the confusion is no longer something external to us which we contemplate, but enters into the substance of our life, so that the inconsistency becomes a division, and an attitude of inconsequence towards it a limitation of our own being. The solving of the problem then becomes an essential part of our spiritual preservation. And in that it commands the whole energy and passion of such preservation it can do that of which thought, with its necessity, is not in itself capable, it can rouse our whole life to activity and break down even the strongest opposition. It is from the inner presence of a determining and moulding process of life that thought itself first obtains a characteristic form, and is able to impress it upon things, and so subject them to itself. A spiritual self-preservation of this kind is fundamentally different from all physical self-preservation: for the former, it is not a matter of the self asserting its place in the co-existence of things, but of becoming an independent inward nature, and of establishing a distinctive whole of life. The exact significance of spiritual self-preservation is for the present obscure enough; but whatever it may be, it derives its power from within and not from contact with the environment.

How deeply these inner movements are rooted in human life the so-called historical ideas show with particular clearness. Certain thought complexes, or rather certain tendencies of life, arise, and win an overwhelming power in opposition to all narrowly human concerns. They force the 127 activity of mankind into particular channels; they follow out their consequences with pitiless rigour; they speak to us in a tone of command, and require absolute obedience. Neither the interests of individuals nor those of whole classes prevail against them; every consideration of utility vanishes before their inner necessity. The history of religions, for example, has often shown such an astonishing consistency in the following of characteristic tendencies that their adherents could see in it the working of a divine spirit. Similarly, the Enlightenment, in its time with overpowering might seized minds and penetrated deeply into every department of life; to-day we have a similar experience in the case of the social movement. On all sides something is acknowledged as an imperative requirement, as indispensable for the spiritual persistence of man—something which cannot be brought in from outside, and which may indeed be entirely inconsistent with external conditions. Has not the conflict of inner necessities with the external circumstances that were opposed to them been a leading motive power in history, and is not all genuine progress achieved through such an opposition?

Again, the great force that has been exerted in the movement of history in the detection and the elimination of contradictions can be explained only in this context. Logic, as we saw, played an unassuming rôle in this matter, and the indolence of man always inclined to easy accommodation and compromise. It was the increased vital energy, the adoption of a particular issue as the main issue, that made movements, which had long existed in a state of harmony and peace, irreconcilable enemies, and drove them to a life-and-death struggle. With a lower level of spiritual activity the Middle Ages unsuspiciously united a religion of ecclesiastical organisation with a religion of personal feeling and disposition; and it did not feel that there was an inconsistency in their union so much as that one was the completion of the other. As soon and so far, however, as in the Modern Age spirituality won more independence and more self-consciousness, and 128 felt itself to be the centre of the whole, it was inevitable that a dependence upon an external order should be experienced only as an intolerable oppression; and the division of life between the one and the other became an impossibility. It was necessary only that a powerful and passionate personality, like that of Luther, should take up the problem, and make it the sole object of his effort, and the hour of revolution had come. How meanly they think of the controlling forces of history who would trace back such changes to the selfishness or the vanity of individuals! Looked at from our point of view, the inner changes within the life of universal history often appear to be simplifications—cases of energetic concentration on the essential, and of fundamental separation of the subsidiary. The truly great carry on a ceaseless conflict against the chaotic confusion which the life of the majority is wont to produce ever anew—a condition in which matters of the first importance are confused with those that are subsidiary; all inner gradation is lacking; and the great is treated as something insignificant, and the insignificant as something great. There is a struggle to secure a clear differentiation and gradation; to establish a centre, and to transform life into a genuinely self-conscious life. Have not all the principal revivals of religion, of morality, of education, been simplifications?

These movements show life in a particular form; something emerges in it which, unconcerned with the weal and the woe of man, follows its own course and makes absolute demands; and, more than anything else, disturbs and destroys his calmness and complacency. How heavily Germany has had to pay for the movement of the Reformation by being thrown back politically, nationally, and economically! It is inevitable that all movements of an ideal kind, the social movement of the present included, should appear from the point of view of natural well-being, troublesome and pernicious disturbances. They can be regarded as something higher only when we acknowledge that life does not consist entirely in external relations, 129 or in the endeavour to attain harmony with the environment, but that an inner task grows out of life itself, and first gives to human existence a value and a dignity.

In the development of a self-consciousness and of a movement of life itself, we rise above the motive of utility, by which nature is swayed. It is a moral element in the widest sense; it is the consciousness of something objectively necessary, unconditionally transcending the ends of the narrowly human, that first gives to convictions axiomatic certainty and to conduct the right energy. This moral element attains to a more independent display in the moral self-judgment of man that is called “conscience.” True, this conception has been the subject of much error and has been much over-estimated. Not only has the moral judgment less power over man than is frequently assumed, but that which is called conscience is often—generally, in fact—nothing more than a by-product of custom and of accommodation in human social life. In this case the inner life has still attained no independence, but remains dependent upon the environment; and the disposition thus produced is nothing more than a feeling of aversion to the results of conduct, nothing more nor less than concealed fear of punishment—a state of the soul which the most prominent thinkers have, with good reason, stigmatised as a manifestation of weakness and cowardice. But, however much that is foreign to it and of an inferior order may have been associated with conscience, nevertheless, judging conduct, as it does, according to the inward disposition and not according to consequences, conscience is a unique, original phenomenon. To whatever extent conscience, as we know it, may have had its source in something external, and in however great a degree it may depend upon changing circumstances, it is nevertheless impossible to explain the fundamental fact by reference to the environment. For, if our life depended solely and entirely upon the environment and no movement arose from within, all influence from without could do nothing but subdue us by sheer force; there could never be an 130 independent recognition and acceptance of the command addressed to us; never the feeling of an inner responsibility for conduct; never an independent extension of the original precept; and yet all these phenomena are in fact found in human experience. True, we are affected very greatly by external forces; but that they may achieve what they do a movement from within must meet them, take them up, and carry them further. The enormous amount of pretence which flourishes amongst us with regard to matters of morality, and which so easily obscures our vision for the chief matter, would be unintelligible if the spiritual did not manifest some kind of independence in the moral judgment. Unless there is such a development towards independence, the moral judgment must also, as far as its content is concerned, be determined by the condition of the social environment: it could never follow a course of its own; never give rise to anything new; never enter into inner conflict with the environment. Yet, as a matter of fact, we find these tendencies in abundance. The individual is able, in the light of his own moral conviction, to approve and value something which all around him reject; and conversely, to condemn and reject something which all around him esteem and respect; and this he is able to do under the compulsion of inner necessity, and not simply out of a love of vain paradox. This opposition of individuals to the condition of things in the social environment has been the main source of all inner progress in matters of morality. For it is in matters of morality, in particular, that that which hitherto had given no offence has become intolerable to individuals; and that new and imperative demands such as had never been made before have emerged with constraining power. Or did the idea of humanity, the abolition of slavery, and the commandment to love one’s enemies, for example, arise in some other way? If in respect of such matters as these that which on its first appearance was paradoxical quickly came to be regarded as self-evident, what else was operative in bringing about this result than an inner 131 necessity, from which, when once we become conscious of it, we can never again escape? Suitable conditions in the social environment were, of course, also necessary for the fulfilment and the extension of those moral requirements; but they could never have originated from the environment, or have derived from it their unconditional nature, their certainty of victory, and their indifference to all external consequences: qualities without which they could not have effected what they have.

In the life of the individual the moral judgment manifests its power in affirmation as well as in negation. If it approves one’s disposition and conduct, it gives to life a greater stability and joyfulness; if it condemns, then existence is paralysed by division. In this experience it is implicitly assumed that the distinction of good and evil has its source neither in the preferences of the human individual nor in those of the human society; but that in this antithesis a new order that is present only to the inner nature is revealed.

We see, therefore, that in contrast with its attachment to the external, life attains an independent inwardness which we are compelled to acknowledge, however mysterious the inward may at present be to us, and however little we may be able to define its nature more closely. Earlier in our investigation we were led to recognise a movement of life from the narrowness of the individual to the comprehensiveness of the whole. It is obvious that our two results are closely connected with each other and refer to each other. For we attain a unity, as contrasted with the juxtaposition of the elements of the visible world, only through a powerful activity from within; but this activity cannot emerge unless life forms a whole in contrast with its dissipation into disconnected points.

These two developments are obviously sides of the same life—a life which bears a totally different character from that of the psychical life which forms a mere continuation of nature. Within the soul itself there is a distinction between two levels, of which that other than nature may 132 in agreement with established usage be called “spiritual,” however little may be implied by this expression; however mysterious, indeed, the conception may for the present be. In contrast with the old, this new level is unmistakably at a disadvantage. The old seems to include the whole range of human existence; the new, on the other hand, must toilsomely struggle for a place of some kind. Nevertheless, in spite of its external insignificance, the spiritual gives birth to a movement of no mean character; in face of all opposition it seeks to form a centre of life of its own, and to make this the chief basis of effort; it is to be found thus in the life of mankind as revealed in history, and also in that of the individual. Within the conception of culture we comprehend all achievements distinctive of man. But what is culture if it does not assure to man a position independent of nature; if it does not set up ideals which can arise only out of a new life? Ultimately the chief motive-power of culture is the longing of mankind for a new kind of being in contrast to that of nature. Culture necessarily becomes superficial and empty when it directs human striving to external objects and does not lead through all occupation with externals to its own development and to the advance of its own being. The work of culture is genuine and powerful only when man seeks in it his own true and ultimate self.

How every development of the spiritual advances towards the attainment of a new unity of life may be more clearly seen in the case of the individual, in relation to whom we meet with the conceptions of personality and of spiritual individuality. However much confusion there may be in the ordinary use of these conceptions, the conception of personality merits the estimation in which it is held only if it is regarded as the bearer of a new life in contrast to that of nature, and not simply as something added to nature. The development is more evident with the conception of spiritual individuality. For such an individuality is by no means something given to a man in the natural characteristics which he brings with him into 133 life. Within this particular nature, as a rule, many things, significant and insignificant—things which are original in himself and things which are due to external influence—are chaotically confused; and, as it lacks an inner unity and an adjustment of the different aspects, one aspect may directly contradict another. If the individual is no more than these natural characteristics, he can become active as a whole only through a summation of the multiplicity, and not through a dominating and organising unity. With the transition to the new kind of life a desire for such a unity awakens and gives rise to a definitely characteristic movement. A unity must be found within us in some manner; it must be included in the range of possibilities open to us. But in order to obtain supremacy it must be grasped, be appropriated and strengthened by our self-activity. We ourselves therefore become a task in the treatment of which it is possible to fall into serious error. Looked at from this point of view our spiritual nature is seen to be the product of our own activity. We cannot fail to recognise a peculiar interweaving of freedom and fate in our existence.

The inner history of all creative minds shows how great may be the inspiration and the tension which arise in this striving to realise a spiritual nature; an inspiration and a tension which are evident even when the main direction for the realisation of this nature has been easily found and only the more detailed form has to be sought: they are still more apparent when the main direction itself is in question. How toilsome it has often been for a man to come to that in which his strength lay, and with the aid of reflection to attain a state of secure creative activity; to unite all forces to a common achievement; and to make a distinct advance beyond the traditional position of the spiritual life! Life was by no means a completed gift and something to be easily enjoyed, even in the case of natures lavishly equipped by destiny—as, for example, Goethe: it was in a struggle for itself that it won a complete independence and a proud superiority over everything external. 134 This struggle was being fought in all his cares, in all thought for natural and social well-being, all utilitarian considerations in regard to the externals of life. It gave to the man amid all his doubts and agitations the certainty of being something unique, something indispensable; at the same time it lifted him into an invisible world, and enabled him to understand his own life as an end complete in itself. How different this is from the struggle for existence, for the preservation of physical life; and how clearly a new life, another kind of reality, arises in these movements! The new life does not by any means appear only at the heights of spiritual creation; rather it would be true to say that the life which is present in the whole of human existence becomes most easily discernible at these heights. The movement towards a spiritual individuality may be begun in the most simple conditions; and it is not to be estimated according to the degree of its achievement. For, where world stands against world, everything depends upon the decision with regard to the fundamental principle, and this may be made at any point. The mere possibility of making such a decision testifies here irrefutably to a reality: the reality of a new order of things.

3. The Inner Contradiction of the New Life

The conclusion we are led to is that a new life distinct from that of nature arises in our soul. With a great diversity of manifestations, it surrounds us with an indisputable actuality; no one can fail to recognise that something of importance, something distinctive comes to pass in us. But as soon as we try to comprehend these manifestations as a whole, and to ascertain the meaning of the whole, a difficult problem arises. It is comparatively easy, however, to come to an understanding as to the negative aspect of the matter. It is obvious that the new life is not an embellishment or a continuation of nature; it would bring with it something essentially new. Again, it is obvious that it is 135 not a product of a single psychical function, such as thought or feeling; it would form a whole transcending the psychical functions, and from this whole determine the form of each function distinctively. But what is this new reality and this whole to which the course of the movement trends? The more we reflect over the question the more strongly we feel that it is a direction rather than a conclusion that is offered to us in this matter; something higher, something inward and so on is to evolve, but what is embedded in the inward and in what this supremacy is based is at present not apparent. Further, every attempt at a more definite orientation at once reveals to us a wide gulf, indeed a harsh contradiction, between the content of that which is sought and the form of existence from which it is sought. The chief impulse of the spiritual life is that it wills to liberate us from the merely human; to give us a share in the life of the whole; to remove us from a happening between things to their fundamental happening. Seen from within, the history of humanity is primarily an increasing deliverance of life from bondage to the narrowly human, an emergence of something more than human, and an attempt to shape our life from the point of view of this: it is an increasing conflict of man with himself. At the same time, however, it is a taking up of the whole into himself; since man in all his planning and striving is related to the whole, it seems to him that his own nature must remain alien to himself if the whole does not disclose itself to him and allow him to participate in a life which has its source in ultimate depths; if in the life of the whole he does not find a purer and a more genuine self. The idea of truth impels us beyond all the limitations to which a particular being is subject, beyond all communication of things from without. There must be nothing between us and reality; the inner life of reality must become ours, and thus our life will emerge for the first time from a shadowy existence to full reality, from the narrowness of the mere individual to the comprehensiveness of infinity. The idea of the good makes similar demands. 136 To the spiritual movement, the advancement of merely human well-being is far too mean an aim. This movement makes us clearly conscious of the triviality of mere happiness; of the oppressive and destructive effect of a continual reference to our own subjectivity; and of the unworthiness of treating love and justice as only means to our welfare. It becomes at the same time an urgent duty to break through the narrow limitations of the natural ego, and to conduct our life from the point of view of objective truth and comprehensiveness, and so for the first time to become capable of genuine love and justice.

It is true that these aims are lofty, and, we feel we have the right to say, aims that may not be rejected. But it is not at all evident how they are to be reached from the position of man; it is not at all clear how man shall press forward from mere existence to the creative basis, from the part to the whole: for his particularity and his mere existence hold him fixed. But in his existence nature preponderates by far: individual tendencies of a new order do appear; but how could they in their state of isolation and weakness bring about a revolution and place life on a new foundation? As a matter of fact, we usually find these impulses to a new life drawn into the service of natural and social self-preservation, and, over against the passionate struggle for existence, condemned to complete impotence and shadowiness.

The whole life of culture makes us clearly conscious of this perplexity. The essence of that life consists in this, and by this alone can it be held as true—that it wills to build up a new, spiritual reality within the sphere of humanity. But to what extent is such a reality recognisable on the basis of experience? In and with all civilisation man continues obstinately bent upon the attainment of his own ends: the struggle for material goods exerts an immense influence upon and controls men; an indescribable amount of pretence and hypocrisy accompanies and surrounds the spiritual movement. Between that which man really strives for, and that which he asserts 137 that he is striving for, and which perhaps it is his intention to strive for, there is great divergence. Falsehood like this is not limited to individuals; our whole culture is one monstrous deception in so far as it promises to develop humanity to something new and higher, while in reality the new is occupied mostly with polishing up the old, the life of nature, to give it a glittering appearance. It is on this account that in times of criticism and introspection so much opposition has been offered to culture; that such passionate scorn has been aroused against the hypocrisy and pretence which pervades its whole life. But although we are fully aware of its deplorable state, we do not break its power over us. It is perhaps the most bitter of all our experiences that we are held fast under the spell of a condition of things concerning the vanity and futility of which no one with any insight has the slightest doubt.

However, in moralising over this state of things we ought to guard ourselves from becoming too passionate. For it is a question whether it could be otherwise; whether the fault is in any way in our will, and is not solely and entirely in the nature of our being itself. For it is certainly a contradiction throughout that man, who is an individual being existing by the side of others, and whose life belongs to the domain of experience, should set himself in a universal life transcending all particularity and live from the bases of reality. How can that which is primarily a part of a given world build up a new world? Ideas like those of the true and the good are, from this point of view, simply delusions, manifest impossibilities; man may trouble and weary himself with them, but all his endeavour only leads him into a state of greater confusion. These ideas are to him for ever an “other” world; he may expand himself and develop, but he does not come a step nearer by doing so.

It is true that in striving for truth, man advances beyond sense presentation to the activity of thought; but the thoughts always remain his—thoughts of mere man. However much he may widen his own sphere as a consequence of his reflection upon them, he does not go beyond it. In 138 history also the striving for a scientific comprehension of truth appears to be a vain struggle; the passing through different phases has not brought it nearer its aim so much as, with ever-increasing clearness, it has manifested the impossibility of attaining what is sought.

The ancient conception of truth, with its belief in a relationship of the being of man with the whole; with it assumption of an easy transference of life from one to the other; with its view of truth as an agreement of thought with an external reality, has through the course of life become untenable; it has been rejected through the influence of the tendency of our being to become more inward. For this tendency necessarily led to a detachment from the environment of the world, and to a separation of the two sides of our experience. We became clearly conscious of this separation at the beginning of the Modern Age. We saw that, if we were not to give up all claim to truth, only one course remained possible: to make a division within the human domain, a division between a merely human and something else which might be regarded as the presence of universal and genuine life in man. And so Spinoza distinguished an objective thought from the springs of the emotions; Kant distinguished practical reason from the theoretical which is bound up with the limitations of human nature; and Hegel elevated the thought-process, which manifests itself in the work of universal history, far above the opinions and the wishes of individuals. Each of these championed a distinctive conception of truth and a characteristic form of the spiritual life; but with regard to all attempts we come to doubt whether even that proclaimed as more than human is not still within the domain of man; whether in every case we do not wrongly declare the last point which we reach to be the deepest basis of reality.

The position is somewhat similar with regard to the idea of the good. In the attempts to which we have referred, it passed current as a deliverance from all selfish happiness, which was felt to be intolerably narrow. 139 A new, purer, and more comprehensive life is to proceed from the winning of a new position. Now, there are many different conceptions of happiness, and higher levels are distinguished plainly from lower. But the highest level does not transcend human desire; man must bring all into relation with his own well-being. He cannot in opposition to his own well-being adopt something alien as an end in itself; his activity can be aroused for nothing which has not some value for himself. In this case also, therefore, the bounds of his life hold him fast, and, unless these bounds are transcended, the good cannot be distinguished from the useful. Of this a clear confirmation is furnished by the experiences of religions. In their origin they wished to free man from himself and to set him in a new life—whether they promised tranquillity in a surrender to the infinite whole or won a positive content by the revelation of a kingdom of divine love. How soon the succession of events has led back to a quest of happiness! How soon has it become evident that the religions have far less revealed a new world to the majority of mankind than chained them more firmly to the old; and that they easily arouse to greater power the raw instinct of life, which they desired to overcome!

We seem to be shut in on all sides: it seems a monstrous inconsistency to wish to build up from man a world transcending man; to remove him into a world other than that of a man. A world of this kind is, however, essential to the spiritual life; with its abandonment that life is only a delusion; and the less intelligent people who reject as a meaningless folly all striving for the true and the good seem to be right.

Why do we refuse to adopt this view, and to discontinue an endeavour the aims of which appear to be unattainable? In the first place, because the movement cannot be given up so easily as those critics imagine who adopt this view; for it does not consist simply of explanations and theories 140 that might be completely refuted by rigorous argument, but a certain reality has been evolved, desires aroused, forces called into life, and movements inaugurated. Even if they halt in their course they were something; they do not disappear therefore before the attacks of Scepticism; further, however mean their results may be, they prove to be strong enough to indicate the limitations in the life of nature, and to make it inadequate for us. The matter is the more mysterious in that the striving is anything but a product of the natural desire for happiness. For the movement disturbs all our complacency; it leads man to be discontented with that which hitherto had fully satisfied him; it surrounds him with fixed organisations; desires from him much labour and sacrifice, and makes existence, not easier, but more difficult for him. Delusions are wont to deceive us by pleasing pictures; to attract us with the promise of pleasure and enjoyment. How does a delusion, that imposes so much toil and trouble upon us, win so much power over us? There is another matter to be considered in this connection. A complete renunciation can appear possible only because it is not clearly perceived how much which we cannot give up and which ultimately we have no desire to give up is involved in it. Only a want of clearness of thought, and still more a weakness of character, could wish to retain in the particular case what was given up as a whole; could affirm as effect what it denied as cause. As soon as this course is recognised to be impossible, it becomes evident that with the rejection of the spiritual life everything is abandoned which gives to our life dignity, greatness, and inner unity, and joins us to others with an inward bond. Realities such as love and honour, truth and right, must be regarded as empty forms; and even science must come to an end, because there is no longer any inner unity of work, no objective necessity.

Such considerations again show us that a complete negation is impossible; and it seems that we must remain for ever in painful suspense between an unattainable affirmation and an impossible negation. We might be able 141 to endure this condition of affairs if it concerned a problem which arose in reference to something of little importance to our life, something that we could relegate to the background, and simply permit to lie there, without compromising our life. But our problem lies at the centre of life; is, in fact, itself the centre. To be left in suspense here means to condemn life as a whole to a state of paralysis, to surrender it to complete dissolution. Against this everyone who has any vital energy in him will contend; with his whole might he will seek to escape from a condition so intolerable; he will not hold back from making a bold venture, mindful of the words of Goethe, “Necessity is the best counsellor.”

In seeking a way out of the contradiction, it is essentially necessary not to forget the source of the contradiction. We saw that source to be in the fact that the spiritual life would set up a new world, and at the same time remains bound up with the merely human and presents itself as an endeavour of mere man. To the spiritual life a universal character is indispensable; of this claim nothing can be abated. There must therefore be a change as regards man; it must be that more comes to pass in him than the first impression makes evident. It must be that the spiritual within him, which seems at first to be his own product, is a participation in wider connections; the spiritual must be operative in man, but not originate out of the merely human. It is true that this makes a reversal of the traditional position necessary, and not merely of its representations; and such a reversal provokes serious doubt. Modern science, however, has taught us sufficiently often that the first appearance of anything need not be the ultimate one; that there may be cogent reasons for regarding something that at first seems based in itself as the proof of something existing beyond. Thus, modern natural science has transformed the world of sense into a world present only to the eyes of research. Certainly, science accomplishes these changes within the bounds of experience: on the contrary, in regard to our problem, in which the fundamental form of reality 142 is in question, it is indispensable that we should transcend these bounds; without a change in respect of the whole, and hence without a resort to metaphysics, it is not possible to accomplish our purpose. It is quite clear that the tendency of our time is opposed to appeals to metaphysics: yet it is a question how far this attitude is justified. So far as metaphysics assumes the same form as in the past—that of conceptual speculation of a thought hovering unrestrained over the existing world—then it is rightly opposed. But the attitude is unjustifiable which assumes that with the overthrow of the older metaphysics all metaphysics may be ignored. For a metaphysic can proceed also from the whole life, and need not be a product of mere thought. The implication therefore is this, that the centre of life itself must be changed, and thus a revolution of the previous condition accomplished; that an actuality already operative in life is to be given its rightful place and brought to its full effect. The business of metaphysics, therefore, is not to add something in thought to a reality which lies before us, or to weave such a reality into a texture of conceptions; but to seek to grasp reality in itself, and to rouse it to life in its entire depth for ourselves. Every change of thought then rests on a change of life. Such a metaphysic may appeal to the saying of Hebbel, “Only fools will banish metaphysic from the drama; it makes a great difference, however, whether life evolves out of metaphysic or metaphysic out of life.”

Even if our age rejects a metaphysic of this kind also, if it surrenders itself without resistance to the inconsistencies of the world of sense, this would be the last thing which could deter us from an appeal to metaphysic. For the inner cleavages and the superficiality of the life of our time—and we saw reason to believe that these are facts—stand in the closest relation to the rejection of metaphysics: this rejection has made the age inwardly insignificant. If an indirect proof of the necessity of a revolutionary transformation of life, and at the same time of a metaphysic may be offered, our age furnishes one quite sufficient in its 143 own experiences; its opposition can be only a recommendation of an appeal to metaphysic.

The one main thesis which it is essentially necessary to establish is analysed in sufficient detail throughout the whole course of our investigation; it simply sums up that which has already been advanced point by point. The intolerable contradiction arises, as we saw, from this, that the spiritual life with its new world should be a product of mere man, and that that life should remain within man and at the same time lead in its essence beyond him. This contradiction cannot be overcome otherwise than by our recognising and acknowledging in the spiritual life a universal life, which transcends man, is shared by him, and raises him to itself. That this transition brings with it a change in the appearance of life and of the world as a whole, and that as a result our striving is brought under entirely different conditions, needs more detailed presentation.



1. The Main Thesis and the Possibility of a New System of Life

(a) The Development of the Spiritual Life to Independence

Our investigation reached its highest point in the demand that the spiritual life should become independent of man. Man cannot produce a spiritual life of his own capacity: a spiritual world must impart itself to him and raise him to itself. It must be shown that this does not by any means signify only a change of name, a new labelling of an old possession, but implies far-reaching changes, and indeed involves a complete reversal of the first condition. At the same time the course of the investigation must establish that this transition to the spiritual life is not something subsequently inferred or offered simply for the explanation of an otherwise unintelligible fact, but that it would overcome a false appearance, and help a misunderstood truth to its right. The fact that is affirmed should become an immediate experience of one’s own and should advance life rather than knowledge. Only the whole investigation and not an introductory consideration can furnish a proof of our contention.

There are within our own soul distinctive movements tending in directions different from those of nature. We recognised that there is a life which proceeds from some kind of comprehensive whole; a life which transcends the opposition of subject and object, and evolves a self-consciousness in contrast with the relation to externals. All these features present a quite different appearance, form a more coherent whole, and will occupy a more definite 145 position in the representation of reality, if in them an independent life superior to mere man is recognised and acknowledged. The principal reason for this is that it is only by means of that deliverance from the simply human that the new life is able to express its own nature clearly and to realise as part of its own nature what otherwise seemed to have its source in something external. The individual traits that we become aware of are the revelation of a universal life, if they are no longer regarded as limited by the idiosyncrasies of the human. With this acknowledgment they can gain ascendancy over man and prove their power upon him.

We saw that it is characteristic of the spiritual life that it is lived from the whole; the elements are fashioned by a comprehensive unity; the different complexes and tendencies which arise in this life strive ultimately towards a single aim. We saw also that it was absolutely impossible that the tendency to universality should be originated by man, whose chief movement is towards differentiation and division; and, further, that it should be realised by him in face of the opposition of nature, which extends to the immeasurable in matters great and small. The unity that is necessary for this cannot arise out of the many as an ultimate result; it must be original and be operative from the beginning. We may postulate such a unity only if the spiritual life is itself a universal life transcending that of the isolated individuals; if it bears in itself a unity which takes the multiplicity up into itself. And so the whole from an abstract conception is for the first time raised to a living reality; and only on thus becoming a reality can it exercise a distinctive power upon individuals and in contrast to individuals; and inwardly unite and essentially raise them. Only in this way is it conceivable that another kind of activity having its source within the soul may exert itself in opposition to the mechanism of nature and transcend it; and that selfishness and spiritual weakness may in some way be overcome. Man, so far as he shares in the spiritual life, is more than a mere individual; 146 a universal life becomes his own and works within him as a power of his life.

Further, the taking up of the object into the life-process, the transcendence of the antithesis of subject and object, is characteristic of the spiritual life. But this remained an inner contradiction, a complete impossibility so long as the spiritual life was regarded as an occurrence in a being who, with a closed nature, stands over against things as though they were alien; and who can take up nothing into himself without accommodating it to his own particular nature. The contradiction is removed only when the spiritual becomes independent; for then both sides of the antithesis come to belong to each other and are related to each other in a single life; and a life transcending the division may develop, a life that produces the antithesis from within, lives in the different sides and seeks in them its own perfection. The life-process is now seen to be a movement that is neither from object to subject, nor from subject to object; neither the subject’s attainment of content from the object, nor the object’s becoming controlled by the subject, but an advance of a self-conscious life in and through the antithesis. Life, by this movement, ceases to be a single, thin thread; it wins breadth; it expands to an inner universality. At the same time a depth is manifested in that a persistent and comprehensive activity emerges which lives in the antithesis. In this manner life first becomes a life in a spiritual sense, a self-conscious and self-determining life, a self-consciousness.

That this change is possible and brings with it a new type of life is shown with complete clearness by experience in the separate departments of the spiritual life. Thus, artistic creation at its highest is neither the production of the truest possible copy of an external object, the artist painfully abstaining from all subjective addition; nor a presentation of subjective situations and moods, the artist endeavouring to the utmost to avoid everything objective; but a transcendence of the opposition of soulless objectivity and empty subjectivity by an art that is sovereign, 147 autonomous, and with a character of its own; the creative activity belonging to which gives life from the soul to the object, and moulds the soul by means of the object. This kind of artistic creation is directed primarily towards an inner truth, not towards a truth that is produced by the object, but one that arises only in the contact of the object with the soul. It is manifest that creation is effected here not as an interaction between subject and object, but above and through this antithesis; it is only by transcending the antithesis that the artist can give himself in his work, lend to it a soul, place an infinity within it. In this respect conduct manifests a character similar to that of creation. Conduct would never attain an inner stability and enter upon an independent course, if it could not raise itself above the opposition of a submission to orders that are forced upon it from without, and a mere play of subjective inclination; if it were not able to become the self-assertion and self-development of a life transcending that opposition. At this point also the acknowledgment of an independent spiritual life teaches us to comprehend as a whole that which, in a many-sided development, the different departments of life show to be real.

The obscurity in which the conception of inwardness was hitherto involved begins to disappear when the spiritual life is no longer regarded as supplementary but as an independent life. It cannot be denied that, within humanity, there is an endeavour to develop the life of the soul to a state of self-determining activity and, at the same time, to free that life from the bondage to sense in which it remains at the level of nature. Yet, definite affirmation that shall correspond to the negation of sense has been lacking; it has not been clear how inwardness might find content and characteristic forms; there has been no advance from the subjective to the substantial. But since a universal activity is operative within the multiplicity and through the division, and since it sets itself in the division and from this returns to itself, a self-conscious inwardness becomes conceivable which has a life of its own with new 148 experiences. Since within this life “to receive” presupposes the comprehending power and the self-determining activity of a vital whole, something other than sense is able to evolve and through all the persistence of sense to become the chief matter. The spiritual life is not directed to a reality adjacent to it, but evolves a reality out of itself; or rather, it evolves as a reality, a kingdom, a world; and so it advances from vague outline to more complete development; it struggles for itself, for its own perfection, not for anything external.

It is directly implied in the above conception that the spiritual life is something different from single psychical functions, such as cognition, volition, and the like; and that man, so far as he shares in it, is more than one such function or a sum of such functions. For these functions come under the antithesis of subject and object, while the spiritual life transcends it. It is also clear that the spiritual life does not change this or that in a life which already exists, or add this or that to it, but that it introduces a new kind of life—a life by which man is distinguished clearly from everything inferior to him.

If the spiritual life is an evolution of a reality in the life-process, then the question arises as to how this reality is related to the world that immediate experience shows us to be surrounded by. As surely as man in his subjective reflection is able to free himself from the world and to place himself in opposition to it, so there can be no doubt that the spiritual life belongs to the permanent reality of the world and, as we see it, grows up out of its movement. The transition to an independent inwardness is not something which happens externally to the world but within it: no special sphere, separate from all the rest, is originated; but reality itself evolves an inner life: it is the world itself that reveals a spiritual depth, or, as we might say, a soul. We are not justified in doubting and attacking this view simply because the spiritual life meets us only in man, and thus, in contrast with the infinity of nature, is in its external manifestation so insignificant. 149 For something essentially new appears in it, something that involves another order of things: the fact that little falls within our range of vision is in this connection not at all relevant. If anyone is disturbed and driven to denial by the external insignificance of the manifestations of the spiritual life, he shows only that he misunderstands what is distinctive and revolutionising in that life. The spiritual life is not to be thought of merely in reference to the experiences of the individual, but also to the work of humanity, to history, to the advance of culture. All these show us a development of life that presents the world from a new side; and this must be an important factor in the estimation of the world, especially if the spiritual is recognised as having a life independent of man.

The inward must necessarily present itself as the fundamental and the comprehensive; as that which in its invisibility sustains, dominates, and unifies the visible world. Nature, which there was a tendency to regard as the whole, is now of the essence of a wider reality and a stage in its development; and it is impossible for the conception formed from it to be regulative of the whole. Ultimately, therefore, reality cannot be regarded as something dead, detached, and given: it signifies to us something living, something experienced in itself, something sustained by incessant activity. At the same time, the lateness of the appearance of the spiritual life within our realm and the many ways in which this appearance is conditioned force us to acknowledge that the life of the world as a whole has a history. The conception of history that we have become familiar with in its application to nature and to the spiritual life throughout is now extended to the relation between the two. However many mysteries it yet involves, definite progress in our conception of the world must be admitted.

Most of all it is man with his life and endeavour that appears in a new light. Two worlds meet together in him, and, indeed, not merely in such a manner that he provides the place in which they meet and enter into 150 conflict, but so that he acquires an independent participation in the new world, and through his own decision co-operates in its development. For spiritual life, with its self-determining activity, can never become itself as a mere effect; to become this it must be apprehended and roused to activity as cause. But it is cause and animating power only in its being as a whole; so, as a whole it must be present to man and become his own life. Thus, in contrast to the particularity of his natural existence, a life having its source in the infinite grows up within him: in the former a mere part of a world; in the latter he becomes a world in himself: in the one, bound up with the particular nature of man; in the other, he is elevated above all particularity to something more than human, to something cosmic.

To such changes in the content of life there must be corresponding changes in its form. Empirical consciousness with its discreteness and succession of presentations and states cannot possibly comprehend the new life; to do that the soul must acquire a greater depth. It must be capable of an activity which, with single phases, extends into this consciousness, but which as a whole and in its creative work must transcend it. With the acknowledgment of an independent spiritual life in man two questions giving rise to different methods of treatment necessarily become distinguished: the one as to the nature and extent of the spiritual that is revealed in him; and the other, how, under the specific conditions of his nature, it emerges and establishes itself. It will become evident how important it is to distinguish these sufficiently, and yet on the other hand to associate them closely.

(b) The Demands of a New System of Life

If the acknowledgment of an independent spirituality thus alters the view of reality as a whole, and in particular of man, we are faced with the question whether we may not 151 attain a new synthesis through this spirituality, and whether it does not begin a characteristic formation of our world. Our treatment of the philosophies of life of the present day makes it possible for us to approach this question with definite demands. We saw life branch off in different movements, each of which took up into itself a wealth of fact; but we found none of them strong enough to absorb the others into itself, or even able to estimate them. If life is not finally to fall into dissolution, it needs, in contrast to these movements, one more universal in character, and this can be more than a weak compromise only when there is a still more fundamental relation of life than that which the developments that we have considered proffered. In that case the more original basal relation ought to be able to manifest itself as a presupposition of those developments; it should make intelligible how divisions can originate in the condition of man; in particular it should illuminate the opposition between the idealistic and the naturalistic systems of life—an opposition which, like a deep gulf, divides the life of the present. In short, it should depend upon whether the change that results with the acknowledgment of the independence of the spiritual life makes it possible for us permanently to transcend those oppositions and to work towards their reconciliation. But we ought then to see that, with its universality, the system of life striven for does not fall into a state vague and lacking in character. Through its whole being, in affirmation and in negation, the system of life must definitely express itself; it must synthesise and differentiate, elevate and exclude. But it will be able to do this only if it produces a new kind of life-process and a new web of life: only thus can essentially new evaluations and tasks, new experiences and genuine developments, originate; only thus can life as a whole be definitely raised. Of course, this new cannot signify something that has just been discovered and that has arisen suddenly. How could it be a truth which gives to us security, and how could it dominate our life, if it is not rooted in our being, and if 152 it had not exerted an influence at all times? But it makes a great difference whether the new has been concealed, obscure and against the tendency of our own activity; or whether it is taken up fully in our own self-determining activity and thereby essentially advanced. If, on the one hand, the new must be something old, on the other hand the old must become something new if it is to liberate, strengthen, and elevate our life where its needs are so urgent.

(c) The Spiritual Basis of the System of Life

There can be no doubt that the acknowledgment of the independence of the spiritual life involves the recognition of a new fundamental relation of our life. This relation is no other than that of man to the spiritual world, which is immanent in him and at the same time transcends him. It is more original than the relations implied in the systems of the present day; for these, even though contrary to their own knowledge and intention, all presuppose this fundamental relation to the spiritual life. Religion could not be so violently attacked and so zealously denied by so many, if the relation of life to God were the absolute relation and were present before all others. The value of religion depends essentially upon the content of the spiritual life which it serves. With the mere relation of life to a supernatural power, the nature of which is not more closely defined—with mere blind devotion—nothing of value is attained. An honest religious attitude of a formal kind can go together, on the one hand, with spiritual poverty and blindness, and, on the other, with hatred and passion. How sad the condition of things in general has often been even when religion has shown a strong development of power! How often the help of divine power has been invoked even in the commission of crime! If, however, the value of religion and its effect on the substance of life are measured according to its spiritual content, then this content necessarily becomes the chief object of attention 153 and conduct. We can assure ourselves of the relation to a supernatural power only from the experiences of the spiritual life, and not previously to this life and independently of it. The relation of life to the spiritual life must therefore necessarily precede its relation to God; life must be certain of a universal spiritual character before it can assume a truly religious one.

We find the case to be no different as regards the system of Immanent Idealism. It is open to considerable doubt whether the world as it lies before us can be looked upon as a pure unfolding of the spiritual life, as this Idealism asserts. In any case, for the spiritual life to comprehend the world within itself it must itself be established as a universal power, and clearly distinguished from mere man. Otherwise the way of Immanent Idealism leads to an anthropomorphism of a more refined kind; and there is a danger that the whole world which this system champions may be criticised hostilely and rejected as simply human. Immanent Idealism, therefore, also points to the problem of substantial spiritual life.

The naturalistic systems do the same thing in a different way, and this, indeed, in contradiction to their main contention. For, when they attempted to produce a system from themselves, they could achieve their object only in that they were implicitly based upon the spiritual life, and introduced again indirectly that which they had previously rejected. They are developments of the spiritual life in particular directions and under particular circumstances: they think that they are able to accomplish out of their own resources something which they accomplish only with the help of a fundamental spiritual life; and so the more consistent they are in their denial of an independent spirituality the more inevitably they lose all internal coherence.

Thus from whatever point we start we come to the question of an independent spirituality; an answer to this question is involved in every system of life. But as its implications are not distinctly recognised, it does not receive its proper 154 due. If we consider the question adequately, it will be found that a universal life must precede all differentiation and division; and that from this life each movement must receive a new elucidation. A multiplicity within the whole is quite intelligible, because it is a development of the spiritual life, not absolutely, that is in question, but in relation to the position of man and under the conditions to which he is subject. The desire to give greater stability to our life in opposition to the never-ceasing flow of appearances that constitutes our immediate existence, also compels us strongly to emphasise the importance of the relation to the spiritual life, which is acknowledged as independent. Without an elevation above this constant change all spiritual work must inevitably become disintegrated, and no truth of any kind would be possible to us. In the Modern Age especially there is a keen desire for a firm basis, as a secure support of life as a whole. But it is useless to seek this basis in life as we immediately experience it, whether in thought, in activity, or in anything else; for in the whole life of immediate experience there is nothing that is free from change. To seek this basis in a particular point is also to no purpose, even if one could be raised to a position above change; for it could not operate beyond itself in such a way as to support the rest of life. If, therefore, we would not submit to a dissolution of life, we must seek a basis for it beyond its immediate state and in a whole of life. Such a whole of life is offered only by the spiritual life, which, transcending man, is also immanent in him. Of course this cannot be taken possession of immediately at the beginning of the journey of life; but it is held up to us as an aim, and we can only gradually approach it. But how could it operate within us thus, if our life had not some kind of participation in it from the beginning; if our life were not in some way based in the spiritual life, and in progressive activity only developed the spiritual that is in it? For unless we are based in the spiritual life we should drift helplessly to and fro in uncertainty, and our endeavour would never be intelligible. From this 155 point of view also, our relation to the spiritual life is seen to be the fundamental problem that must precede all others.

If there can be no doubt that the problem of life is comprehended most universally when we view it in relation to the spiritual life, there may be all the more uncertainty whether all characteristic form and, with it, all deep-reaching effect are not lost by reason of this universality. If the conception of the spiritual life involved its usual vagueness, this would in reality be the case, for recourse to it would not effect any fundamental transformation of the immediate condition of life; and we should not rise above the mere combination of its various movements. The case is quite otherwise if the spiritual life is distinguished clearly from the human and is acknowledged to be an independent world. So understood, it must show a particular content, a new structure of life, and must give a distinct form to everything that it takes up into itself. It is necessary to consider, also, its relation to the world of sense, and we may expect to be faced in this matter with complications and problems that will agitate our life in its whole extent, and set it in a new light.

In the spiritual life we recognised a new world, a realm of inwardness, which has become independent. Within this realm life cannot be directed to something alien, but can be occupied only with itself, with its own development. Its experiences cannot be related to externals; they must lie in itself. Now, have we any knowledge of a movement that reaches back in this manner to the elements of life? We perceive a movement of this kind clearly enough. In the first place, all development of the spiritual life shows, even within the individual, the attribute that a universal mode of thought, conviction, disposition, sets itself in the single function and continues present within it. The tendencies and manifestations of the spiritual are not all at the same level of development, but since a universal activity, a comprehensive and persistent deed, is present in the particular manifestation, the process acquires a 156 depth, and a single act is able to give expression to a tendency of the whole as well as to react upon it.

But this movement extends beyond the immediate state of the soul of the individual to spiritual work, and gives it a particular form. Life as a whole, as reality’s consciousness of itself, may be regarded as throughout capable of a multiplicity, as containing within itself different sides and possibilities. Since its evolution produces this multiplicity, life as a whole can express itself in the individual aspects and tendencies; expand them till they become different departments; experience itself in particular ways in these departments, and in so doing achieve a development of its own; it is able also to bring these departments and their developments into their relation to one another. Since thus, within the world as a whole, life concentrates in different ways, and the particular tendencies which thus arise meet and enter into conflict with one another, and since their conflict is in particular a contest to determine the form of the whole, there is revealed the prospect of a wealth of experiences which come not from without but out of the movement of life itself, and spring from its occupation with itself. The conflict between the different movements of life must bring the whole into a state of tension and lead it to further development. In the progressive formation of itself, in the development of a reality conscious of itself, life through its movement finds itself and develops a content. This movement will summon all the psychical powers of man to activity; it cannot possibly proceed from them. If we are to take part in the building up of that inner world, a spiritual creative activity from the basis of our being must be operative through these psychical functions, uniting them, and applying them as means and instruments.

If, for us men, life becomes conscious of its content only through movement and conflict, nevertheless this content may not be regarded as ultimately proceeding from them. If, as a whole, life did not transcend movement and conflict, if the latter were not included within a self-conscious 157 and self-determining life, then they could yield no inner result, and could not lead to the further development of the whole. The attempts to derive this self-conscious and self-determining life from ontological conceptions such as “being,” “whole,” “movement,” and so on, as the older metaphysics often undertook to do; or the tendency to treat it only as a supplement to them, are to be dismissed most decisively. The fundamental qualities that the spiritual life evolves always presuppose a self-conscious life and become intelligible only in relation to it. Without it, the conceptions of the true and the good remain in complete obscurity, as will be shown later in more detail.

If our human reflection often advances from the indefinite to the definite, from the abstract to the concrete, this does not involve that the latter is originated from the former: the advance could not be achieved unless that which comes at the end was operative from the beginning as its basis and presupposition.

If a self-conscious life unfolds itself with an increasing content through all departments and activities of life, then these departments will have their meaning and their value primarily in that which they accomplish for the further development of that life, and in the particular tendencies that they add to it: this yields a treatment and a standard of value different from those which we are led to if we make the psychical states of the individual our starting-point. The treatment of religion, for example, as a mere occurrence of an unrestrained psychical life may understand by religion a particular agitation of this or that psychical function; but with this we do not obtain a spiritual content. Again, it is not evident how a world of thought formed from such an individual psychical life could acquire an independence of man, and lift him above the position in which it finds him. The problem of religion attains quite a different basis if the spiritual movements and contents which emerge with it are emphasised; with this it develops and discloses the reality of the spiritual life more deeply. Then through it we may discover and 158 win something that alters the condition of life, transcends the immediate life of the soul, and is able to exert an elevating influence upon man. The value and the truth of a particular religion will be judged in the first place by the nature of the spiritual substance that it offers, and the degree in which, in its advance, it is able to join itself to the movement of life as a whole and to guide it further. A great divergence is possible between this spiritual substance and the movement and passion that call forth a religion on the basis of humanity: the real is, in human relations, by no means without further consideration to be regarded as rational.

The case of the other departments of life is the same as that of religion: the character and the value of all achievement depend entirely upon the range and the kind of substantial spirituality that they evolve. The same is valid of whole epochs and cultures, of peoples and individuals. The exertion of the greatest energy upon externals and the most revolutionary transformation of human conditions cannot protect us from becoming inwardly destitute, or lead us beyond mere appearance to genuine reality. On the contrary, the experience of history shows often enough that spiritual revivals have been accompanied in their origin and growth by manifestations externally insignificant; and that something which struggles against the broad stream of human life fundamentally changes the standards and values of our existence.

Our whole spiritual life, therefore, constitutes a problem; it is an indefatigable seeking and pressing forward. In self-consciousness the framework is given which has to be filled; in it we have acquired only the basis upon which the superstructure has to be raised. We have to find experiences in life itself, to reveal something new, to develop life, to increase its range and its depth. The endeavour to advance in spirituality, to win itself through struggle, is the soul of the life of the individual and of the work of universal history: where there is no endeavour of this kind, there is no true life and no genuine history; our 159 activity in relation to the world as a whole assumes a different form, and the world is represented differently and presents to us different problems according to that which is attained here in the basal structure of life. Life’s struggle for itself, for its own content, its own truth, is the greatest and most intense of all struggles.

The passion which animates all the endeavour after a revelation of life and to win life itself is no other than the desire for a genuine reality: for a being within the activity, for a full as opposed to an empty life. If the formation of reality from within once begins, and the desire for a substantial inwardness gains the day over the merely subjective, then the intolerable inadequacy of all that is usually called life is bound to be strongly felt. The growth of intelligence has led man beyond the life of nature and its blind actuality. In intelligence, the inner life already proves far too independent to be satisfied with being a mere appearance accompanying nature. With this evolution the psychical powers win a greater freedom, and man is able to face his environment more boldly: indeed, in his thought he can grasp an infinity; and in arousing and using all his powers he may hope from his own position, in the interaction of subject and environment, to give to life a content, and thus to make it a genuine life. But here the limitation of man and the contradictory character of life as it is immediately experienced soon come to be felt. All the rousing of forces, all the passing backwards and forwards between subject and object that we experience in the immediate condition of life, does not lead beyond interaction, and yields no content: it does not raise life to a self-conscious and self-determining life; so that, in spite of all its activity, our life in this condition remains inwardly alien. There is thus an enormous disparity between the means that are offered and the aims that are reached; an inward unrest; an incessant conflict, without any prospect of victory, against the ever-recurring tendency to become spiritually destitute; a state of dissatisfaction in the midst of all results of an external kind. 160 Only the revelation of a self-conscious life, a life which itself evolves as a reality, can be the source of progress, and lead from appearances and shadows to a genuine life.

It is apparent that with such an aim a task is presented that dominates and comprehends the whole extent of our existence. We have to take up everything into that self-conscious and self-determining life and to transform the condition of life as it lies immediately before us. A demand of this kind is not limited to a change of this or that; it implies a complete transformation and renewal. It not only involves the whole multiplicity of life, but it must also itself tend to bring about an increase in the multiplicity; indeed, this task first gives the multiplicity a firm foundation and an inner value. For the development and the formation of self-conscious life, it is essential, as we saw, that life concentrate in particular tendencies and departments; that the whole place itself in them, and return to itself from them; and that by this they develop a life of their own and give rise to their own experiences. To act thus, to advance the whole in its own development, the individual concentrations of life must possess an inner spiritual unity which comprehends and dominates all multiplicity. This is seen in the case of individuals, peoples, epochs, and whole civilisations: only by overcoming the state of confusion and division in which they at first find themselves do they come to wrestle with the spiritual life as a whole and win a spiritual character. These unities of life, however, will enter into the most diverse relations with the whole and with one another; and since in so doing they further self-conscious and self-determining life, they develop reality without limit. From all the facts we have considered we see that, with the attainment of independence by the spiritual life, there emerges a distinctive kind of being which everywhere exerts its activity, holds up a new aim, and desires a transformation: life is for the first time placed on a firm foundation, and taken possession of in the deepest source of its movement.


(d) Human Existence

For the construction of a new system of life, this independent nature of the spiritual life is primary and most essential. Such construction is dependent in the second place upon the relation in which the development of the self-conscious and self-determining life of reality stands to the position and to the activity of man; in particular whether it wins this position and activity for itself with ease or meets with definite opposition. Now, there cannot be any doubt that the recognition of the fact of the development of the spiritual life to independence of man, as we traced it, must make us feel that the state of things at the usual level of human life is most unsatisfactory. It is not that one or another aspect is inadequate, but that as a whole it is definitely opposed to the requirements of an independent spiritual life. For the spirituality that is evolved here is treated for the most part as a mere means in the pursuit of human welfare. Civilisation, at the level at which we are most accustomed to it, lifts man above mere nature, but at the same time it forces him into rivalry and conflict with his equals, and leads him to expect happiness from victory. This is the case not only among individuals but also among nations. Since the desire and the conflict for more generate an indescribable amount of excitement and passion, life seems to be full, whereas in reality it is entirely lacking in content, and behind the tumult is felt to be empty. But man has no intention of giving up all claim to a share in genuine spirituality: and so he gives a better outward appearance to his endeavour and his conduct, and practises deceit upon himself as well as upon others. Genuine spiritual life cannot possibly proceed from circumstances so contradictory and so confused. Neither can such circumstances produce the concentration of life that is necessary for the strengthening and advancement of the spiritual life. It is not the abuse of some one thing that provokes attack: it is not a particular failing, but the ordinary daily course which, unresistingly, man is accustomed 162 to accept as his world, that shows in its successes no less than in its failures the greatest divergence from genuine spirituality. It is just at the point where man becomes proud of his own doings and makes much ostentatious display that he can least of all conceal the spiritual poverty and the foolishness of his way of thinking.

Attempts to attribute the responsibility of all limitation to man and his will, to find the root of all evil in the moral failings of humanity, have not been wanting. Universal religions have given these attempts an embodiment. It has seemed as though the harmony of reality is only disturbed by man, and as though his moral restoration were the only thing necessary to lead to all good. To be sure, such a way of thinking manifests a disposition of great seriousness, and it may appeal to the fact that the perplexity of our existence is nowhere more real than in reference to the ethical problem. Still, there is no possibility of doubt for the man of the Modern Age that this conception is too narrow; that it not only contradicts indisputable impressions and experiences, but also takes the question much too subjectively and too anthropomorphically, and thus falls into the danger of doing harm to the cause that it wishes to serve. It is not simply our disposition, it is our being as a whole and the circumstances that we are in, which obstinately oppose the emergence and the development of an independent spiritual world. It is the most elementary forms of life themselves that prevent the elevation of our existence to the level of a genuine spiritual life. We cannot blind ourselves to the fact that the greater part of our life is bound up with a form of existence in which it is not able to embrace the spiritual life. Any kind of appropriation of the spiritual—if it is at all possible—can be effected therefore only in opposition to that form of existence. In genuine spiritual life all movement should proceed from the whole and should be sustained by the whole, even when it is concentrated in the individual departments and tendencies. Human existence presents the spectacle of individuals ranged side by side; and if 163 a movement to overcome the original inertia is to begin at all, their impulses, their desire for happiness, and their conflicts are necessary. The spiritual life knows no limits; it works and creates from the infinite whole: the individual is narrowly limited, and with all his activity and work constitutes but a tiny point in the infinite whole. The spiritual life presents its content as transcending time; even if for us it is only gradually revealed, time is in this a mere means to the presentation of an eternal and immutable truth: man, however, drifts with time; is dependent upon the momentary situation, and experiences himself in an incessant change: how can he comprehend the eternal? Spiritual creation is effected in the transcending of the antithesis of subject and object: human endeavour is conditioned by this antithesis. The former with its self-determining activity overcomes from within the attachment to sense: man even in the highest flight of his endeavour cannot withdraw himself from it. From the altitudes occupied by the spiritual life submission to the impulses and the goods of sense seems to be something mean and base: and yet without these man cannot possibly preserve his life; he has not conferred sensuous needs and desires upon himself by an act of will, but finds himself endowed with them from the beginning. Spiritual life with its formation from within banishes from itself all mechanism; all compulsion of blind actuality: without a mechanism in thought and in conduct, without habits and methods determined by custom, human life cannot attain to an enduring stability either in the case of the individual or in that of society. Thus, through the ever-present necessity of self-preservation and self-renewal, human life is compulsorily related to something, bound to something, that not only is not adequate to fulfil the tasks of an independent spiritual life, but is directly opposed to them. There is something in our life which we cannot dispense with, yet which, from the spiritual point of view, it is an imperative duty to shake off.

We see clearly enough that it is not merely our will that 164 is in play, but that two worlds conflict within us, and that the world to which we primarily belong, according to the testimony of experience, holds us fixed with superior power, and draws back to itself all movement which strives upward. If, in particular, the dimness and the weakness of the spiritual life in man; its severance from its source; its disintegration into isolated powers; and, finally, the moral perversity which human existence exhibits, and the debasement of spiritual power to a mere means for natural or social self-preservation, become clear to us, then it is evident that a compromise between such a pitiable and shallow confusion and a genuine spiritual life is absolutely impossible. The acknowledgment of an independent spiritual world tends only to increase the contradiction and make us more clearly conscious of it.

A clear consciousness of the inadequacy of the human is especially important and necessary in contrast to the utter confusion which reigns with regard to the spiritual life and vitiates the whole of the endeavour of the present. The increasing transference of life to the world of sense has led the present age to abandon all inner bonds of mankind. The endeavour of Antiquity to lift our life above the insignificantly human by giving it a share in the greatness and magnificence of the whole, and the attempt of Christianity to give a new nature to life from the relation to God, appear to the present age to be Utopian. Since the faith of modern Idealism in the immanent universal reason has become more and more dim, man is thrown back more and more exclusively upon himself, upon man as he is, upon empirical society. There has grown up a strong belief that this empirical existence is quite sufficient in itself, and is able to satisfy our spiritual needs from itself. The ennobling of man, the improvement of his condition within this existence, becomes the aim of aims. Now, this presupposes that within the province of man, the good, even if it does not entirely preponderate, is still confident of a triumphant advance. It presupposes, further, that the establishment of a certain state of life will bring complete 165 happiness with it. At the same time, all that is disagreeable in human experience—the power of selfishness and pride; the weakness of love; the feebleness of all spiritual impulse; the incessant increase of the struggle for existence, with the consequent degeneration of the inwardness of the whole—appears with dazzling clearness to the more refined perception of the modern man. After even a little consideration he cannot doubt that, if, in spite of all limitations, an unclouded state of human well-being could be established; if all pain could be banished from our life, life would fall into the power of the other and worse enemy—emptiness and monotony. As a refuge from such perplexities there is a tendency to flee to society and history. From the point of view of humanity as a whole and with the thought of a better future, all defects and losses of individuals seem to vanish; the hope of an unceasing progressive development rises above the feeling of the unsatisfactoriness of the condition of the moment. But what are these relations of empirical humanity other than those of a mere collection of individuals who never become an inner community, and what is empirical history other than a mere succession which never produces an inner unity of movement? In the appeal to the former, as in that to the latter, it is only surreptitiously that something essential can appear to be acquired. In reality, conceptions are here made use of which in other relations have a meaning, but which here signify nothing more than empty abstractions, simply subjective constructions of thought. However, notwithstanding all the glossing over, the real state of things must ultimately assert itself: pessimism must then be the last word, and the belief in a rationality in human existence must finally be given up. The faith in the greatness of the empirical man is, indeed, of all faiths the boldest. For, if the other faiths proclaim a new reality in contrast with the world of sense, they have the possibility of one in an invisible world. In the case that we are considering, however, experience itself must offer more than mere experience; we must not only be certain of a thing that we do not 166 see, but that which we do not see must coincide with that which exists immediately before us. Such a position is no longer a faith, but a gross contradiction, a complete absurdity.

(e) Results and Prospects

The immediate experience of man may by no means be rejected as a whole on this account; if it were, spiritual work itself would degenerate and lack content. However, we only need to take up into a whole the impressions and experiences which each in his sphere acknowledges to be indisputable, and it will be clear that a movement toward spiritual independence can never proceed from such a pitiable state of confusion as that which is thereby seen to exist. It is essential that the movement toward spiritual independence have an independent starting point, and proceed on its own course. Only then is it able to select and appropriate the spirituality that exists in those confused experiences, and at the same time purify and strengthen it. We may most decisively reject all presumption to sovereignty on the part of the human realm; nevertheless, for the construction of a spiritual world that realm cannot be dispensed with. For this construction is not peacefully and securely accomplished through the self-development of a spiritual power placed in us, as was supposed by those who attempted to represent reality as a whole as a cosmic process of thought. If through the joyfulness of its faith and the definiteness of its undertaking this attempt captivated the minds of men for a time, at last it was frustrated by the fact that we men do not find ourselves immediately in the atmosphere of reason, but have first through toil to raise ourselves into it; that we have to do not with absolute spiritual life, but with spiritual life under the conditions and limitations of human existence. Thus, in the first place an independent spiritual life, a universal self-consciousness, must work in us and be changed in our activity; and this can 167 be accomplished only by a revolutionary transformation of life as we immediately experience it; only by the attainment of a new point of view. But if at this point of view certain fundamentals of a new world become evident, they are as yet only fundamentals, and, without the help of a world of immediate existence, without recourse to the movements and experiences of human life, they cannot be completely developed and embodied. The complete development of a self-conscious reality is by no means made possible by combining an original spiritual movement with the world of sense brought to meet it. For the spiritual life can be furthered by coming into contact with that world only so far as the spiritual life takes it up and transforms it; the situation is rather that the spiritual movement wrests a content from sense experience and at the same time is raised in itself; it is a realisation of self through the other. The further the movement advances the more one may win one’s own in what is apparently alien; the more that which is really alien may be separated and opposed. Thus we have a characteristic picture of the spiritual life in man; only the more detailed treatment can confirm it.

The matter of greatest importance to the whole, and the one upon which all hope of success rests, is that the movement towards an independent spirituality, to the building up of a new world, should, in spite of the opposition of immediate circumstances, become manifest also in the human sphere in characteristic operation, and that it should establish stable bases in this sphere and rise upon them to the highest by means of work. We have now to investigate more closely, to demonstrate more exactly, and as far as possible to show that at all the chief points of life such movements begin; that one such movement advances another; and that all are associated in a community of striving, and that from here the spiritual movement that we see in history is lit up, strengthened, and for the first time rendered practicable.


2. The Transformation and the Elevation of Human Life

(a) Aims and Ways

The question before us is whether any kind of transcendence of the gulf between the spiritual world and man is effected; whether that world, in spite of its antithesis to the world of sense, manifests itself also with a characteristic effect in our sphere, and thereby inaugurates a movement which takes possession of our whole life and advances it. Only on the result of such an inquiry can we judge whether man is able again to establish his position, which has been so shaken in the course of modern culture; and to save the courage and faith of life from violent changes and convulsions. At the same time we must ascertain whether the representation of the spiritual life that we have sketched is true in reference to things as they are found in the human sphere.

To be sure, proof or verification through experience is, in the case of this problem, in the highest degree peculiar. No definite reality spreads itself before us by which we must test the validity of our representations of thought. Representation and object cannot be simply brought into coincidence, but as life, which we wish to comprehend, is found in movement, and as, further, in immediate experience genuine fact and the form assumed by it in the idea of man are confused, so the revelation of the spiritual life does not come to us immediately, but has first to be extricated and wrested from the most diverse errors and half-truths. Every attempt to obtain proof from experience rests on the conviction that a movement of the kind, the recognition of which is being fought for by us, is already in some way in process everywhere where human life goes beyond mere nature; and that only the clear comprehension of the aim and the taking it up with complete self-conscious and self-determining activity are lacking. If now the aim which is presented is the right one, that is, 169 that which is implied in the spiritual movement of life itself, then its acknowledgment and appropriation must tend to the elucidation, the unification, and the strengthening of all endeavour tending in the direction of this movement; it must lead to a development and an elevation of life above the condition in which it is immediately experienced. In the first place, it must be shown that the connections, preparations, directions in life in its general condition, tend towards the new according to its chief demands; and, further, it must be shown that the existing condition is raised essentially through becoming comprehended by the revealed universal movement, and is led to its own perfection. Again, it has to be shown that thus life wins a more precise content and a greater power in its every aspect: that which is present in all human endeavour as a necessary requirement must now become more intelligible, and at the same time from something impossible of fulfilment to something possible, and reveal new aspects and new tasks. Further, those elements which at first sight exist unconnected side by side and tend to limit one another must unite, and must strengthen one another. On the other hand, divisions must arise: it is as necessary energetically to reject that which follows wrong aims as to come to a peaceful settlement with that which errs only in the means. The antitheses which the work of humanity contains must also become intelligible, and at the same time a way must be prepared by which these antitheses may be overcome, not one by which merely a compromise between them may be arrived at. The breaking forth of the new must tend always toward the self-elevation of life; with arousing and strengthening power, it must take up the whole of life into its movement: it must demonstrate a transcendence of all the reflection and subjectivity of man, and this can be accomplished only through the disclosure of new forms and contents of life. Accordingly attention must in the first place be centred upon the pointing out of such new forms and contents.


The union of the spiritual life with man, its being firmly rooted in him, is seen to be at the same time something old and something new—something old in so far as it must have been existent and in some way effective from the beginning, something new in so far as its distinct emergence and its transition to a state of self-determining activity must alter the condition of things essentially; in fact, must turn life as a whole into a problem. Where the reality of man is reduced, as by Hegel, solely to an unfolding of thought and cognition, the present may find its most important task in the complete clarification and appropriation of the past; life comes to complete satisfaction in the drawing of historical achievement to itself. Where it is a question of the building up of a reality based on self-conscious and self-determining activity, when we ourselves share in such activity, we must find ourselves in an essentially different relation to things; and with all the connection with the past, life will press forward, changing and elevating in contrast with the whole past.

A contact, indeed a union, must therefore be established between the independent spiritual world—which in some way must be operative in us—and the activity of our own which struggles upward; and, through the gain of such a contact, that world must be led to more complete organisation, and that which strives upward made secure, unified, and advanced. In this it is essential that the movements and the demands which the fundamental idea of the spiritual life contains be present to our minds. The spiritual life appears, so we saw reason to believe, in the first place, to be something essentially new in contrast to the life of nature. The spiritual life is not the product of a gradual development from the life of nature, but has an independent origin, and evolves new powers and standards: new beginnings must, therefore, be recognisable in us if the spiritual life is to become our life. The new, however, manifested a development of the inner life to 171 independence in opposition to its state of subjection at the level of nature, and so thus in man also the inner life must in some way come to itself and attain to freedom. We saw, further, that this development to independence cannot be brought about through new achievements in a given world, but that it needs the building up of a new world—a new basis for life: it extends even to the final basal forms; not any kind of activity could suffice, but a being within the activity, or, rather, a division of activity into something sustaining and comprehending on the one hand, and something demonstrating and producing on the other, is necessary. It is only thus that life becomes turned toward itself and elevated to a self-conscious life; activity to self-determining activity; experience to self-conscious experience. Man could not participate in such a self-conscious and self-determining life, if in him also a new life, a spiritual self, had not begun to be in some way. It is impossible for this self to be merely individual in nature: it can change the form of things and convey a new world only if it encompasses the multiplicity and experiences it as its own. An infinite self-conscious and self-determining life must not only include man within itself; it must become his own life, his true self.

To realise this life, this self, in more detail and to pass from mere impulse to fruitful work, such as the building up of a new reality necessitates, man must in some way transcend in his own sphere the mere juxtaposition of individual powers. Connections must be formed within the realm of man that somehow deal with that task and advance towards its accomplishment in a way that is beyond the capacity of individuals. A transcendence of the antithesis of subject and object, that dominates the greater part of life, is also essential to the new life; an energetic revolution must raise life to a state of resting upon itself, to autonomy: and so in man also movements must appear in opposition to this antithesis—condensations and concentrations, in which life from being a movement hither and thither becomes a forming of reality from within. In 172 these connections only out of a self-development of life has a reality arisen at all; and its content was not there complete at the outset, but was yielded only through the continuance of that self-development: it must be shown, therefore, that in man also life begins to turn toward itself, and that this makes it possible to attempt tasks which to our capacity are otherwise inaccessible.

It is necessary to acknowledge that in all the spiritual movement which appears in the domain of man, there is a revelation of the spiritual world: as merely human power cannot lead the whole to new heights, in all development of the spiritual life the communication of the new world must precede the activity of man. At the same time, where we are concerned with a life that is independent, and of which the activity is conscious and self-determined, the change cannot possibly simply happen to man: it must be taken up by his own activity; it needs his own decision and acceptance.

We shall consider the question of the possibility of this almost immediately: so much, however, is certain—that this necessity of a decision by man himself makes the matter far more complex and of far greater risk. The establishment of an independent spiritual life in man finds its chief enemy not in nature, but in the limitation and perversion of spiritual impulse through man’s subordinating it to his own ends. The chief conflict is not between spirit and nature, but between real and false spirituality. Thus thought emerges in man, seeks a representation of the world and would in this attain to truth; but when this striving first appears, man is wont to treat himself as the central point of the whole, to measure the whole of infinity according to what it achieves in relation to him, and to see reflections of himself throughout its whole extent. And so we have the anthropomorphic way of thinking, the nature of which we have become aware of only through toil during the progress of the work of culture; a way of thinking from which it has needed even more toil to protect ourselves, and which, in forms often hardly noticeable, 173 is ever ready to appear again and to draw the spiritual movement into its paths. With the emergence of the spiritual life, man becomes more free in relation to his environment; more free also in relation to the necessities of mere nature: his activity can exert itself more independently, concern itself with lofty aims, strive towards the infinite. But all this capacity becomes drawn into the service of the human; the wishes and the desires of the individual grow to an enormous extent. Since out of the struggle for existence, with its natural limitation, an interminable struggle for more existence arises, naïve self-preservation becomes transformed into an unrestricted egoism. That the more-than-human which appears in the domain of man should be employed to the advancement of the merely human is a danger that is present even at the highest stages of development: at one time man would prove his own power in the more-than-human; at another, and this more especially, he treats it as a means to attain his material welfare. Religion, for example, would reveal to man a new depth of reality, and so create a new life for him; and yet, how often even this new reality is degraded to a means for the preservation of his insignificant personality, and regarded as something which on his behalf guides the whole world aright!

The development of the spiritual life in the human sphere can thus be seen to be anything but a sure and steady progress; every step forward brings new dangers; unutterable confusion arises through the use and the perversion of the new in the interests of man. But, if the development of the spiritual life within man is thus an unceasing conflict against human error, this conflict, despite its exhibition of the littleness of man, is at the same time a witness to his greatness. For it shows not only that the spiritual movement needs the active co-operation of man, but also that there is a conflict within humanity itself against the perversion of the spiritual; that there must be more within man and operative in him than the narrowly human. Indeed, in nothing does man seem greater than in this 174 development of a more-than-human within the domain of man, in this severe and untiring conflict with himself. How could this conflict arise and become the soul of universal history if man did not possess a life and being transcending his particularity, and if he did not realise more in himself than we at the first glance see in him? The error of Positivism is that, although it shows most clearly how this spiritual movement dissolves the forms of life as it is immediately experienced, it does not perceive and value the fact that, at the same time, a new life, an inner life emerges; that, indeed, the negation itself is possible only through a more comprehensive spiritual revelation. To consider the negative and the positive in their relation to each other, and to weigh them one against the other, is the indispensable condition for the adequate understanding of human life.

(b) The Nature of Freedom

The arousing of a new world to life within man is a problem and a task: it cannot be effected unless the spontaneity and self-determining activity that are distinctive of this world also manifest themselves within him. Further, it cannot be effected unless within man, who with the greater part of his being belongs primarily to nature, a deliverance from nature is accomplished and the centre of life is removed to its spiritual side; and this cannot happen without the co-operation of man. We need freedom, therefore, in two senses: as the presence of an independent inner life, and as man’s capacity to change—and we cannot fail to recognise that these are closely related.

Now, the impressions and experiences of modern life are opposed to freedom in both of these senses; indeed, with apparently insuperable force they oppose freedom in every sense. Modern science most clearly shows that man belongs to a great world-whole and world-movement; his life and work seem to be completely determined through 175 his relations in this whole; his whole life is subject to an irresistible destiny, and in all his undertakings and conduct he can only follow the course directed by it. This destiny assumes for us the most diverse forms; and through this diversity surrounds us on all sides. Through the power of heredity we enter life with a definite nature: in the family, the state, and the society a particular kind of environment surrounds us and gives to our nature its more detailed colouring: the age meets us with particular tendencies, takes us up into itself with a supreme power, and just as decidedly directs us towards certain ends as it diverts us from others.

Even in earlier times all this was not ignored, so far as the individual aspects are concerned; but the Modern Age was the first to conceive the problem as a whole, and with this it has pursued the idea of determination even into the inner structure of the life of the soul, with the demonstration that here also nothing is spontaneous, nothing unmeditated, but that even down to the most primary impulse everything depends upon something else, and proceeds from definite relations. From this point of view the idea of freedom, and in particular that of a freedom of choice, appears to be only a remnant of an unscientific way of thinking. The fact that man feels—as an immediate impression—free in cases of hesitation between different possibilities has lost its power to convince the individual of the Modern Age. For the new mode of thought has evolved point for point along with an increasing divergence from the naïve manner of representation, and it has won its greatest victories in opposition to this manner of representation. The revolution that Copernicus accomplished in the representation of the world has become typical of the whole of modern work; and as regards our problem also, dissent from ordinary opinion is less a cause for doubt than a recommendation.

However, our attitude in regard to this problem has, indeed, been essentially changed by modern thought. There can be no further talk of a vague freedom of the will, of a 176 capacity to act in one manner or another unaffected by anything that preceded and by the whole environment; the fact of the subjection of man to a destiny, both external and internal, is forced upon us with overwhelming power. Whether the idea of freedom in every sense is shown to be invalid is another question; perhaps the problem is not so much solved as put on one side. In any case, if a fundamental problem—one that has been discussed from the earliest times—is suddenly declared to be finally solved, the suspicion must soon arise that the solution appears to be self-evident only because certain presuppositions which are in no way self-evident are implicitly assumed in it.

The surrender of every kind of freedom meets in the first place with the suspicion that thereby far more is lost than we think or intend; that much is lost to which it is impossible to surrender all claim. Great trouble is taken to prove that the denial of freedom by no means does away with the possibility of an ethical moulding of life. Yet it might be shown without difficulty that, in attempts of this kind, either the freedom, rejected in its ordinary sense, finds entrance again altered and deepened—as, for example, in the philosophy of Spinoza—or the ethic that remains after freedom has been denied retains only the name, and in itself signifies something merely mechanical. But why do we insist upon the ethical; why does so much depend upon its continuance? For this reason: that upon it depends whether life merely happens to us or also from us; whether we are simply parts of a rigid world-mechanism or self-determining co-operators in the building up of reality. If the former hypothesis is true, we are no more than the platform upon which events become connected; and we can possess no other unity than a summation of the multiplicity. A unity of this kind could not possibly attain to independence and transcendence; could not make an inner judgment upon events; could not take up a conflict in opposition to the condition of life as it is immediately experienced. The conception of conduct would 177 inevitably be degraded to that of mere occurrence. We should cease to have inner unity and be comprehensive selves; we should not be able to speak of disposition and conviction: for it is of the essence of all these things that they cannot be imparted, but must arise newly and spontaneously just in the individual, and for this a concentration of life, an elevation to self-conscious and self-determining activity, is necessary.

Where inner unity and such an activity are lacking, a true present does not exist. For if, through the all-dominant relation of cause and effect, that which comes later proceeds in certain sequence from that which came earlier, our whole existence is only a stream of occurrences, and that which is called present is nothing more than the point of transition from the past to the future. Now, a real present can be reached from such an apparent present only if an independent task originates at this point, and a decision has to be made: the more our whole life and being here become a problem again, the more securely might we trust to the possibility of advancing beyond all previous achievement, and of a spontaneous breaking forth of new powers, the more will our life be transformed into a genuine present. A genuine present does not exist within the sequence, but above it; it cannot come to us opportunely, but must be attained through our own activity: it is our own work. It is, therefore, not a common and equal possession, but is differently constituted according to the individual. The present is the more real and comprehensive for us the more spiritual power we evolve and the more spiritual content we give to life. Thus the present is not a mere point in the succession of times, a mere ripple in the stream of appearances, but involves a counteraction to this flow; its formation is to be accomplished only by the placing of life in the region of the spontaneous, the independent, the time-transcendent.

All the losses in individual matters are, however, only appearances and parts of a universal loss that the surrender of freedom involves. This loss is no other than 178 that of an independent nature-transcending spiritual life in general. Spontaneity is no subsidiary quality, the disappearance of which might only involve a modification; with it, the spiritual life as a whole stands or falls. The experience of history also shows clearly enough that that which has in any way reached a spiritual height never persists by simply existing, but that, if it is not to degenerate rapidly, it must proceed ever anew from spontaneous creative activity. The law of nature, that everything remains in its existent state of rest or motion until it is acted upon from without, is not true of the spiritual: of it nothing abides that is not continually brought forth anew.

The surrender of freedom, therefore, means no less than the inner destruction of the spiritual life. And before we submit to this we shall feel compelled to make a more careful inquiry, to see whether the arguments against freedom are really so cogent as they are represented. They do exert a compelling force, but only so long as their presuppositions are admitted and held to be unassailable. That they are not unassailable will become evident as soon as we clearly recognise their nature and implications.

If the world forms a closed and “given” system, in which every particular is determined completely by its position in the whole, there is no place for spontaneity. The question of freedom has no meaning for man if he belongs solely and entirely to such a world, and within it has only to weigh aims one against another. But in accordance with the results of our investigation we contest these two presuppositions most decidedly. To an investigation that begins with the life-process as the basis of its treatment, it is certain that a “given” world never can be primary, but only secondary. That it may attain to an inner present it needs a life that is not itself “given,” but with its activity encompasses a multiplicity, unifies, and makes it definite; for anything to be experienced as “given” a self-conscious and self-determining activity is necessary. If this self-determining activity can struggle upwards to complete power and consciousness only slowly, 179 still it is the first and the sustaining world; and at the same time it can never be asserted that the forms of its life are only ideas and appearances. Life is not formed from existing individual points, and does not pass between such points, but all multiplicity is sustained by an active whole, and from this whole animated ever anew. This active whole may not be conceived as dependent upon another, and it is quite capable of advance. We have endeavoured to show that the matter is not one of subtleties of thought, but of different natures of the world and of activity; and that with the attainment of independence a new world emerges. We have also shown that in us the new world must first wrestle with another, to which we primarily belong; that inner changes must take place in us; and that, if all our toil is not to be in vain, the relation of the two worlds must be changed.

Man, therefore, has a special significance in that the two worlds meet together within him, and in that there can be no change in their relation to each other at this point without his co-operation. The problem of his life concerns more than his conduct, it extends to his being; the question is, how far the different worlds may become his own world, his life. The matter is one of shifting the centre of life from the position in which it is in immediate experience. Thus, the tension and the conflict involve the ultimate elements: each of the worlds has its own tasks and evaluations; things do not affect man with a given and fixed value, but they receive their value first from their relation to the main course upon which his life enters; and so all conflict concerning particular matters implies a decision concerning the whole. Of course, such a decision is not being made from moment to moment; and more especially, it is not made simply by reflection, but it is involved in the whole of life. Only that which in him, in endeavour and work, participates in such decision is true life; individual acts of external conduct only bring to expression that which has happened and still continues to happen inwardly and in the whole.


In all this the possibility of an inner elevation is presupposed. Everyone who strives for an inner development of man; everyone who, with clear insight into the meanness of the general condition of human affairs, unswervingly continues to strive for the advancement of humanity, relies on this possibility: without it there is no hope of a development and a growth of one’s own life, of an elevation of it above the condition in which it is first experienced. And so without this possibility endeavour loses all its true tension, and all that we are able to accomplish in ourselves and in others is no more than a dexterous use of existent forces. But is this condition of the matter, spiritually discerned, more than a mere discipline?

It is true that the possibility of an elevation has its fixed conditions; it necessitates particular convictions with regard to the world and to man. We must view the world as being still in a state of flux and regard man as not being simply a closed and limited individual. The infinite spiritual life must be present as a whole to him, and arouse a new world to life in him; his conduct must be rooted in the power and content of the infinite life: only thus can we understand that in man also a movement begins and a change is brought about. And so it remains ever an inderivable, original phenomenon, which we must acknowledge as a fact, that a spontaneous life breaks forth in man, a new and relatively independent life-centre originates. We always come back in the long run to original phenomena; the origin of living being in general is also an original phenomenon. May we deny the fact of such original phenomena, because they make our representation of the world less uniform and simple? To do so would be nothing else than to make our previously formed conceptions the measure of reality; it would be a new, specifically modern anthropomorphism.

This freedom, with its requirement of a world of inner life that introduces new contents, and also that we belong in some way to this world, is by no means a capacity to make a decision capriciously at any moment; it is not a 181 denial of the power of necessity. Of course, it implies that there may be some kind of counteraction to this necessity; and that if this counteraction can attain success only as a result of the activity of life as a whole, even the individual moment need not be a matter of indifference. For, as the spiritual life has always to win its own height anew, so the present in its relations is not a mere consequence of the past: times of temptation can come repeatedly when all that which has been achieved becomes doubtful again; but times of elevation also come when an advance is made beyond that previously achieved. It is not possible for us simply to reject the present existence and all the conditions which constrain us, and to choose for ourselves a new kind of existence, instead of the one we have; from that it is impossible to free ourselves: in all further endeavour we have to take it into account, to make our peace with it. Nevertheless, life can attain to a transcendent point of view, from which the world of sense becomes the object of judgment and of adaptation; from which, to be regarded as completely ours, it needs acknowledgment and appropriation by us; and from which it is seen not to constitute our whole life, as that which is ultimate. Indeed, the tendencies within us which are concerned with nature, first reach their highest through such acknowledgment and appropriation by us: placed on a spiritual basis they lose their rigid exclusiveness and become unified; our particular nature no longer constitutes our whole being, but becomes the central point of a more comprehensive life, which extends further and further to infinity.

Our life, therefore, is a conflict between fate and freedom, between being “given” and spontaneity; and this conflict may be followed through all life’s divisions. The conflict appears primarily in the individual in the development towards personality and spiritual individuality. For, as personality, unless life has a spontaneous source, is an empty word, so also spiritual individuality does not come to anyone, but has first to be won by the work of life 182 essentially elevating that which destiny brings: so far, it is our own work; but it is not entirely our own work, because that which comes to us from nature, and the condition of life gives us fixed points of support and points out a certain course. Similarly, peoples have in their nature, environment, and history definite conditions of their being, from which they cannot withdraw. But spiritual creation and inward greatness do not grow simply out of these conditions, however favourable they may be, but out of a spontaneous activity which takes up that which has been presented to it, gives it a central point, and from this develops it. The deciding question is always whether and how far individuals and peoples attain to and preserve such a self-determining activity. This activity alone makes it possible for life to be unified inwardly; for its elements to be distinguished and separated, and for some to be brought into prominence and others relegated to the background; for life to be made secure and elevated, and as the result of all for a spiritual individuality to be formed. The same thing holds good of the condition of a particular time, and man’s relation to it. At first man appears to be a child of his age, a slave of his age. But by the spiritual life he is able to win an independence of the age, and to make himself its lord. Again, he cannot free himself from the problems of the age; he cannot alter them just as he likes, cannot divert into an opposite direction the power which they exert upon him. But there is always an “either—or,” either submission to the succession of experience, or the beginning of an opposition from spiritual self-determining activity: in this, also, the possibility of calling new powers to life presents itself. From this spiritual point of view activity centred upon the concerns of the particular age is no longer regarded as the whole life; the particular age with its work is comprehended in an infinite life. As through all its different stages and constituents, so ultimately humanity as a whole also carries on a struggle for a spiritual being, an advance to a new level. Humanity may not be 183 regarded as something finished; it must evolve to a nature other than its present one, bring about a transformation of its life, and win a spiritual individuality: the life of humanity is in a state of motion and it must become self-determined.

The idea of freedom thus reveals far-reaching prospects and the greatest tasks; it manifests its truth and power in taking possession of common experiences and illuminating them, and in the arousing and re-organisation of our life. With the acknowledgment and the adequate appreciation of freedom, with the revelation of its universal relations, man is elevated in the most essential manner, for it manifests the new world as active in the midst of his life and capable of appropriation by him: it calls him to independent co-operation in the conflict of the worlds; it gives to the simply human and the apparently commonplace an incomparable greatness. However powerful destiny may be, it does not determine man entirely; for, even in beginning opposition to it there is a liberation from it. However mean man’s activity, it carries in it a decision between worlds; however vanishing the moment, it is not entirely lost. True, the idea of freedom involves definite presuppositions: it involves, indeed, a profession of faith concerning life and reality as a whole, a profession of faith that contradicts every form of Naturalism and Intellectualism, and, in opposition to their representations of the world, champions another. But this profession of faith does not concern this problem only; it is involved in our work as a whole, and so the whole may support and confirm it.

(c) The Beginnings of the Independent Spiritual Life

As the problem of freedom gains in clearness and depth in the relations which have been discussed, so also the beginnings of independent spiritual life which are manifested in the domain of man become much clearer in them. Without such beginnings, which represent a 184 new order in contrast to nature, and which oppose the degeneration of life to the narrowly human, a movement towards independent spirituality could never emerge in us. They are really intelligible and acquire power only when they are unified and acknowledged as the activity of a new life and being.

These beginnings appear in an elevation of life accessible to every individual, an elevation above the forms as well as the content of mere nature. We perceive this in the norms with which the research of the present is busily occupied. Our life does not consist entirely of simple matters of fact, but in certain directions qualities and forms are presented to it which are able to contradict the immediate state of things and to exercise a certain power over it. Thus the norms of thought, the norms of conduct and of artistic creation are evolved, each making particular demands, and being different in the manner of its operation. However, we are concerned here not with the aspects of difference, but with that which is common to all; and this consists in the working of an actuality in us that is something other than natural occurrence, an actuality that needs our acknowledgment, and through this acknowledgment first wins power over us. The demands which these norms make upon us are in no way convenient to us; they limit our caprice; they often cost hard toil and heavy sacrifice; our desire for natural happiness does not commend them to us. How is it then that we do not simply reject them? what is it that gives to them a constraining power over us? If they remained isolated and impenetrable experiences, if they adhered to us as something alien in nature, were foreign elements in our being, their power would be unintelligible. It is to be explained only upon the hypothesis that they are unfoldings of our own life, which by these unfoldings is proved to be something other than a life of nature. Unless they are rooted in our own life, these norms are like misty forms in the air. They obtain complete reality and motive power first as movements of our self, which then is no mere point by the side of other 185 points, but an independent manifestation of life of the spiritual world.

This is in particular clearly the case in the idea of duty, the elucidation of the inner meaning of which is Kant’s greatest and most enduring service. A duty is always a command; it presents itself as independent of all caprice. At the same time, however, it can never be forced upon us by an external power; it needs our own assent and acknowledgment. Our own volition and being must operate in it, and, in this, being must present itself otherwise than it appears to be at the first glance. We must bear and maintain within us a new world; in submission to its orders we must assert and develop ourselves. In this manner alone can we explain the joyfulness which accompanies all genuine performance of duty, and without which duty is no more than a task forced upon us. How much power duty, and the norms in general, may acquire in the greater part of human life is a question in itself; but they could not exist for us even as ideas and possibilities if they were not in some way based in our own being. However, as they show this being in a new light, it follows that they must themselves gain in clearness and in power and become more closely unified if they are understood and treated as developments and modes of self-preservation of our own life.

It is with regard to content as well as to form that beginnings of a new life appear. At the level of nature only that which serves the self-preservation and the advancement of the life of the individual being is estimated as a good; all that is involved in this may be comprehended under the conception of utility. But notwithstanding its great power over man the consideration of utility does not form the only motive of his life. For a detailed treatment of this matter we may refer to what was said in the discussion of “The Growth of Man beyond Nature.” At present we are concerned especially with the view that the new that appears in us should be acknowledged to be the manifestation of a new world and the expression of our real being. In the growing of man beyond nature negation usually 186 preponderates; he must limit the impulses of his natural ego, acknowledge and respect the rights of others, be ready to subordinate and sacrifice himself. It is for the most part not evident what can commend such a negation to him and give it power over him; and an impulse aroused to clear consciousness and strong desire may, therefore, feel this entire connection with a new world to be an unwarrantable limitation, and reject it as a violent intimidation and a degradation of life. The matter is seen in its right light only when negation is regarded as the reverse side of affirmation, and even then only if the winning of a new life and being is acknowledged in this affirmation. The positive impulse of self-preservation is indispensable to complete vital-energy, but mere self-assertion on the part of an individual in opposition to others does not constitute a genuine self; a genuine self is constituted only by the coming to life of the infinite spiritual world in an independent concentration in the individual. Only thus does life, which otherwise were empty, acquire a content. Then the individual is no longer compelled to develop his powers in conflict with other individuals, but in directing his life towards this infinite spiritual world, in its complete appropriation and organisation. Hence, only that which raises the spiritual content of life can be regarded as good, and goods will be compared in value in accordance with this standard. The more they lead beyond mere results to the development of a new being and self, the more essential they are to spiritual self-preservation; everything else becomes a means or a preliminary condition. Negation, also, has greater significance and importance from this point of view. The new affirmation can acquire no complete truth and no real power in man without a fundamental deliverance of life from mere nature and its particularity. Without earnestness of renunciation the new life sinks back to the old or both are combined in an undifferentiated unity, with the consequence that the new life loses its power to stimulate to new endeavour. As human beings are, this negation must always be a sharp one.


In this connection, it may be said that life needs the stage of law which restricts natural impulse, and constrains to the acknowledgment of superior organisations of life; but from the stage of law there must be progress to the stage of love, which for the first time reveals an inner relation to reality and reacts upon the stage of law, giving it a soul. On the other hand, a love that would be genuine comes not to destroy the law, but to fulfil, to take it up into itself. As love and law are indisputable powers in the life of humanity, so they also proclaim the emergence of a new world and the development of a new being within the domain of humanity.

(d) The Transcending of Division

A particularly severe conflict with regard to the problem of the unity of life arises between the natural condition of man and the requirements of an independent spiritual life. The spiritual life demands an enduring whole which includes all multiplicity within itself and of which the movement originates within: human existence is primarily a juxtaposition of individuals and a succession of moments; no union seems to be more than that which is constituted by a mere collection of the individuals. If the division were not in some way transcended no spiritual life could grow up within humanity, and man have no share in the building up of a spiritual world. The nineteenth century gave a confident answer to the problem: it contended that history and society of their own capacity bind the elements of life into stable forms which take up all multiplicity into themselves and raise our existence to spirituality. We most emphatically deny the validity of this contention, and hope to show that history and society themselves involve difficult problems; further, that only when we conceive them in a particular way are they able to help in the unification of life and then only in a limited manner; and lastly, that they do not so much produce a spiritual life as presuppose it, 188 as essential to their own existence. Naturalism and Intellectualism have also confused the outlook; if we free it from this confusion, history and society will take a secondary place in our estimation; they will themselves be seen to be deeper and more comprehensive and to involve movements which extend further than appears in immediate experience; and they will become witnesses to the living presence of the spiritual life within humanity.

(i.) The Spiritual Conception of History

The nineteenth century transmitted to us a conception of history that is far more peculiar in nature and far more open to attack than is usually recognised: history is represented as a great stream which takes up all individual achievements into itself, unites them, and, regardless of all human error and caprice, leads surely to its end. No genuine achievement is lost, and all gain seems to be permanent; beyond all the trouble and uncertainty of the moment appeal is made to the power which, directing and elevating, permeates the movement, clarifies and refines it. In this conception the necessity of a process that has the power of determining its own activity and making its own decision is primary. The fact that the matter is not so simple as this conception of history represents is shown by the experience of the age itself, which directly contradicts it. For according to this conception the whole past should discharge itself into the present and so impart its whole result immediately to us, and the direction that our activity ought to take should be pointed out to us with complete certainty by history. But we are distinctly aware of the extent to which this direction is a matter of question and doubt, and of the uncertainty into which we have fallen with regard to the relation of the present to the past: in the process of our investigation we saw this in particular in the division and conflict between the different systems of life. History is seen to be a difficult 189 problem far more than a secure fact; and we are compelled to take up a new consideration of the question.

In this consideration a distinct delimitation of the achievements characteristic of man is primarily necessary. Modern science already recognises a history of nature, and much that was formerly regarded as complete is now seen to be in a state of flux and movement. Since every event leaves effects behind, in the course of ages the results accumulate, develop, and act upon one another, that which comes later is conditioned by the influence of the earlier and is intelligible only in relation to it, a distinctive historical method gains currency. Geology presents to us with particular clearness a history of this type. In so far as man belongs to nature and the spiritual life has not yet developed to any degree of independence in him, he is also the subject of such a history. That which happens within him leaves behind effects that become the conditions of later occurrence. This conception of history, as determined solely by mechanical causes, is still maintained in some quarters in spite of further developments of thought. But it is not apparent from this point of view how, even with the greatest accumulation of effects, history could yield anything of gain to an inner unity, to a life from the whole: for that, man must bring with him something essentially new; and as a matter of fact this is what he does.

Not only do events happen to us and change our condition, but with our own activity we are able to hold fast to these events, to give to them an inner permanence, to bring them ever anew from the dim distance into the living present. We do not drift onward with the stream of time, but withstand it; seek to wrest something fixed from “becoming” and change, and salvation in the eternal. We cannot do this without altering the whole view of things and manifesting a new spiritual capacity.

The retention in mind of individual events by means of annals, monuments and similar methods is the beginning of a history of a higher kind: even so much shows a greater activity, since it involves a judgment of the significance of 190 events, and on the basis of this judgment begins to wage war against the destroying power of “cormorant devouring time.” The achievement is incomparably higher, if certain spiritual unities and tendencies are adhered to and are given permanent currency: thus religion in particular gave a stability to life and delivered men from the tyranny of the mere moment. The matter remains simple so long as the movement is within a single people or a definite sphere of culture. But in its progress it goes far beyond these limits. New peoples arise; the state of culture undergoes great changes, indeed revolutions; life is taken up from new starting points, from which everything of importance to earlier ages loses its value. But it is lost only for a time; a desire to return to it and to bring it into complete harmony with the new is soon felt. The circle of vision is thus increasingly widened, and all multiplicity is finally united into a whole. This retention of the past is primarily a matter of knowledge and of intellectual appropriation. But it is not limited to this; it would operate not only in the extension of knowledge but beyond this in the development of life. Whatever has been won by human power is to be preserved, unified, and used to advance the present. Thus, there arises a historical culture; an education on a historical basis; religion and philosophy, art and law derive power and content from the work of universal history, and life as a whole seems to win a greater comprehensiveness and stability. And so it has come to appear as though the past imparts its whole result to the present without any effort on the part of man and without incurring him in any risk.

In reality the case is entirely different. The stream of the ages becomes spiritually significant to us only in so far as we develop an independence of it. The stream does not itself, automatically and independently of us, select the elements of value which it contains or unite the ages to a harmonious result: we ourselves must achieve this. Spiritually regarded, we do not from the beginning stand upon a sure foundation, on which we might peacefully 191 build; we must first acquire such a foundation through endeavour, and in this matter we see doubt and violent change continually make that uncertain which is apparently most secure, and make it necessary to seek greater depths.

For this treatment of history, involving, as it does, self-determining activity, an elevation above time is essential. Without in some way transcending time we could not survey individual events and unite them in one representation. But we would do far more than that; we would select and take up into our own life that which is valuable in the earlier, in order thereby to enrich and strengthen our life, and to lead it as far as possible from the present of the mere moment to a present encompassing the ages. How could this come to pass unless we were able to secure an independent vantage ground transcending the stream of the ages; a vantage ground from which we may survey and judge the ages, appropriate some elements from them and reject others? Experience shows clearly enough that the tendency and the content of life with which we meet the past, decide what shall be its spiritual representation, and how we shall stand in relation to it. For experience shows that each main tendency of life has its own view of history and its own treatment of history; it shows further that every change in life which is in any way far-reaching involves an alteration in our relation to the past; gives prominence to the new, and relegates the old to the background. There arises therefore a history of history; a history, for example, of that which in the life of Antiquity has seemed essential and valuable to the different later ages. For us, therefore, history, in regard to its spiritual nature, is involved in constant change. The past does not decide concerning the present so much as the present concerning the past; the past is not something dead and fixed behind us; ever anew it becomes the object of passionate conflict.

But does not this dependence of the past upon the present deprive history of all independence and of all value? Does it not surrender life completely to the contingency of the changing moments? Does it not destroy all inner unity of 192 the ages? This would, in fact, be the case if the matter remained on a simply human basis; if a spiritual life transcending time were not manifested through all the changes of the ages; if a spiritual history could not be distinguished from a narrowly human one. Spiritual history is concerned with that which through all human activity and endeavour reveals a self-conscious inner life and which, as such a revelation, is valid not only for a particular age but through all ages and independently of all ages. Spiritual history would be impossible unless there is active within us from the beginning an independent spiritual life which first realises its content through the historical process.

Such a transcendent nature is most evident at those highest points of human development which we call “classical,” not because they should dominate and bind all ages, but because in them the spiritual life attained to a complete independence over against man, lifted him above himself into the fire and flood of creative activity, and made it possible for him to produce characteristic contents. These classical achievements are especially important for the development of life if they not only bring something new in individual departments and in particular directions, but also shape and present the whole to us in a distinctive manner, and seek to appropriate to themselves, and in the appropriation to elevate, the spiritual impulse that exists in man; if a new being, in contrast to nature and society, emerges and would become lord of the whole. Life as a whole is thus transformed into a problem and a conflict. The question is whether this movement is able to take up everything into itself and to lead life to its highest level, or whether it meets with an insuperable resistance. In this matter life tests itself by itself, by its own development—a thing which is possible only if its experiences arise out of its being as a whole. If in a particular case it proves that essential requirements remain unsatisfied, that the movement is not able to include the spiritual life within itself, a severe convulsion is inevitable, 193 the spiritual life as a whole comes to a standstill, and there can be no advance until life concentrates anew and the new concentration gains ground. It is to be expected that a new concentration will bring forward and develop that, in particular, which formerly did not find complete satisfaction. In the first place, therefore, there is an abrupt break and the emergence of an apparently irreconcilable opposition: the old is relegated to the background; tested by the new, the old soon comes to be regarded as a complete mistake. In reality it is not so. For, as certainly as spontaneous creative activity was operative in the old and produced characteristic contents, it involves something which, superior to all the change of time, will survive convulsion and doubt, and assert itself in some way in a more comprehensive life. But the old will not survive and re-assert itself unless the timeless reality within it separates itself from all human and temporary addition; unless it manifests what lies behind the historical form.

The same thing happens in the case of the new movement that arises. With all its greatness of achievement, limitations become manifest in it; then, more comprehensive forms arise; and so in the historical movement as a whole the spiritual life is revealed in forms continually increasing in content. In opposition to the tendency for one age to be separated from another, however, a desire for unity, for a life which in some way embraces the multiplicity of movements and concentrations of life, and binds them into a whole, makes itself felt. A unity can hardly be achieved by simply regarding the different concentrations and tendencies as on the same level and making a compromise between them; rather it is necessary that the different concentrations and different movements contend with one another; it is just their conflict which may elevate and deepen life. The movement to secure this unity and to retain elements from the past is not an accumulation of elements and tendencies in time, but an increasing deliverance from time, the establishment of a timeless truth 194 independent of the change of things. Experiences, of which the external manifestations no longer exist, are again called to life, and preserved for all time by spiritual power; indeed, that which is lost in immediacy by the absence of the external manifestation is more than compensated for by an advance to the source of the power: things which in their temporal form are a mere co-existence are transformed into an organised whole. Movements, which in history have often been engaged in passionate conflict, may enter into a relation of interaction, and may be regarded as a sequence of stages, in which the earlier prepares for the later, and the later presupposes the earlier; in which all give life to and further one another. A universal life thus progressively arises within the domain of man; the individual achievements unite more and more to the building up of a new, enduring world; the whole realises itself in the individual occurrence, and through the development of a time-inclusive present transcends the mere moment.

This movement of life in history involves more unrest, conflict and doubt, than the nineteenth-century doctrine of evolution implied. For this doctrine saw in the historical movement the unfolding of a spiritual life, sure as regards its foundation and its main direction; the antitheses within that movement seemed to be involved in a single process, which determined the limits of each tendency in relation to the others; a transcendent necessity was regarded as leading to the development of all in their relation to one another. As a fact, the conflict is also concerning the substance and the main direction of the whole; the spiritual life must first realise itself within the region of mankind, and it is realised through the toil and work of man himself. It is just the fact that the problem is an ultimate one, that even the fundamental forms of life develop only in conflict and experience, and that we are concerned not with winning simply this or that in life, but genuine life itself, that makes history significant. At the same time, this brings man into a more inward relation to the spiritual life, and this life is made more 195 his own life and being than if he were surrounded by the power of physical or intellectual processes. Nothing makes humanity as a whole more significant than that in its province and through its work the new world begins to develop.

With such a conception of history, the philosophical treatment of it must direct its attention chiefly to the independent spirituality which in the course of the centuries, and especially in great changes, is evolved in contrast with the narrowly human; and to the main direction which is given to life by this spirituality. The philosophical treatment of history ought first of all to trace the liberation of life from the simply human; the inner elevation of our being to a more-than-human. Antiquity at the height of its spiritual development began to desire a universal truth independent of man; a moulding of life in accordance with an inner right; and an order of things beyond the power of human caprice, as was shown by the giving symmetry and harmony precedence in art, and justice in conduct. Christianity brought about a liberation of the innermost disposition, the root of endeavour and of love, from purely natural impulse, however ennobled; and in this way brought men into new relationships and set them before new tasks. The Modern Age on the part of science began a relentless conflict against the anthropomorphism of the mode of life as immediately experienced; thus it has made the spiritual life even in its form independent of man, in that it has created spiritual complexes and has recognised in them movements and inner necessities of their own. Through the whole of this movement of universal history life frees itself more and more from its dependence upon mere man, and from the bondage to “given” presuppositions and “given” natural impulses, and from a “given” world in general. Life is based more and more upon its own independent nature, and from its position of independence develops a new kind of being. It is this gain of a new world through struggle that alone gives to history a meaning and an inner unity.


If history thus accomplishes the formation of great spiritual complexes, and if there is an endeavour to fit these with all their antitheses into an all-comprehensive whole, if it unites all ages and all powers with the bond of a universal task, it is a clear witness to the living presence of the spiritual life within the human sphere. Apart from this presence all these achievements would be impossible, and the whole movement must vanish into thin air. The estimate of history here given is valid only when a spiritual history is clearly distinguished from merely human history. Only when history as a whole gains a soul and a support from this spiritual history are the non-spiritual factors able to attain to any rational significance; only then can history have a meaning and transcend the relativity from which otherwise it cannot escape. On the one hand, history demands for its own existence the presence of a spiritual world within humanity; on the other, it testifies to this presence by that which is characteristic in its own content; by that which can be understood only as a progressive disclosure of such a world.

(ii.) The Spiritual Conception of Society

The problem of society is closely akin to that of history. In the life around us a certain union is attained in that men dwell together, but this immediate union does not simply of itself produce a spiritual unity, a spiritual whole: if society manifests such a unity, then in it, also, a distinctive revelation of the spiritual must be acknowledged.

Modern science shows clearly and distinctly that the individual is not an isolated atom, but exists in relation with a social environment; and that, even to the innermost recesses of his being, he is determined by the constitution of this environment. But science falls into serious error if it goes beyond the truth of this contention and attempts to represent spiritual creation as the result of the mere inter-relation and accumulation of individual 197 powers. For between spiritual creation and this inter-relation and accumulation of individual powers, in spite of all their external proximity, there is the widest divergence. Spiritual creation requires to be treated as an end complete in itself, and must follow the laws of its own being; it claims an inalienable supremacy above all trivial human interests, which yet for a time dominate the common life. Further, it cannot succeed without the development of an inner unity which maintains and characteristically forms a whole of life. The existence of men side by side gives rise to a variety of opinions, strivings, dispositions, which mingle confusedly together; the usual condition of things that arises from this confusion has anything but a definite character. The condition of our own time must convince everyone who is unprejudiced, how little this pitiable confusion can of itself produce anything spiritual and associate men together in an inner unity. For in the epoch of railways, telegraphs and newspapers, of large towns and of factories, movements of the masses are certainly not lacking; they surround the individual and influence him more strongly than ever before. But where, out of all the fluctuation of public opinion, out of the confusion and bustle of life, does creative spiritual activity arise, give to life an inner content, and unite humanity in an inner community? Rather, we see humanity continually split up into opposing factions; we see the strife tend more and more to affect the foundation of our existence.

However, in spite of the spiritual impotency of the movements of the masses, creative spiritual activity has emerged in humanity, has overcome the separation of the individuals and inwardly unified the forces of life. It must not only be possible to effect, but we must actually effect a unity which transcends the individuals, a union which has its source in the spiritual life itself.

In reality the experience of humanity shows such a union. Of primary importance in this connection is the fact of the power of so-called “ideas” in history—the fact that certain aims transcending natural welfare win 198 power over the whole domain of culture, bind men together and lift them above their selfish interests. To be sure, in the movements which arise to carry out these ideas much that is insignificantly human is introduced; and the interests of individuals and of classes often largely preponderate, but the origin and the progress of these movements cannot be accounted for by the merely human; they are only to be explained as due to man feeling directly within himself the necessity of spiritual tasks. If he feels this necessity only under particular conditions, and if it is only for a short time that it asserts itself at its highest, still it extends its influence over life as a whole, and is everywhere a unique phenomenon, even when limited and confused by much that is alien to it.

Further, the fact that whole peoples have developed distinctive national characters is of importance in this connection. Such a character is distinguished essentially from all mere participation of common conditions, not only physical but also psychical, that social life brings with it. For the development of such a character life must rise to energetic activity and become unified; there must be an advance towards a common goal; an active relation must be taken up not only towards the environment but also towards itself. A national character is not “given,” but is attained through the work of history; it develops only through common experiences, sufferings, and triumphs: in its origin and its continuance it involves an elevation above the aims of physical and social preservation, a development of pure inwardness.

Finally, no inner relation of humanity proceeds from the physical association of men, from their meeting in a common world. If a vital whole, a common truth, did not exist within us, all our relations would be external: we could not follow common aims in life and endeavour or have common experiences; we could not think and live for one another, or develop spiritual contents in different departments, such as those of law and religion, science and art, and give to them a cognate spiritual character. It is always 199 the presence of a self-conscious reality that binds humanity together inwardly. We can be as certain in our acknowledgment of this presence as we can that our experience shows such an inner unity in important achievements and in the formation of whole departments of work and other complexes.

With its acknowledgment we avoid the severe contradiction that is shown in the contemporary estimate and conception of humanity. To our more dispassionate consideration of things the disagreeable aspect of the social machinery, the growing sharpness of the conflict, the passionate eagerness of the desire for more, the inconsistency between the enormous amount of subjective excitement and the spiritual poverty, are clear. Logically, this confused and self-contradictory state of affairs ought to lead to a rejection of the whole, and to a pronounced pessimism. Yet humanity is regarded as noble and worthy of respect; it is made the value of all values; the object of our faith and our hope; all our efforts are directed towards its well-being. And this is done without it being perceived that thus the basis of experience is forsaken and that the impression of humanity obtained from experience is bluntly contradicted: the introduction of an abstract conception seems to alter everything and to lead to its being regarded as good. In the shattering of beliefs at least this one has remained: belief in the power of abstractions. He who would abandon this belief and at the same time hold fast to the high estimate of humanity must admit that a spiritual world is active in man, and in so doing acknowledge that man is more than he appears in immediate experience. Such a one will feel increasingly the necessity of actively comprehending and definitely distinguishing from the medley of trivial social concerns every manifestation of a spiritual world in man. It is not out of society but in conflict with it that everything great has grown. And yet that which is great is rooted in a whole of life. Spiritual work must have its basis in this invisible whole, not in mere society; and from this position it must protest against 200 the presumptuous claim of society to evolve the spiritual life of its own power. The community that proceeds from a spiritual union will be primarily an invisible one; but whether this invisible unity could not realise itself better and be effective also in the visible world is a serious and difficult question that continually becomes more urgent.

If the conviction that we have here given an account of definitely contradicts the historico-social view of life which was so potent in the nineteenth century, and which deeply degraded the spiritual life and its self-conscious and self-determining activity, it by no means fails to recognise the significance of history and society; and has no intention of taking up again the mode of thought common in the period of the Enlightenment. History and society are indispensable means for the development of the spiritual life in humanity: from mere individuals and from individual moments it could attain neither content nor power. But to declare for this reason that history and society are the generating basis of the spiritual life was a definite error; though in the historical movement of the problem it certainly finds an explanation and an excuse. The higher estimate of history and society has grown up on the basis of Idealism; to Idealism the spiritual life seemed to live and first to attain to its complete truth in history and society. Later on, attention and activity were diverted from a world of thought chiefly to the world of sense; and with this change history and society lost their spiritual foundation and their animating soul. Nevertheless, their claim to produce the spiritual life remained; they were expected to achieve of their own power more than was possible even with the greatest exertion. In truth they can bring forth spiritual contents, and serve the development of the spiritual life within man, only under the presupposition of the presence of a transcendent spiritual life. At the same time their achievement in the combination of forces and in the production of spiritual results is a witness to the reality of the spiritual life.


(e) The Elevation of Life above Division

We saw that the spiritual life attains an independence only if it does not simply bring about an effect upon a world independent of it, but produces a reality from itself; concentrates so as to become a reality itself. At the first glance man seems by no means to satisfy this demand. For his life, after, in its progress, rising above its initial stages, in which it was undifferentiated from the environment, is subject to the antithesis of man and world, of subject and object, and the divergence seems to increase continually in the course of his development. The more power the life of the soul wins, the more it produces a characteristic content, the freer and more active reflection becomes, the more does the world recede before man, the more definitely is immediate contact with the world prevented. The gulf is not bridged by the epistemological consideration that that over against which we place ourselves must also, fundamentally, belong to our own life, be in some way included within it: this treatment signifies a removal of the antithesis to another region rather than an inner transcendence of it. A genuine transcendence cannot be effected without an expansion and development of life, evolving new connections which transcend the division, and lifting us into a sphere above mere subjectivity.

Connections such as these are, as a fact, brought about by an expansion and development of life; but these connections which in their individual appearances are evident to all are seldom adequately estimated as a whole, and in respect of the problems to which they give rise. These connections are effected in work, in work as a spiritual occurrence. We have already seen how in work the object loses its alien nature and is taken up into our own life; we must now follow more closely the process by which work is extended and deepened; produces a characteristic sphere of life and establishes a spiritual reality in the domain of man.


At first we are occupied in work with an abundance of individual tasks that have no inner relation to one another. But the more work advances from an external contact with objects to an inner change of them, the more necessary is it that these tasks should be unified so as to form a whole; and that each task should have its position in this whole, and represent in itself a particular aspect of the whole. The proof of greatness in a “work” is just that the nature of the individual aspects is determined fundamentally by their relation within the whole; that what is characteristic in the work as a whole is manifested even in its simplest elements; thus, for example, every independent thinker has particular views with regard to the nature of the fundamental forms of logical thought such as the concept and the judgment; in the same way every independent artist creates his own language of forms. Work not only leads to a unity of life in the case of individuals; but, further, without a union of individual forces for a common end, without an organisation of all human work, we should stand defenceless in face of the infinity of the world, and we could never advance to a state of culture. In such community of work man creates a new sphere of existence for himself; he forms his world of work and sets it in contrast to everything which does not come within it. This world of work transcends the individual; and yet it is our world; it is sustained by human power and, directing and forming, reacts upon man. For, the more unity this world of work acquires and the more control it wins over the object, the more definite departments and relations it evolves in itself, the more does it manifest characteristic laws and methods which, with superior power, prescribe to human activity its nature and direction, but which can originate nowhere else than in the domain of man. And so within the domain of man we rise above all caprice and subjectivity: since the law of the object determines man’s work, his life is raised above the antithesis between soul and object. Work is not something that man, essentially perfect, undertakes incidentally and as something supplementary, but it is 203 that through which he first develops a spiritual life; through which he acquires a spiritual existence; and the character of the work determines at the same time the nature of this existence. As the individual departments of work evolve characteristic modes of thought and conviction, so out of work as a whole a particular spiritual nature arises which does not exist in relation to a world external to it, but contains within itself a world formed by its own activity. All this, in conformity with our fundamental conviction, involves the implication that man is not a spiritual being from the beginning, but only has the potency to become one.

Such a raising of the aim which is set to work involves an increase in the amount of toil that it necessitates, and the dangers which are incurred: the object and the encompassing life are subject to these dangers. For the complete success of work and the formation of a genuine self, it is as necessary that the object be taken up entirely into the process of work as that there should not be another vital unity more ultimate than the self which grows up in the work, but that the self should form the final conclusion: whatever is not taken up into the process of work lessens its content, weakens its power, endangers its truth, and prevents just that from being achieved which is here in question. If, however, we consider the opposition that arises at different points, genuine work is seen to be a high ideal, an infinite task which even in favourable cases is only approximately fulfilled. At the same time it is a witness to the sway of elevating and modifying powers within the domain of man.

The object is concealed from man chiefly by his own inclination to treat himself as the centre of reality; to transform the environment into a reflection of his own being; and to measure the infinite by the standard of his own well-being. Along with this humanising of the environment, man develops the most diverse forms of occupation with it, but however far such occupation may be extended, it does not lead man beyond his own domain; it does not aid him in his spiritual progress. It is possible for occupation 204 upon the environment to aid spiritual progress only when things attain an independence, and from this firmly resist the tendency of man to represent them in accordance with his subjective wishes. Only such independence of the objective makes it possible for it to arouse new powers in man and for his life to be based on something deeper than immediate feeling and desire, and to begin an inner transformation. But this movement has various levels which differ distinctly from one another; and from the position of a higher level it is difficult to regard the achievement at a lower one as genuine and complete work. The Modern Age with its exact research often cannot regard the work of early natural science as work of high value. A similar gradation is evident in the striving for happiness; for the raising of human well-being. So long as endeavour is directed to attaining and preserving mere subjective states of feeling, and so long as a movement beyond this subjectivity is not acknowledged to exist within man himself, and the requirements of this movement are not satisfied—as is the case with Epicureanism and Utilitarianism—endeavour, earnest as it may be, does not acquire the character of spiritual work; it does not essentially advance life, and therefore in the long run does not satisfy human needs. Epicureanism and Utilitarianism with all their results inevitably become insipid and empty to him.

If there are powerful hindrances to this endeavour for something more than the subjective, there is at the same time a wealth of movement which bids defiance to them, and the course of history shows continuous expansion and development of this movement; it shows that man is able to take up a conflict against the trivially human, and, in the building up of a new world, to raise himself essentially above his original condition. Exact science breaks away from the object of perception, removes it to a distance, analyses it there, ascertains its laws, and then restores it in changed form to men: in this it also advances human life in itself, in that thought rises more freely above perception, and a system of pure thought sustains the whole world of 205 sense. A further divergence between the struggle for physical existence and the building up of a new world appears in history in the endeavour for happiness and a significant content of life. In the experience of humanity, morality and religion, looked at inwardly, assume two fundamentally different forms. On the one hand they are looked upon as a mere means to support man in a given world; to bring him into congenial relation with the world; and so to organise this world that it may achieve as much as possible for human well-being. This form governs human experience at its general level, and easily comes to be regarded as the only form. At higher levels of creative activity, however, a totally different form made its appearance: there was a break with the whole world of sense and well-being as though with something intolerably narrow, and in a self-conscious life a new world arose and brought forth characteristic contents; the appropriation of this world raised life above all mere particularity and subjectivity; at the same time this appropriation became an infinite task and work for man and for humanity as a whole. If this form of religion and morality has been manifested with complete clearness only at high levels of life in history, from these heights this form has also exerted an influence upon the rest of life, animating and raising it; indeed, it is only this genuine conception of religion and morality which first gives to them an independence and a value in themselves. Thus, notwithstanding the inadequacy of human achievement we cannot but recognise that life transcends mere subjectivity and the separation that it involves.

In another direction complexities arise in that something objective is evolved and established which, however, is not brought sufficiently into relation with life as a whole and united with it. Then, work may progress within its own province constantly and vigorously, but it loses touch with our soul; we do not realise or develop ourselves in it. With all the feverish tension of individual powers work is then inwardly alien to us, and its power over us 206 may become a heavy oppression. Through such a detachment from life as a whole work loses soul and is nothing more than mechanical; in short, we have all those results of division between work and soul which we may feel with particular acuteness in the contemporary state of culture. Experiences rising from this division lead us to demand that work shall be so organised as to be capable of taking up life as a whole into itself, and with this of becoming our true self. Again, life as a whole cannot enter upon work as complete, for then it would force something alien upon work, and by this pervert it; life as a whole can be evolved only from the unification and elevation of work itself. We do not begin and carry on work as a fixed individuality, but we form individuality first through work by the continual overcoming of the opposition of subjective disposition and object. Spiritual contents are not produced by a communication of something that is in itself complete to something else that is in itself complete, an interaction of disposition and object; rather must we say that genuine work sets both sides in motion and with elevating power unites them in a single life. So understood, every movement which tends to the development of spirituality in individuals, peoples, ages, and finally of humanity as a whole, is a witness to the possibility of a transcendence of this opposition, of the emergence of a reality within the life-process.

We cannot give work a spiritual nature in this way, and make it the instrument of a new reality, without being compelled to acknowledge that there is much less genuine work among men than we are accustomed to assume. On the other hand, we must also recognise that the little that there is signifies much more, and indicates much greater advances of life than it is usual to admit. Nothing differentiates individuals and ages more from one another than the extent to which they take part in genuine work; the degree to which they transform their life in such work. Mere reflection and good will can accomplish very little in this matter; without an energetic nature, a strong 207 inner disposition with a definite tendency, as well as the favour of destiny, not much can be achieved. What is usually called “life” is only a will to live, a straining after life; it yields but an outward appearance and a shadow of life: genuine life is first brought forth by that transformation.

But the less human existence in general immediately includes genuine work, the more indispensable is it that there should be firmly rooted tendencies to such work in the basis of our being, and that these tendencies should be developed to greater clearness of form and to greater effect in the work of universal history. So that our work may not be split up and destroyed, we need definite syntheses that establish a structure of life. On the one hand we must accomplish an analysis into individual tendencies and departments of life which, operating independently, generate life; and on the other hand we must find a unity of endeavour among these tendencies and departments; a movement from one to another; a common activity directed towards the building up of a new world. These syntheses must be an immediate experience at each point; they must be involved in all division of work; everywhere set distinctive tasks; produce characteristic achievements; and in energetic organisation of existence elevate it to the level of a characteristic system of life, full of power, which presses forward to further development. Only thus could a movement originate which might expand to a real whole and be capable of establishing this whole against the world as it is for immediate experience; only thus could humanity defend itself against the power of the environment and of destiny.

Experience alone can decide whether our life contains such syntheses, and whether by means of them it forms a whole: the movement of universal history shows that there are such syntheses. The natures of these syntheses give to the chief epochs of culture their distinctive characters, by which the natures of their elements and of the relations between them are determined; and man 208 acquires a definite relation to the world and can make a judgment upon it. Such a synthesis, with its life-penetrating and life-forming power, certainly contains some truth; it is not a product of narrowly human reflection and imagination. The course of time and the changes of history, therefore, cannot simply break it down completely; rather with the truth that it contains such a synthesis elevates life above time into the eternal. But it has not been demonstrated that life is capable of only one synthesis, or that it may not produce a variety of such: life does not necessarily realise its unity in simply establishing a single synthesis; it can seek unity in the supremacy of a chief synthesis above others. That experience in our own sphere of culture shows the latter to be the case we intend to indicate in a few lines.

A characteristic synthesis first made its appearance at the height of classical Antiquity. It was art, chiefly plastic art, that determined the nature of this synthesis. Form as a unifying and systematising power is at the centre of life, takes possession of matter and organises it, transforms chaos into a cosmos; and in this exercise of power it realises itself, even though its fundamental nature is regarded as transcending all change and variation. Spiritual work is formative and selective; it is the triumphant realisation of form; it is necessary that life in all its stages of development should be permeated by this formative spiritual activity. There are numerous independent centres of life, but the tendencies from each are towards the realisation of the whole, and find their perfection in it alone.

Thought, independent of the world, must extract from the medley of first impressions permanent forms, and unite these into a consistent representation of the whole; it finds the acme of its achievement in bringing this representation clearly to consciousness in a form that is complete and free from subjective addition. In conduct, an organisation and a unifying of the elements so as to produce a harmonious effect is the chief thing. From the chaotic 209 mass of individuals, the state by constitution and law forms a living work of art, a differentiated organism. For the individual the chief matter in conduct is to bring the diverse forces in the soul into the right relation of order and gradation, to reach the highest of all harmonies, the harmonious life.

All this involves particular estimates of value, a characteristic solution of the problems and a harmonising of the oppositions of our existence. It is a matter of general knowledge how this synthesis has elevated and ennobled life, and is still increasingly felt as an influence tending to further development and harmony. But it is equally well known how the progress of life has rebuffed the claim of this system of life to be the only valid one. We have become aware of contradictions which do not find sufficient acknowledgment in this system: a gulf deeper than it is able to transcend has made its appearance between man and his environment: in particular, the supremacy of form, which constitutes the basis of the system, has been shaken. Antiquity, at its highest development, had, without much consideration, given to form a living soul; its later course dissolved this union, the soul degenerated more and more into an inwardness of feeling, and gave up all claim, if not to the world, yet to its organisation and formation: form, deprived of soul, threatened to become superficial, and to change life into play and enjoyment. It was at this point that Christianity intervened with a powerful effect, but it has not, in the sense with which we are here concerned, produced an organised system of life.

Such a system was first produced in the Modern Age, and more particularly in the period of the Enlightenment. This system makes force the centre of life; to increase force without limit is the task of tasks. The elements of reality are centres of force; but these elements are not isolated, because force is called forth only by force, and the amount of life depends on the degree to which relations are developed. Since in this way one tends towards another, they become interweaved and joined, and the many are 210 united. For this system the world does not appear as a work of art which rests in itself, but as a process that ceaselessly increases in volume: the main achievement of spiritual work is, with complete consciousness and self-determining activity, to take possession of this process, which actually surrounds us; to change its infinite life as much as possible into our own life, and to co-operate to the best of our capacity for its advancement. Since here spiritual work never tolerates a state of inactive peace, never accepts the world as a rigid destiny, but is concerned to develop the world, to analyse the world as it first appears into its elements in order to reach the forces that move it, life acquires a more active relation to the environment than it does in the earlier, more contemplative system, and feels itself to be more in the workshop of reality.

The relation of knowledge and life is changed from its traditional character. Research cannot transform the world from the apparent calm and completeness of the immediate impression into movement and development, without analysing the representation offered into its ultimate elements; ascertaining their laws, and finally, with the help of the idea of unlimited time, reconstructing from the beginning the world, which it had first of all destroyed. With such destruction and reconstruction modern research brings the world much nearer to us, and gives us more power over it than does the earlier type. Corresponding to the understanding of reality from its evolution, man finds his own life in a progressive movement. Human society is regarded less as a well-arranged work of art than as a complex of forces, which come to full development and make sure progress only in their relation. The chief demand is for the greatest amount of freedom of movement; the greatest number of relations between individuals, and a ceaseless increase of the stream of life, that should take up into itself all that bear human features. The individual also must realise his existence as one of “becoming” and motion; he is not bound by a closed 211 standard of nature. Through the power of his spiritual nature he is able to assimilate ever new capacity, and to grow without limit: nothing gives more proud courage and joyous force to his life than this consciousness of an inner infinitude. A characteristic ideal of culture and education is formed: all individual departments of spiritual work are now regarded primarily as means to the increase of human power, and must assume a form corresponding to this. And so life everywhere becomes more active and more powerful: it finds its aim within itself, in its own elevation, and has therefore no need to seek it in something external; the whole existence of man becomes more his own work. As work comes more deeply into touch with the nature of things the development of power becomes at the same time a controlling of the world. It was not to be wondered at, therefore, when the modern man, with the development of this system of life, believed that for the first time he had left a childlike condition of constraint and limitation, and entered a state of freedom and maturity.

But the further development of life shows clearly enough that this system, which makes force and movement its leading principles, is not the final stage of human endeavour: the leading idea of our whole investigation is that human endeavour is more than this. We have seen that a system of mere force and movement gives no soul to work and does not lead life to self-consciousness and self-determination. A rushing stream seizes us and carries us along with it, but we reach no position independent of it; and so we cannot unify the multiplicity, nor gain a content from its immeasurable achievement; indeed, the increasing extension of life divides us more and more into single forces, and deprives us of a self that transcends the movement. At first this was not fully perceived, since the soul was implicitly assumed to be force and the extension of movement was regarded as a pure gain to the life of the soul. But the further development and the keener emphasis on the new state attained could not but clearly indicate the contradiction here involved; could 212 not but lead to a separation between soul and work, and force them into conflict. Hence there is a danger of work becoming mechanical, and of the life of the soul, which, with this separation, is thrown back entirely upon the subjective, being lost in indefiniteness.

These experiences of mechanical work and indefinite subjectivity give birth to a new situation, in which the problem of the soul, a problem which in the earlier systems remained in the background, is forced into prominence. The task of life is seen to be a more fundamental one; it is a matter not so much of altering a given reality in one way or another as of first discovering a genuine reality, of advancing beyond all mere activity to a being which exists within the activity.

It has become evident to us in many ways that from the recognition of this a characteristic form of life proceeds. The only question is whether the change is capable of bringing about a thorough organisation of life, whether it can produce independent centres of life and unite them into a community of life, and thus lead to the development of a system of life. We ourselves most resolutely maintain the view that this is really possible; that life is in process of forming itself into a new whole, and that with the clearer establishment of this, problems which have existed from early times receive full explanation, and a definite advance is made in their solution.

We saw that, in its highest stages of development, life concentrates at particular points, and that a characteristic sphere of life is in this way brought forth, as, for example, in spiritual individualities, national character, and so on. As soon as these developments are acknowledged to be spiritual and are sufficiently distinguished from simply natural existence, as soon as the manifestation of a new world is recognised in them, they become a great problem. Then they cannot be regarded as a mere product of a particular part of nature, but must be accepted as primarily a creation from the spiritual life as a whole, a creation which at the same time must maintain itself and transform 213 in its own activity that which it receives. The relation to the spiritual world as a whole is the fundamental relation of life, and yet the further development of life does not follow immediately from the relation to the whole, but from the relation to the innumerable other centres of life; the infinitude that the individual being acquires from the relation to the whole receives that which is particular in its organisation and its content only from the experience of the relation to others. The relation to others, however, is not produced by nature, but as spiritual, only from the spiritual world as a whole and must be continually sustained by the whole. The relations of individual to individual will therefore be included within the whole, and through the presence of the whole will be essentially advanced beyond the capacity of mere nature. The love that arises here is fundamentally different from all the love which arises from natural impulse; and, understood in this manner, notwithstanding all that may be doubtful in respect of its fulfilment in individual matters, there is much point in the demand of Augustine, that, in the relation of man to man, not man but God should be set in the first place, and that man is to be loved only through God.

However, it is not an increase of activity alone that is sought in the multiplicity of relations, but a growth of being—a being not beyond all activity, but existent within it. It is necessary not only that the life-process achieve more, but also that it grow in itself, change that which is alien to it into its own, and display more reality within itself; life must experience every single activity as the manifestation of the activity of the whole, and thus, along with unlimited extension, preserve self-consciousness.

The demand for a self-conscious life, the demand for an elevation of activity to the organisation and development of being, by no means excludes other forms of activity, if only for the reason that this demand presents a high ideal to which man can only very slowly approximate. But this ideal constitutes an aim and a standard for all 214 other activity; the giving of form and the increasing of force must aid in the development towards this aim if they are not to become devoid of real worth. The more necessary it is to insist upon an animation of reality through the development of self-conscious life, the more must we guard against the danger of anthropomorphism, which, when we are hasty and impatient, inevitably finds an entrance to and corrupts the whole of our thought and life. Only with much toil and with continual self-criticism can life be brought to the point where the transition to self-consciousness is possible; and even then the whole cannot, under human circumstances, be attained at one stroke; but at first life must endeavour to concentrate, to form a nucleus so that in this way it may acquire a firm basis, and from this take up a struggle for its further spiritualisation.

The same thing is to be seen in the differentiation and the gradation of life: everywhere a movement towards self-consciousness begins, but the emergence of this movement forces an antithesis into prominence, and life is completely transformed into work and conflict. Thought cannot be satisfied with representing the world as a work of art or as a process; thought must seek self-consciousness in the world. This it finds in the emergence of an independent spiritual life and in reality’s coming-to-itself; at the same time the difference between spirit and nature becomes more pronounced, and all the divergences in life increase. Men can find their highest unity neither in joining together so as to form a whole as a work of art, nor in a system of progressive increase of force. Neither alone could prevent society from becoming spiritually destitute, nor could both together. Society also needs a self-consciousness and acquires it only through the development of a spiritual content and spiritual character; but this must be won by continual struggle from the medley which constitutes the general condition of social life. Again, the individual does not attain a content for his life through an immediate combination of his powers so as to form a 215 harmonious whole, or through increasing them without limit; the individual also must by activity concentrate his life and so gain the basis of a new world: never is he in his life, as a whole, personality and spiritual individuality. True, there lies within him the potentiality to become such a spiritual individuality, and this potentiality may be transformed in his own activity; and the existence thus acquired can affect the rest of life, arousing and elevating it.

Thus the ideal is set completely in the distance; it is seen that we do not live our life from a given basis, but that, on the contrary, we have first to acquire the basis and to preserve it by continuous work; it is not a particular direction of life, but a genuine life itself and with this a spiritual being that is in question. We appear, therefore, more imperfect than ever before. But in this connection the imperfection itself is a witness that important tasks are set before us, and that superior forces rule in us. In the midst of all that is obscure it cannot fail to be recognised that there is a movement towards the development of a new self-conscious reality above the capacity and the interests of mere man. This movement has been manifested in great historical achievements, in the formation of fruitful systems of life which at the same time were developments of the life of the individual. It has brought forth ever new creations; now it sets before us the task of developing a new system of life which does complete justice to self-consciousness, and in accordance with its main idea must also transform all individual aspects and departments. Where we recognise so much to do, we are certainly far removed from opinion and pretence.




Whatever there is peculiar in our conception of the spiritual life must be manifested and proved in reference to the problem of truth and reality. In the first place our conception decidedly rejects the widely held view of truth as a correspondence of our thought with an external reality. For the attainment of independence by the inner life makes it impossible for something externally existing to be taken up into life without undergoing an essential change. It is also inconceivable from this point of view how something beyond us could in any way attract and arouse us. The problem of truth can do this only if it originates within our own life: it can become a compelling power only if the attainment of truth aids us to transcend a division within ourselves which has become intolerable. The representation of life, that we have given, makes it quite evident that such a division does spring up within us. Within our own life a certain activity begins, which becomes wider and wider, and which would signify our whole being. But this activity finds limits and contradiction within ourselves: much takes place in our experience independent of this activity and apparently without our co-operation; a certain condition of things exists, and asserts a rigid actuality; and, so far as this condition extends, we are bound; we bear something impenetrable within us. So long as these two sides of our being remain separated life is not complete and genuine: activity lacks a foundation, a content, and a direction that is sure of its 217 aim; and all the bustle of free movements, all effort of reflection cannot conceal the state of spiritual poverty. On the other hand, the fact that we bear so much within us that only half belongs to us and that presses upon us like a fate must cramp and oppress us. And so life does not experience itself as a unity; it lacks an inner truth, since activity presents itself as a whole and yet is not one. Life itself is therefore a problem. The problem must be felt to be the more serious the stronger the desire for a self-consciousness becomes. However, self-consciousness cannot possibly be reached without a transcendence of the division between activity and the given condition of things. Life has first to seek itself, its unity, its perfection; and it is just this that is the problem of truth: and in this problem life is turned not towards externals, but towards itself. We understand now how the desire for truth can exert such an enormous power, for, in this struggle for truth, we fight not for something alien, but for our own being.

This conception of truth determines also the nature of the effort to attain truth. The task cannot be to subordinate one side of life to the other, and to derive one side as far as possible from the other; that is, to transform the given condition of life as far as possible into free activity, or to adapt activity to the given condition in such a way that activity is merged into it; but the task is one of pressing forward to a transcendent active whole which unites the two sides, and develops them both; and in mutual relation gives to activity a content and to the given condition a soul. We have seen how a movement to attain such a unity runs through history and extends into the soul of the individual. That life is in general able to unify and raise itself is the presupposition of all striving after truth: the proof of this, however, is to be found in the actual furtherance of life, in the new contents which are thus obtained.

Such a way of regarding truth, that is, as an upward endeavour of life to its own unity, a unity not forced upon it but immanent, exhibits its unique nature especially 218 in its opposition to the intellectualistic conception of truth, which, notwithstanding that it has been rejected and attacked so often, still continues to assert a mighty power. According to the intellectualist, cognition should treat the problem and solve it of its own capacity; it seems that the synthesis that is sought must be found in the first place in the realm of thought, and thence imparted to the rest of life. As a fact, however, knowledge itself is affected with particular severity by the division of free activity and fixed given condition; and from its own capacity thought cannot attain to a state of full creative activity which alone is able to overcome the division, but for the attainment of this is referred to an advance of life as a whole which alone can reach an essentially new position. To be sure, cognition has particular fundamental logical principles which regulate all its work. But to regulate and to produce are two different things. The most scrupulous adherence to these principles does not lead beyond reflection to an inner relation to the object, to an inner transcendence, a penetration, and an appropriation of the object; it leaves us still in the position of simply attempting to know, in a state of mere reflection and search. All real knowledge involves a spiritual creation, an advance, and a self-formation of life as a whole. The chief epochs of culture have therefore given a distinctly unique character to the inner nature and the fundamental texture of knowledge; the character given to it by one epoch being entirely different from that given to it by another. Modern knowledge does not differ from earlier knowledge only in a quantitative way: as soon as its connection with the chief synthesis characteristic of modern life is revealed, it can no longer be regarded as absolute knowledge, but only as a particular kind of knowledge beyond which there are possibilities of further developments.

From life as a whole the conflict will extend into all its individual departments, and give to the activity in them a greater intensity. Religion, art, and human society 219 all have first to overcome the opposition of subjective power and alien given condition, and thereby to win a truth. In no case does truth mean a taking up of things which are presented to the activity of life—it means rather an advance of life to its own perfection.

In accordance with this conception of truth, that which claims to be true will not be able to prove its right otherwise than through its power, that is, through its capacity to embrace life as a whole and to raise it above opposition into the state of complete activity. Every such attempt must prove its power and its right in opposition to rivals by being able to wrest from them the truth contained by them, and in new relationships to lead beyond the state they reach, and to change life more into a self-consciousness than they are able.

Hence the endeavour after truth here shows more movement, more freedom, more multiplicity: different starting points and different ways may be chosen, and the correctness of the one need not involve the incorrectness of the other. The only indispensable thing is that the movement pass beyond the state of division and reflection to one of complete activity; only in that way can the content of life gain through the movement of life. And so we see the great significance of progress in work, in spiritual work; according as it succeeds, genuine life is distinguished from the mere will to live. To be sure, each piece of work that is here undertaken is a venture; it is far easier and far more secure to continue in the state of mere reflection and reasoning. But the latter does not lead us to an experience and a decision in a matter concerning the development of life, and therefore does not bring us a step further in this chief matter. Work with its failures is better than all subtle contemplation which leads to no activity; for failure can lead us beyond itself to truth, while feebleness and inactivity keep us in the old position.

In our conception of it truth is anything but a system of universal propositions out of which, by deduction, 220 all detail might be derived. Rather the organisation of life into an inner unity, upon which in this view of truth everything depends, will exclude all that is only general and turn towards the differentiation of the whole. The more life progresses in this direction the less is it a mere application of general principles; the less does it find its consummation after the manner of a conclusion from given premises; the more does it become a progressive activity, a new formation and an elevation.

In this conception, there is also room for a truth peculiar to the single individuals. As the comprehensive life-synthesis can permeate every individual detail of existence, so it is necessary for every individual life-centre to realise its own particular synthesis, and that every individual should fight for his inner unity and thus, also, for a truth of his own; he must, however, realise this unity and truth in every particular activity. A truth which is not my truth is, for me, not a complete truth. Only it is necessary that such individualisation be effected within the whole, not independent of it; it must result from the inner necessity of creative activity, not out of a vain wish to excel. In any case, it follows here that, as the immanent and universal form of truth requires more activity and power, it is also able to grant more free movement and multiplicity. Truth and freedom have been thought opposed to one another in the course of history; if the former seemed to require unconditional submission, the latter had a strong tendency to shake off every tie as an oppressive yoke. If we see that truth of life can be reached only through freedom, and also that freedom acquires a content and a spiritual character only through its relation to truth, the opposition by no means entirely disappears, but a basis is won upon which we may strive to attain an agreement and a fruitful interaction between the two.

So understood, the problem of truth has the closest connection with that of reality: with regard to the one as 221 to the other we are concerned in a conflict against the external conception common to a naïve state of life, which, though far surpassed by the inner movement of the work of history, obstinately asserts itself through the evidence of the senses in single individuals and hardly ceases to impress men with its apparent self-evidence. The naïve way of thinking understands reality as a space which encompasses men and things; reality seems to be presented, “given,” to man through the senses; only that which is exhibited to man in these sense-relations passes current as real. In this Ptolemaic form of life, dominated by sense impression, everything other than sense fades to a mere illusion, and this includes the spiritual life itself, although in it alone is reality known. Now, however, as science has with no mean power led beyond this Ptolemaic representation of nature, so the development of life has led beyond the Ptolemaic reality. Life could not emancipate itself from its attachment to the environment and develop an inwardness without effecting a revolution in this problem. The inward becomes the first and surest experience, with which all that is to pass current as real must show itself to be in consistent relation: everything external loses its proximity and becomes a problem; it can be established as real only through that which it achieves for the inner nature and in accordance with the standards of that nature. The power to convince possessed by sense impression is now based, not on its obviousness, but on the spiritual activity that it arouses. Here also, only the experiences of the spiritual life itself can lead to the experience of something less than spiritual.

As such a revolution brings clearly to consciousness the spiritual achievement in the formation of reality, so at the same time it gives the object more movement and transforms it in spiritual endeavour. Two things are necessary to the conception of reality: an independence of man, and a realisation of the many as a unity. Now, since that which lies wholly beyond experience must for that reason be inaccessible to us, this assertion of independence 222 can have no other meaning than that, within life itself, something becomes detached from the stream of consciousness and fixes and asserts itself as independent of it. The power thus to transcend the time-process is a characteristic mark of all spiritual activity; this activity evolves within us something in opposition to us, and in so doing accomplishes a marvellous expansion. This is most clearly seen within the sphere of thought. For all the functions peculiar to thought receive their differentiating characteristic only through such a detachment from the flow of sense-presentation and by establishing themselves as independent of it: the concept presents its content as something fixed in contrast to the stream of presentations; the judgment proclaims its connection of concepts to be something that does not pass away with the act of connecting them but persists in face of all the changes of the psychical life. Life accomplishes a gradation within itself and lifts itself above the mere stream of change. Only because life establishes within itself a fixed nucleus, and in this manner wins an independence of its own momentary condition, can it oppose a world to itself, and set itself the task of appropriating this world—that, further, that independent nucleus should remain no mere collection, but should be inwardly unified is again a requirement and an achievement of the spiritual life. How far that requirement will be fulfilled depends upon the nature and the degree of the development of the spiritual life.

Reality, therefore, is to be found chiefly in the self-consciousness of the spiritual life; from this self-consciousness we build up our reality. Since spiritual requirement is from this point of view the measure of human undertaking, our activity is judged by the degree to which the state of the world is changed in it and has thus become our reality. How far our capacity reaches in this matter cannot be decided by preliminary consideration, but only by the progress of life itself: in particular it is not permissible to assume things-in-themselves independent of us and thus to reduce our world to a realm of mere appearances. For, 223 so far as that independence reached, things could never enter our life, and never be inwardly appropriated; at most they could concern us only in their effects. As far as the conception of nature as a mechanism is concerned, which regards all occurrence as a texture of related individual points which exist, inaccessible, behind it, there is much to be said for the view that things are only known in their effects; but this view is an intolerable limitation—dogmatic in the highest degree—if it is meant to represent our fundamental relation to reality and to ourselves. For then we should be related to ourselves as to something alien; all the self-consciousness of life would be destroyed; there could be no development of being in contrast to single acts, but we must be completely resolved in the stream of appearances; there would be no advance in the striving after reality. As a matter of fact, we are concerned primarily with the content that life is able to give to itself; how far it presses forward to reality. Our world is to be measured more especially by the degree in which life becomes deepened. But from the beginning man, so far as he shares in the spiritual life, is not a being adjacent to reality, but within it. He would never be able to attain to a reality if he did not bear it within himself and needed only to develop it. Thus ultimately he does not look inwards from outside, but outwards from within; and his limitation is not the chief thing, but the secondary.

The inner structure of our life corresponds with this conviction. It is characteristic of all spiritual life that it does not pass hither and thither between individual points, but includes and develops a multiplicity within a transcendent unity; by this the spiritual life grows within itself, and more and more acquires a self-consciousness. And it is just in this way that it evolves to a reality. Reality, therefore, here is not a fixed and completed magnitude, but is of different degrees. In the first place there is a difference in the energy which maintains a union of the manifold and a transcendence of the division: according to the nature of this energy the self appears, 224 sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker; its power of changing, at one time greater, at another smaller. Again, the force of the resistance that the given condition to be appropriated offers, differs according to the amount of its positive power; and the clash of the given condition and free activity will be harder or more gentle according to this power. One man finds intolerable contradictions where to another all is plain and smooth; one believes that things are transformed in their own being where another holds that only their surface is affected: and so, that which one regards as reality may seem to another only a realm of shadows.

Mere energy, however, is too subjective to be able to obtain a genuine reality from life: for that, a transformation of life in work, an elevation to full activity, is necessary; but the preceding paragraph has shown that this transformation and elevation is of different kinds and of different degrees. The system of the formation of being promises to give to life the most fundamental organisation and the most forceful reality. For into the single elements embraced by the movement of life it is able to breathe a life of their own, to confer upon them an incomparably greater independence than in those systems in which they are regarded as lifeless objects which are acted upon, and which only set isolated forces in motion. When within a comprehensive life different centres of life meet, and in their interaction the activity of the whole wins an ever richer content and a more stable nature, genuine reality must increasingly unfold itself.

Looked at from this position, reality is not a fact but a problem and an ideal; it does not lie at the beginning but at the end of the course: it is different with different individuals, peoples, and times; each in its particular nature and work has its own reality. Thus we cannot comprehend the problem of reality from experience without conceiving reality as existing in flux: the assertion of an independent spiritual life, transcendent over all human undertaking, is a sufficient safeguard against a destructive 225 relativism. It is one of the most troublesome appearances in the conflicts of minds that they fail to recognise the many-sidedness and fluidity of our conceptions of reality; that each takes his conception as the self-evident one and urges it upon the others. In this way originate the many unfruitful disputes concerning this world and the next, immanence and transcendence, in which the most external and superficial conception is usually presented as self-evident; while yet, according to the fundamental relation and the chief basis of life, very different conceptions arise, and as a fact, systems of thought nowhere come into more severe conflict than with regard to their conceptions of reality. Only to a mode of thought which, without further consideration, accepts the world of sense as the genuine and only reality, can philosophy and religion, for example, appear to be occupied with things implying an “other” world, and which, therefore, are incomprehensible. On the contrary, Augustine thought to attain to genuine reality and at the same time a true life only by elevation to a realm above sense, so that to him the world of sense was secondary and derivative.

To-day we are again deeply concerned with the problem of reality. Notwithstanding all the passionate agitation of forces in the incalculable extension of and the breathless haste in work, a genuine reality fails us; our life lacks the proper character of being real; and so, in the midst of all the external results of our work, our life, spiritually discerned, threatens to become destitute and unreal. An eager desire for reality exists in our time; it is often thought possible to satisfy it by the closest possible connection with sense impression and impulse, and by expelling as far as possible all elements of thought. But thought is there, and cannot be expelled; with its power to analyse, it steps continually between us and things, takes away from them the proximity they have for us, and dissolves them into mere pictures and shadows. As a fact, the problem of reality lies primarily within the spiritual life; and it cannot be solved otherwise than in that the spiritual life 226 advances within itself from division to unity, from the movement of forces to self-determining activity, from all mere activity to a formation of being. If thus our life becomes transformed into a self-preservation, if in it we unfold and assert a spiritual being, we become certain of a reality and feel a satisfaction. Never, however, can reality come to us from without.


Through our whole investigation we have expressed the conviction that man acquires a secure relation to the world only through his belonging to a spiritual life acknowledged as independent; otherwise, all entrance to the world is shut off. The growing independence of the inner life has broken down the immediate connection which dominates the naïve way of thinking: if, however, man once finds himself set in a position of independence of the world, he can hardly draw it back to himself simply of his own capacity. All appeal to subtlety and reflection seems only to widen the gulf still more. Only the acknowledgment of an independent spiritual life offers a way out of such a desperate situation: if in the spiritual life the world attains to a self-consciousness, and if, on the other hand, the spiritual life is present and active within man, there is a possibility that man and the world are united; and that, at the same time, human life also becomes cosmic. But it is a question how far the possibility comes to be realised; how far the union that exists in the innermost basis can be developed and transformed within us in the work of life. Only the actual experience of life can answer this question. We must ascertain whether there are any particular developments of life which are not productions of the human, but which manifest the operation of a transcendent world; and, further, whether these developments are able to find a more detailed formation in their contact 227 with the world around us, and to adapt themselves to the multiplicity of this world. Such a turning to the individual thing would be impossible if a complete life-form ruled within us and impressed itself on things only from the outside. For in this case this form must inevitably be uniformly effective in its whole extent; in appropriating the multiplicity it could not itself advance to greater concreteness. If such an advance is effected, there is a contact within life between the one and the other; and so the world acquires an inner connection with our activity, and the spiritual movement can take possession of the breadth of our life and with its differentiation gain a greater intuitiveness.

An immediate union of man and world is indeed opposed to the fact that the spiritual life which should unite them always exists, for us, in its particular form in human existence and that this form cannot be projected beyond man into the whole. The form of human existence constitutes an insuperable boundary; if it governed our life as a whole, then man could never overstep his narrow, particular sphere. But it is a conviction that is fundamental to our investigation that our whole life does not come under this form, but that there are tendencies in life which are operative beyond this form of existence, and attain to an independence of it. So far as these life-tendencies may be detached and developed, man may confidently take up the problem of the world, and feel related to the world around him; he can try to transform its life into his own. The particularity of his manner of presentation and perception then simply sets the limitation, that that which may be admitted to be certain and true in its fundamental content can be presented only through the medium of human peculiarity; the more detailed amplification of the representation is always only of a symbolic character. We see from this fact that there is a contradiction ever present within our life that prevents it from ever gaining an ultimate conclusion; however, it does not take from us the possibility of an inner union and a community with the whole. 228 Indeed, the contradiction itself, and the powerful movement that it calls forth, are to the train of thought here indicated a witness to a fundamental expansion of our life.

An attempt to unite our life with the whole appears in the first place in thought, in its work of obtaining knowledge. This emergence of thought involves a transformation of life that could never be occasioned by mere man, but can be understood only as the revelation of a new stage of universal life. In thought, the intellect, otherwise bound to the mechanism of the sequence of presentations, attains an independence. It places itself in a position independent of the world, and seeks to comprehend it as a whole, to appropriate it as a whole. The primary connection with things is dissolved, to become established anew upon a higher level and with an important transformation of its nature; through the deviation a real appropriation is achieved. All this is incomparably more than a merely becoming conscious of a given world, which is an experience that could arise in some way at isolated points; thought contains a development of the world which ultimately can proceed only from the power of the world itself. How can the individual matter be elucidated if the whole remain obscure? How can the desire for enlightenment obtain such a power over man, and assert itself in him in opposition to the interests of his physical self-preservation, if a universal movement were not operative in him? Man does not elucidate the world, but the world elucidates itself within him. What is thus reached is valid not for him alone, but universally; the development of this universal movement of thought enables him to win a closer relation to the world, a life embracing the world.

Our thought cannot advance in the definite work of building up science without producing and employing a definite logical structure with fixed principles: these principles are immanent in the work of thought; they are above all the caprice and all the differences of the individuals. This logical structure cannot be carried over and applied to the world around us, as all scientific research carries it 229 over and applies it, without implicitly presupposing an objective logic of things, a conceivability of experience: in this, man does not simply project externally and apply mechanically forms already existing in a complete and final state within him. For the multiplicity of things not only gives to those principles a particular form, in the production of which they must themselves participate, but through the relation to the world the fundamental forms are also further developed in their nature as a whole; it is only with the co-operation of both sides that the thought-structure achieves what is ultimately reached. The chief thing is that thought actually transcends the state of contemplative reflection, and advances to fully active work; that out of the movement of our thought proceed further developments, which extend to the object also; that, moreover, we come under the compulsion of inner necessities, and, possessing the highest freedom, are raised securely above all caprice. This creative thought in us, which is at the same time our own thought, constitutes a witness to a meeting of our thought with a thought that has its basis in things and in the whole. Inability to imagine such a thought should never lead to the denial of an absolute logic, with which all scientific research stands or falls. The disclosure of this relation, however, gives to our thought, in the midst of all doubt, a firm foundation, a joyful certainty, an infinite task.

Artistic creation and appreciation brings another characteristic unfolding of life; and this also demonstrates an inner relation of man to the world, and can be developed only when this relation is acknowledged. In the first place, for this creation and appreciation a deliverance of life from the turmoil of ends and interests, which at first sway our existence, is essential; artistic creation and appreciation involves a resting and a tarrying in itself. If the world were no more than this turmoil, if it did not in some way attain to self-consciousness, how could such a deliverance be brought about? If a self-conscious life were not present in man, how could a longing for an artistic 230 moulding of life arise in him? But an arousing of an inner life in things, the revelation of a soul, is accomplished not through imparting something from without, but through a meeting together of things and human endeavour. On the other hand, the spiritual expresses itself in a visible form and in doing so moulds itself. The chief thing in this connection is not mere beauty, a preparation for idle enjoyment, but a truth, a revelation of contents, a further development of life through and above the antithesis. How could something invisible and something visible, to express the matter briefly, find a common ground and combine together in a common action if nature were not more than the mere web of relations into which the mechanistic conception of it transforms it; if spiritual life were not more than the subjective form of life that it is supposed to be, according to general opinion; if from that form of life an inner life did not arise, and beyond all subjectivity attain to a full activity, and thus to the building up of a reality within its own province? That we do not simply become aware of a movement within ourselves, and then read it into nature, but only take up and lead to its own truth that which strives upward in nature, is again testified by the inner advance of this striving through its contact with the world, and by the infinite abundance of particular contents which are revealed to us in the world and which continually aid in our development. Again, our life experiences the most important elevation in that it takes up and carries further a movement of the whole, and is liberated from the narrowness of the particular sphere, without merging into a vague infinity. To realise clearly that we belong to the world, and energetically to amplify this relation, is of the greatest significance for artistic creation and appreciation. For it is only by becoming firmly established in these relations that artistic endeavour is able to resist the tendency to degenerate into play and pleasure—a tendency which threatens it with inner destruction; as in a similar manner the work of thought must guard itself from degenerating into mere 231 reflection. In the realms of thought and art there remains much that is alien, ever surmise and symbol; but even symbol is not to be disdained, if it serves an important truth.

A universal character is shown most clearly by the movements that co-operate towards the ethical moulding of life. Without freedom there is no such moulding; but we saw above that freedom requires a world of spontaneous life and its presence within man. However, when freedom is thought of in these relations, it is elevated above the usual conception of it and also above the usual criticism. All moral life is pretence and delusion without the arousing and fundamental idea of duty. But where is the truth more clearly expressed than in duty, that what man does by no means concerns himself alone; and that nothing can constrain him but what he acknowledges as his own will, his own being? As duty is concerned ultimately not with something isolated but with a whole, not with a performance within the old order but with the creation of a new order, so in the moral life a whole new world appears to be taken up into man’s own will and being. Duty exhibits the new world particularly in relation and in opposition to the old; the new world appears in itself to be pre-eminently a kingdom of love. Love is primarily not a subjective emotion, but an expansion and a deepening of life, through life setting itself in the other, taking the other up into itself; and in this movement life itself becomes greater, more comprehensive and noble. Love is not a mere relation of given individuals, but a development and a growing in communion, an elevation and an animation of the original condition. And this movement of love has no limits; it has all infinity for its development; it extends beyond the relation to persons to the relation to things; for things also reveal their innermost being only to a disposition of love. Again, the striving after truth in science and art cannot succeed without love and an animation that proceeds from it, without inwardly becoming one with the object. How could this unity and activity in the whole be possible, 232 how could it even become an object of desire, if the whole itself did not strive? And how could such a wealth of cultures proceed out of this movement if that which was striven towards at one time was not taken up and carried further by other times; how could the single movements tend together without the unifying and elevating power of a universal life? As a phenomenon to the individual, the movement involves a definite contradiction: wherever it has been further and more freely developed it has been directed to a kingdom of love; and this has necessarily been thought of as the soul of reality, and a severe conflict has been taken up against the world of self-assertion. Thus in the realm of morality also we find ourselves in world-movements, we create out of the whole, work towards the whole, and are borne on the flood of infinite life.

Accordingly, life-developments of various and related kinds arise: with their manifold experiences they strive to attain to a harmony and a union with one another. They can seek these only on the basis of a self-consciousness of reality; find them only through their unification in a universal life, to which each individual tendency leads. Representations of the whole are attempted at the highest points of creative activity by philosophy, religion, and art; these representations accompany, indeed govern, the work in these spheres of life through history. But the limitations of our capacity, through which we are unable to give a suitable form to necessary contents, and through which we attribute and must attribute human traits to that which should lead us beyond the human, are of particular force in this matter of forming a representation of the whole; and, indeed, this is the more so the further we remove ourselves from that which may be immediately transformed in work. These representations of the whole are, therefore, inadequate; their content of truth is clothed in a wrapping of myth, and humanity lies under the danger of taking the myth for the chief thing and thus of obscuring the truth, and this must produce an incalculable amount of error and strife. Still, it is impossible to give up all claim to these 233 representations of the whole; for they alone make the fact of our belonging to the whole and of the presence of the whole in our life quite clear and enable it to exert a far-reaching influence. Only with their help can the degeneration of life to the intolerable insignificance of the narrowly human be resisted; only with their help can a movement from whole to whole begin.

Thus it is a matter not so much of abandoning these representations of the whole as of referring them continually to their essence; to those unfoldings of life which are experienced by us; to test them by these and to renew them from these. It was the error of the earlier position—much too indulgent to Intellectualism-that it did not sufficiently maintain the relation with these living sources, and so fell into the danger of having no definite tendency, or even of failing to recognise the relativity of the myth. If a more energetic direction of life upon its own content and experiences teaches us to preserve these connections better and to develop them more forcefully, a new type of representation of the whole is yielded in contrast to the old, and far more different from it than may appear at the first glance. We may hope that with its development the truth will be seen more clearly through the myth, and that the striving, which we cannot give up, to win a universal life may not lead us astray into a world of dreams.


The question as to in which direction the spiritual life moves in man is implied through our whole investigation, and in it receives an answer. Nevertheless, it requires to be definitely stated and treated by itself, so that the distinctive character of the movement and its influence in the moulding of life may be fully acknowledged. It has become clearly evident to us that an independent 234 and, therefore, genuine spiritual life cannot arise out of life in its usual condition, but only in opposition to this condition. For, however little this condition of life may lack spiritual elements, they are mixed and bound up with other elements far too much to be able to bind themselves immediately into a whole, and to display an independent power. That the spiritual life must and can gain a basis independent of this condition of life is the indispensable, fundamental idea of Idealism. But such attainment of independence of the usual condition would help little if the spiritual life which is based upon itself had not a particular nature of its own, and if from this it did not oppose everything alien and partly alien to itself. The doctrines of innate ideas, of an a priori, and so on, which have occupied humanity for thousands of years did not intend anything different from this. The details of the conception of these were indeed often open to criticism: it was sought to exhibit individual conceptions and propositions as existing complete at the beginning, where rather movements or tendencies are in question, which can find their realisation only within the work of life. Again, the a priori was limited to the intellectual sphere, whereas it is indispensable to all spiritual activity; for example, how can morality, rising above merely natural preservation and rejecting all mere utility, as it does, be conceived without such an a priori? To deny to spiritual life an original nature and power—an a priori in this more comprehensive sense—means nothing else than to eliminate that life as an independent factor, and to reduce it to the position of a secondary product. For without an original nature the spiritual life would be like soft wax that may be shaped in one form or another to suit our own pleasure: then the spiritual life could not possibly follow its own aims, could not possibly attain to an independence in the inner life, in which we recognised the characteristic nature of the inner life. As certain as it is that there is a spiritual life at all, so certainly does it bring certain fundamental tendencies and movements with it; 235 as surely as it develops in particular directions—and that it does this we have seen—so surely is this a priori also differentiated. To trace this fundamental state of spiritual activity in all its relations and multiplicity is an especially important task of philosophic research.

The revelation of such an original fundamental activity of the spirit must induce us to undertake to form our whole world from this activity, and to produce from it or to transform into it that which exists over against activity as an independent realm of experience. This has been attempted for thousands of years with the summoning of an enormous amount of spiritual power and the arousing of a proud self-consciousness. But failure was inevitable because it was not recognised that the development of the spiritual life in man is conditioned. However certain it may be that original spiritual movements must be active within us, they are not so with organised content and overwhelming power from the beginning, but they acquire content and power only through the process of life itself, only in grappling with the oppositions of experience and in the appropriation of the tasks and stimuli which experience brings to them. The incompleteness and the mutability of what was accepted earlier as a fixed and unchangeable racial possession of the spiritual life is to-day quite clearly perceived. What great changes morality, for example, has undergone in the course of the ages; how toilsomely has much been won which later ages have considered self-evident! To be sure, morality remains, even through all such changes, an original spiritual phenomenon, which can never be derived from an external source, but which could emerge and establish itself only as an inner necessity of the spiritual life in opposition to the realm of mere utility. But the actuality of this original phenomenon gives rise to a difficult problem, for the solution of which a closer contact with the environment, a fundamental arrangement with experience, is necessary. And so the problem is traced to a more ultimate source, and, though this makes the matter less 236 simple, it gives a higher significance to our work and to the movement of history.

Even the fundamental forms of thought which are often accepted as of everything the most fixed share in this gradual amplification. Man, so far as he participates in spiritual impulse, thinks, of course, in conceptions; he gives to appearances fixed points of support by the establishing of things, and relates events causally. But all this is full of problems and is comprehended only in its upward endeavour; it raises more problems than it solves; and around the solution of these the whole work of science moves. What different things the “idea” meant to Plato and to Kant, and to ancient and to modern thought generally: how every thinker of moment has given a particular conception of substance and of causality; how whole epochs have exhibited their particular nature in the treatment of these problems!

For the sake of its own perfection, therefore, the spiritual life must continually turn back to the realm of experience, from which, at first, it tore itself free. Attempts to evolve the whole life from that a priori have always given as a result something of a bloodless nature, abstract in the highest degree, a mere web of formulæ, in so far as experience, which had been relegated to the background, has not indirectly asserted its right again, and infused the formulæ with life. Accordingly, our life does not spend itself in one direction, but bears within it the counter-tendencies of a tearing oneself free from the world of sense and a returning back to it, of a detachment from it and an appropriation of it to oneself. But, in this, independent life and bound life do not become combined; how could that be the case without the loss of all inner unity? A basis is necessary; and it is furnished only by self-determining activity. Experience acquires a spiritual content and value only so far as it is based upon this activity, and is taken up into a spiritual movement. Experience does not share something with the spiritual life, but, through stimulation and opposition, it forces 237 that life to further development within itself. The state in which the world of sense is first found undergoes an inner elevation in that appropriation: sense presentation, for example, is to scientific work something quite different from what it is to naïve perception; even if it obstinately withstands a complete resolution into magnitudes of pure thought, it takes up more and more thought elements; it enters into conceptual relations; it answers questions which the work of thought sets. To the whole sphere of sense science gives the background of a world of thought, and transforms mere sense into a spatially bound spirituality.

The same thing is valid with regard to the things of value in life; in these, also, sense and spirit are not simply combined; but something of sense becomes a spiritual good only so far as it serves the spiritual life in some way; it cannot do this, however, without itself undergoing a transformation. This is to be seen nowhere more clearly than in economics. Money and estate had at all times a value for self-preservation and enjoyment, but in the doctrine of economics and political economy they could obtain acknowledgment only after a power to advance the spiritual life had been recognised in them. As culture in the ancient world had not yet reached this point of view, it branded all endeavour after material wealth as inferior, and as far as possible checked such endeavour. Only since the Modern Age has recognised in money and estate an indispensable means of gaining control over the surrounding world and of increasing human power have they secured a place within the spiritual life, and as a result of this have become more highly estimated. At the same time, however, they have been changed inwardly in the process, since that which they achieve, not towards ostentatious display and enjoyment, but towards the increase of human power over things has become the chief matter.

As in this way the content and the value of that which is offered by the world of sense shows its dependence upon 238 the condition of the spiritual life, so in science also a similar relation between experience and the spiritual life is found. Science appeals to experience with particular zeal, more especially after it has first accomplished far-reaching changes in its own thought constructions; only then does experience give anything new to knowledge and exhibit a greater depth. Experience can answer only in the measure in which it is questioned; the question, however, varies according to the stage of development of the spiritual life.

Such a view fully appreciates the significance of life-work, and must strive energetically to gain its acknowledgment. This work is not a carrying out of a complete scheme in a given condition of things, an application of firmly rooted principles to particular cases, but a self-realisation and self-perfecting of the spiritual life which builds up a self-conscious reality. In this our life is not divided between two different realms, but, in a comprehensive spiritual world, different stages of reality meet together, which must be brought into relation and developed. To be sure, the world of sense retains a certain independence; it resists a complete transformation into spiritual magnitudes, and our life, therefore, retains a certain restriction and impenetrability. But the self-consciousness of the spirit becomes more and more the chief basis and sphere of life: this self-consciousness continually takes up more into itself; it makes the world that was to us at first primary, indeed the only world, more and more secondary and subordinate.

This increasing spiritualisation of human life never becomes a sure possession that calls for no toil; ever anew it demands our attention and activity; it has continually to be won anew as a whole. As soon as the tension slackens, the world of experience with its appeal to sense preponderates, and it soon appears to be man’s sole world, one which cannot tolerate anything beyond itself. For the spiritualisation of human life, a longing rooted in the whole being is primarily necessary; for with the keen feeling 239 of the vanity of the world of sense experience, this leads to the removal of the centre of life into the invisible world of self-determining activity. Further, a clear presentation of this invisible world is needed; and in this the help of the visible is not to be dispensed with. For its own establishment the realm of the invisible must borrow means of expression from the visible, which now governs human presentation; must transform and refine them for its aims; prepare out of them an impressive presentation of the whole. Along with the energy of turning to the spiritual life a creative imagination is required, through which the invisible may become equal to holding its own against the visible.

The help of such imagination is indispensable for religion, in order that the supernatural world advocated by it may gain an effective presence in the province of humanity. And so with bold upward flights of imagination the heroes of religion have projected a new condition of reality as a whole, a kingdom of justice or of love, and have judged human existence by the standard of this new condition. Similarly, philosophy did not become an independent world of thought without the help of imagination; and of how indispensable it is to art we need not speak at all. Again, work in political, social, educational matters, at least as far as radical renewals are concerned, has really been taken up and carried on, and has won a triumphant power, only where the state striven for has been presented as something visible and clearly present; this alone has united the multiplicity, and has led with compelling force beyond the extant situation as though that were something intolerable. Humanity as a whole must be present in an ideal condition to our minds for us to be aroused sufficiently from our indolence.

Our life, therefore, contains movements which tend in opposite directions: there are a pressing forward and a turning backward, a detachment from experience and a taking up again of experience; and so we may well speak of an action and reaction within its movement. 240 But the antitheses that arise aid in advancement only so long as they are encompassed by a whole of activity. In that the course of history increases far more than it diminishes the antitheses, the dangers grow more and more, the possibilities and the tasks of human existence, however, also grow.


The conception of the spiritual life here developed gives rise to a particular type of life which can bring about a transformation and elevation of man from two main positions: the union of man with the spiritual life is much closer, and the spiritual life in itself is incomparably more, than is represented by the customary conception of that life. For in our conception man does not merely enter into some kind of relation with the spiritual life, but finds his own being in it, and becomes so completely united with it that it is able to determine him immediately as his own self. The spiritual life is not a particular function among others, not a part or an aspect of a more comprehensive world, but is itself a world, and, indeed, a world in which life first attains to self-consciousness and becomes a complete reality. If this world becomes the immediate possession of man himself, his life must experience a deep-reaching change, indeed a revolution of its usual condition: to trace the main tendencies of this revolution is our immediate task.

(1) Life’s Attainment of Greatness

The placing of man in the spiritual life, becoming aware of its own independence, must make the forms of this life his own, and in this way bring about a reversal of the commonplace of every day. Life is transposed from 241 the narrowness of its merely particular nature to infinity; what was hitherto alien and hostile to man is changed into his own possession, and is able to arouse an animating and elevating love. At the same time a deliverance from subjectivity and its web of interests and ideas is effected, to the advantage of a life-process that takes up the object into itself, and thus advances to independence and sovereign creation; a life is attained that is not spent in movement to and fro between antitheses, but unfolds a content through them. As this life attains to complete independence only because it produces a universal activity in contrast to individual activities, so participation in this life must lead man beyond division to a comprehensive unity. It is this that is sought in the idea of personality—an idea which is often quite obscure and superficial, but which can in this context be elucidated, manifest its complete significance, and prove its power of development.

As the spiritual life is a self-consciousness, so man also wins from it a life that is not exhausted by activity directed upon anything external to this life, and that does not expect its content from outside like an empty vessel, but would be itself and realise the possibilities lying within itself. So far as such a life extends man does not stand on the border of things but in the centre, in the formation and creation of the whole; he experiences the world not as something external but from within. The question of the limits of this life is no longer primary but secondary, and the answer to this question is to be expected from the experience of life, not from preliminary reflections. Since, in this, life has a content in itself and develops this content through its movement, it distinctly grows above all the play of forces with which it is often confused; if such a play of forces suffices for a lower stage it cannot suffice for further development. For the feeling of joyous excitement which accompanies the exertion of power is not sufficient in opposition to the serious perplexities that accompany all spiritual work; indeed, not even against the cares and needs that are involved in the mere 242 preservation of existence in an advancing culture. Life then easily comes to be regarded as full of trouble and of work, and becomes a burden from which one wishes to be delivered. Life is not from the beginning a good, but it must prove itself to be such by its more detailed development. In the spiritual life this comes to pass, since it produces a reality out of itself; it does not become valuable first in its relation to the external world, but it carries a value in itself, as is clearly shown by the joy that permeates all experience of the true, the good, and the beautiful. This joy must be further increased if all the multiplicity of this experience is regarded as the unfolding of a comprehensive and persistent fundamental life.

A life of this kind is no indefinite impulse; it cannot become an independent reality without penetrating into every aspect and making the ordinary state of things everywhere inadequate, indeed intolerable. Since the independent spirituality and spiritual character that is acquired, and that which the particular thing and activity signifies in the spiritual life as a whole, everywhere constitutes the most important question, the problem of truth will be raised at each point; and in this way a sharp division will be made between the genuine and the spurious; everything that strives within us in the direction of the spirit will unite and acquire a more stable basis; everything that would satisfy man in other ways will be seen to be empty and vain. Life now acquires a deeper reality, but this must first be reached and brought to complete effect. New forms, in contrast to the ordinary representations, must also make their appearance if life is to be equal to the task of developing content and character.

Life in the individual must have roots deeper than the immediate psychical life; for psychical life cannot itself produce and make clear that which occurs in it, for this reason at least, that it involves the antithesis of individual and environment, of subject and object, beyond which spiritual creation results. The spiritual impulse that the immediate life of the soul manifests can be based only 243 upon deeper realities and more comprehensive relations. And so a noölogical treatment is to be distinguished from the psychological, not in order to displace or limit the latter, but rather to complete it; and it is a problem to show the point of transition in the immediate life of the soul. The significance of the individual life, as far as content is concerned, will depend upon whether an independent spirituality arises within it, and constitutes it a distinctive life-centre. According to the new standards a free spiritual activity does not suffice, however extended it may be, and however sustained by subjective emotion. For all such activity may be without spiritual substance, and in spite of all external results the life that is nothing but this activity may remain spiritually destitute: how shallow many individuals are whose achievements deserve and obtain the highest appreciation! The inwardness that the spiritual life requires is not simply a reflex of work in the soul—from that little is gained—but the forming of a characteristic spiritual self-consciousness that lifts us above all mere achievement, and also by giving to activity a soul first makes it complete.

We have often seen how the acknowledgment of an independent spiritual life forces us to make a sharper distinction between human history and human society and all merely natural history and merely natural co-existence of men. At the same time, in that which is called history and society, a distinction between an esoteric and an exoteric kind is also required. The value of individual epochs and of history as a whole depends upon the spiritual substance that grows up in them; everything else, to whatever extent it may, with commotion and external result, assume the air of being the chief thing, is only environment or supplement. Similarly, in the case of society, the spiritual content, if it has one at all, and human fortune and conduct must become more distinctly separated. There is far less genuine history and society than is usually assumed; but this little signifies incomparably more than both would imply without the spiritual life.


Similarly, with the acknowledgment of an independent spiritual life in us, a new light is shed upon the individual departments of life, and new tasks are set them. They have now, primarily, not to further human well-being, to be of service in the attainment of narrowly human aims, but they are characteristic unfoldings of the spiritual life. The particular nature of these departments has its basis in that life, and they must prove their capacity by advancing it. They are concerned with man only so far as he participates in the spiritual life; and so they will not so much strengthen him in his human nature as elevate him spiritually, and remould him more and more to the form of the spiritual life. A deliverance from the confusion of that which is narrowly human with the spiritual is also necessary, and, along with this, life as a whole must be more energetically based upon the spiritual life, and the spiritual life itself must be given a more distinct form. From the position of this life, that which has been handed down to us must be evaluated and new paths must be opened up for the future. Religion could obtain no content, and all change in it would be only an advance from a more crude to a more refined anthropomorphism, if it were based solely upon human needs and aided man to attain a supposed happiness. Religion rises above such a condition of doubt only if it exhibits its roots in an independent spiritual life and is able to show its actuality and its power by aiding the development of the spiritual life. At its highest religion has always been concerned with winning a new world and a new humanity, not with the achievement of something within the old world and for the old humanity. And as we need a religion of the spiritual life, we also need a morality, an art, and, finally, an all-comprehensive spiritual culture, through which something really new may be produced and man be elevated in this being, and not simply circle round and round continually in the old paths. Everywhere the matter is one of advance and revelation; from this point of view the complexes of every day must also 245 be seen in a new light, and in what is apparently simple and self-evident great achievements and tasks become manifest. We now, for the first time and in another sense, win again that which we thought we already possessed; indeed, by the revolution to the spiritual life, life as a whole is transformed into a task. Every individual has such a life-embracing task in the cultivation of a genuine personality and a spiritual individuality. Humanity as a whole has such a task in the building up of a kingdom of reason within its domain, in the furtherance of the movement which comes to it from the whole and summons it to co-operation.

Human life by participation in the spiritual life finds its basis in the inward and spontaneous, in the infinite and eternal. The development and the experiences of the spiritual life and its conflict with a world, which is only being won, are here the chief content of human life and unite individuals inwardly; the destinies of individuals receive their particular nature from such a common life. As this life of independent spirituality is possible only by detachment from the chaotic condition of life as we find it at its general level, the development of the spiritual life must make us clearly conscious of the spiritual destitution of the majority; and especially must it oppose the attempt on the part of such a life as that of the majority to present itself as the whole, and to make itself the standard of human endeavour. In such an attempt the trivially human inevitably preponderates, and this now, at its highest points, invests itself with ostentatious pomp and a feeling of power; now, almost as a whole, relies on the reason of the masses, which loudly and noisily proclaims that those things which according to human opinion are valuable are of all things the highest; confidently makes its judgment and its task the standard of truth; and, with arrogant presumption, demands a reverence towards itself that is due solely to the spiritual world. From of old there have been many indictments of this, but as long as a new life, based in the spiritual world in contrast with merely human 246 life, was not attained to, these indictments did not lead to a deliverance. Under the guidance of religion humanity has evolved such a life and for thousands of years has found support in it. However, humanity has lost this life and this support, in its old form, and the loss was inevitable. If humanity will strive after a new form and at the same time transcend mere appearance, it can attain to this only on the basis of the spiritual life, that is acknowledged to be independent. Only on this basis can it enter into the conflict on the side of gods against idols, for truth against appearance and emptiness.

The new life cannot develop without elevating the individual in his spiritual nature above all environment. For, as surely as the construction of a spiritual reality within humanity needs a union of all powers, there is a spontaneous springing up of the independent spiritual life only within the soul of the individual. All social and all historical life that does not unceasingly draw from this source falls irrecoverably into a state of stagnation and desolation. The individual can never be reduced to the position of a mere member of society; of a church, of a state; notwithstanding all external subordination he must assert an inner superiority; each spiritual individual is more than the whole external world. But as the individual does not derive this superiority from himself, not from a natural particularity and peculiarity in distinction from others, but only from the presence of a spiritual world, so he is securely guarded from all vain self-assurance and the arrogance of the idea of the Superman, which grotesquely distorts the great fact of the revelation of a universal life at individual points.

The desire for the presence of the infinite at the individual point may be characterised as an approximation to mysticism. Indeed, we need both a metaphysic and a mysticism; but we want both in a new form, not in the old. It seems to us preposterous to declare that necessary demands of the spiritual life are finally disposed of, because the older solution has become inadequate. If man does 247 not in some way succeed in appropriating the spiritual life, if it is not actively present as a whole within him and animating him, then his relation to the spiritual life remains for ever an external one; and this life cannot acquire a complete spontaneity in him, can never become a genuine life of his own. But the older mysticism was the offspring of a worn-out age, which primarily reflected upon quietness and peace, and was under the influence of a philosophy that sought the truth in striving towards the most comprehensive universal, and saw in all particularity a defect (omnis determinatio negatio). And so, to be completely merged in the formless infinite could be regarded as the culmination of life. As the spiritual life is to us, on the contrary, an increasing activity and creation, a world of self-determining activity, so its being called to life at individual points is a rousing of life to its highest energy; in this also, a continual appropriation is necessary. Further, the movement of the spiritual life does not appear to us as an advance from particular to universal, but as one from differentiation to the living whole; from the indefiniteness of the beginnings to complete organisation and distinctive form. The inwardness that we advocate is not a feeble echo and a yearning for dissolution, but is of an active and masculine nature, and rests on ceaseless self-determining activity. One may or may not call this mysticism; in any case mysticism of such a kind cannot be charged with that which now appears to us to be defect or error in the older form.

(2) The Increase of Movement

As certainly as a universal life must surround us and, with efficient power, in some way be implanted within us, yet only our own activity can appropriate and amplify that life for us. As the transition to the independent spiritual life changes the problem so that no achievement 248 in a given world will satisfy it, but only the winning of a new world, our existence must become much more active; our life must be made not only much more comprehensive but also inwardly transformed and deepened.

Naïve opinion is accustomed to presuppose a fixed sphere for our activity; it is possible for it to do this only because it confuses the spiritual and that which is less than the spiritual and leaves them undifferentiated. Since the attainment of independence by the spiritual life makes this confusion impossible, it may at the same time be recognised that the fixed relations in which we seem to be are also in reality due to our own activity. From this fact a method of treatment is justified, the introduction of which constitutes one of the greatest services of Kant. This method in his own terminology is the transcendental method. Unlike ordinary opinion, it does not regard the relation of the departments of life and all its activities as being self-evident, but it enquires into the inner possibility of this relation, that is, it indicates the conditions without which the union of the manifold could not be accomplished; it reveals the spiritual activity that exists in the whole. It reveals a far finer texture of life; it shows syntheses from the whole to the elements; it indicates clearer limits and makes us more definitely recognise what differentiates the individual departments. This is what Kant did in the case of scientific knowledge, of morality, and of the realm of the beautiful. The transcendental method itself is first indisputably justified and given a secure foundation with the acknowledgment that a world of independent spirituality emerges in man, and this through his own activity, not by a mere favour and gift of destiny. For, when this independent spiritual world is acknowledged it first becomes a matter beyond doubt that the basis, and the bonds which unite the whole, could not be given, but must proceed from our own activity. The transcendental method must therefore be applied not only to the individual branches but also to the whole, and the possibility of a spiritual life in man in general made a 249 problem. Then from the whole the method must also be extended to the departments that are not brought into prominence by Kant; it must discuss, for example, the possibility of history in a characteristically human sense. Since our reality is thus dependent in the first place upon our own activity, life and movement acquire a wider scope and a greater value.

The movement of life also tends to be increased by the fact that in our conviction the more detailed form of the spiritual life itself must first be won by our activity, and that this detail can be acquired only little by little through attempts, experiences, convulsions; that for man the spiritual life with its actuality forms a difficult problem. What more particularly separates us from the Enlightenment is that while for it the ultimately valid form of the spiritual life appeared to be immediately present and to need only an energetic working out, we extend the historical treatment not only to the representation, but also to the nature, of the spiritual life; and so the ultimately valid form of the spiritual life appears to be a high ideal, to which man can only gradually approximate. The fact that endeavour is centred not upon externals but primarily upon our own being must make our activity far more significant and more intense; and this leads to a higher estimate of history as well as of a historical treatment. As hence epochs are no longer distinguished simply by their achievements, but by the nature of their spiritual life, so the life of the present must also be given its place in the moving stream, and so our innermost nature also depends on spiritual work.

If with such an increase of movement much is mutable that otherwise seemed to be as firm as a rock; and if, in particular, the foundations of life themselves also suffer change, life seems to lose all support and to fall into an unlimited relativism. Indeed, life must thus lose all stability if in the spiritual sphere movement does not involve something in opposition to change: and this as a fact it does involve. As the spiritual life cannot develop 250 a content without presenting it as timeless, there is no great achievement in history that does not include some kind of timeless truth, and the movement of the spiritual life is not merely a flowing onward with time but also an elevation above time. In spiritual work, therefore, the achievements of the ages can be surveyed and examined; indeed, in distinguishing between past and not past the sequence of times can be transformed into a timeless present. Of course this is valid only with the presupposition of an absolute spiritual life, which is present in all the uncertainty and change of human undertaking, and does not allow it to become fixed in error. Unless an immanence of the absolute spiritual life is acknowledged, an essential characteristic of the spiritual work of the Modern Age remains absolutely unintelligible, namely, its critical character. Modern work is not completely objective, and occupation with the object does not completely exhaust that work; but activity realises its independence of the object, investigates its relation to the object, surveys that which has been achieved, and tests it by transcendent standards. Such a critique belongs especially to the fundamental nature of the Enlightenment, to the proud self-confidence of which a conscientious self-examination forms a necessary antithesis. The critical method reached its highest point in Kant, and we can never go back again upon the transformation of life that has been effected by it. But how could the critique be justified and exercise such far-reaching influence as it has done, if it were not more than a product of a subjective reflection that accompanies the object, and that has to do with the object externally? The critique could effect an inner transformation and elevation of work only because it set new forces in motion. And it did this in that it measured all human achievement by the demands of a transcendent spiritual life and out of it developed inner necessities, to which all achievement had to correspond. So the movement was not lost through the lack of an aim; and life did not flow onward with the stream of presentations, but found a support in itself; it was able to exert a 251 powerful counteraction; it did not need to acknowledge anything that had not proved its validity before the judgment-seat of immanent reason. This emergence of the question of validity in contrast to that of actuality must inwardly raise and ennoble the movement of life; it reveals to man an active relation not only to the environment but primarily to himself; it leads to a ceaseless differentiation and examination of the quality of life.

It is true that the Enlightenment, which acknowledged that alone to be true which was clearly and distinctly cognised, exercised this critique in a too narrow manner; yet notwithstanding all that may be problematical in its application to details, the right and the necessity of the fundamental idea are not thereby overthrown: the question remains; it can be fully justified only in the relations that we have indicated; but at the same time it must be transferred from the merely intellectual to the spiritual as a whole, and form in relation to the whole that which in the state of culture contains and develops an independent spirituality and a self-conscious life; but by this it gains a content of truth. This self-consciousness alone can be regarded as essence and genuine reality, while everything else is reduced to mere environment and becomes matter of secondary importance, if not of mere appearance. Task after task is revealed, more especially for the present; we see how, with the attainment of independence by the spiritual life, the movement is not only extended, but also grows inwardly and tends towards the elevation of life.

(3) The Gain of Stability

The movement of the spiritual life as not only directed towards the outside but also turned inwards towards itself gained for us a greater independence. But even that which emerges from within exists only in the process of formation, and in this that which satisfies us to-day may to-morrow be uncertain; and so we cannot dismiss the 252 question whether the spiritual life lacks the necessary stability; whether, in the midst of all becoming and change, caprice and subjectivity are not without the necessary opposition. In any case, the question of fixation must have a different appearance within a system of life based upon activity from that it would have within a system which proceeded from a given world: in the former, that which is fixed cannot be introduced from outside, but must exist within the movement itself; it can manifest itself only through a movement of a kind and form which transcend the utmost capacity of the mere subject.

Our investigation as a whole contends that the fixity is of this kind; and at this point only a short revision and a summing up are required. All spiritual activity is, as we saw, a transcendence of the antithesis of subject and object; it is progressive and formative universal activity. But this activity cannot be produced and formed according to desire or fancy; we must be elevated into it; and, as a result of this, we feel that we are under the compulsion of an inner necessity, which distinctly counteracts the caprice of the mere subject. We saw, further, that within the life-process spiritual contents are raised out of the stream of events, and that they unite so as to form a world in contrast with that stream, a world greater and more comprehensive, which nevertheless continues within our life. This applies to all the branches of our work; everywhere the deciding step to joyful advance is when activity proceeds from mere search and contemplation under the necessity of the object. No resolution, however, or even the most sincere volition, can of itself force us to this decisive step. Man must be taken possession of by a spiritual activity and power, and elevated above the state of groping and doubt. This is shown in all scientific work and artistic creation; everywhere success does not appear to be the work of the human, but a gift and a grace from higher forces; everywhere those who have created have felt guided and sustained by such forces. Beyond individuals humanity as a whole develops complexes in science, in law, and so 253 on, which evolve inner necessities and require their recognition and fulfilment by man, and follow courses of their own regardless of the weal or the woe of individuals; so far as life follows these tendencies, it is elevated above doubt to a state of stability and joyfulness.

Such movements appear at first as a multiplicity, and are most directly effective through that which is distinctive in the particular departments of life. But through all multiplicity and above it, there is a striving towards a comprehensive unity; every advance towards this unity is an immediate gain in stability and certainty. Nothing helps the individual to become inwardly firm more than the unification of his life in a whole of activity, more than becoming certain of an inward all-comprehensive task in the development of a spiritual individuality. The development of a spiritual individuality is a task that comes to him from within, and which, while it is more than anything else his own, is yet above all caprice. This task may tend little to promote that which is usually called happiness; the striving to fulfil it may transform the whole of existence into a state of toil and trouble, of conflict and care; and yet it alone gives to life a meaning and a value, a sure direction and a secure self-consciousness, and by assuring man of a spiritual existence of his own makes him certain of the spiritual life as a whole. Such a unification of the manifold activities so as to form a life-work, an incomparable kind of spiritual being, is something entirely axiomatic, which is in no way derived from outside. Again, this unification does not depend upon particular representations of the world; only the fanaticism of party can bind it to definite doctrines of the human and the divine. It itself, however, is a secure starting-point for the development of convictions; its acknowledgment involves the acknowledgment of a spiritual world independent of and operative within us, and summoning us to co-operation, even though this implication is often concealed from consciousness. Where our own life lacks such a fountain-head the conviction of a spiritual life never attains to axiomatic certainty, but 254 depends on the thin threads of reasons and proofs, and therefore is most easy to overthrow. And so, for the overcoming of doubt and faintheartedness everything depends upon attaining to a unity of activity and creation which inwardly embraces life as a whole, and with this, upon being something, not simply doing something.

What is valid of individuals is valid also of peoples and epochs, of humanity as a whole. Whether a people feels certain of a spiritual life, and is thereby elevated to a state of inward joyfulness, depends primarily upon whether it recognises and acknowledges in itself a common spiritual task: if this is not the case, the acutest apologetic cannot prevent the increase of doubt and faintness of heart. Similarly, the disposition and life-feeling of epochs is decided primarily by whether their endeavour unites them inwardly or whether it is divided, and at the same time becomes inconsistent. The endeavour of our own time does suffer from such division and inconsistency; it is this in particular that gives the negative tendency so much power over us and in the midst of all greatness of achievement in external matters makes us inwardly despondent. Humanity as a whole can attain to a stable spiritual life which is more than that of the particular times and peoples only by the revelation and appropriation of an all-comprehensive task which governs it with inner necessities. Such a task alone makes life a preservation of spiritual character; and gives conviction an unshakable firmness, and a joyous confidence of victory. And so everywhere only the formation of life itself is able to guarantee to it inner stability; the movement itself by its elevation above all caprice and its inner unity is alone able to overcome the dangers which the transformation of life into activity brings with it.



The system of life here developed receives its distinctive colour and tone chiefly because it brings into prominence the fact that we do not belong to a world of reason, which from the beginning had only to be perceived and enjoyed, but that we have first to advance to such a world; and for this we require a revolution of the first condition of things. The basis of true life must continually be won anew; and even the individual achievement always contains a decision between one and another type of life. Only through ceaseless activity can life remain at the height to which it has attained; that which life experiences and receives is judged according to the more precise form of activity. Since it gives this precedence to activity, to such activity, this system may be called “Activism.” Activism, however, demonstrates its unique character and develops its capacity only if it is definitely distinguished from all other apparently related tendencies. Neither a sudden resolution nor even a mere incitement of power brings us at once into the condition of activity. For at first we are surrounded and embraced by a world of inflexible nature and of feeble spirituality, which is at the same time mixed with human pretence: this world binds us so strongly, and suppresses all independence with such force, that the mere individual remains entirely powerless in opposition to it, and could soar to no higher wisdom than that of an involuntary submission to it. Activity without release from the given world is an absurdity; but such release is attainable only through the living presence of a world of self-determining activity; the power of such a world alone is able to arouse the individual to self-determining activity. But how could man appropriate this world to himself without changing its life into his own; without acknowledging its content as valid for himself also; without making its laws norms of his conduct?

Activity in this way acquires an ethical character; it is 256 this which draws the boundary line between spiritual activity and merely natural impulse, and distinguishes genuine from imaginary self-determining activity. Ethical relation does not mean a submission to alien and unsympathetic regulations, but a taking up of the infinite spiritual world into our own volition and being: this relation brings things close to us and reveals them, so that they are able to impart their life to us, and we are able to grow with their growth. So understood, ethical relation is primarily not regulative but productive; it is not merely being prepared to fulfil certain demands, when they are made upon us, to live in accordance with strict regulations, but it involves the motive of aiding in the development of the world, of advancing everything good and true: it requires an untiring forward endeavour and advance to the building up of a kingdom of reason and love. If in this way conduct is lifted above the pursuit of that which pleases and interests the mere subject, this is not on behalf of something alien, but for the elevation of our own being, for the sake of this genuine being, for the sake of our spiritual self.

It is this inner elevation and this demand for a new world that distinguishes Activism from all mere Voluntarism and Pragmatism, to which it appears to approximate, and with which, in its negative aspect, it is, indeed, associated. For it shares with them the rejection of an intellectualistic view of life, in which cognition is regarded as finding truth of its own power and as conveying it to the rest of life. Further, Activism desires, as do Voluntarism and Pragmatism also, the basing of truth upon a more spontaneous and essential activity. But the flight to the will is more a reaction against Intellectualism than an overcoming of the difficulty. As such the will does not yield a new world and a transcendent power; it may, therefore, be that mere volition is implicitly transformed into a self-determining activity encompassing the whole extent of life. Pragmatism, also, which has recently made so much headway among English-speaking peoples and beyond them, is more inclined to shape the world and life in accordance with human 257 condition and needs than to invest spiritual activity with an independence in relation to these, and apply its standards to the testing and sifting of the whole content of human life. But after the experiences of history the claim to this latter can scarcely be given up. After man has been seen to be particular and limited in nature, as things first present themselves, he no longer suffices for the starting-point of the endeavour for truth, but to attain to this starting-point an elevation above the human into a universal spiritual life is necessary. And that is the intention of Activism.

The unique character of Activism becomes clearer especially in comparison with organisations of life, of which one indeed makes activity the chief thing, but gives to it the character of a mere process; while another thinks of the fundamental relation of man to reality in general not under the ideas of conduct and progress but under those of contemplation and enjoyment. The idea that life constitutes a process transcending all human endeavour and decision has shown a strong power of attraction in the Modern Age; and, in the system of Hegel especially, has found an imposing embodiment. This idea is asserted most definitely in the evolutionary conception of history, since it regards the motive power of history as striving to its aim, certain of accomplishing it, and unaffected by human opinion and preference. By this deliverance from the insignificance of human motives and the variations of human conditions the object seemed to gain incomparably in greatness; but it was considered that this deliverance from man involved an elevation above the ethical conception, which then appeared to be something subjectively human. But not only does this conception of a process that ceaselessly advances with compelling necessity contradict the actual state of things as they are found in history, which shows so much stagnation and retrogression, and so many different spheres of culture existing side by side indifferent to one another, but the transformation of life into a mere process, if consistently carried out, must also destroy or seriously debase its spiritual character. If life were a mere process 258 it would be nothing other than a soulless mechanism; only in the case of such a mechanism can one phase proceed immediately from the others without at the same time a whole of life becoming active and exercising an animating power within the whole process. As a fact, the process is usually supplemented in thought by a universal life unifying, sustaining, and controlling the individual phases; however, so far as such a life does not simply come to us, but needs our own activity, the deed comes before the process; and a new world reveals itself to us. The disregard of the ethical element by the systems which make mere process their fundamental idea is explained by the fact that they understand the ethical only as a decision and turning of man, accompanying the spiritual life, not as the motive and progressive power of the spiritual life itself. They know only a human ethic, not an ethic of the spiritual life—as a self-assertion and a self-elevation, through which it first attains its complete freedom and independence. Still, to trace this further is the less necessary since this mode of thought lives rather from earlier achievements than works from fresh impulse springing up in the present.

The relation of Activism to the æsthetic mode of thought requires closer consideration; we indicated at the beginning of our investigation that Æstheticism forms one of the chief streams of the life of the present day; at this point, only its relation to Activism need be examined. This Æstheticism has its definite conditions. Where the contemplation and enjoyment of the world and its beauty are to constitute the essence of life, we must be assured that the world is a kingdom of reason and beauty, so that the condition in which it is incites us to no far-reaching change. Further, there must be no perplexities in our soul, and no deep conflicts within our being, so that this contemplation may occupy us completely, and be a source of happiness. Lastly, we must be closely and surely united with the world so that a change of life may be accomplished easily and smoothly. If one of these requirements is not satisfied; if, instead of this harmony, the world manifests severe 259 conflicts and harsh contradictions; if such exist also within our soul; if, lastly, there appears to be a deep gulf between us and the whole, then the æsthetic solution of the problem of life is an impossibility. If in spite of these contradictions we attempt to entertain this solution, our life will become insincere, and will lose all spiritual productivity, and, as a whole, our life will be spent in subjective mood, empty enjoyment, and become feeble. Now, however, the Modern Age develops in a direction which is directly opposed to the requirements of the æsthetic form of life. The great world appears to us to be a meaningless machine; and in the struggle for existence the earlier harmony is forgotten. We perceive in man far too much that is insignificant and far too much selfishness, emptiness, and mere show for us to be able to regard him as being inwardly complete. Lastly, the modern strengthening of the subject and the ceaseless growth of reflection have so fundamentally overthrown the immediate relation of man to the world that only a far-reaching transformation of life can prepare for a reunion. If our life is so full of problems and tasks; if we do not find ourselves in a completed world of reason; but if we must, with all our powers, work toward such a world, we shall turn to Activism as the only help possible. But we shall resolutely reject Æstheticism as a veiling of the real condition of things and a too facile solution of the great problems of life.

Activism does not imply that immediately and at one stroke our life may be transformed into spiritual activity and may quickly establish a positive relation to reality: that would be to fail to recognise the conditions under which man exists, and the necessity of undergoing experiences and changes. Such an attitude might easily lead to the formation of syntheses of life that would be much too hasty and far too narrow; and the necessary breaking up of these would arouse a keen distrust of the whole undertaking. The power which the Romantic movement from time to time wins over minds is based on the fact that it warns us against an over-estimation of our activity; that it demands that the soul should be open to the influences of the 260 world; that its impressions should be appropriated without restriction and permitted to fade away completely; that in opposition to all the limitation and organisation of life, it still longs for the infinite; and that it also to some extent satisfies by turning to unrestrained feeling. At the same time, the Romantic movement makes us clearly conscious of the power of destiny, the transcendence of external and internal necessities above all human intention and utilitarian conduct. In this way life acquires a much greater comprehensiveness and freshness; it seems to return to its source, to retain far more immediacy. But it is one thing to acknowledge the importance of this, another to make it the essence of life. When such precedence is given to this Romantic tendency life threatens to become delicate, feeble, effeminate; it knows no energetic opposition to the flow of presentations; instead of a definite union it offers aphoristic thoughts and stimuli; through the lack of logical acuteness it falls into the direst contradictions; it sacrifices all distinct form and organisation to a revelling in vague moods. As in such a state of weakness the spiritual life does not succeed in gaining complete independence in face of the natural conditions of our existence, so it does not attain the necessary ascendancy over sense. Sense, in its own province entirely incontestable, raises doubts in us in that it flows together with the spiritual, is undifferentiated from it, brings it under itself, and turns it from its course. And, in this, sense does not possess the naïve freshness and the natural limitation of its original state, but it is over-refined and too full of excitement.

To recognise all this clearly is at the same time to acknowledge the superiority of Activism over all mere Romanticism. However much may still be lacking in Activism, through the fact that man often regards the difficult and complicated task as easy and simple, and thus sets too low an estimate upon the distance between himself and the spiritual world, there is still the objective necessity of the requirement to transform our life as far as possible into a state of independence, to achieve independence in opposition to 261 a world confused and only half rational. Such a self-determining activity is by no means simply a matter of subjective disposition; it requires a particular form of life. In opposition to the desultoriness and change of the life of sense it needs a powerful unification and organisation. It advances to methods and laws of the object in contrast to playful caprice; to a logic of the object in opposition to a persistence in contradiction; to a further construction of the first impression in contrast to comfortable complacency; to a courageous continuation and building up of life in opposition to a complacent acceptance of destiny. It gives to life a dramatic character in contrast to a lyrical, sentimental one, and along with this it can acknowledge fully that a genuine drama usually contains much that is lyrical.

It is detrimental to Activism itself if it takes the problem of life lightly. It is vital that it should not forget or underestimate the fact that the effort to solve the problems of life meets with great difficulties, that the solution costs incalculable trouble and work, and that even when the best is achieved it is only approximate. When Activism recognises this fact it may acknowledge a certain validity in the positions of its opponents and may learn from them. But there is a harsh contradiction that extends to the innermost basis of life, an implacable “either—or,” whether man simply receives the world and accompanies it with his own mood, or whether he finds courage and power to take up a conflict against confusion and irrationality, to co-operate in the building up of a kingdom of reason. For the latter, the affirmation of reason in the innermost basis of reality as a whole and of his own being is necessary. Whether men and times find a way to such an inner establishment, to such transcendence of all external and internal limitation, is that which decides the main tendency of their life.



We intend to make the following section as short as possible, as we have treated this subject so much in detail in “The Truth of Religion” and also in “The Struggle for a Concrete Spiritual Experience.” We must refer those who wish for a closer consideration of the subject to those works: the subject will be treated of here only so far as is necessary for a representation of life as a whole; a concise statement may have distinct advantages.


It is a leading idea of our whole investigation, and one which has held good in every branch of it, that for us men spiritual life is evolved only in opposition to a world other than spiritual; that reality does not surround us from the beginning, but forms a high ideal in contrast to the customary want of purpose and energy in life. The existence of a world lower than the spiritual, and the late appearance of that which arises from within as the primary and the all-dominant reality, must give birth to many questions and much doubt; from early times these facts have occupied and much disturbed reflective thought. Man might place the problem on one side without incurring any risk, if the spiritual life when it comes to the fore assumes the guidance of life and manifests itself as world-transcendent power—externally, in that it subordinates to itself and takes up into itself everything else; internally, in that with 263 certain progress it presses forward in the human province, wins the whole soul of man, and becomes more and more his only world. In particular, where the spiritual life is regarded, as we regard it, as the self-consciousness of reality; where, therefore, that which apparently stands in opposition to the spiritual life must ultimately have its basis within it, the demands of the spiritual life have a coercive power. And so when experiences a thousandfold, new and old, present a picture which contradicts these demands we must feel the state of things to be a particularly painful one.

That, however, is what really happens: it is the case in the relation of the spiritual life to nature, as well as in its relation to humanity; it happens, therefore, in our whole experience. If the spiritual life constitutes the fundamental nature of reality; if, in it, reality first attains to self-consciousness, it is to be expected that when the spiritual life appeared it would create for itself an independent form of existence in contrast to that of nature, and would exercise a superior power in this form of existence, to which nature must accommodate itself. But, as a fact, this is so far from being the case that even the attempt to imagine the spiritual in any way leads immediately to the quixotic. In the experience of humanity the spiritual life is related in its entirety to a natural basis; in no way does it seem able to free itself from this, but in all its activity it remains dependent upon nature. If nature simply follows its own tendencies; if, indifferent to value and lack of value, without aim and ideal, nature lives its life of soulless movement, union with an order so alien and impenetrable must most seriously affect the spiritual life. The world goes on its course unconcerned with the weal or the woe, the persistence or the disappearance of spiritual being, of spiritual relations, indeed of spiritual life in general. Not only do great catastrophes, as in earthquakes, storms, and floods, show how indifferent the existence or the non-existence of spiritual life is to the forces of nature, but the commonplaces of everyday experience and of individual destiny 264 also show the same indifference. In nature we find no difference of treatment in accordance with any distinction of good and evil, great and mean, noble and vulgar. Even the most eminent personality, who may be almost indispensable to our spiritual welfare, is subject to the same contingency, the same fate as all others. Regarded from the point of view of the world of sense, all spiritual life is a chaotic confusion of fleeting appearances, all of which are dependent; it is not an independent world, but a subsidiary addition to a world which is other than spiritual.

Experience of the impotence of the spiritual life in relation to nature has been the cause of mental disquiet from early times. But this experience was not necessarily oppressive so long as mankind was called upon to transform nature into a realm of reason, and so long as there was hope of accomplishing this. For the contrast with the cold and rigid external world has deepened the inwardness of human relationship and made us conscious of the dignity and greatness of spiritual creation. In culture, humanity has formed a characteristic sphere of life, and in doing this has aided the spiritual life to attain a certain reality. In culture, spiritual factors and values win power; and a new order of life in contrast to that of nature is evolved. It cannot be doubted that a new reality makes its appearance; but it is an open question whether this new reality fulfils the hopes which have been placed upon it; and, further, whether perplexities and confusions, which make it doubtful whether anything has been gained, do not arise out of its further development. This question is certainly not answered lightly in the affirmative by the conviction that regards the spiritual life as a turning of reality towards its own truth, which therefore in its development must insist primarily on complete spontaneity and independence. For, if in culture the spiritual life attains an independence over against nature, it is at the same time drawn so deeply into the particularity and limitation of human life, and is associated so much with the merely human, that culture as a whole is anything but the unfolding 265 of a realm of pure, or even of only preponderating, spirituality.

In the first place, the spiritual life does not introduce a definite and fixed content into our experience, and it does not follow paths independent of human striving and error; but arises through hard toil and only slowly finds any unity: in its further endeavour it by no means follows the same tendency, but effects great changes, indeed revolutions, into states the exact opposite of its previous states. When it is so uncertain as to its own aim the spiritual life becomes seriously involved in the seeking and vacillation, in the needs and passions, of man: instead of giving to man an immovable support and pointing out a definite aim for his activity, it seems itself unable to pass beyond a state of uncertain groping and error.

Corresponding to this uncertainty as to its content, there is a want of power on the part of the spiritual life within man. Instead of controlling the conduct of man directly, the spiritual life generally determines it through that which it contributes towards the attainment of his aims. If this is so in the case of the individual, it is even more so in the case of social life, for in it spiritual activity is regarded chiefly as a means to obtain advantages over others, and to advance socially. And so that of which it is the nature to be an end complete in itself is treated as a means to other ends; it is not itself active, and its own power is not a motive force; but even for its own maintenance it needs the help and support of things alien to itself: the artificial mechanism of social organisation must bring forth toilsomely that which, unless it flows immediately from its source, cannot be fresh or genuine. Such a state of human affairs remains far below the aims of the spiritual life; it produces insincerity, a luxuriant growth of hypocrisy and pretence. For all striving for the true and the good involves the assertion that the object is desired for its own sake: if the object really serves the aims of mere man, there inevitably originates a wide divergence between what is willed and what is alleged to be willed. In respect of this, one cannot, with 266 the moralists, lay the blame simply on the will. For, in man, spiritual impulse in general is insignificant; without the compulsion of the social environment it would hardly prevail at all against nature. This social compulsion, therefore, notwithstanding its defects, cannot be dispensed with; however clearly we may see its inadequacy, we cannot renounce it altogether. Society cannot exert such coercive power without presenting itself as the champion of pure reason; without desiring an infallibility for its decisions. This attitude naturally arouses the opposition of individuals and a keen struggle ensues, but as one side may be right the condition of the spiritual life is not much improved by the struggle.

The state of life, uncertain of its aims and inadequate in its means, is rather a paltry substitute for a realm of reason than such a realm itself. A noisy and self-conscious agitation, much unrest and excitement, but little substance and soul; a ceaseless anxiety concerning the means of life and hurried pursuit of them, and in the occupation with the means forgetfulness and neglect of life itself; much self-glorification and ostentation, and little reverence for the spiritual life—such is social life in general. Where the vanity, emptiness, and falsehood of the social machinery have come to be clearly perceived, man has become absolutely wearied and satiated, and has often fled from society to nature, to seek therein simple truth and enduring peace. But he could believe it possible to find such in nature only because he read this truth and peace into it from himself; as, nevertheless, he must ultimately return to those of the same nature as himself: thus he remains in a state of vacillation between nature, which is indifferent to the spiritual life, and humanity, which corrupts the spiritual life by drawing it down to the level of the narrowly human. If the spiritual life nowhere attains to pure unfolding and certain effect within our experience, how can the spiritual life be accepted by us in this experience as the essence of reality? In the midst of such doubt, the original suspicions, which may have receded before the hope of the emergence 267 of a new world, also become felt again—the insignificance of the external manifestation of the spiritual life in contrast with the immeasurableness of nature; the late appearance of the spiritual life in the world-process, and its probable disappearance as a result of the expected changes in the conditions of nature. Does not everything tend to give us the impression that the spiritual life signifies no more than an episode in the world-process; an episode which passes fleetingly, and does not affect the fundamental nature of reality at all? The necessity of such a conclusion remains concealed so long as man, in an undeveloped state of life, is able to fill the world with forms similar to himself, and to understand the control of nature on an analogy with human conduct. But the progress of culture and especially the growth of scientific knowledge have, with irresistible power, taken us beyond that state; have led us from dream and illusion to a state of complete alertness. Has not all independence of the spiritual life become doubtful with this progress of culture and scientific knowledge, and must we not give up all claim to subject our existence to its sovereignty, and to determine our life and effort spiritually? For there cannot be any doubt that, with the spiritual life, the characteristic organisation of our existence also falls. It may be that we have thought superficially and confusedly enough to declare something to be in itself falsehood and deceit, and at the same time to give to it the guidance of our life.


The previous train of thought may appear to be a plain and straightforward negation, a complete renunciation of the spiritual life as the most adequate solution of our problem. But that train of thought is itself the result of a superficial treatment; every deeper consideration inevitably contradicts such a summary procedure. A contradiction 268 of that train of thought is found especially in the fact which governs the whole course of our investigation, that with the transition to the spiritual life there appear essentially new magnitudes and values, new forms and contents of life, which advance beyond not only the nature but also the capacity of mere man. Whence all these, if spiritual life is only delusion? The new in us may be never so powerless; still, the fact that it emerges in our world of thought and hovers before us as a possibility proves that it has a certain reality also within us.

Further, is the spiritual life, ultimately, in every sense so powerless as it at first appears? That it does not pass by as a phantom among our presentations is shown by the fact that we do not simply receive the existing condition of things, and its degrading oppression of the spiritual life, but we feel it to be a cause of harm and of pain to us. Could we experience this if we belonged entirely to that condition of things; and is not Hegel right when he says that he who feels a limitation is already in some way above it? We feel the insufficiency, the feebleness, the threadbareness of all human morality; could we feel this if we did not experience a longing for a more genuine morality? And whence arises this longing in opposition to an entirely different world, if not from a spirituality implanted within our own being? We perceive the limitations in our knowledge; a growing insight into all its conditions and oppositions may lead us in this matter almost to complete scepticism: but whence came the desire for an inner elucidation of reality; and how did even the idea of it originate, if we belong entirely to the darkness of a nature that is less than spiritual, and if there is no fight at all within us? We feel that the rapid flow of time, its change and course, its sudden revolutions sometimes even into the complete opposite of the previous state, is a defect, a source of serious danger to truth: could we feel this to be so if our whole being were centred in the passing moment; if we did not survey and compare the different times; if our being did not participate in something super-temporal? And lastly, 269 if the feeling that culture is inadequate and indeed nothing but a pretence is so strong and so painful, then here again we set ourselves in a position independent of the condition of things, and judge that condition by a transcendent standard which only our own being can supply. If all these aims were only invented by man and applied to life in an external manner, failure to realise them could not agitate us as it does.

Besides, the matter is not by any means at an end with the feeling of the inadequacy of our position; a movement in opposition to this condition is also not lacking. For, as has been seen throughout our whole treatment, spiritual operation, creative activity is to be found within human experience. It meets us with especial clearness at the heights of the work of history; but these also belong to humanity as a whole, and the light kindled there is not entirely lost in the mist of the commonplace circumstances of every day. In relation with these heights of endeavour there is, in humanity as a whole, a movement in opposition to the tendency of mediocre culture to fill life entirely; a longing for a more spontaneous, a purer, and a more genuine life. Our own power of creation may be dormant; only the advent of a strong suggestion, or a serious convulsion, is necessary and it breaks forth forcefully, and shows distinctly that there is more spirituality in man than the circumstances of every day allow us to perceive. The spiritual movement manifests itself also in private life and in the relation of individual to individual. He who does not measure spiritual greatness by physical standards will often find more genuine greatness in the simplicity of these relations than in the famous deeds of history; and at the same time he will find that through these relations an effective presence of the spiritual life within human experience is strengthened.

If in its opposition to human perversion of it genuine spiritual life does not always reach a definite positive result, the operation of that life as the law and the judge of human things is all the more distinct. Man may try to withdraw 270 himself from the spiritual life; he may reject and mock at that which the age presents to him as an aim; he may seek to fill his life completely with human interests and inclinations: but he cannot do this without degenerating into a state of destitution, which even he himself soon finds to be intolerable, and without being forced, with the compulsion of necessity, to surrender much which it is impossible for him to surrender. The catastrophes of history in which that which has been found insignificant sinks, and that which carries a spiritual necessity within it rises, careless, as it seems, of the weal or the woe of man, show in letters of brass that the spiritual life may not be modified by man at his pleasure, in this way or that, in accordance with his circumstances and his mood.

When we consider all the facts together, we do not get the impression that the spiritual life is simply a fleeting illusion that may easily be banished; but rather, that there are serious complications, out of which we cannot find our way; and that something occurs within us, something is begun within us, that is unaffected by mood and caprice, and that shows us to be in relations much more comprehensive, though obscure in the highest degree. In particular, for a treatment that starts out from the life-process, and sees the spiritual movement chiefly in strivings, collisions, and even in failures, there can be no doubt concerning the actuality of this movement, the emergence of a new life, and thus of a new stage of reality in man.

When we recognise the actuality of the spiritual movement the relation of the spiritual life to nature and to the world is also to be regarded differently from the manner in which the negative mode of thought represents it. It is now impossible, as it often happens, more particularly among philosophising natural scientists, to consider the representation of nature as a complete representation of reality, and to leave the spiritual life out of attention as something supplementary and subsidiary. The spiritual life is now itself acknowledged to be a reality, and must help to 271 determine the representation of reality as a whole. Nature must be more than a soulless machine if its evolution is to lead, as it does, to the point where a self-conscious life emerges. Within our own experience points of transition are not lacking where nature produces something that becomes elevated to the spiritual, and furthers the spiritual life. The difference of the sexes, for example, is primarily a matter of natural organisation, and what a rich source of spiritual animation it is! Nothing manifests the union between nature and the spiritual life more convincingly than the beautiful, when, in accordance with the result of our investigation, it is regarded as a characteristic unfolding of the spiritual life, and not as something which merely fascinates man and is a source of pleasure to him. For how could the external receive a characteristic soul by being taken up into the inner life; how could the inward need an external form for its perfection if the two realms were not united, if a comprehensive reality did not transcend the antithesis?

Lastly, it should not be forgotten that it is modern science, especially in its latest phases, with its destruction of the supposed self-evidence of the sense impression of nature, that has placed the relation of nature to the spiritual life in a more favourable light than it was placed by the dogmatic mechanistic theory, which in earlier times seemed to be the ultimate solution of the problem of their relation. Nature has again become far more of a problem to us, and we recognise that our conception of it is a work of the spirit. The old facts of the connection and interaction of phenomena, of the conformity to law on the part of occurrences, of the developments of form, and of a progress to even more artistic complexes and ever finer organisation, once more make us feel, and far more keenly than before, that they involve difficult problems. It is more clearly evident to us than it was formerly that every attempt to make these facts intelligible is made by the spiritual life and by analogy with the spiritual life. If in such analogy 272 we do not go beyond symbols, yet the symbols themselves betray a depth and a secret of reality. At the present time when scientific work is at its highest stage of development, the shallowness and the rashness of a radical negation are distinctly recognised.

It is true that for the particular life-problem that we are considering we have not yet gained much from this recognition; to perceive the impossibility of an absolute negation does not in itself imply the victory of a joyful affirmation. For all the perplexities that previously occupied us still remain, as do the limitation and the curtailment of the spiritual life which proceeded from these perplexities; the whole movement also remains in its state of stagnation. As certainly as on the one hand there is too much of the spiritual life presented to us to allow of negation, so on the other it is by no means sufficient for the removal of all doubt.

Mere research can tolerate a state of hesitation between affirmation and negation; it must often refrain from a decision in the case of special problems. Life, however, cannot endure any such intermediary position; for life, such hesitation in arriving at a decision must result in complete stagnation, and this would help the negation to victory. If life is faced with an “either—or” the affirmation has a prospect of victory only if the situation previously described may be in some way transformed in its favour. This cannot come to pass unless the spiritual movement can transcend the limitations which appear in human life, and unless a further development can proceed out of the limitations themselves. Only such an advance can help the endangered affirmation to victory. But whether the spiritual movement does transcend these limitations, not a logical consideration of concepts but only the experience of life will decide; let us enquire therefore whether life offers what we seek.



The questions that are given rise to in the consideration of human life as it is are answered in the affirmative with joyful certainty by the religions. The religions do this in that they announce to man the help of a transcendent order; an appearance of divine power and goodness in the domain of man. But after the far-reaching changes of life and of conviction that we have experienced, can this confidence still be justified? And have we a place for this assertion of help from a transcendent order when we acknowledge the reality of the independent spiritual life?

Everything of a religious character and even that which is related to it meets, at least upon the surface, in the present the keenest opposition. This opposition is aroused in the first place by anthropomorphism—the indulgence in merely human representations and desires—which is often found associated with religion. If the essence of religion were inseparable from such anthropomorphism, the dissolution and submergence of religion could hardly be prevented. But according to the witness of history, an energetic conflict against all such mere anthropomorphism has been carried on within religion itself and, in its highest stages of development, religion has demanded a complete surrender of everything narrowly human: anthropomorphism and religion are, therefore, not absolutely identical. Our investigation, emphasising as it does the radical distinction between the substance of the spiritual life and its appropriation by man, counselled us to be cautious in reference to this matter, and warned us against a hasty rejection of religion.

The essence of religion is still less affected by the charge that modern natural science in conceiving of the spatial world as infinite leaves no room for a visible heaven. For, to take such a criticism seriously, we must not only think of religion as at a primitive stage which, in the development 274 of its spiritual content, it has overstepped, but we must also completely ignore the fundamental revolution that modern philosophy and the whole tendency of modern thought have accomplished in the representation of the visible world. Modern thought has destroyed the self-evidence that the naïve man attributed to that representation, by the experience and the proof that the visible world around us does not come to us completely as we represent it, but that we form the representation from our point of view, and under the conditions of our spiritual nature. Our own activity is embodied in the representation; and it will depend upon the value of this activity how far the representation may be accepted as reality as a whole and the ultimate and absolute world. Now, as in the visible world the spiritual life is always bound up with something alien and which cannot be completely transformed by the activity of that life, so every assertion of an independent spiritual life is a protest against the view that the world of sense is the only world. But in that, unless the spiritual life is independent, there is neither science nor culture, the priority of a world other than that of sense cannot be in any way a matter of doubt to philosophy.

But a world other than the world of sense is by no means the transcendent world of religion; such a world as the latter could be reached only by a continuation of the life-process beyond the position yet attained; the course of our investigation, however, has left no uncertainty concerning the direction in which such a world is to be sought. We saw that the spiritual life could not acquire an independence without becoming a universal life: only the immediate presence of this universal life at the individual point arouses and preserves a spiritual life in it. In spite of this immediate presence of the whole, the life of man receives its more detailed organisation and development from his relation to the environment and in the building up of a world; the unity that exists in the whole reveals itself at first only in relation to the multiplicity. There is, therefore, still the possibility that a new and characteristic life should 275 evolve out of an exclusive relation to the whole; such a life, in contrast to that building up of a world, would bear a world-transcendent character. This possibility constitutes the only way of advancing beyond the position hitherto reached.

Now, however much work in the world forms the main part of our life and asserts itself to be such, yet, as a fact, our life is not taken up entirely by such work. In the striving of humanity and in the soul of the individual there is a movement towards a world-transcendent life, a life that first attains to a complete inwardness when it becomes world-transcendent. Only such an inwardness offers a firm support, a spirituality unperverted by the perplexities of the world; but this is not possible otherwise than by man’s gaining participation in a world-transcendent spiritual life which is purely and absolutely self-conscious: this life must become man’s own life, and spirituality in this way self-consciously advance towards divinity. This makes it for the first time intelligible how life, even when it suffers complete failure in its work in the world, even when the activity exerted upon the world is completely frustrated, by no means degenerates into a state of destitution and ruin. For a new task is now revealed to man in his own attitude to the spiritual life as a whole, a relation which may in different cases be very different in character, and he may find in the solution of the task incalculable difficulties. Here activity also changes its character, since without any external manifestation it can become complete and purely inward: character can free itself of everything passive and become fully active; from being a mere accompaniment it can become an active whole. All this, however, is possible only if life is directed toward a world-transcendent spirituality and only by the power of such a spirituality.

As this new kind of life does not make its appearance suddenly, but is prepared by the whole evolution of spiritual life, which we have previously considered, so its main individual tendencies are also related to this evolution. Essential qualities of the spiritual life are manifested in 276 work in the world, but in this they do not come to pure formation and victorious establishment: only the elevation to the world-transcendent self-consciousness makes possible that with which the spiritual life as a whole cannot well dispense, indeed in which it has its essential nature. The striving itself, and its arousing and motive power, could not be explained if the end were not operative within our life: “Thou wouldst not seek me, if thou hadst not already found me” (Pascal).

The spiritual life in man could have no hope of acquiring truth if it were not rooted in a life which transcends all error and which in some way imparts to us this transcendence. If the spiritual life in man did not know of certain truth sustained at one innermost point, a truth that exerts a directing power on all human undertaking, and prevents it from becoming fixed in error, man would lose all confidence in truth in face of the obscurities and errors of life as they are shown by the work of culture. Further, for the maintenance of the spiritual life, the preservation of spontaneity, a possibility of overcoming all restriction by nature and of defying destiny is absolutely necessary. But in work in the world this spontaneity is subject to the most severe limitations; the power of fate surrounds man on all sides: in the natural course of things even his own work becomes a rigid destiny to him, and chains him with inexorable necessity. As in the case of the individual, so also in that of humanity as a whole, life is a gradual narrowing, an ever further exclusion of original possibilities; and this tendency is continually felt as an increasing oppression in its opposition to the freedom of the will and an independent present. How may the spiritual life be prevented from growing feeble and senile, if new pure beginnings cannot be produced from a fundamental relation transcending the relation with the world, if from this fundamental relation a spontaneous life cannot spring up ever anew? The fact that humanity is able not only to transform the nature of culture in its particular aspects, but also to fall into error concerning culture as a whole, without 277 surrendering itself, is an indication that the life of humanity is not exhausted in work in the world. The spiritual life must unite in an inner community all who participate in it; and this is impossible unless the spiritual life leads man to a point where all walls of partition and all differences fall away. But spiritual work increases rather than diminishes these differences; with culture the differentiation of men also grows. We must sink ever deeper in such differentiation; lose more and more the possibility of a mutual understanding, of a life and feeling with one another and for one another, if this movement toward differentiation does not come into contact with a transcendent power that counteracts it, if some power does not unite us inwardly. What other power could this be than the spiritual life itself, and how could it effect this result otherwise than in the revelation of a world-transcendent self-conscious life which thus presents itself as an Absolute? For, then a removal of differences in negative and in positive matters becomes possible: in negative matters so far as all achievements in the human sphere, however distant they may be from one another, appear equally inadequate when they are judged by the standard of an absolute life: in positive matters so far as the absolute life produces something at each point transcending all complexity, by which the movement is freed from its restrictions and resumes its flow, and by the imparting of which to man in the innermost depth of his being, reveals a new life in which all may in like manner participate. The possibility of a finally valid affirmation of life is first attained when this world-transcendent self-conscious life is acknowledged. Without turning to the absolute life, life could not withdraw from its perplexities; suffering and guilt would crush man. With this turning, however, he acquires, not in his merely human nature, but so far as he is taken up into the absolute life, part in the perfection, infinity, and eternity of that life: in the midst of all change and becoming something immovable is disclosed to him; in the midst of all dependence upon the world, a sure world-transcendence; in the midst of all darkness 278 and suffering, a state of incalculable bliss. From the ultimate depths the Yes triumphs over the No, which, at the first glance, seems so easily its superior.

This transition derives a power to convince primarily from the union of the individual tendencies so as to form a vital whole of world-transcendent inwardness. Such a whole, thoroughly characteristic in its nature, is never a work of mere man, a product of critical reflection; it can proceed only from the spiritual life itself. Looked at from the point of view of that life this whole cannot be regarded as something later and as something supplementary; but it will be seen that that which for us first attains complete clearness through suffering and convulsion must be effective from the beginning, and already exist in the work upon the world. If, however, it becomes our possession only when it takes precedence, then the whole prospect of reality must be altered and deepened, and for us life will be divided into the stages of the establishing, struggling, triumphing of spirituality.

It is this fact of transcendent spirituality that the religions take up and develop, and seek to bring near to humanity. The doctrines they contain are ultimately only the framework or the outward manifestation of that world-transcendent inwardness; they desire to realise its power of deliverance and elevation completely. They themselves have their support and justification in this transcendent spiritual life, and the precedence of one to the others will be judged by the degree to which in affirmation and negation they develop this spiritual life in its world-transcending sovereignty and in its world-penetrating power. From the point of view of that life, religion as a whole must maintain its truth and its indispensable nature: where that life is lacking, religion is simply a delusion, a folly the absurdity of which is hardly conceivable; but where it is developed religion must pass current as that which, of all things, is the most certain, as the fundamental axiom of the whole spiritual life. Between this “either—or” there is no middle course; historical experience shows that religion has 279 been to men and ages either the most certain of all things or the one about which there has been most dispute.

We can now return to the question that led us to this discussion, to the question of the rationality of our reality. To be sure, even after the further revelation of the spiritual life, the answer is not so easy as the adherents of religion often think. For they often believe that with the acknowledgment of a world-transcendent spirituality, its triumphant manifestation within our world is immediately assured; and with this conviction they attempt to present this world as a kingdom of justice, even if not of love. But all endeavour, however energetic, and all recourse to subtlety of thought, yield no satisfactory conclusion: at most, the possibility is reached that that which seems irrational may acquire some rationality in more comprehensive relations; but even if that is so, we are not free from irrationality; and those mere possibilities are far from being equal to counteracting the strong impression of the reality of evil. Even religion, which would bring about a transition to the better, is itself deeply involved in this irrationality; a painful martyrdom has often been imposed upon its heroes, and its form has continually degenerated in the course of history through the influence of human error and passion. Since in the latter the restriction is presented as an opposition to the divine, the view of the world as it immediately appears is darkened rather than illuminated.

Nevertheless, through the revelation that the world has a deeper basis, the perplexity concerning life and reality is essentially changed. Evil is not removed; the external view of things is not altered; the good is perhaps strengthened, and, indeed, life in its innermost depth withdrawn from all power of perplexity and led to a new stage. So far, the irrationality may appear in another light from this point of view, as hence the conflicts and the convulsions may themselves be factors which help life to realise its own ideal and to establish it in the new world. In history, suffering has been regarded as absolutely irrational, and 280 has been unconditionally rejected only where man has been regarded as essentially complete. But if an immense problem is recognised in suffering, then suffering also, by rousing us to activity and by making us less inflexible, may acquire a positive value and be of service in the development of being. This, however, does not give us a theodicy; it justifies neither philosophy nor religion in trying to act as advocate for the Deity. To us evil is an insoluble riddle: no formula can make it intelligible why a powerful and clear reason is implanted in our world and that at the same time the lower most obstinately asserts itself in opposition, treats it as a matter of indifference, offers an insurmountable resistance to it.

Thus we can hardly reach a decision in regard to our last conviction by way of intellectual consideration; rather, in the decision concerning the “either—or” which is the question here, our whole being is involved. On the one side there is the external impression of the world, the weakness of the good, its perversion into evil, the apparent indifference of the world-process towards the aims of the spirit, the apparent futility of all that would advance beyond nature. Can anything that is aroused within our inner being, and with so much toil finds any form, arise in opposition to this immeasurable world? This will be possible only when a movement of the world itself, and not a mere product of man, is recognised in that which is aroused within man: for only then will its extension be a matter of complete indifference, and, however mean an extension it shows in the human sphere, a turning of the whole would be proved, a revolution of the whole accomplished. Then that which for us emerges on the edge of our life must nevertheless be regarded as the sustaining basis and the controlling power of reality as a whole. Our whole investigation has championed the view that the turning to the spiritual life implies a movement of the world: wherever the independence of the spiritual life is acknowledged the supremacy of reason cannot be doubted.

But it is one thing to acknowledge such a thesis to be 281 necessary, another to give it the power to convince and impress, without which it does not leave the realm of phantoms, and does not become a living power. This is possible only where the spiritual life is taken up as our own life, and developed as our own life; where, therefore, its vindication attains to the overwhelming power and the axiomatic certainty of self-preservation. The centre of reality will be changed for us only if we change the centre of our own life, and find true immediacy no longer in sense impression, but in self-determining activity.

The acknowledgment of a self-conscious inwardness, of a world-transcendent spirituality, together with the recognition of another kind of world, full of oppositions, must give a characteristic form to our conception of our reality. Here, a rational solution of the world-problem is for ever excluded, and the world present to man must be accepted as a particular kind of reality, which cannot be regarded as the only and ultimate one. From this point of view the whole life of humanity must appear to be a mere link in a great chain; an act of a drama, the course of which we are unable to survey; the fundamental idea of which, however, glimmers through sufficiently clearly to point out a direction to our life.

Through the emergence of a world-transcendent inwardness there appear characteristic tasks and complications, also for the more detailed development of our life. Unqualified esteem for that inwardness has often led religions to demand that life should be placed solely and entirely in that transcendent sphere, in the realm of faith and of disposition, and to free life as far as possible from the work of the world; the former life seemed to excel the latter as the divine the human. But this comparison does not hold good; for the divine is to us not only a world-transcendent sovereignty but also a world-pervading power: to honour the former preponderatingly may be the only salvation for times and individuals in a state of prostration and collapse, and in this way life would be given a preponderatingly religious character; but this form of life can never 282 be accepted as the normal one and the one alone worth striving for. For one thing, that transcendent world, as far as its contents and tasks are concerned, is presented to us only in outline; all its more detailed nature must result from the world of our activity, and must retain a symbolic character. If the connection of the spiritual world with the empirical world is broken it falls into the danger of becoming destitute; so that religion may come to be simply a revelling in feeling; or a devotion, indifferent to all content and which, therefore, judged by spiritual standards, is worthless. It is by hard work alone, in relation to men and things, that our life acquires a spiritual character. Religion does, indeed, elevate life above work, and give to life its full depth. Still, movement and differentiation must be included within a vital whole; and the relation to activity which is the chief factor in life cannot be given up even at its greatest depth. The high estimate of spirituality may not rightly lead to a mean estimate of nature, to a conflict with nature such as has been the case in the realm of religion in the tendency to asceticism. For as certainly as our acknowledgment of an independent spirituality involves a subordination of nature, this subordination does not imply a mean estimate, still less a rejection. Asceticism which appears to be the attainment of a high level of spiritual life soon leads to an inward degeneration. For in asceticism the chief task is not the powerful development and courageous advance of spirituality, but simply a negation and suppression of sense. Reflection and thought will thus be centred upon just those things beyond which the spiritual movement wishes to lead. Particular temporary circumstances may make the tendency to asceticism comprehensible; such times were over-refined and diseased, and the diseased may not rightly give to life its rule.

But if, in this way, we oppose a specifically religious or ascetic form of life we are not prevented from acknowledging the strong and fruitful influence of a world of transcendent inwardness upon life as a whole. For its perfect health and breadth, our life needs two tendencies which, though 283 they directly contradict each other, must, nevertheless, within us be complementary to each other: it needs an energetic conflict against all that is irrational, and at the same time to be elevated into a sphere in which everything is rational, into a realm of peace and perfection. Within the spiritual life itself, tasks are given their form and are estimated on the one hand from the human point of view, and on the other from an ultimate, one might say an absolute, view of things. The significance of this distinction is to be seen most clearly in history, and, perhaps, in the contrast between the Greek and the Christian character. The former places man in the midst of the world, and requires him energetically to take up the struggle for the cause of rationality and decisively to reject the irrational. Suffering and pain were to be avoided; man was never to submit to them. Courage appeared to be the chief quality of this form of life, and in relation to others justice was its determining idea. But if this idea demands that each should receive according to his achievement, then the higher and the lower, the noble and the common, must be distinctly separated and never allowed to be confused. That the noble form a small minority, and that history hardly promises any change in this matter, is a fact that has not escaped perception; and the permanence of the antithesis of an esoteric and an exoteric form, therefore, appears to be inevitable. The difference that exists is regarded as due primarily to nature, not to free decision. To make nature completely active, and to unify that which it offers in a scattered and an unsystematic manner, appears to be our whole life-work.

The result, therefore, is a powerful, active, self-conscious life, which not only affects us by its results but to which we must assign a permanent significance. But as the only and exclusive form of life, it involves great restrictions and rigour; its limitations may remain hidden in days of joyful creative activity and in the highest circles of society, but they must be keenly felt if life falls into a condition of stagnation, and man, as man, asks questions with regard to 284 the happiness of life. This destiny may then become an intolerable compulsion; mere courage, an over-exertion of human power; mere justice, severity and unmercifulness; the sharp distinction between men, an actual separation, which tends on the one side to proud haughtiness and on the other to doubt and depression. A keen perception of such limitations and dangers must necessarily force life into new paths.

The counter movement has won the victory in Christianity, which makes not work in the world but the relation to a world-transcendent spiritual life the chief thing. Man does not in the first place trust a nature that safely leads him but at the same time limits him; but his nature seems full of problems, and to need a complete transformation, which only a miracle of grace can accomplish. Men are not regarded as being separated by fixed differences, but in comparison with the divine perfection all differences vanish, and from the relation to God the feeling of equality and brotherhood is evolved. Thought of in relation to the requirement of a pure inwardness of the whole being, differences in achievement are totally insignificant: justice gives place to an infinite love that dispels all harshness, makes all differences consistent and harmonious, and tolerates no feeling of hostility.

The antithesis of a nature which is operative within the world and which elevates above the world must permeate life as a whole and must give rise to opposite tendencies in every part of life. On the one hand, there is a distinct formation in finite relations, an insistence upon plastic organisation and complete consciousness of life; on the other, an aspiration towards the infinite, a more submissive faith, a more unrestrained disposition, a higher estimate of the naïve and the childlike. In the former, man, full of confidence in his own power, himself produces a rationality of reality, and disdains all aids alien to himself; in the latter, life is sustained by a trust in an infinite good and power which, in a way transcending the capacity of man, guides to the attainment of the best; in short, as a 285 whole and in its individual aspects each is a fundamentally different type of life from the other.

The type of life advocated by Christianity has resulted in a great deepening of life; it cannot possibly be given up again in favour of an earlier type. But this Christian type also does not suffice for the moulding of life as a whole. Most severe complications would ensue if the position of Christianity were taken up as an ultimate conclusion and an absolute evaluation in the conditions which at present exist, and its principles without further consideration were applied to our life as a whole. The annulling of all differences, even of spiritual capacity; the displacement of justice through pity; the cessation of the conflict against evil; the low estimate of man’s own power, would all endanger most severely the rational character of life; an adoption of this type of life in its entirety would lead to the discontinuance of the work of culture; in particular, it is inconsistent with any kind of political organisation. Finite conditions are not to be judged by infinite standards; and we men are, after all, in the finite and remain so.

And so, from the earliest times since Christianity, from being merely one of opposing systems, became the dominant power, compromises have been sought. The system of the development of power and of justice has nevertheless asserted its influence, and though Christianity has had an external supremacy, this system has forced characteristically Christian life to be regarded as a matter of mere subjective disposition and of private life. But as such compromises do not fully and truly express spiritual necessity, they easily lead to falsity. To rise above this tendency to make such compromises, the acknowledgment of the right and of the limits of each type, the acknowledgment of the necessity of both within a comprehensive whole, is necessary. Such a whole and along with it a common ground, upon which the movements meet together, and can strive to understand one another, is given to us by the spiritual life, acknowledged in its independence. It is not for us to force our life into a finished scheme, but to develop fully and to 286 acknowledge the movements and oppositions which exist in our life. True, life will ever remain unfinished, but can we wish to make it more complete than it can be, and can the incompleteness cause us anxiety, when we are sure of its main direction?








Introductory Considerations

With a consideration of the present we set out: to the present we now return. The convictions at which we have arrived, and which have led us to a characteristic philosophy of life, must now be considered in relation to the needs of the present; we must see whether this philosophy proves to be true in this connection, and this by its own development, as well as by the simplification of the condition of a time, which, as it is immediately experienced, is confused in the highest degree.

But, at the outset of our treatment of this problem, we perceive how difficult it is for the acknowledgment of an independent spirituality to determine our relation to the temporal environment; we see how this acknowledgment transforms that relation into a problem. The conception of the “present” is by no means simple and certain, even as far as its external boundary is concerned. The mere to-day is obviously too short a period to constitute the present; but how much is to be added and where must it cease in order that we may have a genuine present? True, the present must involve a characteristic content that associates the moments and unites them so as to produce a common effect; but does our time give us such a content? The first glance at the state of life in our time reveals a chaotic confusion, which includes the most diverse endeavours, now in passionate union, now in complete indifference to one another, and yet again in harsh hostility; further, there is a constant displacement of the individual elements by a process of elevation and of degradation. Even if something common and permanent is operative in the 290 present, its close amalgamation with this change and movement prevents it from being purely developed: the truth contained in the present state of life is inseparably mixed with human error and passion.

And yet this is not an experience simply of the present, but one common to all ages. For fundamental spiritual creation has always been effected in the direst contradiction to the social environment. What harsh judgments, and judgments that set its value at nil, have been passed upon society with regard to its capacity not only in religion but also in philosophy and art! How severe a conflict has been carried on in all departments of life against the presumption of society! The present, especially, is troubled by these problems, because, as has become evident to us from the beginning of our investigation, it carries within it movements of a diverse and contradictory nature, so that it can hardly produce a consistent impression of the whole, still less attain to a definite character. Human interests and parties seek with all their energy to impress upon the time their own character; they call that modern which is useful to and in harmony with themselves. The most diverse tendencies cross one another; experiences in particular departments of life determine the conception of the whole; the different classes of society follow different courses in accordance with their different interests; much that is accidental is regarded as vital and is allowed to influence us: the extreme has the advantage of being able to make an impression upon us; and the superficial and the negative creep into favour through the easiness of the conclusion presented by them: in short, in this state of the time, that which arises in human opinion is incapable of offering to spiritual endeavour a secure support and an orientation concerning its aims.

This uncertainty cannot be removed by turning our attention to history, by taking an interest in past ages. For, with whatever clearness a highly developed science of history may present the whole course of the ages to us, to believe that our own life is enriched and made more 291 stable by this, we must confuse knowledge and life, the mere present representation of earlier times and the appropriation of them by our own activity—a danger into which the purely academic mode of thought easily falls. The power and the tendency of life in the present determine the nature of our appropriation of the past and of its transformation in self-determining activity. If this life stagnates, then we are helpless in face of the stream of earlier systems of thought. Even if these systems attract us to themselves, and carry us with them for a time, finally they will manifest their antitheses and throw us back again upon ourselves: we cannot escape from ourselves; we can never find a substitute from outside for want of conviction and power of our own. It is a fundamental error, not, indeed, of historical research but of a feeble historical relativism, to expect us to form a conviction of our own by concerning ourselves with the past; and to think that the later stage in history proceeds from the earlier as a self-evident final result. By taking such an attitude to the past we should only fall into the half-will and half-life common to an age of decadence. If the present is thus uncertain in the heart of its spiritual nature, and it is not possible to escape from this uncertainty by resorting to the past, it may appear to be essential that we should be completely delivered from the tyranny of time, and that we should take up an attitude of entire unconcern of its affirmation and its negation of spiritual endeavour.

But a rejection of the immediate relation to time by no means settles the matter. If spiritual work were completely dissociated from the temporal environment and the historical movement, it would be dependent solely upon the capacity of the mere individual and upon the passing moment; all relation, all community of work, would thus be given up, and the performance of others could not be anything to us, nor our achievement anything to others; there would be no inner building up of life, and no hope of reaching greater depths. Not only is it impossible to abandon such aims, but our experience of spiritual work itself contradicts 292 the disintegration of life into nothing but isolated points. If all spiritual creation is effected in contradiction to time, what is denied in this contradiction is rather that which lies upon the surface of time than that which is deeper; rather human accommodation to than the spiritual content of time. All who believe that distinctive human history is sustained by the activity of a spiritual life will attribute to time such a spiritual content.

Every age, therefore, in virtue of the presence of this spiritual life, will contain characteristic spiritual motives, movements, and demands, and will be especially qualified to convey certain contents to man, to open up certain experiences to him, and to point out certain directions. All these must be appropriated by anyone who wishes to transcend the original state of emptiness, and to advance to spiritual creation and to a spiritual fashioning of life. In consequence of this a more friendly attitude may be taken up towards time; and we shall be far more grateful to it—though perhaps not with explicit consciousness, perhaps even in contradiction to definite purpose—than we could ever be with regard to the experiences on the surface of time. However low, for example, the estimate Plato may have formed of “the many” around him; and though with the whole passion of his soul he may have insisted upon a transformation of the immediate condition of life, what he offered of his own and the new that he required, with all its originality and uniqueness, contradicts neither the natural spirit of the Greek nor the contemporary Greek culture: Plato can be regarded only as a Greek of a particular time. His conflict with the time is not the conflict of an incomparable individuality with his environment, but a selection and a unification of the possibilities existing in time; it is an arousing to life of the deeper realities of time against its superficialities, of spiritual necessities in opposition to the conduct and interests of men. In this manner the great man also is a child of his age, and is unintelligible out of relation to it. Could one think of Goethe as living in the Middle Ages, or of Augustine as living in the age of 293 the Enlightenment? Indeed, we may carry our contention further, and say that the great has been just that which has had the closest relation with the time; and that it has reached a permanent significance, just because it expressed the unique nature and the inner longing of the time, that which was incomparable and inderivable in it. That which has been able to work permanently beyond the time in which it made its appearance was born not from a timeless consideration of things, but from the deepest feeling of the needs of the time; only thus can we escape from the feeling of unreality which otherwise accompanies the striving after spirituality. This consideration must commend to spiritual work the closest possible relation with the time, and the spiritual life may hope for an essential advance of its own striving as a result of this relation.

Still, the matter is not so simple as it is often thought to be. The spiritual content of the ages is not a complete fact that permeates life with a sure and definite effect, so that it could be taken up by activity. Rather, that which is great and characteristic in the ages is found only in creative spiritual activity, abstracted from which it is no more than a possibility; a suggestion that is inevitably lost, if an advancing spiritual activity is lacking. Spiritual creation is not a mere copy, an employment of an existent time-character. Rather, time first attains a spiritual character through spiritual activity, and by spiritual creation possibility first becomes complete reality. This spiritual creation is not simply a summation but a potentialisation, an essential elevation of that which exists in time. Without this activity the spiritual elements in time remain merely coexistent, and have no living unity; they realise no life of the whole, no being within the activity, nothing that means to us development of being. Temporal life then remains only a half-life, a life of pretence; it lacks complete self-consciousness and true stability and joy, and at the same time it lacks a genuine present. To attain such a present thus appears to be a difficult task, the performance of which is not so much presupposed by the different branches 294 of spiritual life as is an object of their work. Art, for example, is rightly required to express the feeling of the life of the time; yet it does not find such a feeling of life already existent, but it must first wrest it from the chaos of the general condition of life. Art is great in giving to the time that which it did not already possess, but which is, nevertheless, necessary to the complete reality of its life. Spiritual work, therefore, is not something just added in time, but that which first gives to time a genuine life and a genuine present. This task may be achieved with quite different degrees of success; it is not all times that reach this elevation and attain to a genuine present; those that do so we call great and “classical” times. The general state of our life—which, however, does not imply time as a whole—appears from this point of view to be especially afflicted with the defect and fault of insincerity; our age does not so much live a life of its own as a strange life; and yet this life is represented as being a life of our own. And it is especially so in our own time, when along with a state of division in our own purposes we are inundated by systems of thought alien to us. We are thus in danger of becoming half-hearted and living a life of pretence: in religion we assert the profession of faith and the feelings of times long gone by to be our own conviction and feelings; we build our cathedrals in styles that correspond to another spiritual condition and another tendency of life; in philosophy we hang upon systems and problems of other times; in everything we lack sincerity. But why is this so, and why do we renounce all claim to a life in accordance with our own nature? Certainly not because our time lacks problems and tasks of its own, or because it is deficient in spiritual possibilities and necessities; for, of these there is an abundance; in this matter our time is not behind any other. But there predominates a wrong relation between these tasks and the central power of the spiritual life, which is equal to cope with them and out of the possibilities create a reality.

In any case spiritual work has a great deal to do with the time; and in regard to this it finds itself in no simple 295 situation. Spiritual work must acknowledge a given condition, which it cannot alter to suit its own preferences; but it can make something else out of this condition and also see something else in it than immediately meets the eye. The possibilities of a time are revealed only in spiritual work, and through it alone are they separated from the human additions that usually overgrow them. These possibilities cannot become clearly evident, unless a close relation to history is won: they are not suggestions simply of the moment, for they have been prepared by the whole work of history. History acquires quite a different—a far more positive—meaning when the spiritual life is acknowledged to be independent, and when it is admitted that spiritual life is not just the embellishment of a reality other than spiritual, but the formation of the only genuine and substantial reality, the transition to a self-consciousness of life. For, as such a formation of reality, this creative activity extends beyond the particular time in which it originates, and becomes part of a time-transcending present. True, this activity always appears in a garment that seems simply temporary; but this garment does not constitute its being: the imperishable in it, its fundamental life, remains inwardly near and present even after great changes of temporal condition; and within the sphere of spiritual work is always capable of new effect.

Christianity, for example, in spite of the attacks that are and have been made upon it, still asserts itself as a living power. Yet there cannot be the slightest doubt that in everything that lies on the surface of our life we are as far as possible removed from the centuries of its formation; that not only the view of the world but also the tasks of life and the nature of feeling and disposition have become radically different. But life is not exhausted in these activities on the surface, which must be regarded as external manifestations that proceed from an inner unity. That which these centuries have performed for the essence of life: the realisation of a freedom of spiritual inwardness, the acknowledgment of an independent spiritual world 296 with great aims and tasks, may, indeed, become obscured for the consciousness of individuals and of whole periods; it remains, however, an essential part, a presupposition of all further spiritual life.

As in this manner in the case of Christianity, spiritual reality has also been evolved otherwise in some creative epochs; and in the movement of history they have all together produced a certain condition of spiritual evolution which constitutes the invisible basis of our own activity, and from which it is first possible to elucidate the spiritual nature of a particular time. This universal, historical state of spiritual evolution indicates a level, to which must correspond all work, which desires not simply to attain the aim of the moment but also to serve in the building up of a spiritual reality within the domain of humanity. This historical condition of the spiritual life is not conferred upon us by history; rather history only mediates an incentive that must first be transformed by our own activity and conviction. Only a mode of thought which transcends the movement of history can recognise a spiritual content in history and in our own time, and use this content for our own striving.

Spiritual work, therefore, and philosophy as part of it, has a twofold relation to time, a negative and a positive: it must possess an independence of time, and it must seek an intimate relation with it. The “modern,” according to the sense in which it is taken, will arouse us at one time to energetic opposition, at another to the closest intimacy; the former when it desires to subject us to the contemporary conditions with all their contingency, the latter when it champions the spiritual possibilities of the time and the state of spiritual evolution in contrast with the human. We are concerned in a conflict for genuine against false time; we are to distinguish clearly between the merely human and the spiritual present; the spiritual life must first give a genuine reality to time, and in doing this must advance in itself.

Every particular philosophic conviction must justify itself in its treatment of this problem; it must be in a 297 position to wrest the truth from the error in time; to understand and to estimate the endeavour of the time without yielding to it; to comprehend as a whole the manifold elements of truth in the life of the present, and to elucidate them from a transcendent unity. Without doubt great problems and fruitful possibilities exist in the time, but we often feel the most painful contrast between their demands and the achievements of man. To diminish this divergence; for the time to attain more to its own perfection and become a genuine present, is an urgent task in the performance of which philosophy also must co-operate; and by this endeavour philosophy can also gain much for itself.




The term “culture” received its present meaning in the latter half of the eighteenth century; culture itself reaches back to the beginning of the Modern Age. The whole evolution of the Modern Age is a striving beyond the religious form of life which prevailed in the Middle Ages, and which began to be felt to be narrow and one-sided. In opposition to this type of life a new type arose, increased in strength, and finally we became fully conscious of it in the idea of culture. The new type has been felt to be far superior to the old in many ways; it is not limited to one side of human nature, but desires to take it, and to develop it as a whole; it does not refer man to any kind of external aid, but makes his life depend as much as possible upon his own power, and finds an aim fully sufficient in the limitless extension of this power; it directs man’s perception and endeavour not so much beyond the world as to it, and hopes by this means to give a stability to his striving, and a close relation with the abundance of things. The movement has brought about a far-reaching transformation of life: that which was lying dormant has been aroused; the rigid made plastic; the manifold woven into a whole of life; the whole range of life has acquired more spontaneous freshness and inner movement. The result of the work of history now becomes for the first time a complete possession, since above everything contingent and accidental it elevates an essential, and above everything tending to separation and hostility, a common humanity.

The animating and ennobling influence of modern culture 299 is nowhere more manifest than in the life-work of Goethe. For we recognise the greatness of his nature primarily in that, with the acutest vision and the greatest freedom, he entered into the multiplicity of experience and events; with placid yet powerful dominance stripped off all that was mere semblance and pretence, all that was simply conventional and partial, and fully realised the genuine, the freshness of life, and the purely human. (V. “The Problem of Human Life.”) His treatment of Biblical narratives is a good example of this: that a king reigned in Egypt who knew not Joseph suggests to him how quickly even the most magnificent human achievements are forgotten; that Saul went forth to find his father’s she-asses, and found a kingdom, symbolises to him the truth that we men often reach something totally different from, and also much better than, that for which we strove and hoped; the miracle of the walking on the water is to him a parable of unflinching faith—the holding fast to apparent impossibilities—without which there can be no great creation.

If, with this achievement, modern culture may have the feeling of being the fulfilment of the strivings of the ages, yet its own course has produced oppositions, and engendered perplexities that culminate in a dangerous crisis. Culture, as it was represented at the height of German spiritual life, was directed chiefly towards the inner development of man; it was called with especial satisfaction “spiritual culture.” Its adherents were concerned not so much with finding a better relation to the environment as with growing in the realm of their own soul, and with employing whatever the experience of life brought in the development of a self-conscious personality, of pure inwardness. Only in this way did they seem to advance from the previous state of limitation to the complete breadth of existence, and the exercise of all their powers. A joy in life, a firm confidence in the rationality of reality gave this inner culture a soul; and a bold flight bore it far above the narrowness and heaviness of daily life; æsthetic literary creation became 300 the chief sphere of its work, and the chief means for the development and self-perfecting of personality.

Inner culture has by no means vanished from our life; effects of many kinds are felt from it in the present. But it has been forced to resign its supremacy in favour of a realistic culture, which makes the relation to the environment the chief matter, and removes the centre of life to the intellectual and practical control of this environment. In realistic culture the inner development of work, of work in the direction of natural science and technical art, as well as in politics and social endeavour, is less occupied with the acquiring of a powerful individuality than with the establishment of an agreeable condition of society as a whole. Since activity is related more and more closely with things, and receives laws and directions from them, culture is freed from dependence upon man and his subjectivity. Culture is an impersonal power in contrast with man; it does not lead ultimately to a good to him so much as make him simply a means and an instrument of its progressive movement. An immeasurable structure of life, a ceaseless self-assertion and self-advancement, an arousing and an exertion of all powers that can bring man into relation with the environment, are manifest in this culture: but at the same time there is an increasing transformation of our life into a mere life of relation and mediation, a deprivation and a vanishing of self-consciousness. In the midst of the magnificent triumphs in external matters there is an increasingly perceptible contrast between an astonishing development of the technical, and a pitiful neglect of the personal side of life: in regard to the former we surpass all other times, as much as we fall below most in regard to the latter. Along with a ceaseless increase of technical capacity, there is a rapid degeneration of personal life, a pauperising of the soul. Where the matter is one of a technical nature there is a magnificent condition, definite progress in all departments, work conscious of its aim; but there is a painful groping and helpless hesitation, a stagnation of production, an emptiness that is only just hidden 301 by a veneer of academic education, where powerful personalities and impressive individualities are required.

For a time we were carried away entirely by the tendency to place our attention solely upon the environment, and we seemed to be satisfied absolutely by it. But the inner life that has been evolved within human experience by the work of thousands of years, and through severe convulsions, prevents this condition being accepted as a conclusion; that which has once become an independent centre cannot possibly permit itself to be degraded to the position of a mere means and an instrument. It is impossible to give up all claim to self-conscious and self-determining life and a satisfaction of this life. Our spiritual nature compels us to ask questions and to make claims; if they are not satisfied, then, notwithstanding all the wealth of experiences, the feeling of poverty spreads and we seek for aids, and, first, we turn back to that inner culture from which we had turned away. But we find the ways shut off; a direct return is impossible. This culture had characteristic principles and presuppositions; and the course of modern life itself has, if not overthrown them, involved them in serious doubt. We have become clearly conscious of the limitations which this inner culture had without itself feeling them; movements which it united have now separated, and have become hostile. Inner culture rested on a firm faith in the power of reason in reality, and this faith begot a joyful confidence. For it the world was sustained and determined by inner forces: we feel the rigid actuality of occurrences, the indifference of the machinery of the world towards the aims of the spirit, and the contradictions of existence. In the former case the greatness of man was the predominant faith; and this greatness was sought in his freedom: we, however, feel much more our bondage to obscure powers and at the same time our insignificance. In the former again, it aroused no opposition to call only a chosen part of humanity, the creative, to full and complete life, and to assign a most meagre portion to the majority: we cannot possibly 302 renounce the concern for all mankind and for the welfare of every individual. In the former, morality and art were harmoniously united in the ideal of life; in our time they have separated and are at deadly enmity with one another. Everywhere life has given rise to more problems, more inconsistencies, more obscurities; thus, with all its external proximity, the joyfully secure ideal of life of our classical writers is inwardly removed far from us; without insincerity we cannot proclaim it to be our profession of faith. In particular the resort to Goethe, as to one with a secure standard of life, is in general no more than an expression of perplexity, no more than a flight from a clear decision of our own: the universality and the flexibility of his spirit permit a point of contact with him to be found by those whose views directly contradict those of one another, and allows each to abstract, and make a profession of faith of that which is preferable and pleasing to himself.

Thus to-day we are in a state of uncertainty and indefiniteness in reference to the problem of culture. Since the new does not suffice, and the old cannot be taken up again, we are in doubt with regard to the whole conception of culture; we know neither what we have of it nor what it demands from us. We cannot give up our claim to being something more than nature, without sinking again to the level of the mere animal; but in what this “more” consists and how it is at all possible to surpass nature is to us completely obscure. A developed historical consciousness and the free unfolding of the powers of the present permit many things to rush in upon us; and we are involved in much inconsistency. We have seen diverse systems of life arise and attract man to themselves; their conflict relegates to the background all that is common to them, produces the greatest uncertainty, and gives rise to the inclination, in order to avoid all perplexities, to regard life as being made up entirely of that which occurs within sense experience; and to acquire aims from this experience, as well as to derive powers from it. But in this we fall into the danger of idealising sense experience 303 falsely, and of expecting achievements from movements within it which are possible only if these movements flow from deeper sources. We flee to morality to become free from all religion and metaphysics; as though morality, elevating man, as it does, above simply physical preservation and the compulsion of mere instinct, is not itself a metaphysic, and as though it does not of necessity require the existence of an order superior to nature. Then we flee to the subject with its unrestrained inwardness and contrast this inwardness with all the restricting relations of life; as though the subject had any content and any value without an independent inner world, the recognition of which involves a complete revolution of the representation of reality; as then according to the witness of history also humanity has reached such an inner world only through wearisome toil and forceful resolutions. The whole course of Antiquity had been leading up to this inner world, but the collision of Antiquity at the time of its decay, with Christianity which was then arising, first developed it clearly. Such an inner world must ever be justified anew; and for this our own activity and conviction are necessary. If we surrender its basis, it becomes dead capital which, little by little, is inevitably spent, and then the appeal to the subject that has lost its spiritual content is but a mere semblance of help, which deceives us concerning the seriousness of the situation with sweet-sounding words like “personality,” “individuality,” and so forth. If the spiritual life is not strengthened and does not energetically counteract this tendency, then, notwithstanding all external progress, we must inwardly sink lower and lower.

It is obvious that there is already such a counteraction in existence; otherwise, how could spiritual destitution and the insignificance of the merely human be so keenly felt in the present; how could so ardent a desire for an inner elevation spread amongst men as we experience it around us? There is no lack of attempts and endeavours after new aims and new ways. But much is still lacking for these attempts to be equal to satisfy the requirements 304 of the matter. We place far too much hope in external reforms, instead of primarily strengthening the inner basis of life; we fix our attention far too much upon individual tasks instead of seizing the whole; we have far too much faith that we can rise to a new life out of this chaotic condition, instead of insisting upon an attainment of independence in relation to this condition.

How could independence be attained except by an energetic reflection of man upon himself, upon his fundamental relation to reality, upon the life dwelling in him, in short, except by self-consciousness? It is not the first time that, in the course of the ages, to satisfy such a demand has become the most urgent of all tasks. The work of history has not unshakable foundations from the beginning; but the spiritual nature of epochs always involves the activity and the decisions of man; it involves, therefore, presuppositions that for a long period may be accepted as established truths, and which, yet, finally become problematic. At the beginning of the Modern Age, especially in the transition to the Enlightenment, apparently established truths became problematic in this way: the present is in a similar situation. The threads that we have hitherto followed break; all external help is rejected, as is also the authority of history; nothing else remains to us than our own capacity, and the hope to find in it a new support and the basis for a new construction. Only by our own power, and after a break with the immediate present, shall we be able to strive after a new idea of culture which corresponds to the historical position of spiritual evolution, and which can take up into itself the experiences of humanity. Such times of error, of vacillation, of searching, of necessary renewal, are disagreeable and severe, but it depends only on the summoning of spiritual power whether they become great and fruitful. For, with regard to these central questions the times do not make men, but men make the times, not, of course, in accordance with their own preferences, but by seizing and realising the necessities that exist in the spiritual condition of the time.


Now, as scarcely anything else in life is more called upon to co-operate in the renewing of culture than philosophy, so the system here concisely presented is placed in the service of this task; it attempts a construction chiefly by the union of three demands and points of attack: it requires a more energetic development and a complete unification of the life-process; it requires the acknowledgment and development of a spiritual life of independent nature present to us; and lastly, it requires that this life shall be understood and treated as the world’s consciousness of itself and thus as the only reality. All these demands must tend towards an essential alteration of the existent state of culture; they make much inadequate that previously sufficed; but they also reveal an abundance of new prospects and the possibility of a thorough inner elevation.

It is a leading idea of our whole investigation that only from the life-process itself are we able to orientate ourselves in relation to ourselves and the world; and this idea is in agreement with the present mode of thought in science. But to apply to our own time that which is already acknowledged in general ideas is by no means simple. To give the life-process such a position in our thought and to estimate it so highly is possible only when life is distinctly distinguished from the states of the mere subject, from the mere reflex of the environment in the individual. This detachment cannot be accomplished unless we comprehend as a whole that which exists in individual manifestations of life; distinguish different levels in life, indicate relations and movements within them, and thus advance to new experiences of life; reveal a union of fact, a distinctive synthesis in life, which from a transcendent unity shapes the multiplicity that it contains. But if in general it is difficult to free ourselves so much from the condition of life in which we find ourselves, to be able to illuminate this condition in this way, and to throw its inner framework into relief; for us there is also to be added the immeasurable expansion that directs the interests and the vision to the outside, and is accustomed to treat, as a mere supplement, 306 a mere means and instrument, the life that in reality sustains all infinity. A culture that has made the attainment of results the chief thing has been detrimental to the spiritual, which no longer trusts itself to encompass these achievements and to change them in a development of life, to take up the conflict for dominion over reality. It willingly flees to the passivity of the subject, where sooner or later it expires in complete destitution.

If inwardness is so feeble and external relations so overwhelm us, life necessarily receives its content from outside, and seems to be determined essentially by that which happens around us. It is this that lends so much power to-day to a superficial enlightenment that centres in natural science, and expects life to be advanced without limit, and man to be revived and ennobled, simply by reaching a more valid representation of the environment. We do not ask here how far the representations proposed overcome the difficulties of the older representations, or whether new and more difficult problems do not arise from the solutions offered; but we do ask whether life can obtain its aim and content from outside, and whether it can be treated simply as an addition to nature without degenerating inwardly, and losing all inner motive. We ask what the theories based chiefly on externals make of man, and what they achieve for his soul. We summon him to an examination, to see whether the picture that is held up to him by these theories agrees with what he longs for, and, by a compelling necessity of his being, must long for.

To-day it will also be evident that the final decision does not rest with the intellect, but with life as a whole. For, little as intellectual achievement is absent from truth, the masses—and to the masses belong those at the average level of all classes, higher as well as lower—will always hold fast to the external impression. The advance beyond this impression and the appreciation of the inner conditions of knowledge will always remain a concern of the minority. There is, however, a point where the problem becomes real to each individual, and where each can offer his opinion: 307 this is in reference to the question of the happiness and the content of life. The more this question is felt, the greater will be the thirst for a substantial truth in contrast with the shadows of the Enlightenment; the more will the question concerning the nature of life as a whole receive its due consideration, and the perception of things externally will give place to a comprehension of their inner reality. Only with such a revolution can our life and we ourselves be transformed from a state of spiritual destitution to one of independent energy; only thus can we discover the wealth that is within us; only thus can culture, from being an occupation with things, become a preservation and an unfolding of our own selves; only thus can we strive for more simplicity in contrast to the complexity that would otherwise be our condition; and only thus can we wrest from what would otherwise be chaos, fundamentals and tendencies. Our demand, therefore, that the starting-point should be the life-process itself is in harmony with the innermost longing of the time—even if this longing is often indefinite—after a deepening of life and an attainment of its independence.

If the turning to the life-process puts the question, the assertion of an independent spiritual life gives the answer to it: however strange this assertion may seem in relation to superficial temporal experience, it meets a deep longing. For we are completely satiated with narrowly human culture; the movements and experiences of the Modern Age, and in particular of the present, make us so clearly conscious of all that is trivial, simply apparent, disagreeable, feeble, shallow, empty, and futile in human conduct, that all hope of finding satisfaction in this conduct, and of advancing life essentially by its means and powers, must be abandoned. We have, therefore, to face the following alternative: either absolute doubt and the cessation of all effort, or the acknowledgment of a “more” in man; there is no third possibility. But in the context of our investigation no discussion is required to show that this “more” cannot consist in an individual’s elevation of himself above others; that it 308 cannot consist in a so-called Superman—a view that only involves us more in the narrowly human. Either the “more” sought for is only imaginary, a covering of tinsel with which we conceal our nakedness, or a world transcending the merely human, a new stage of reality, reveals itself to man, which can become his own life. As it is this transcendent world alone that engenders a universal life within us and opposes the insignificantly human; so also from this alone, and as its manifestation, can culture become independent in relation to man. Only when it is understood in this way can culture include aims and tasks that do not strengthen man in his narrowness, but free him from it, and make him spiritually greater.

Not only the conception but the whole nature of that which is called culture is an unstable hybrid. It should elevate man above nature, and give to his life a characteristic spiritual content; but at the same time we have a dread of a detachment from the experience of sense and of the construction of an independent world, because these must lead to that which, of all things, is the cause of most alarm, to a change of a metaphysical character, to a transformation of existence. In truth, in the work of humanity two tendencies are usually undistinguished, which, if life is to continue to advance, need to be distinctly separated: a spiritual culture and a merely human culture. The former reveals new contents and aims; with it a new world emerges within man, and transforms his life from its basis: the latter uses that which a higher organisation has given us, solely as a means for the advancement of our natural and social existence. Merely human culture turns the spiritual into a mere means to increase narrowly human happiness, whereas the spiritual by its very nature makes us feel the whole of this happiness to be too insignificant, indeed intolerable. The difference of a merely human and a spiritual culture extends from the fundamental disposition to all the separate departments of life. Religion, for example, is to the former a means by which the individual may make himself as comfortable and as secure 309 as possible in an existent world, and conduct his own insignificant ego through all dangers; to the latter, it signifies a radical break with that world and the gain of a new life, in which care for that ego, or even the state of society, is relegated completely into the background. To the one, morality is simply a means in the organisation of human social life, in the accommodation of the individual to his environment; to the other, it discloses a new fundamental relation to reality, and in the transformation of existence in self-determining activity allows life to win an inner union with the infinite and its self-consciousness. On the one hand, art, science, the life of the state, education, and so forth are the idols of utility, of expediency, the adornments of a given existence; on the other, they are the gods of truth, of inner independence, of world-renewing spontaneity. That there should be an end to the confusion of the worship of idols and of gods; that spiritual culture should be distinguished from merely human culture; that the spiritual content of the individual departments of life should be energetically developed, and the spiritual poverty of merely human culture made clear—all this is the urgent demand of the present, without the fulfilment of which its state of confusion cannot be overcome. Yet spiritual culture can never become independent unless the spiritual world is independent. Only the presence of this spiritual world makes it possible for culture, at the level at which it is generally found, to be tested by a transcendent standard to see how much spiritual substance, how much content and value, it contains. This test will prove that we possess far less spirituality than we think; and that the most of what is called culture is no more than the semblance of culture, no more than imagination and presumption. But at the same time we recognise and gain in the little spirituality that remains to us incomparably more; we win the presence of a new world, and by this, depth of life and the possibility of an inner renewal. Our life would be indescribably shallow if it were to pass on one level and were to be exhausted in the experiences 310 at that level. The acknowledgment of an independent spiritual life saves us from this shallowness, in that it shows an inner gradation within our own province and sets life as a whole a task.

If the acknowledgment of a spiritual world, inwardly present to us, gives to culture a distinctive character, this character receives a further modification from the particular manner in which the spiritual life makes its appearance and becomes established within our existence; at the same time, from this position there is also the possibility of different sides and tasks within an all-comprehensive work of culture. Of special significance in reference to this modification is the circumstance that the spiritual life does not possess man as a natural fact, does not operate within him with complete power and sure direction from the beginning, but is present to him at first only as a possibility, and as a transcendence of the general condition of things. In accordance with this, although the spiritual belongs to our nature, it is not so much “given” to us as set as a task; for its realisation it needs our own attention and appropriation; all development of the spiritual life within us, therefore, involves our own activity and so receives an ethical character. The spiritual life also has such an ethical character because, transcending our original condition, it must be conveyed to us, and must be maintained by an imparting and an activity. In the spiritual life we find ourselves in a sphere of activity and of freedom in contrast with that of nature; in this way our life becomes our work, our own life in a much more real sense. We see this in the case of the fundamental form of the spiritual life that is called “personality.” We men are by no means personalities from the beginning; but we bear within us simply the potentiality of becoming a personality. Whether we shall realise our personality is decided by our own work; it depends primarily upon the extent to which we succeed in striving beyond the given existence to a state of self-determining activity. The fact that we thus take part in the formation of our own being proves that we are citizens of a new world—a world other than 311 nature—and shows that we are incomparably more than we could become simply as parts of nature. Neither philosophy nor religion will convince one who, at this point, does not recognise an elevation to a higher power, indeed a transformation of existence. But one who recognises this will desire such a transformation and such an elevation of culture also; he will not come to an easy compromise with the given condition of things and draw the greatest possible amount of pleasure from this condition; but he will set culture an objective ideal; arouse it from the prevailing state of indolence; fully acknowledge the antitheses of experience, and will be provoked rather to make further exertions than disposed to abandon himself to these antitheses. Life finds its main problem in itself, solely in the development of an ethical character, and attains to complete independence and a transcendence of nature only when the spiritual takes precedence. Every culture that does not treat the ethical task, in the widest sense, as the most important of tasks and the one that decides all, sinks inevitably to a semblance of culture, a half-culture, indeed a comedy. The æsthetic system, with its transformation of life into play and pleasure, with its beautiful language and its spiritual poverty, is such a life. To-day, therefore, we can revive and strengthen culture only by establishing such an ethical conviction. Only a culture of an ethical character can develop an independent and positive spirituality; only such a culture can free the impulse of life from being directed simply to natural self-preservation, and in doing this not make the impulse weaker, but stronger. In nothing have minds been more divided and in nothing will they become more divided than with regard to the question whether, after the perception of the inadequacy of mere nature and society, a new world reveals itself to them, or whether this negation is the ultimate conclusion; the former will be possible only through that which we call ethical.

The conception that we have here presented of the spiritual life and of its relation to man also makes it for 312 the first time possible to understand and acknowledge the manifold and opposing elements in our time without falling into a shallow eclecticism. Realism advances in power, and Idealism seems to be endangered in respect not only of its form but also of its innermost nature. Idealism is indeed in danger so long as the spiritual life has not attained to independence in relation to man; for, so long as the spiritual life is regarded as a production of man the knowledge of man’s relation to nature and his animal origin must lead to a serious prostration, to a complete dissolution of Idealism. If, on the other hand, it is established that with the spiritual life a new order transcending the power of man makes its appearance within him, then the recognition of human incapacity becomes a direct witness to the independence of the spiritual life. We must, therefore, cease to treat spiritual developments, such as religion, art, morality, as the natural attributes of all called men. Man’s natural character simply offers tendencies and relations which can find a spiritual character only by the revelation of a spiritual world. The decisive point of transition is not between man and animal, but between nature and spirit. But even where culture is supposed to be at its highest, human existence is for the most part at the level of nature—and is only embellished in some degree.

In Idealism a religious shaping of life is to be distinguished from an immanent shaping of life by spiritual creation, especially in art and science. The demand for a universal spiritual system involves the rejection of the specific religious system as being in many ways too narrow and open to hostile criticism; this universal system, however, as it is presented when the spiritual life is acknowledged to be independent, is closely related to religion. Not only is all spirituality within us dependent upon a universal spiritual life, but this spiritual life within us always presents itself as something transcendent and is not coincident with our life. This religious character must be the more clearly emphasised the greater the toil with which the 313 spiritual life must defend itself from a world apparently alien and hostile. Immanent Idealism, filling life as it does through art and science, cannot possibly be the whole and conclusive—for this reason at least, that it has too little with which to counteract the perplexities of spiritual and of material life, and because it concentrates life too little within itself. But a scientific character is indispensable to a universal spiritual culture, in order that life may not pass in subjective feeling and presentation, and that life may have an objective character, and be led to the clearness of a universal consciousness. An æsthetic form and creative activity pertain also to this life; for, otherwise, no representation of reality as a whole could be obtained from the confused impressions of immediate experience; the spiritual could attain to no clear present, and could not permeate reality with ennobling power, and change all that is deformed and indifferent to it in the original condition of things.

From the point of view of spiritual culture the movements in the direction of Realism also may be regarded as of value, if only they do not desire to dominate life and to impress their form directly upon it. The tendency to place a low estimate upon the natural and material conditions of life and of human social relationship has everywhere revenged itself upon the spiritual life, since it has allowed that life to fall into a state of weakness and effeminacy, and prevented it from realising its full power and strength.

The acknowledgment of the multiplicity of tasks that are involved in all the departments must be a source of great danger to life, if every department of human experience does not serve the development of an independent spiritual life. The more power the spiritual life acquires, the more securely will it tend to prevent division. Nevertheless, everything is in a state of movement; man must first win a coherent character for his life. But it is already a great gain that we are not defenceless in face of the antitheses within the human sphere, that the presence of an independent 314 spiritual life elevates us inwardly above them and only allows an inner unity to take up a conflict.

We may also briefly consider how the conception of the spiritual life as a coming of reality to itself, as a formation and development of being, must tend to deepen and strengthen the work of culture. How much more this work must become to us, how much more indispensable must it be, if it is not simply a matter of giving an existent material a new form, of arousing dormant powers, but if in it we first advance from a life that is only a half-life and a life of pretence to a real and genuine life; if we struggle not for one thing or another within existence, but for our being as a whole! If once life is awakened to reflect upon itself, and if at the same time it makes a claim to self-consciousness and a content, it cannot doubt the poverty of the life of mere nature and just as little that of the life of mere society; in the former, as in the latter, there are only suggestions of a genuine life, only possibilities, most of which do not come to be realised. Not suffering, but spiritual destitution is man’s worst enemy. From this position the outlook of the life of the majority can be only a cloudy one, its value only mean. If we abstract from the experience of man that which is due to the necessity of self-preservation and to social training, how much inner movement, how much life of his own, how much that is spiritual remains in him! How many dead souls there are in all classes of society; how many who, allowing their powers to lie dormant, drift about aimlessly! Nevertheless other possibilities exist in man, and even if they are not positively developed, still they prevent him from feeling satisfied in that state of spiritual poverty, and always keep him in an insecure state of suspension.

The less we think of the immediate welfare and capacity of man, the more will the spiritual life transcend us and the more urgent will the task of the spiritual life become—to preserve to human existence in the midst of all externality and pretence some kind of substance and some kind of soul. However, we have already occupied ourselves with the 315 question of the nature and significance of truth and reality in the spiritual life.


A problem from which no system of life can escape is that of the organisation of culture, the question how the work of culture can be divided into different departments and at the same time preserve a unity. To-day we are in a state of great perplexity in this matter; an old solution has become untenable, and a new one has not yet been found.

The Middle Ages handed down to us a system of culture that may be described as a hierarchy, in the widest sense of that term. The multiplicity of life was united into a whole; but this whole was dominated by distinctive religious and philosophic convictions, which assigned to each individual department its place in the whole and set it its task; these departments attained to a complete independence as little as that system had an independence for individual forms. The Modern Age has evolved and has realised a system of freedom in increasing opposition to the earlier system. How this everywhere effects an emancipation is demonstrated by our problem of the increasing development to independence by the individual departments of life. The state and society, science and art, find their tasks more and more within themselves, in their own development; they engender distinctive laws and methods of their own; they seem to be able to reach their aims of their own capacity. Effort is directed more and more into individual departments, and there is a feeling of complete satisfaction in this tendency. Our life has gained immensely in comprehensiveness and breadth by the transition to this modern system: it comes more closely into touch with the realm of fact; it produces a greater 316 diversity of movement, since the different departments have their own starting-points, enter upon distinctive paths, and direct their powers into these paths. The attainment of independence by the individual departments of life constitutes one of the chief gains of modern culture, and it cannot again be given up.

But the attainment of independence by the individual departments brings great perplexities with it, which make a definite counter-movement necessary. At first the tendencies characteristic of the individual departments directly contradict one another; indeed, this is inevitable, if they are not systematised in some way. For, particular experiences of human life are present in each department: one feels our greatness more, another our weakness; one is moved more by the harmony of existence, another more by the antitheses; one tends rather to exert power upon the environment, the other to concentration in itself; from these experiences there must originate different modes of life and different representations of the world. In this condition of life it is impossible for the different tendencies not to cross one another and to clash together; and this threatens to divide our life, and to rob it of all its inner unity. A glance at the condition of life in the present is sufficient to convince us that such dangers are more than fancies.

To the difficulty in respect of the relations of the different departments among themselves, we must add another, if anything greater, in respect of the relation of each department to life as a whole. To be well organised each department needs a co-operation of form and content, of the technical and the personal; the former gives the department its particular nature; for the latter a relation with life as a whole is necessary. The work of science, for example, follows certain forms of thought, which it evolves from itself, and which are equally valid for all times and parties. But even the most conscientious following of these laws does not give to science a content and a character; science can acquire these only in relation with a movement of life 317 as a whole, which, in its striving from whole to whole, takes up the experiences of humanity and unites them into a whole. Only in this way does science, from being simply an arrangement and accumulation, become knowledge, an inner appropriation of things. If in accordance with this the individual departments are detached more and more from life as a whole, and are made dependent solely upon their own capacity, it can hardly be otherwise than that in the midst of all perfection in execution they lose more and more all spiritual content and all definite character. At the same time, it may soon follow that the effect upon humanity as a whole will become subsidiary and a matter of indifference; the individual departments will become exclusively a matter of a circle of specialists, and strive for an effect within this circle only. In this way an art arises which, in the artist, forgets the man, and which does not so much convey new content to human life, or help the time to attain to a characteristic feeling of life, and elevate it above the meaninglessness and the confusion of commonplace everyday experience, but which is for the most part mindful of refinement in execution, and so, easily degenerates into the complicated and the virtuoso. In the case of science we find the same thing. It may, through exaggerating the independence necessary to it, assume an air of proud self-satisfaction, and, by detachment from the movement of life as a whole, that which is its main concern, namely, knowledge, may suffer. For it soon tends to become mere erudition, which treats problems as something half-alien, gains no inner relation to things, does not understand how to animate reality, indeed even rejects, as unscientific, all striving after such animation. This tendency produces, to use an expression of Hegel’s, excellent “counter-servers,” who do not look after business of their own, but only that of others.

No people are more threatened by the danger of this tendency than we Germans; more especially because the tendency is closely related with a most advantageous quality of our nature—willing subordination to the object, fidelity 318 to and conscientiousness in our work. But since we follow this one tendency, aspects and tendencies which are absolutely necessary to a complete life stagnate and decay. We do not sufficiently develop a personal life independent of the object; we do not encompass and transform it from its very base by a transcendent life-process; and so we are occupied too much with the material, and do not completely spiritualise it; we do not bring into relief simple lines in the infinite abundance, which we require and must maintain complete. How many excellent scholars our time possesses, who are equipped with an astonishing capacity for work, who are masters of even the most complicated technical matters, and yet how few spiritual types there are among them; how few who have anything to say to humanity, and who will exert their influence in this way beyond the present! The history of German formative art also indicates a painful divergence between the amount of untiring work and the carefulness of execution, and the creation of simple and pure forms that would increase the spiritual possessions of humanity, and be permanent factors in its movement. However, the trait is rooted far too deeply in our being for even the most determined resolution to be able directly to achieve much to counteract it. Nevertheless, it is not a matter of indifference whether we give ourselves complacently up to this one-sidedness, and fortify ourselves proudly in it; or whether we oppose it to the best of our ability.

We find ourselves therefore in the present in a difficult situation with regard to the organisation of culture. To give up the independence of the individual departments, or even only to limit it in any way, would be an enormous and impossible retrogression; on the other hand, some kind of inner unity of life must be obtained. A transcendence of the antithesis must, therefore, be sought; and this needs a distinctive structure of life. The spiritual life offers such a structure in so far as it constitutes the development of being. For we saw how independent centres and characteristic movements arise in an all-comprehensive life. Between 319 these movements there may be manifold relations and antitheses, but they are within a vital whole and with their experiences can aid its further development. Viewing the departments of life from this position, it will be necessary to show that each individual department has a root in life as a whole and a significance for this life; only thus can the power of this whole life be exerted in the individual departments, and penetrate them. But the department does not receive its form simply from the whole by way of derivation; but it can take up and treat the problem independently, and with its own means; that which exists in the whole as an affirmation may be only a question and a suggestion in the individual department. Yet this is in no way without value: for, nevertheless, it leads us beyond the indefiniteness of the original condition, and guides effort in circumscribed paths. What gives work in the individual departments special significance and intensity is the fact that they take up the problem of the whole in a particular sphere, and can treat that problem in a characteristic manner; that they are not mere aids and assistants, but independent co-operators. In this connection it is of especial importance that the spiritual life is not conferred upon man in a finished form; but that within him it must first be worked towards with great toil and through doubt and error, from indefinite outlines to more detailed development. It is obvious that the form of the whole will ever be questionable; and that the individual departments must co-operate in the examination and justification of the forms proposed. Indeed, it is just the mark of great achievements in the individual departments that, while they transform their own sphere, they at the same time develop the whole. It is this that distinguishes Leibniz from Wolff, and Kant from Herbart.

Such an organisation gives to life a movement in two directions: it must be conducted from whole to part, and from part to whole. The individual departments must be developed far enough to reveal their particularity 320 and to produce a characteristic tendency of their own; but they must remain within a whole, to receive from it and to lead back to it. The relations between the individual departments will be distinctive in such a system; the influence of one upon another will be without suspicion, and advantageous, only when it is exerted through the mediation of the whole; while disturbances are inevitable, when one conveys immediate experiences to another and imposes its nature upon another. It was necessary, for example, to reject the earlier encroachments of religion upon other departments of life; art, too, often found it necessary to resist the tendency to subordinate it to morality; and to-day there is a strong inclination to shape every department of life in accordance with the instructions of natural science. Yet although such encroachments must be rejected, and the independence of each in relation to the others preserved, the changes that are effected in one department are by no means indifferent and lost to the other departments. For, if through these changes life as a whole is developed, then the effect of the change must extend to the other departments. In this manner of mediation religion has exercised a strong influence upon the other departments of life; and in this sense, to-day, an influence of natural science upon the whole circle of existence will be readily acknowledged. But this does not involve a limitation or an enslaving of other departments, because the change in life as a whole must now be ascertained first; and, besides, each individual department must test by its own experiences the suggestion coming from the whole.

When we take all these facts into consideration we see that the organisation of culture is a difficult problem and that our organisation is unstable. In culture, different tendencies will cross one another; antitheses cannot be avoided, and collisions will not be lacking. But that which life loses in completeness and exclusiveness, it gains in wealth and movement; and division need not be a cause of anxiety so long as a powerful spiritual life embraces and unifies the multiplicity. Without such a counteraction 321 by the spiritual life we must drift towards ever greater specialisation; and, with this, we should not only see life become more and more disintegrated, but we should also become less and less spiritual, and be transformed into a soulless mechanism.



Preliminary Considerations

Before we proceed to discuss the individual departments of life we may briefly consider the common task that is imposed upon them all by the distinctive condition of the time: they must become independent in relation to the earlier as well as to the more modern conceptions of them, and, if necessary, take up a conflict against both. The course of our investigation can have left no doubt with regard to the state of prostration of the older forms of life: the uncertainty affects the whole and the fundamental principles much more than it has ever done before. Formerly the struggle was concerned rather with individual departments or individual tendencies of life; it was carried on more in reference to the conception and meaning of fundamental truths than with regard to the validity of those truths themselves. The passionate struggles of the period of the Reformation left the fundamentals of Christianity untouched; in a similar manner the later attacks upon ecclesiastical religion usually had a basis of firm faith in morality, and derived their power more especially from it. To-day the authority of morality is just as seriously shaken as that of religion; and the conception of truth is itself in the same condition of uncertainty.

In this condition of things an appeal to history cannot be employed as proof of any position; a patchwork of our own and of something alien gives us still less a position above perplexity: there is no other way than to take up the problem with the means of the present itself. For this the acknowledgment of the independence of the spiritual 323 life forms a fit foundation. The spiritual life is not dependent upon and fixed to particular temporal conditions; ever anew it can break forth spontaneously, and from the particularity of the time advance to eternal truths. It is to us a source of joy that a time has come again when we need not follow other paths, but must go our own; when nothing can bind us but that which has been approved by our own being and our own conviction. It is not necessary for a time such as this to take up an attitude of hostility towards the whole past; rather—and especially when it thinks worthily of itself—it will seek a friendly relationship with history. But this is possible only when the present has attained complete independence, and only from this independent position; only when an eternal content is revealed in that which history conveys to us. In opposition to submission to authority such a time makes a demand for unlimited freedom and complete spontaneity; such freedom and spontaneity are essential if life is again to find the truthfulness and the inner power that we so painfully miss.

Such a requirement of life and thought arising out of the immediate present may easily lead us to separate from those to whom the crisis does not seem so serious, and who believe that it is possible to transform the old in a quiet and inhostile manner into the new. The conflict will be far more acute with those who, with us, make the demand for an independent present; but who, by the conceptions of an independent present, freedom and spontaneity, understand something totally different from that which we ourselves understand by them from the point of view of an independent spiritual life. In all times of spiritual revival the freedom and immediacy which the spiritual life needs for itself have been usurped by mere man as though they were a right pertaining to him: and then it appears that only the complete emancipation of individuals, a severance of all connections, unconditional submission to the passing moment, are necessary in order to lead life to truth and greatness, and man to a glorious 324 state of happiness. Such a movement cannot spread without making the antitheses of life appear less acute, concealing its problems and its depths, and falsely idealising man with all the contingency of his experience: with all the bustle of its preparation and all its agitation the movement must terminate in a state of spiritual destitution; it threatens life with inner destruction. With a modernity of this kind we have nothing in common.

We must, therefore, with all our power, wage war against the narrowly human and imaginary freedom on behalf of one that is genuine and spiritual: this conflict is exceptionally complicated and difficult, because real life does not make such a clear distinction between the genuine and the false as the conceptions do, but rather allows them to be confused. For this reason the conflict will be carried on not only on the right hand and on the left, but also against the confusion that obscures the great “either—or,” without the distinct presence of which a spontaneous life does not acquire power and consciousness. A way must be found by which, notwithstanding manifold dangers and complications, we may advance to a life that combines depth with freedom, stability with movement: this is an inner necessity of the age, and once it is recognised and taken up as such, it will in some way be realised.


1. Religion

In no sphere of life is there more inner division and uncertainty at the present time than in that of religion. To one, the rejection of all religion seems to be indispensable to the sincerity of life and to the attainment of healthy conditions, because, as a pernicious legacy from past ages, it oppresses our life, confuses our thought, paralyses our power of activity, and provokes men to the greatest hatred of one another. To another, on the contrary, religion seems 325 to be the only firm support in face of the needs and confusions of the age—the only thing that inwardly unites men and elevates each individual above himself, the only thing that reveals a depth in life and allows life to share in the infinite and the eternal. The adherents to each of these views show the greatest earnestness and zeal; we cannot treat the negation lightly and dispose of it with the convenient catchword “unbelief,” if only for the reason that on the part of many this negative attitude is due to a sincere anxiety for the truthfulness of life. To rise above this conflict in regard to religion we must, in the first place, estimate the points at issue impartially; and nothing else is more called upon to do this than philosophy.

Philosophy will not make light of the prostration of religion; for a survey of history shows that the state of life has undergone a complete change since the epoch when religion exercised an undisputed supremacy. At that time the world and human life received all meaning and value from their relation to an invisible and supernatural order. The course of the Modern Age has made the world that surrounds us ever more significant, and since man has directed his activity upon this world, the world of faith has been allowed to recede more and more. The movement that led to our present position attained increasing power and consciousness through three stages: at the height of the Renaissance the divine was revered less in its world-transcendent sovereignty than in its world-pervading operation; then, the Pantheism of a speculative and æsthetic culture associated the world and God together in one reality; finally, in the investigation of inimitable nature and the formation of political and social relations the world of sense gives man so much to do, fetters his power so much, and gives him at the same time such a proud consciousness of this power, that the conception of a transcendent world fades entirely; and an Agnosticism that rejects as superfluous and unfruitful all reflection upon and care concerning such a world gains ground.

This change in the direction and in the disposition of life 326 must itself have forced religion more or less out of the field of our attention. But it is fraught with far more dangers to religion that the work of the Modern Age in all its main tendencies is directed against the principles of the life upon which the development of religion rests. Modern natural science has dispossessed man of the central position that he formerly attributed to himself, and has deprived nature of its soul. The modern science of history, with its demonstration of ceaseless change in all that is human, has undermined the faith in an absolute truth. At the same time, with regard to the beginnings of Christianity, there is a wide divergence between the traditional conception of faith and the new conception obtained by historical research. The tendency of modern culture has been to make the increasing of power, in work upon things and in their control, the highest ideal; from the point of view of this ideal of impersonal power, the world of pure inwardness, the home of Christianity, has been able to appear to be simply a subjective and subsidiary accompaniment of the life-process. He who estimates rightly the fact that all these tendencies of modern life work together and strengthen one another cannot fail to recognise that they force religion from the centre of life to its circumference, and transform it from an impregnable fact into a difficult problem; they destroy that self-evidence of religion which previously made life secure and calm. If, however, religion no longer springs up in the consciousness of contemporaries from a necessity of their own life, it is not difficult to understand that the complications of the problem are too great for many of them; that the burden of obsolete forms over-balances the power of their own impulse, and thus, by a sudden revolution, to reject it seems the only way to save truth. Then religion seems to be only a delusion that arose in a past age—a delusion similar to astrology and alchemy; one which, in face of growing enlightenment, must ultimately be completely dispelled.

But if the philosophic treatment understands the negation rightly, it can only warn us against being hasty in our 327 acceptance of it. To be sure, quite apart from all the caprice and purpose of man, the condition of life has become very much changed; but it was less the state of affairs itself that permitted the changes to clash so irreconcilably with religion than the interpretation which it received and the exclusiveness which was attributed to it. The decision in this matter has depended in particular upon what is called the spirit of the age, which is often nothing more than the inclination and disposition of man; such inclination, as history shows, may change into the direct opposite; it does not form a sure touchstone of truth.

These considerations, indeed, do not make much headway in opposition to the storm and stress of the movements of the age: that which operates far more strongly in favour of religion is the experience and the feeling that the attempted negation of religion by no means easily and directly solves the problem of life; and, further, that along with religion much becomes untenable to which even the modern man cannot lightly renounce all claim. Whatever there may be in religion, it has brought man into union with the deepest basis of reality, and at the same time revealed to him a life of pure inwardness: it has set a task for life as a whole and has given to life a meaning and a value; it has counteracted the lower impulses and the egoism of mere self-preservation; and has organised humanity spiritually. These aims have hardly become superfluous and worthless: even without religion, and after abandoning its principles, it would be necessary to accomplish these aims in other ways. It is in the attempts at reconstruction that the futility of the negation of religion becomes painfully evident. Phrases concerning the greatness and noble-mindedness of all that bear human features; a blind faith in the elevating power of intellectual enlightenment or even of external organisation; a confusion of thought which, unobserved, rejects and elevates its own principles, and so maintains in the conclusion that which it rejected in the premises; all these things can deceive him alone concerning the spiritual poverty and the complete powerlessness 328 of what is offered in them, whose zeal in his antagonism to religion has deprived him of balance of feeling and impartiality of judgment. If it is inquired what content and value human life still retains after the surrender of all relation to the whole and of all inner relation, it will be recognised that the complete negation of religion consistently carried out must lead to an appalling convulsion of human existence as a whole.

But if such considerations counsel us to be cautious in regard to the negation of religion, they do not justify an adherence to its traditional form. The far-reaching changes of life that we are aware of cannot possibly be explained away or their significance lessened; they must be estimated, and brought into relation with religion. The boundary between the eternal and the temporal, the substance and the outward form in religion, has been made uncertain by these changes; in particular they forbid philosophy to treat the religious problem from the point of view of a dogmatic confession. The antithesis between Catholicism and Protestantism is the offspring of an age that preceded the development of modern culture, with all its deep-reaching revolutions. The main problem of religion at the time when the antithesis made its appearance was differently stated from the way in which we now state it. For then it was a question whether Christianity was to be formed from society or from personality; while to-day Christianity fights for its existence as a whole, and must defend its fundamental truths against a time in which activity is directed into other paths. The present antithesis cannot possibly be regarded as ultimately identical with the former one; and it is for this reason impossible to take up the present conflict concerning religion under the banner of a particular dogmatic confession. Such an ante-dating of the conflict also has the disadvantage that it prevents the great antitheses which are involved to-day both in Catholicism and Protestantism from being clearly displayed. Two different streams have been present in Catholicism from its beginning: to the one, the power of 329 the ecclesiastical system is the main thing; while to the other, on the contrary, the religious disposition is of supreme importance. The influences of modern culture have increased this difference, both directly and indirectly, and, chiefly outside of Germany, there are signs of the beginning of a stronger movement towards a more inward Catholicism. Protestantism carries within it an antithesis of the old ecclesiastical form of religion, which adheres as much as possible to the state of things in the sixteenth century, and a form transformed by the Idealism in modern culture more into the universal, the free, the purely human, but also not infrequently into vagueness and superficial optimism. But so long as the bitterness of sectarian prejudice diverts the attention of men from the chief thing, these antitheses are not clearly expressed and energetically developed. There are serious contradictions involved in these views of religion, and they cannot be developed without giving rise to parties. Philosophy must strive with all its energy to bring it about that these parties shall be formed in relation to the present situation, and not from the point of view of a past age; and that the conflict shall be raised to a higher level, to truth and greatness, by bringing itself into relation with the needs of the age.

The task of philosophy is not limited to estimating as impartially as possible the state of things as we immediately experience it; that task also includes a positive treatment of the religious problem. That which is characteristic in the philosophy of life advocated in this treatise, Noëtism, as it might be called, must also find a definite expression and show what capacity it has, in the fulfilment of this task. In accordance with its fundamental relation to history, which has been much discussed, Noëtism cannot make history most important, even in religion, and cannot read into history as much as possible of what the present demands; it must regard any such procedure as a weakness and a half-truth. Noëtism must insist upon religion’s justifying itself and establishing its reality before the 330 tribunal of the spiritual life: only then can the truth that exists in history and that which, through progressive differentiation, promotes the cause of transcendent truth and brings it nearer to humanity as a whole, be elucidated. We have not for a moment lost sight of the fact that it is essential to religion to be related not to single individuals but to all; and that religion can evolve no power without compelling men to some kind of unity.

Now, for the treatment of the religious problem, Noëtism offers first a position from which demands are made compatible which are otherwise directly opposed to one another. Religion is concerned with experiences which at one and the same time must possess a universal character, belong to our own life, and be immediately accessible to each. The attempt of speculative philosophy to establish religion by deduction from the nature of the whole has the required universal character; but it introduces religion to the soul from outside, and remains a mere intellectual gain. The contrary attempt to base religion in the individual soul developed an inwardness; but this attempt shows that the soul does not know how to build up a world and to contrast it with the subject, to present this world as something transcendent; it makes no sure progress beyond the fluctuation and undulation of feeling. Only an independent spiritual life, inwardly present to us, elevates us above this division of subjective feeling and a transcendent world, and inaugurates universal experiences in our own domain. How with the spiritual life new realities are manifested; how a world-whole which transcends human existence becomes evident, has already been discussed, and it is not necessary to make any repetition here. Every acknowledgment of an independent spiritual life is favourable to religion in so far as this acknowledgment makes us clearly perceive the inadequacy, the illusoriness, and the vanity of all narrowly human conduct and occupation, its futility in matters both small and great. So long as attention is fixed on individual matters, and so long as we may expect some improvement in these 331 in the present or in the future, we may not be aware of the futility of this conduct; but as soon as the situation is grasped as a whole and estimated as a whole, such human conduct is found to be entirely inadequate, these external aids are found wanting, and there remains only the inexorable “either—or”: either the power of a new world is operative in man, and makes him strong outwardly and inwardly, or the whole life of man is spiritually lost—one great delusion, one great error.

If from the point of view of the spiritual life the contour of a new world is acquired, we may turn back to history, and ask how far it indicates a movement which tends in the direction of such a world. The spiritual life itself brings a distinctive standard for this inquiry: the fundamental fact is not a single factor within life, but the existence of a self-conscious whole of life, of a spiritual process itself. From the point of view of the spiritual life, the chief thing in religions will be the kind of life they reveal; what they make of the life-process; how through the relation to an absolute life they evolve the life-process to a higher stage. Only so far as they express this life-process, and not in themselves, are the doctrines and practices of religion of value.

If we apply this test to the individual religions, Christianity distinctly shows itself to be far superior to the others. More than any of the other religions, Christianity fulfils the demands which are made by the nature of the spiritual life and its relation to the world; and so far as Christianity satisfies these demands, but not in its historical form as a whole, it may assert itself to be absolute.

If Christianity as a religion of redemption requires that we should tear ourselves from the old world and aspire to a new one, this demand receives a distinctive significance by the more detailed conception which Christianity forms of it. As evil and that which is to be overcome is regarded not, as among the Hindus, as mere appearance, but as moral guilt, which disorganises the world, it is not the fundamental reality of the world but a particular conception 332 of it that is rejected; and so there remains the possibility of life being given a positive character; and in this the main thing is not intellectual enlightenment, but radical moral renewal, an elevation into a world of love, grace, and reverence. This view of the world makes it impossible to base life simply upon affirmation or negation; but affirmation and negation must be present within it, and thus life is given an inner comprehensiveness and an inner movement which it would not otherwise possess. Christianity included the innermost basis of human life in this movement and transformation, since it not only regarded the divine as influencing the human by individual manifestations of its power, but proclaimed a complete union of both, and maintained this through its whole development. A wearied and exhausted age may have formulated this fundamental truth in the most unfortunate manner in the doctrine of the divine humanity of Christ; nevertheless, the effectiveness of the truth involved was not prevented by this. Only from the power of a conception of a union of the divine and the human can religion acquire the character of pure and complete inwardness, of a spiritual self-consciousness: otherwise the relation of the divine and the human remains a more or less external one. But this is not the place to trace how the Christian type of life has been visibly embodied in the course of history in the personality and the life of its founder, and in the common labours of centuries, in which the Semitic and Germanic natures have been harmonised, and great peoples and personalities have given their best to the world: here we may only remark further that the whole is not a work completed at one particular point in time, but a continuous task of all ages; and that, in the fundamental life transcending all mere time, a fixed standard is offered by which to test the achievement of all particular ages, and to differentiate the results of the work of history as far as they correspond with the fundamental character of religion. Religion must maintain the fundamental character of the life that it advocates, in face of all change in the state of 333 culture, just as decidedly as for its development in detail it remains dependent upon the help of the work of culture.

Religion in the present, therefore, has great and difficult tasks. For one thing, religion must energetically maintain the supremacy, in opposition to modern culture, of the type of life that it advocates. The fact that there are points of direct antagonism between the religious type of life and modern culture ought neither to be denied nor in any way obscured. On the one hand, we have an ideal of a life of the pure inwardness of ethical disposition; on the other, the ideal of spiritual power: in the former the tendency is to personal, in the latter to impersonal life: in the one case there is a positive development only by a complete transformation; in the other the immediate impulse of life is the ruling motive power of the whole. It shows only superficiality and confusion to seek an agreeable compromise between these antitheses; for, in truth, either the one or the other must assume the guidance of the whole. The whole course of our investigation permits of no doubt as to our own attitude in this matter.

But it is impossible to defend the supremacy of the type of life advocated by Christianity without recognising the necessity that this type of life must be in a form which appropriates to itself the long experience of humanity and corresponds to the present stage of spiritual evolution. The changes necessitated by this evolution are far too great for the traditional form of Christianity to be able to express them; in order to develop their own power, and to establish themselves triumphantly in opposition to a hostile world, they must acquire an independent form for themselves.

There are three kinds of changes that are especially necessary to the form of Christianity in the present. (1) The representation of the world found in the older form of Christianity has become absolutely untenable: in this matter we must not seek weak compromises between the old and the new, but without fear we must fully acknowledge the elements of fact that exist in the new. 334 We cannot do this unless we make deep changes in the way we regard religion; we must find the courage and the power for such a renewal. (2) The whole movement of modern life has made us feel that the realities with which traditional religion has to do are far too insignificant and too narrow; a rigid insistence upon them threatens to involve us in a degeneration to the narrowly human and subjective. The conceptions of “inwardness,” “personality,” and “morality,” in particular, need to be interpreted more comprehensively and deeply; the soul’s “being for self” must be based upon a self-consciousness of the spiritual life. Religion must take up the conflict with the world spiritually, and through this grow in greatness in its whole effect and government. (3) The older form of Christianity was the product of an exhausted and faint-spirited age; hence its fundamental attitude is predominantly passive and negative. It shows a strong tendency to depreciate human nature, and to leave the salvation of man entirely to God’s mercy: in emphasising man’s redemption from evil it is apt to forget the elevation of his nature toward the good. The joyousness of the Christian life is insufficiently dwelt upon; and the raising of men from their prostration and perplexities falls short of a restoration to a free and self-determining activity. What is needed is a thorough-going reconstruction which shall emphasise the importance of action and joyousness in Christian morality, without in any way weakening the opposition to all systems of natural morality based on the rights of force.

In a word, with all respect to Christianity, we demand its expression in a new form. We require that Christianity shall identify itself more definitely with a religion of the spiritual life as opposed to a religion which merely ministers to human frailty, and that it shall show greater decision in casting off the antiquated accessories that hamper its movement. We ask that it shall make prominent those simple and fundamental features of its system which have value for all time, and in this way restore sincerity and 335 settled confidence to life. We can hardly expect that the reunion of man on a religious basis will take place all at once, but it would be a great gain if we could only clearly realise what the oppositions are which still keep us apart. Such insight would help to check that insincerity in religious matters which must first be got rid of, if there is to be any source of spiritual health in us.

2. Morality.

From the perplexities of religion many flee to morality as to something secure and untouched by dissension. The position of morality is, indeed, different from that of religion. Of atheists there are many; but there are few, if any, who deny the validity of all moral values: that fidelity is better than deceit, love better than hate, concerning this there is no dispute. But it is a question how far this agreement extends and how much we may gain from it. Within the same sphere of culture at least it is with very little difficulty that we come to agreement in respect of individual matters of morality; if ethical societies limited themselves to practical morality, and did not at the same time wish to settle questions of principle, they would find scarcely any opposition. But, as soon as we comprehend the individual matters as a whole and ask for a foundation for the whole, problem after problem makes its appearance, and it soon becomes clear that we can neither establish nor distinctively form morality without a conviction concerning life as a whole and our fundamental relation to reality. If, therefore, there is so much uncertainty in the present concerning life as a whole and our fundamental relation to reality, we must inevitably become doubtful and unclear with regard to morality. In fact, the position may be described in this way: we lack a morality which has a secure basis and a definite character; in morality, also, after-effects of the past mingle with the impulses of the present; and we are accustomed to conceal the poverty 336 of our own possessions by historical knowledge and mere learning—so much is this the case that we are able even in a state of disgraceful poverty to think ourselves rich. There are no less than five types of morality which seek our adherence and the guidance of our soul: we may suppose that in each of these there is some truth, but no single one is able to win our acceptance entirely; each leads to a certain point, and then we recognise a limit. We have a religious morality, in which our volition is related to and our destiny is determined by a divine power; but this endangers the spiritual independence of man, and has a strong tendency to make his life too passive; besides, in this case, the prostration of religion also weakens the power of morality and its power to direct life. We have a morality of culture, which directs all power towards increasing the progress of humanity, and subordinates all subjective preference to the requirements of an objective operation and creation; but the ceaselessly increasing differentiation of work makes this form of morality a danger to the soul as a whole; man is in danger of being made a mere means and instrument of a soulless process of culture. We have a social morality, which makes the welfare of society the chief thing, and which, by strengthening the feeling of solidarity, produces humane efforts in abundance, but is unable to include life as a whole; in this form of morality there is a great danger of overestimating external conditions of life, and of levelling and weakening life. Certain great thinkers have advocated a morality of pure reason, which elevates man above the sphere of the useful and the pleasant; and gives to him an inner independence; but with all its greatness this morality is too formal and too abstract for us; and, besides, we lack to-day the certainty of an invisible world, which alone can give a secure foundation to this type of morality. Lastly, we have an individualistic morality, a morality of beautiful souls, which regards the complete development of one’s own particular nature, the harmonious cultivation of the whole range of one’s powers, 337 as the aim of conduct, but which not only necessitates individuals who are far greater and far more characteristic in nature than we find in experience in general, but also has little power to arouse us to effort, and, if accepted exclusively, soon tends to degenerate into a refined self-enjoyment and vain self-reflection.

The presence of all these tendencies and motives in morality subjects us to-day to an abundance of ethical stimuli; but it does not give us an ethic. At the most it conceals the fact that the multiplicity of activities do not form for us a universal task, which could counteract the separation into individuals, parties, particular departments, and give us the consciousness of serving in our work aims that transcend the well-being and preference of mere man. We are in need of a morality that proceeds from our own life; and in this we need much more than we are conscious of needing. For we have no universal aim that we might take up in our disposition, and by which we might test all individual activities; and so life must become disunified and inwardly alien; we lose all spiritual relation to the world. The world surrounds us in the first place as a dark and immovable fate; we do not make ourselves masters of this fate, just because we give ourselves too much to do with things. Rather, to accomplish this, we must transform reality from its very foundation by our own activity and decision; we must wage war against obscurity and irrationality, and this conflict must tend to divide our whole existence into friend and enemy, good and evil, but along with this first give to life complete activity, and lead it to world-embracing greatness. Only in this way does man, from being simply a spectator, become a co-operator in the building up of the world; only thus does that which occurs within him become in the fullest sense his own. Everything which obscures the ethical character of human life involves, therefore, a loss in greatness and dignity; a degeneration to a state of servitude, to being a mere part of an alien whole. Particular parties may be in agreement with and find satisfaction in this condition; humanity as a 338 whole will not rest content with it. As certainly as humanity confidently maintains that its life has meaning and value, so certainly will it take up the problem of morality ever anew against all attempted intimidation.

If to-day we are again to take up this problem, then in the first place the conditions and the requirements of the problem must be quite clear. We can never acquire a morality from the troubled confusion of social life; on the contrary, morality involves a transcendence of this; it necessitates distinctive convictions concerning the world as a whole and our position in it. There is no independent morality, no morality in itself; morality involves a fundamental whole of life, which is appropriated in it and by this appropriation first attains to perfection. In contrast to the existing condition of things a new condition must first be raised in ideas that precede conduct. The new condition acquires a moral character only through requiring on the one hand moral freedom as opposed to the mechanism of natural impulse, on the other a transcendent ideal in opposition to mere self-preservation. These two together reveal a new order of things distinct from nature; they must seem impossible from the point of view of the world of sense, not only freedom with its apparent annulling of all connections, but also the freeing of conduct from bondage to mere nature. For how would one conceive an activity that did not tend ultimately to the good of the agent, and so aid in his self-preservation? Does it not involve a contradiction for him to exert his power for something alien to himself?

If in the present we feel such problems in the fullness of their force, and if we must fight for morality as a whole, we must go back to the foundations of our existence, and seek primarily for a secure position in contrast with the instability of temporal experiences. In accordance with the whole course of our investigation, we can find such a position, and by further development a distinctive morality also, only in an independent spiritual life, which first conducts the world to self-consciousness and so to genuine 339 reality. The two requirements discussed above cause no difficulty from the point of view of an independent spiritual life. We convinced ourselves in a previous section of the reality of freedom in the spiritual life; in morality also conduct can free itself from the natural ego without degenerating into a state of emptiness, because the spiritual life reveals a new and the alone genuine self. Thus here activity is not spent upon something alien to us, something presented to it from outside, but is within our own being, which here, indeed, includes the whole infinity within it. Activity in the spiritual life serves true self-preservation, which has only the name in common with natural self-preservation.

Wherever it is acknowledged that the spiritual life involves a turning of reality to complete independence and spontaneity, morality must take a significant, indeed the central, position. For it is clear that only the taking up in our own activity and conviction, only complete appropriation, can bring life to the highest degree of perfection. Morality does not find in existence a life-content which it must convey to the individual subject, but is itself within the life-process; a complete self-consciousness of the spiritual life is attained first in morality, and morality must develop the content of that life. It is not that man in morality turns toward the spiritual life, but that the spiritual life elevates itself in the whole of its nature; all human morality must have its basis in a morality of the spiritual life.

With such a basis in the innermost nature, morality must concern the whole multiplicity of life; it can include and estimate the most diverse relations and experiences of our existence. But whatever is thus brought under the sway of the morality of the spiritual life must undergo an essential change, and must be elevated above the nature of that which is not taken up in this manner. By an ethical formation and development of art and science we do not mean that the individual should be loyal and straightforward in their pursuit, and should follow honest aims; this 340 conception would be much too narrow. But it is that we should take possession of and treat as our own life and being that which otherwise remains outside as something half alien to us; that the work should acquire the power and fervour of self-preservation; and that in this unification the necessity of the object becomes a definite demand of our life, and the gain of the object an advance of our life. Only such a life which transcends the antithesis of subject and object gives to the object a soul, and freedom a content.

The experience of history also makes it clearly evident to us that the spiritual life first acquires a secure position and an indisputable supremacy over nature by its acknowledgment and appropriation in self-determining activity. For history shows that wherever morality is not central, the spiritual life, even in the midst of the most magnificent results in external matters, languishes inwardly and loses its hold. With individuals also the final decision concerning the problems of the world and of life always depends upon whether they do or do not recognise that man has an inner moral task in his nature as a whole. If this is acknowledged, then—and this just in oppositions and conflicts—a realm of inwardness is assured us which all apparently contrary experiences of the external world cannot expel from its central position; but if there is no such acknowledgment, the triumph of these experiences and the collapse of the spiritual life cannot be avoided.

The morality of the spiritual life, as we advocate it, will have distinctive features in comparison with other conceptions of morality; of these we can mention but a few here. The acknowledgment of an independent spiritual life makes life as a whole a task, since it requires that as a whole it should be changed into a state of self-determining activity; that everything must be aroused and set in motion. Thus the morality of the spiritual life is constructive and progressive, and not simply regulative in character; it is not its purpose simply to place life under regulations and to let activity wait until there is an 341 opportunity to fulfil them; but, calling forth all our powers, morality must work and create, arouse and prepare the opportunities, so that in everything the realm of the spirit may be increased within the province of humanity. Like the spiritual life itself, the morality proceeding from it must be of a transcendent nature. To-day or to-morrow may not be considered beyond good and evil; morality may not sink to being a mere means of realising the wishes of the time. If, however, morality transcends time, and is able to separate the transitory and the eternal in time, then, within its task, it may very well acknowledge distinctive situations and problems, and present different sides; indeed, only by a close relation with the time and by penetrating deeply into the experiences of the time will morality acquire the necessary proximity and impressiveness. To this extent, therefore, we also insist upon a modern morality, however decidedly we reject that which to-day is called “modern” morality, and which for the most part is no more than a surrender of morality to the wishes and moods of the individual.

If in these features the morality of the spiritual life already manifests a distinctive character, this distinctiveness is further increased by the particular nature of the actual relation of man to the moral task, as it appears here. The highering of the ideal will necessarily increase its divergence from man, as he is. It will become quite evident that morality is not a continuation of nature, a natural attribute of man, or a product of social relationship, but the most pronounced expression of a great change in the direction of life, the institution of a new order of things. If at the same time life is to be fashioned morally, a conflict is inevitable; and the general outlook of life and of conduct will depend upon where we find the centre of opposition and what is the main direction of the conflict. In the first place, morality must take up a definite attitude towards the sense-nature of man; that nature must be subordinated to the aims of the spirit. But we have already seen that there is a danger that the ethical task will lose 342 its depth, and that life as a whole will be perverted, if the rights of nature are misunderstood and there arises the desire to suppress it completely, and if, in a tendency to asceticism, this suppression is made the chief concern. The chief moral task is the development and establishment of a genuine and real spiritual life, as opposed to a false and merely apparent one, which is found in human conditions, not only in the state of society but also in the soul of the individual: thus a mere transition from society to the individual can never give any aid. The condition in which life is generally found evolves no independent spiritual life; but it uses the spiritual impulse that is present within it simply as a means to other ends, and thus the result is an inner perversion; at the same time man is generally zealously occupied with giving himself the appearance of intending to follow the spiritual for its own sake, and of sacrificing everything to it. In opposition to such radical insincerity, to acquire a sincere and genuine life is the chief task and the chief desire of morality; for the establishment of sincerity and truth in face of an opposing world the soul needs before all else loyalty and courage.

And so morality involves life in a great division: it cannot possibly take up a friendly attitude towards everything and readily admit everything: its chief task must be to arouse life from its confusion and apathy. But this does not prevent a morality of the spiritual life striving for universality in its inner nature. The morality of the spiritual life must, therefore, establish a definite relationship on the basis of the present with the prevailing types of morality which were previously mentioned. If the morality of the spiritual life is certain of its own nature, it is quite possible for it to recognise a certain validity in every other kind of morality without degenerating into a feeble eclecticism. The relation that we recognised between the spiritual life and religion also makes religion valuable to morality: the moral significance of culture may be especially acknowledged where a universal character is 343 desired for the spiritual life; the relation of man to man may also become inwardly important where it is necessary to the inner construction of the life of society. Again the morality of the spiritual life fully agrees with the demand for an independence of morality and for an elevation above narrowly human aims, in the manner that the morality of reason advocates; finally, individuality also can obtain its due in the spiritual life. All this, however, is valid only with the presupposition that we acquire a position above the antitheses of experience and not between them, and an inner independence in relation to the chaos of time. Only from this position and this independence can we advance in any way, even within time.

3. Education and Instruction

Education and instruction are especially affected by the difficulties that are engendered by the lack of a main tendency in life and of a transcendence of the superficiality of time. For the lively interest which its questions provoke, the incalculable amount of work and activity that is called forth in this department, do not produce their full result, because we do not possess enough life of our own of a definite character to be able to test and sort, to clarify and deepen, that which is presented to us. And so in conflict with one another we use up much power without making much progress in the most important matter.

Educational reform is the catchword, but we have no philosophy of education that is based upon a securely established conviction concerning life as a whole, and we trouble ourselves very little to obtain one. We wish to improve education, and yet we have not come to an understanding with regard to its ideals, its possibility, and its conditions. Education must be fundamentally different in character, according as man is regarded as a particular and exclusively individual being, or as a being in whom a new and universal life seems to emerge; according as 344 he is only an elevated being of nature or in the highest degree possible a spiritual being; according as the higher proceeds from the lower gradually and surely after the manner of organic growth, or we must find a new starting-point and accomplish a revolution. Further, an individualistic training, as it dominated the classical systems of pedagogy, is no longer sufficient; the relation to society must also be fully appreciated, and be effective. But attention to this requirement involves us in the danger of treating the problem of education too externally, and of bringing all more or less to the same level; and this danger must be overcome. Yet how can it be overcome, unless we possess securely a depth, unless we acknowledge the presence of the infinite within the human being, as it is comprehended in our conviction of the spiritual life?

The form of instruction suffers from the ceaseless onflow of new material, the constant increase in the number of claims. In itself each single demand may be quite justifiable; but whether it is better than the others can be decided only from an idea which governs the whole. If no such idea exists, a gain in the individual departments may be a loss to the whole; and an enrichment in one department may lead to a decline of the whole. In face of that which has been handed down from the past and that which arises in the present, it is difficult to come to a balanced judgment; the parties may be right in their attacks one upon another, but this does not imply that they are right in their own assertions. The immediate impression tends to give the balance in favour of the requirements of the present; from the point of view of the immediate impression, all occupation with the past may appear to be a flight from the living to the dead. The advocate of the claims of history may reply to this that man as a spiritual being is not a child of the mere moment, and that we concern ourselves with the past not on account of what is transitory in it, but for its eternal content. But he who thinks thus must throw the eternal content into relief and separate it sharply from that which is simply temporal; he must establish a relation between 345 this content and his own life, and make that which is externally alien his inward possession. This does indeed come to pass in a few cases; but can we say that it comes to pass generally or predominantly? We Germans in particular have far too strong a tendency to substitute scholarly occupation for inner animation, and instead of spiritual substance to offer academically correct knowledge. It is therefore not without good reason if Classical Antiquity does not so much inspire as weary our youth; yet the blame for this does not rest upon Antiquity, but on ourselves, and upon the manner in which we treat it with calm scholarship, without transforming it into our own possession. For how could that influence the whole man which does not come from the whole man? Everything points again and again to the same thing—we lack spiritual independence, inner transcendence of history and environment, we lack a characteristic life as a whole. The contact with the incalculable abundance of impressions that we experience must therefore remain an external one; and with all our increasing wealth of knowledge we threaten to become spiritually poorer.


Science, with its innumerable branches and its powerful penetration of life, is indisputably a strong feature of the age. Its effect is not exhausted in the abundance of particular achievements; by the objectivity of its work it has brought the world much nearer to us, has led our life to greater clearness, has made us more alert, and given us a secure dominion over things. Science, therefore, must also be a factor in the determination of a philosophy of life, and must raise the whole position of man. Of course, as soon as we survey and estimate its work from the life-process we find that there is no lack of difficult problems in science. Since the magnificent results of the natural sciences often give rise 346 to the tendency to force their particular bent and methods on the human sciences, to which our conception of the spiritual life gives a characteristic sphere of their own, there is a danger that the balanced development of the individual sciences and the complete organisation of what is distinctive in them will be prevented. However, we do not lack energetic resistance of this danger; and ultimately it is less science itself than the movement to popularise it that falls into this danger. Further, the results of science with regard to the object easily tend to obscure the subjective element, the spiritual activity, the characteristic synthesis, which forms an organised collection of pieces of knowledge into the unity of a science. It is apt to appear as though science needs only to construct further on a given basis and in a given direction; while both of these are open to much dispute: different possibilities, prospects, types may be revealed; the work of history has run through different stages, and has certainly not already exhausted its possibilities. Nevertheless, the subjective element with its freedom, mobility, and many-sidedness is becoming more adequately appreciated, and there is no reason to fear that science will become dogmatically pursued in paths that have become fixed. Finally, the problem of the relation of thought to life is the source of much perplexity: we Germans, for example, have a strong tendency to take mere knowledge for inner appropriation of the object, and instead of spiritual substance to offer an abundance of scholarship. This, however, is not a defect in science itself, but an error on the part of man, who has no life of his own with which to meet the onflow of impressions from the environment; and so our estimate of science and our acknowledgment of its magnificent achievement cannot be affected by this charge.

Philosophy is in quite a different position: its present state cannot satisfy anyone who seeks rather for a universal science than for an academic discipline. For our philosophical efforts lack a common aim and close relation with the innermost need of the time; they do not even 347 show any definite and energetic attempt to overcome the confusion from which our world of thought suffers. A great stream of philosophic effort came to an end with the speculative philosophy of the first decade of the nineteenth century. After a temporary ebb of this philosophic effort, we now wish to take up the work again with fresh power, but we have not yet acquired inner independence; and therefore, in sifting and collecting, we are unable to direct the age to definite aims, or radically expel the inconsistencies into which an indefinite relation to the past has led the present.

There are three main streams of thought which come to us from the past, and we can neither completely take them up nor withdraw ourselves from them: the Enlightenment, with its philosophic summit in Descartes; the critical philosophy of Kant; and speculative philosophy, with its consummation in Hegel. It has been thought that the Enlightenment, with its starting out from the subject, its unadorned intellectualism, its formal ratiocination, its rejection of everything that is not comprehended in clear and distinct ideas, was transcended at the height of German classical literature, because at that time a life rich in content was set in contrast with it. But, as a fact, no adequate settlement with the Enlightenment has been arrived at; the supposed transcendence is not final, because the elements of truth in the Enlightenment, especially its turning from history to the immediacy and independence of spiritual life, were not properly acknowledged. But to-day it is less the elements of truth of the Enlightenment that are a force than that which is trivial and narrowly human in it—the ratiocination of the subject which, the more empty it is, the more it feels itself to be the measure of all things, and, rejoicing in negation, applies the results of the natural sciences in an attempt to bring about the greatest possible suppression of all spiritual relations. In this form the Enlightenment gains acceptance by the masses, which formerly had seemed inaccessible to it; and thus it becomes an instrument by which life is dissipated and made 348 shallow. From its position of research, philosophy looks down upon this tendency with contempt; but it produces no movement that is able to take up the struggle with this tendency to shallowness, and pass through the struggle victoriously. Kant is often lauded as the spiritual guide of our time; and it is overlooked how much that was certain for him has become doubtful; how many new facts, new problems, new prospects, which cannot be lost to the world of thought we have received from the nineteenth century with its historico-social culture and its overwhelming widening of the horizon. Kant’s critique of the reason is based on a conception of science; on a faith in the possibility of a knowledge of truth; on a conviction of a spiritual organisation of man, which are rather in contradiction than in harmony with the main tendencies of the present. His absolute ethic, the pillar of his constructive thought, is incompatible with the empirical and social treatment of morality to which the present does homage. But at the same time we cannot free ourselves from the influence of Kant. For we cannot refute his critique of the reason, breaking up, as it does, the old representation and conception of truth; and, without his ethic, our ethic would lose the appearance of truth and greatness. In the judgment of the present, Hegel experiences a treatment that is just the opposite of that which Kant receives: if in reference to the latter we do not notice what divides us, so in reference to the former we fail to recognise what joins us. For if Hegel’s exaggeration of the power of the human spirit and his identification of spirit and thought appear alien to us, yet his idea of evolution, which embraces all multiplicity, and represents all realities and conceptions as in a state of flux; his elevation of spiritual factors to the form of independent powers which develop and establish their own necessities undeterred by the preference of man; his emphasis on the fact of the power of contradiction and opposition in history—all this, often in spite of our own conceptions, exerts an enormous influence over us; and 349 we cannot shake it off without surrendering a considerable portion of our spiritual possession.

These tendencies all whirl confusedly together and draw us now in one direction, now in another; we can get beyond the state of decadence only when we have succeeded in giving to the world of thought an independent character, which corresponds with the spiritual condition of the present, and which can do justice to the old as well as the new experiences. After the whole course of our investigation, only a brief account is necessary to indicate the directions the system of life here advocated points out to reach this; a fuller treatment would make a particular theory of knowledge necessary. We must bring into prominence three of the chief points.

(1) Only the life-process can be the starting-point of philosophy, not some kind of being more ultimate than this process, whether we conceive of such being as an external world or as a subject existing independent of the world: the ideas of “world” and “subject,” as also that of “being,” can be evolved and made clear only within the life-process; at the same time, they remain in a state of flux, and never are so directly opposed to one another as modern thought has represented them as being. Philosophy, with this starting-point, would, however, attain an independence in relation to the special sciences only if it were possible within the life-process to form a unity and a distinctive synthesis, which should deepen our view of reality and set it as a whole in a new light. (2) Such a synthesis must transcend the state of change of all the relations and caprice of men; this is possible only by the revelation and appropriation of an independent spiritual life withdrawn from the life of sense. Without such a spiritual life there is no release from the chaos of subjective experiences and opinions; only from the position of the spiritual life is it possible for a spiritual occurrence to be revealed in the province of man, so that we do not need to infer from man to the world, but that within him a universal life can be immediately experienced. (3) As, on the one hand, the 350 spiritual life is an indispensable presupposition, so on the other it is an infinite task; the former as far as the fundamental fact is concerned, the latter in reference to its detailed content. This content can be acquired only through the movement of history as a whole; thus a constructive philosophy—and not merely a critical one—could arise only where the spiritual life as a whole had acquired a characteristic form. In this case, philosophy was not simply an offspring of life, not merely something for life to occupy itself with. By its demand for a thorough clarification of our ideas and life, and by its raising the question of absolute truth, philosophy has exercised no little influence upon the progress of life. But that which it achieved of a fruitful nature, it achieved not in detachment from, but only in relation to, life, and by interaction with it, however much this relation may be concealed at the first glance.

Such a connection of philosophy with life as a whole is by no means new; it has existed in all times. Never has the world of thought acquired a distinctive character except in close relation with life as a whole: it is only from life as a whole that thought has received its problems, the nature of its procedure, and the demarcation of its work. A survey of the history of philosophy makes it evident that the leading thinkers differ mostly, and differ from the beginning, in that which they regard as the essence of life. In what they regard as the essence of life they have found the firm point of support for their work; from that the direction of their research has been determined; and from that the questions arose to which they required an answer from the universe. And we all know that in these matters the question often implies more than the answer, that it often carries the answer within itself.

If, therefore, this connection of philosophy with the life-process signifies an old and indisputable truth, this truth is not sufficiently acknowledged. Its adequate acknowledgment gives rise to a new situation; indeed, it tends to the development of a new type of philosophy. 351 With the critical tendency of the Modern Age, this type shares the desire not to surrender thought to a state of defencelessness in face of the stream of appearances, but would primarily concentrate it in itself, and in an inner independence find a standard for all further undertaking. But this attainment of independence in thought is not accomplished by turning to the mere subject, but to a central occurrence, transcending the antithesis of subject and object. If thought cannot begin from such an occurrence, and understand the movement of life as an unfolding and perfecting of this comprehensive occurrence, then there is no truth for man. Truth, as a relation of two series absolutely alien to each other, is an absolutely nonsensical conception: truth must be immanent, in the sense that one life embraces both subject and object, and that in the movement of life there is as much a coming together of subject and object as a coming together of activity from the centre and from the circumference.

That in this we have to do with a peculiar formation of knowledge and not with a merely formal modification is shown by the following considerations. If thought, in the manner previously supposed, takes its starting-point in a world existing independently of the subject, then in order to subordinate reality spiritually thought will comprehend it in the most general conceptions. Ultimately, the being of things will be sought in formal ontological magnitudes, as, for example, in “pure being.” If the whole abundance of reality appears to be derived simply from these general conceptions, it is in danger of being transformed into nothing but schemes and shadows, and of losing all genuine life. If, as opposed to this, the subject alone is taken as the starting-point, then more life and more movement is indeed assured, and a more varied prospect will be acquired, but there is no possibility of distinguishing between that which is only contingent to the individual and that which forms a common inner world; there is no possibility of a rejection of the narrowly human, or even of extricating a realm of ideas from the abundance 352 of impressions: if in the former case knowledge lost all content, in the present case it threatens to be completely dissolved. If, further, on the one hand abstract universal conceptions, and on the other the subjective states of individuals, form the stem of knowledge, then neither in one nor in the other does the fullness of spiritual reality attain its due—the reality that exists in the building up of a genuine spiritual culture. But in the type of philosophy advocated by us this is the chief thing; since in contrast to the psychological and the cosmological treatment this philosophy develops a noölogical treatment, and sees the central domain of philosophical research in the elucidation and unification of facts which, in the construction of a spiritual world in the province of man, appear in the whole and in every branch. In this connection the conception of fact is something more ultimate and universal in its relations; but it is just that which makes it more valuable for the conviction as a whole.

This conception of its task will bring philosophy into a closer relation with personal life, as well as with the work of history, without making it the mere instrument either of the one or the other. Otherwise it would seem irrational, and a tendency from which one must free oneself as much as possible, that in philosophy, personality, not only in creative activity but also in appropriation, signifies so much. The object, on the contrary, acquires a positive value, if we are certain that the standard of life is ultimately also the standard of knowledge; if with this the degree of the development of life at a particular point necessarily decides the nature of the work of thought there achieved. The near relation of the thinker to the proximate and the more distant culture environment is explained from this position in a manner no less satisfactory: the relation can then remain close, even if in the first place it appears to be one of conflict and opposition. Similarly, the whole movement of history acquires a greater significance for knowledge; far-reaching changes of life transform the temporal situation, since they permit us to experience, 353 see, and seek something else; all these changes, however, demand from thought an attention to and an appreciation of the whole. Nothing other than this is involved in the requirement that thought must correspond with the historical state of spiritual evolution.

This acknowledgment of personal and of historical life by philosophy makes it intelligible why philosophy manifests so much diversity and opposition, and why on the surface it shows so little unity. Where the conviction of an independent spiritual life rules, the faith in a unity of truth can be shaken by this fact just as little as the courage to creative activity can be paralysed. The basing of thought upon the spiritual life also has the advantage that the main types of thought can be derived from the different positions which may be taken up towards the spiritual life, and thus a limit may be set to the otherwise indefinite abundance. From this point of view there are for us five chief types of thought and world-conception. Minds first divide on the question whether we can unify life at all, and at the same time whether we may venture to make an assertion concerning reality as a whole. He who rejects this as impossible and readily surrenders himself to the conflict of immediate impressions might be called an indifferentist. If, however, a striving towards unity is admitted, then the question whether a spiritual life with a reality and values of its own in contrast with nature may be acknowledged or not becomes the point of decision, and the basis of division into opposing camps. He who gives a negative answer to the question, and regards nature as the whole of reality, becomes an advocate of Naturalism. He, however, who answers in the affirmative, and may be called an idealist, is immediately confronted with a new problem. He cannot acknowledge the spiritual life without at the same time giving it the supremacy; but now the doubt arises whether this supremacy may be easily and peacefully established, or whether it meets with strong opposition. When the existence of these oppositions is denied, or they are regarded as being easy to overcome, 354 there grows up an optimistic, contemplative form of Idealism, which to the holders of other forms inevitably seems abstract and shallow. If, on the contrary, the oppositions are fully acknowledged, the final division originates with the question whether finally we are to submit to the state of stagnation brought about by these oppositions, or whether by some kind of reinforcement of the counteraction to this state of stagnation life may once more be set in progress: the former gives rise to Scepticism and Pessimism, the latter to Activism, as it has been discussed by us in an earlier section. It is easy to see what distinctive lines of conflict and what kinds of conflict must arise between the indifferentist, the naturalistic thinker, the optimist, the sceptic, and the activist. However, we cannot allow this to detain us; it must, nevertheless, be pointed out here, that in philosophy the possibilities are not yet exhausted, and that to avail ourselves of these possibilities nothing is more necessary than a close relation of its work with the life-process, and a firmer grounding in the independent spiritual life.


Nowhere does modern life throb more violently and more strongly than in art and literature. That which in this department has a claim to permanence acquires especial power from the fact that this department had to establish itself anew in opposition to an attempt to curtail it. For who could deny that a culture of work and of utility had a tendency to reduce artistic literary creation to the position of an accompaniment and a fringe of another kind of life, to a diversion for idle hours? The more we feel the limitations of the life of work and utility the more do art and literature become independent tasks. From art and literature we expect more lightness, more agility, and more joy in life; they should conduct life 355 from too great an attention to externals to self-consciousness, and in this way give life a soul. They should strengthen individuality in opposition to the levelling tendency of the culture of the masses, wrest simple fundamentals from chaotic confusion of life, and aid the time in reaching a comprehensive vital-feeling and a synthesis transcending its inconsistencies. In opposition to that which oppresses us and degrades us to instruments of a meaningless machinery, we desire some kind of province where life rests in itself and purposes nothing else but itself; where it springs up with complete spontaneity; and where it can express itself with complete freedom, and in this expression find its highest joy.

From such a longing a new art that permeates our life has arisen. Art must seek new means of expression for the new situation; it cannot serve the development of a new life-content without bringing about liberation from all conventional statutes; it cannot prevent a threatened tendency of life to become stagnant without desiring a fully free place for the subject, and for the development of his individuality. He who sees chiefly the dangers in everything forgets that nothing new and great can arise without bringing dangers with it.

From the point of view of the system that we champion, we can quite well understand the significance of the æsthetic movement of the present, acknowledge the deliverance of life which it has accomplished, and in general we can go a good distance with it. But there comes a point where the courses diverge; not because we think less of the capacity of art, but we believe that we think more highly of its task. This deliverance from the culture of work, this turning to individuality, promises an essential elevation of life only if a new kind of being, a new world, is able to break forth in the soul that depends upon itself; if the individual in his conflicts aids the development of the infinite life; if, through all transformations and prostrations, man wins an inner relation to the whole 356 and to things, and by this grows beyond the narrowly human.

If this does not come to pass, the movement remains on the surface of sense experience and related to the activity and occupation of mere man; and so it cannot make anything higher or essentially new of us; it remains subject to the oppositions of the age instead of becoming superior to them. We are, indeed, enriched by the most diverse forms of expression: even the most concealed circumstances, the most delicate pulsations of the soul, cannot withdraw themselves from being represented. None the less, the description of the world-environment acquires the most striking clearness and penetration, and in the incalculable wealth of individual forms of art virtuosi are not lacking at whose capacity of execution we are astonished. But all this gives to art no spiritual content and no real greatness. It can, indeed, bring an inexhaustible abundance of stimuli to bear upon individuals and spread a shiny gloss over existence and life, but it cannot raise life essentially. The care of the mere individual, with his changing circumstances, prevents art from taking up sufficiently the problems of the present situation as a whole; of the spiritual condition of humanity as a whole.

And so art in this form is not able to grasp the epoch with its spiritual movement as a whole, and to further humanity in the struggle for spiritual existence, in which to-day all individual problems are included. Humanity is in a serious crisis; the old foundations of life are about to give way, and the new are not yet secured. The world has rejected the standards which man had imposed upon it; it turns against him, and leaves him nothing more in particular. To be assured of a distinctive significance man needs a strengthening, and at the same time an aroused reflection forbids him all help from outside. The fact that that which is hostile and threatens to degrade and to annihilate man takes possession of his own province of life and penetrates into it gives a particular acuteness to 357 these problems. We are not only surrounded externally by a dark fate, but our soul also degenerates in it, and becomes more and more a soulless mechanism. Indeed, our own activity becomes the most dangerous opponent of the soul, since in forming and taking part in complexes of work which ever become greater it turns against us and takes the soul from the soul.

An art which has its basis in the individual and which does not advance to spiritual substance cannot possibly prevent the threatened dissolution of life. Even the most wonderful expression of disposition, even the most delicate and most fluid representations of conditions, do not free us from the chaos of the time: they might easily bind us still more strongly to it, since they weaken the power, indeed the tendency to energetic concentration, and increase the tendency to degenerate into a state of weakness and decay; while to overcome these dangers it is necessary primarily to increase our activity, to win again an active relation to reality. Art cannot free itself from that condition of feebleness without entering into a close relation with the central task of life and acknowledging a spirituality transcending the subjective circumstances and interests of mere man. If these requirements are not satisfied, no talent can prevent a decline of art into a more refined Epicureanism.

But where such a spiritual life is acknowledged, and at the same time there arises the task of winning for man a new life, a new spiritual reality, art inevitably acquires a great significance, and becomes absolutely indispensable. Without the liberation which it brings, and its presentation of things in a harmony, how could a whole with definite character be raised? How could the new that hovers before us acquire form and exert a penetrating power without the help of a constructive imagination which precedes its realisation? How could the soul’s innermost experience permeate life as a whole, and ennoble its whole structure without the help of art? The higher we place the ideal of life, the more does the spiritual content which immediate existence manifests become a mere sense form, the more 358 is æsthetic activity necessary to prevent disunion of life, in the midst of all oppositions to give it some kind of unity, and in the midst of the passion of conflict some rest within itself. But, to achieve this, art may not purpose to form an oasis in a wilderness of life, but, hand-in-hand with other activities, must fight for spiritual experience and a genuine meaning of life as a whole.


To treat of the complicated problems of the political and social life of the present does not come within our purpose; we can consider them only so far as the task of the construction of an independent spiritual world is affected either for good or evil by the nature of their solution.

In contrast to the epoch of the Enlightenment, the nineteenth century brought about a transition from the individual to society: social life has developed in numerous branches, has disclosed a superabundance of new facts, and has set us new tasks. But this development has also brought much perplexity with it. It becomes evident in this development also, that each spiritual movement that attains power experiences in its further course limitations, and is degraded by its contact with human conditions. Along with the social movement there has been the often-discussed change by which life from being centred in an invisible world becomes occupied with the visible one, and by which all departments of life are given a naturalistic, realistic character and tendency. There has been no lack of opposition to the movement to make society the first consideration; the opposition has gone even so far as to dispute the right of the whole. Further, the earlier and the later conception of society, the idealistic and the realistic, are often confused; and from this confusion contradictions arise that not only confuse our ideas but also degrade our life. There is a danger that a zealous and excited occupation 359 with nothing but individual tasks may take our attention from the whole, and that the problems which the inner condition of man involves may not obtain due consideration.

This turning to society is most manifest in the powerful advance of the state. In this, an inner longing for a more social life, as Hegel especially philosophically advocated it; and actual changes of conditions operated together, and strengthened one another. The more definite manifestation of individuality on the part of nations and the sharper division between them; the active interest of wider circles in political problems; the mechanical organisation of work, with its more exact differentiation and its more rigid organisation of forces; but primarily the longing, which grows out of the ceaselessly increasing economical and social perplexities, for a power superior to the parties in dispute and acting as arbitrator—all these have immeasurably increased the power of the state in different degrees among different peoples, but in general through the whole civilised world.

The freedom of the individual, therefore, cannot but suffer from manifold limitations; there arises a danger that the individual may gradually lose all initiative, and expect all stimulation from the state. The spontaneity and the wealth of life suffer from the tendency to increase the power of the state, and a bureaucracy which delights in correct forms, but which spiritually is entirely unproductive, indeed even indifferent, appropriates more and more to itself. The substance of the spiritual life is also threatened by the fact that the omnipotent state is inclined to treat that life, with all its branches, as a mere means in the attainment of its own particular aims; to look upon science and art, and chiefly religion and education, especially with regard to that which they achieve for the aims of the state, and to shape them as much as possible in accordance with these aims. There is also a strong tendency to follow the same course to accomplish the ends of the contemporary form of government. An independent and genuine spiritual life can hardly offer too great an opposition to such a perversion, 360 with its deification of human forms. But the matter is by no means simple; for not the will of single individuals and parties, but the whole tendency of modern life has given this power to the state; indeed, on the economic side the state will soon experience a further increase of power. The more the guidance on this side belongs to the state, the more necessary is a free movement of spiritual culture in opposition to it; the more urgent is the demand that the amalgamation of church and state should be discontinued—an amalgamation which, by the growing disputes that arise from it, forces religion into an undignified position; the more definitely is a greater independence to be desired for school organisation in all its branches. The Germans especially have much to do in this matter; and there is much at stake. For, with the limitations of our spatial extension, we can be a permanent determining factor in world-culture only by giving our culture the greatest intensity; but this requires a calling forth of the complete power and of the spontaneity of individuals. Ultimately, in this matter also, the chief thing proves to be the taking up again of central problems and the realisation of human being in its innermost depths as an unconditional end in itself and the bearer of an infinite life. No conception can guard us from sinking to the position of puppets of the soulless mechanism of the state, if we do not find the power to give soul to our life and to maintain it against all attempted limitation.

The longing for more freedom and independence has therefore an indisputable validity. But this acknowledgment may easily lead to new complications by freedom and independence being conceived in a manner much too external, and also by a really questionable association of these ideas with the problem of equality. The conviction of the modern man concerning the world on the one hand, and the demands of life on the other, are often in direct contradiction with regard to the conception of equality. We become aware of our limitation on all sides: we are represented simply as a product of heredity and environment: 361 all possibility of making a decision for ourselves is rejected as a delusion. If thus we are deprived of all independence and all spontaneity of life, then even in social life we shall become mere bearers of a rôle imposed upon us by a dark fate. One does not see how freedom could retain a value, arouse enthusiasm, and lead to sacrifice in such a case. If the whole is a soulless mechanism, in which only the excess of existent power is the cause of decisions, then we ourselves cannot be exceptions.

Other complications have their origin in the democratic tendency which permeates not only our political endeavour but also our whole life of culture. How far-reaching a change, indeed how complete a revolution, has been accomplished by this tendency in opposition to a condition of things which has stood for hundreds or rather thousands of years, is but seldom fully appreciated. In the earlier form of social life spiritual work was the chief matter only of a limited and exclusive circle; to the people as a whole it was only secondary, and the benefit that they received from it was often of the most meagre character. Even the Reformation left this aristocratic form of life as it was; for as certainly as it made the care for every individual member of the church more urgent, that care was bestowed from above in an authoritative manner. The earlier Enlightenment, as it was represented, for example, by Bayle, was of the conviction that the deliverance from delusion and superstition would always be limited to a small circle of those standing spiritually high, and would never reach the masses. We know how this has changed; how the masses are determined to form a mere dependent body of the so-called higher classes no longer, but to take the problem of life independently into their own hands, and how they obtain their representation of the world and the task of their life from that which is more immediately present to them and directly concerns their welfare; and how in this way they are inclined to look upon themselves as the whole of humanity. We have already referred to 362 the danger that culture as a whole will thus be made shallow—a danger that arises from the fact that here the decision is made by those who scarcely participate in the work of history, and who depend almost entirely upon the immediate impression. Further, we have already contended that only a simplification and rejuvenation of culture are able to cope with this danger. The fact is important that this democratic movement appeals to the equality of all who bear human features. Here again there appears to be a direct contradiction between theoretical conviction and actual conditions. Experience everywhere shows a pronounced inequality among men; it shows this not only in the traditional social relationships but also in the organisation of modern industry. More, however, than all social arrangements, nature shows the greatest inequality amongst men; and the actual relation of individuals in work and idleness, in love and hate, in independent thinking and blind subordination shows it none the less. From the point of view of experience the idea of equality seems to be an empty phrase. If it is more than this, if we recognise in it a truth that we cannot afford to lose, then it implies the conviction that humanity has spiritual relations; that each has a significance in a spiritual nature, and that there is a universal life present everywhere which opposes the guilt and folly of the individual and even in spite of himself gives him a value. Thus we have seen that in history, religion and ideal culture were the first to bring the idea of equality into good repute. But to-day the champions of equality turn with particular keenness against religion and ideal culture, and are not aware that in so doing they are destroying the foundations of their own belief.

These inconsistencies are not felt, chiefly because of the power which abstractions usually exercise over men in the present day. A faith in abstractions reigns amongst us which is capable of far greater things than faith in religion or faith in reason. We are surrounded by the bustle of a fierce and ceaselessly increasing struggle for existence: 363 ideas are overgrown by interests; the motives of people in general are trivial, and all spiritual aspiration is feeble, and along with this there is an unutterable amount of pretence which permeates and distorts all conduct. Yet the disagreeable aspect of this condition seems to vanish as soon as the mere word “humanity” is mentioned. But what is humanity from the point of view of Naturalism other than a collection of beings of nature? How can a power to elevate and to strengthen proceed from this conception, which in the naturalistic context signifies no more than the subjective unification of the individuals? Or, again, the idea of a ceaseless progress of humanity is placed in opposition to the confusions which exist in the present. But how can this idea be established if a compelling reason is not active within man? How could the present be so incomplete and so full of perplexity as it seems, especially to the advocates of the idea of progress, if century after century had made progress upon progress? Rather, if man has such a noble nature as he is assumed to have, life should be full of reason and bliss. The old faith saved man by resorting to an invisible world; it required a firm confidence in that which one did not see. The new faith, which denies an invisible world, desires more: it desires that we should be convinced of the direct opposite of that which we see and comprehend. These considerations in no way signify a depreciation on our part of the effort to attain freedom and equality—an effort that has an indisputable validity. But this validity must be based upon a whole of life and be more definitely determined, otherwise the effort is stifled by the inconsistencies in which the conceptions of freedom and equality are involved in the minds of their advocates.

The independence of the individual and the spontaneity of the spiritual life are endangered not only by the mechanism of a bureaucracy indifferent to spiritual values but also none the less by the movements of the masses, which in modern life in particular surround and browbeat the individual. The man of the present day often believes 364 that he has gained freedom when in reality he has only changed the nature of his dependence. What makes the movements of the masses, with their so-called public opinion, so irksome is the falsehood that is generally contained in this opinion, which is presented as proceeding from the experience and decision of a great majority, and therefore as having a definite presupposition of truth. The fact, as a rule, is that a few venture an assertion and urge it upon the others with unobserved compulsion, since they proclaim as already existent the agreement that they are only seeking. Of course sometimes there is much more in public opinion; it may be the expression of a spiritual necessity which subjects to itself the dispositions of men. Whether public opinion is to be an interpreter of truth or a mere product of man remains to be decided; and this decision can rest only with the individual. He will be equal to making this decision if he possesses a spiritual experience, and has in this a touchstone by which to distinguish the genuine from the false.

Philosophy can maintain the rights of the individual only so far as he is rooted in spiritual relationships and derives power from them; it must absolutely oppose all glorification of the natural, spiritually destitute individual. We find such a glorification to-day more especially in that which, with particular emphasis, is called “modern” morality, but which in fact threatens rather to be a complete negation of morality; even though this negation is against the intentions of its advocates, mostly women, who display great enthusiasm for this “modern” morality. It seems as though life is limited and degraded because society, particularly in the matter of the sexual life, prescribes rigid statutes which, if they were not irrational at the beginning, have nevertheless become irrational, and tend to brand the right as wrong and the wrong as right. The shaking off of these restrictions and of the pressure of society in general seems to promise a form of life incomparably more powerful, sincere, and individual: this life is also to offer more beauty, for to-day generally the idea 365 of beauty is emphasised with great partiality where life has no clear ideas and no significant content.

This criticism of the statutes of society is not entirely without reason. Such statutes do not in themselves constitute a morality, as it is easy to imagine they do; but they only advocate a morality; as life undergoes such far-reaching changes, these statutes must continually be examined anew as to their validity and value. But this relativity does not make them worthless, and does not justify their complete rejection in favour of an absolute freedom on the part of individuals. We could expect an elevation of life by such an effort for freedom only if we might assume that the individuals are thoroughly noble, energetic, and spiritually rich, and if in the relations between the sexes a state of paradisiacal innocence reigned which only the evil arrangements of society had disturbed. But this is a way of thinking which does more honour to the hearts than to the heads of its advocates. He who takes men as they really are and does not paint them in romantic colours, and who at the same time recognises the dangers of a highly developed, pleasure-seeking, and over-refined state of culture, will not despise those social arrangements, notwithstanding their relativity, but value them as an indispensable safeguard against the selfishness, the greed for pleasure, and the instability of the mere individual—a safeguard not only against the tyranny of externals but also for the individual against himself. It is unfortunate enough that such safeguards are necessary; but, as they are necessary, it is better to preserve and improve them as much as possible than to reject them, and to expose humanity to dangers that might throw it back into the condition of the animals. Man is not better because he is painted more beautifully; rather Pascal is right when he says: “L’homme n’est ni ange ni bête, et le malheur veut, que qui veut faire l’ange fait la bête.”

The tendency to think that man may be transformed inwardly and the whole condition of life raised by changes in external organisation is most definitely felt in the social 366 movements of the age. In this there is a clearly marked opposition to the earlier mode of thought, which, placing a low estimate upon everything external, and finding greatness too easily in disposition, overlooked how much the organisation of the conditions of life means for men in whom the spiritual is only in process of development; and, further, failed to notice that there is also a strong movement from external to internal. Nevertheless, the fact cannot be denied, notwithstanding all this, that the problems of the whole and of man’s inner nature require to be treated as of chief importance. Otherwise, as Aristotle suggested, notwithstanding all the alteration of conditions, the old problems will continually make their appearance anew, and the substance of life might easily suffer from that which was intended to improve its condition.

In conclusion, we may briefly consider the problems that have been raised in the nineteenth century by the increased emphasis on the idea of nationality. Influences of an idealistic nature first raised the cultivation and establishment of a particular national character to the position of a matter of the greatest importance. This character appeared to be an extremely valuable form of individualisation of the spiritual life, a form in which that life attains to concreteness and greater definiteness and penetration. The co-existence of these individual nationalities gave promise of an incomparably richer formation of the life of humanity as a whole: the inner development of their peculiar natures, and their lofty rivalry, also promised to bring a wealth of arousing and elevating motives. The nineteenth century has, indeed, won an incalculable amount through this movement; to take up an abstract cosmopolitanism again would be decidedly retrograde.

But the more the idea of nationality has been brought from its high place in the realm of thought to the domain of human circumstance, the more has it been debased and the more dangers has it produced. If previously the cultivation of an ideal type of life was most prominent, and if 367 the nations could thus permit one another to follow their own courses peacefully, this has become less and less the case in face of the desire and effort for power and expansion in the visible world; and owing to the narrowness of physical space occupied by the nations, the different strivings have clashed together more and more severely. If this tendency continues without the counteraction of an inner task common to humanity as a whole, and of unifying and elevating ideas, it is hardly possible to avoid mutual hostility, a degeneration into obstinacy and injustice. The idea of nationality may therefore become a danger to the ethical character of life. This is the case if, by milder or by severer means, one nation tries to force its own character and speech upon another. The mode of thought based on the old cujus regio ejus natio is in no way better than that based on the old cujus regio ejus religio, which we are now accustomed to regard with contempt as a piece of barbarism. The desire for external power at the same time tends to lessen the attention to the inner development and unification of nationality, without which ultimately little progress can be made in the development of power. It is through a common national character, with its unification of the feelings and efforts of the individuals, that a people is first elevated into a genuine nation; it is a character such as this that gives to a people a power of influencing humanity as a whole; it is a character such as this that gives to the individuals the consciousness of being “members one of another,” and with this a stability and a joy in life and activity. Such a national character necessitates certain natural conditions, that are like the veins in marble which prescribe a certain direction to the work of the artist. But these conditions must first be organised and by the complete elevation of their nature spiritually unified; and this cannot be achieved otherwise than through our own work, which through common events and experiences follows its ideal. So far, therefore, national character is not a gift of nature but a task which presents itself distinctively to each people according to its nature 368 and conditions. In this matter a people must always in the first place realise a unity in its own nature.

In the fulfilment of this task hardly any other people has had to contend with keener opposition, both external and internal, than the Germans. Our physical environment does not direct us so definitely into distinctive paths as is the case with other peoples. But our inner nature contains, before all else, harsh antitheses. Our strength lies chiefly in arousing to life depths of the soul otherwise undreamt of. Thus in music and in poetry we have been able to surpass all other peoples; again, we have been able to give to religion a wonderful inwardness, and in education to evolve the leading ideas. At the same time, however, we are driven to the physical world to take possession of and to shape things; we are not the Hindus of Europe, as other people indeed previously called us. We came into history by achievements in war, and the desire for conflict and victory has been maintained through all the phases of our varied history. By the continued diligence of our citizens in work we have subordinated the world around us to our aims; our capacity for organisation has been most marked, as the present state of industry and trade shows. However, not only have these movements towards inwardness, and towards the world, a strong tendency to oppose one another, but also, in contrast with these magnificent gifts, there are many defects and tendencies that make the development of a powerful and unified life exceedingly difficult. We show a want of form and taste, a heaviness and formality, a tendency to occupation with detail and, in general, with what is petty in life, and, as a result of this, an uncultured “Philistinism” in all spheres of society, and along with this the inclination on the part of individuals to insist on the correctness of their positions, and thus to cause division; finally—and this is the worst of all—much envy and jealousy. None of these features can be denied. There is an infinite amount which must be altered and overcome amongst us if we are to become what we are capable of becoming, and if we are to reach the highest in our nature. 369 The limitations that have been brought about by our history, which on the whole has not been a happy one, constitute an important determining factor in this matter. The more problems we bear within us, the more possibilities of genuine creation that exist within us, and the more we may be to humanity in the future, the more painful is it if attention and activity are diverted from the chief task, and if an externalising of the idea of nationality allows us to consider ourselves great rather than lead us to strive for true greatness. The people that has produced Luther and Bach, Kant and Goethe, cannot be devoid of true greatness, if it only remains faithful to its own nature, and if it concentrates its power and treats the chief thing really as such.


The problems and antitheses that are to be found in the life of the present penetrate deeply into the life of the individual, and often make their appearance within him with a particular power. The antithesis that exists between the conceptions of the world and the demands of life is especially harsh. The tendency of the age is to form a conception of the world which reduces the status of the individual in the greatest degree: from the point of view of nature and of society, he seems to be no more than a fleeting appearance, a matter of indifference, and to show no independence, and never to be able to take part with spontaneous activity in the course of events. On the other hand, the contemporary form of life demands the greatest independence and freedom of the individual. We see in him the chief bearer of life, and we expect salvation from the severe perplexities of the time, primarily from his strengthening. This state of inconsistency cannot be tolerated for long; either the degradation of the individual, that is found in the conceptions of the world, must be 370 applied to life, and lead it to a resigned submission to an impenetrable world-process, or the positive estimate of the individual which governs conduct must be acknowledged in the conviction concerning reality as a whole: only a weakness of disposition and a feebleness of thought can divide our existence between the one conviction and the other.

The course which our investigation has taken cannot leave any possible doubt as to the direction which our conviction points out to us in this matter: however much we also demand an energetic development of the individual, that the stagnation of the age may be overcome, at the same time we insist upon a necessary condition of this, on his inner strengthening by an inner world present to him, on his elevation by a spirituality transcending nature. Only if he thus acquires an inner relation to infinity, and becomes an independent centre of life, can he satisfy the demands that are generally made upon him, and, remarkably enough, especially by those who theoretically deny the inner world as a whole, and hail a most shallow Naturalism as a deliverance.

Of course that inner elevation of the individual by no means lifts him gently and simply out of all the confusion that the experience of our existence shows; at the first glance it may even seem to make the confusion greater. For, if each individual can become a co-operator in the building up of a new world, and if his activity thereby acquires a value for the whole, then the complete indifference with which, according to our human impression, the individual is treated by the course of the physical world, the inflexibility and injustice that he often experiences in this world, the defect of love and justice in this world, in which the bad so often obtain the victory and the good are led to destruction, are all the greater mystery. The more the development of the spiritual life widens the field of vision; the more it leads us beyond a lifeless resignation to the question of the rationality of events and compels us to compare the destiny of one man with that of another, 371 the deeper must that feeling of mystery become. All attempts at a theodicy founder on this difficulty; we must inevitably submit to the view that with regard to this problem all is obscure to the eyes of man. There is, however, no need on this account to doubt and to regard our life as hopeless; our investigation also has shown this. For, in contrast with the obscurity of the world around us, we are able to set the fact of the emergence of a new world within us. Great things take place within us; not only does a new world appear, but we are called by an inner necessity of our own being to co-operate in its development, and this co-operation is not limited to individual activities, but involves our being as a whole. For it was just in this that we were able to recognise the development of being as the essence of the spiritual life—that the chief movement of our life is to win a genuine being, and that in the development of personality and spiritual individuality such a being is in question. We saw clearly enough that we are not personalities and individuals from the beginning; but that nature gives us only the possibility of becoming this. To realise this possibility our own activity is necessary; and this activity is not a sudden resolution, but requires a revolution of our being and the development of a new nature; and this can only be achieved by a faithful and zealous life-work, and even then only approximately. Thus life as a whole is a task which includes all multiplicity within it, the task of winning our own being completely, and just in this way to increase the kingdom of the spirit at our point.

This task cannot be completely recognised and adopted without making a great divergence from the aim, harsh oppositions and difficult conflicts, manifest in the inner recesses of the soul. If our life, therefore, appears to be in the highest degree incomplete, a mere beginning, then this increase of the task demonstrates more than anything else that, in this matter, we are concerned not with phantoms and imaginations, but with realities: so here, notwithstanding all our incompleteness, we can obtain the certainty 372 of a spiritual existence, and even become strengthened by the direct resistance of the external world, because that world is henceforth reduced to the secondary position. Thus, as we saw, the question upon which minds separate into irreconcilable opposition is whether they acknowledge in the inwardness of being itself not merely individual problems but a universal task; if this is the case, the seriousness of the task will give to them an unshakable stability of possession and a security superior to all attacks; if it is not the case, the spiritual world is an unintelligible paradox, because the want of an independent inner life means that there is no basis for the development of an organ for the comprehension of a world of inwardness. In this matter there is no possibility of a direct agreement; only the proof of the spirit and of power can decide.

But where the life of the individual acquires a genuine being and a connection with the realm of self-consciousness, then, notwithstanding all that is fleeting and insubstantial, the individual cannot regard himself as a transitory appearance in the whole, even in the ultimate basis of his being. Where, in contrast with all the meaninglessness of mere nature and all the pretence of mere society, a movement towards inner unity and substantial being emerges, the individual will be elevated into a time-transcendent order, and must necessarily acquire some position within it. The whole movement towards spirituality in the human sphere would be vain, and all distinctively human life would be a meaningless contradiction, if the individuals in whom alone the spiritual life breaks forth spontaneously were included solely and entirely in the stream of the process of nature. If the spiritual life has once revealed itself to us, so far as to begin an independent and distinctive being within us, then this being will assert itself in some way. This does not imply agreement with the usual belief in immortality, which would preserve man just as he is through all eternity, and thus condemn him to the torture of rigid continuance in the same form; a state that would, indeed, be as unbearable as the pain of the traditional 373 hell. As the world as a whole is in the highest degree mysterious to us, so our future is veiled in the deepest obscurity. But, if with the essence of our being we are elevated into a universal spiritual life, and if in the innermost basis of our life we participate in an eternal order, then the time-transcendence of this life assures to us also some kind of time-transcendence in our being.

So löst sich jene grosse Frage

Nach unserm zweiten Vaterland,

Denn das Beständige der ird’schen Tage

Verbürgt uns ewigen Bestand.



In conclusion a few words will suffice. The last section showed that the present sets great problems and reveals possibilities in every department of life; but that we men are very far from being equal to cope with these problems. We are limited especially by the fact that we are incapable of elevating ourselves inwardly above the present; that we do not take possession of it sufficiently as a whole, and find an inner independence in relation to it; and that therefore we do not enter with the necessary vigour into the conflict against the trivial and the poor-spirited, the decadent and the sceptical that the present contains. To point out the way to attain such independence appeared to us to be the chief task of philosophy in the present. In the service of this task, which cannot be achieved without the manifestation of a new actuality, without a fundamental deepening of our reality, we have made our investigation, which contains a distinctive conception of the spiritual life. In that everywhere we have pressed back from the results to the experience, and from the wealth of achievement to the generating basis, we have seen nature, history, culture, and human nature as a whole in a new light. We have hoped, 374 by widening and strengthening life itself from within, to supply a substitute for the external supports that life has lost. How far we have succeeded in our endeavour is another question; we shall be satisfied even if our work only contributes to bring the present to a clearer consciousness of the state of spiritual crisis in which it exists and concerning the seriousness of which it deceives itself in a thousand ways. There is an enormous amount of vigorous activity and efficient work, of honest endeavour and serious disposition, in our time, and the tendency to make life more spiritual is also evident. But the movement is still far from attaining the depth which is necessary to the chief question of our spiritual existence; thus the conflict, instead of being between whole and whole, is divided; that which is significant and valuable in the endeavour of the time is in danger of becoming problematic, and of producing the opposite of what it purposes, because it does not fit itself into a universal life, and in this realise its limitations and at the same time its right. A more energetic concentration of life in itself is therefore the first condition of transcending the chaos of the life of the present and of preventing spiritual degeneration in the midst of too intense an occupation with externals. As for the rest, we may say with Plotinus: “The doctrine serves to point the way and guide the traveller; the vision, however, is for him who will see it.”



Abstractions; their power in modern life, 362 ff.

Activism; profession of faith in, 255 ff.; how it differs from a system of mere force, 255 ff.; its ethical character, 256; how it differs from Voluntarism and Pragmatism, 256 ff.

Æsthetic Individualism, 61 ff.

Æstheticism; its antithesis to Activism, 258 ff.

Antiquity; its distinctive synthesis of life, 208 ff.

A priori; its validity and its limitations, 234

Archimedean point in the spiritual life; its impossibility, 94 ff., 154

Art and literature, condition and tasks in the present, 354 ff.

Ascetic organisation of life; rejected, 281 ff.

Being, development of; as a system of life, 212 ff., 314

Catholicism; different tendencies in, 328 ff.

Christianity; its unique character, 6; the opposition to, 7 ff.; its permanent truth, 331 ff.; changes necessary to it, 332 ff.; Christian and Greek forms of life, 283 ff.

“Classical,” the; its significance, 192

Concentration of life (within the whole), 156 ff., 160

Conscience; its significance, 129 ff.

Critical character of modern work; its presuppositions, 250 ff.

Culture, 110 ff.; genuine and apparent, 269 ff.; requirements of a new type, 298 ff.; organisation of, 315 ff.

Democratic tendency of modern culture, 361 ff.

Departments of life; their relation to life as a whole, 316 ff.

Dogmatic sectarian point of view; rejected, 328

Duty; significance of the idea, 184 ff., 231

Education; problems in the present state of, 343 ff.

Enlightenment, the; its synthesis of life, 209 ff.; how far problematic, 249; relation of the present to it, 347 ff.

Equality; problems of the present conception of, 362

Eternity; how far implied in the life of the individual, 372

Ethical character of life; how to be understood, 256, 258; of spiritual culture, 309 ff.; its necessity, 337 ff.

Ethics (morality); different types in the present time, 336 ff.; conditions of a morality, 338 ff.; requirements of morality in a spiritual culture, 339 ff.

Evil; the problem of, 263 ff.; the way in which it is solved, 279 ff.

Evolution, doctrine of; spiritual, its limitations, 194 ff., 257 ff.

Experience; its significance for the spiritual life in man, 235 ff.

Freedom; its nature, 174 ff.; its conflict with destiny, 181 ff.; genuine and false, 323 ff.; inconsistency in contemporary treatment of the problem, 360 ff.

German character; its greatness and its dangers, 317 ff., 368 ff.

Goethe; characteristic influence, 299

Good, the (idea of the good); how it differs from the Useful, 119 ff.; apparent inconsistency, 138 ff.; more detailed determination, 185 ff.

Great man, the; his relation to his time, 292

Greek and Christian forms of life, 283 ff.

Hegel; relation of the present to him indefinite, 348

Historical and social organisation of life; its limitations, 200

Historical Relativism; rejected, 290 ff., 323 ff.

History; the spiritual conception of, its conditions, 188 ff.; esoteric and exoteric history, 243 ff.

Human life; how far it is from the spiritual life, 161 ff.

Idealisation, false; of immediate existence, 83 ff., 362 ff.

Idealism and Realism; their unification in a spiritual culture, 312 ff.

Ideas in history; their unique character, 126 ff., 188 ff.

Imagination; indispensable in all departments of life, 239

Immanent Idealism, its rise and fall, 15 ff.

Immanental treatment (from the life-process), 107 ff.

Individual, the, and the Society; problems of their relation, 364 ff.

Individual, the; his significance in the new relations, 246, 369 ff.

Individual, life of the; its form in the new system, 369 ff.

Individuality (spiritual); as a problem, 132 ff., 181 ff., 370

Instruction; problems in the present time with reference to, 343 ff.

Inwardness; its attainment of independence in man, 123 ff., 146 ff.; as the inner life of reality, 148 ff.; inwardness and the inner world, 303

Irrationality, of existence; in what manner overcome, 279

Kant; inconsistency in the relation to him in the present time, 348

Knowledge; its form in the new system, 351

Life; its detachment from the mere individual, 119 ff.; the two movements in it, 282 ff.

Life-process; as the fundamental principle of investigation, 104 ff., 305 ff., 349 ff.

Life’s attainment of greatness, 240 ff.

Life-work; its significance in acquiring stability, 253

Love; as a witness to the union with the whole, 231

Man; as a being of nature, 110 ff.; growing beyond nature, 113 ff.; his union with the whole, 226 ff.

Masses, the culture of the; its problems, 89 ff.

Mass-movements; their dangers and limitations, 363 ff.

Metaphysic; in what sense necessary, 141 ff.

“Modern,” the; double meaning, 296

Modern Age, the (in a broad sense); the characteristic in its nature, 9 ff.

“Modern” Morality; discussed and rejected, 364 ff.

Movement, of the spiritual life in man; its uniqueness, 233 ff.; its increase in the new system of life, 247 ff.

Mysticism; in what sense justifiable, 246

National Character, 198, 367 ff.

Nationality, the idea of; its problems, 366 ff.

Naturalism; its significance and its limitations, 24 ff.

Nature and Spirit, 270 ff.

Negation; impossibility of an absolute, 267 ff.

Newer Systems of Life; what they have in common, 22 ff., 81 ff.

Noölogical Method; distinguished from the psychological and the cosmological, 243, 352

Norms; their significance, 184

Pantheism; vague character of the general conception of it, 84

Past; impossibility of flight to the, 93 ff.

People and nation, 366 ff.

Personal conviction, concerning reality as a whole; where the decision is made, 253, 281, 311 ff., 340, 372

Personality; the difficulty of the conception, 95 ff.; no mere gift of nature, 311, 370

Philosophy; its present position, 346 ff.; its three main tendencies in the present time, 347 ff.; chief demands, 349 ff.

Philosophy of life; the conception of a, 3 ff.

Political and social life; condition and tasks in the present time, 358 ff.

Present, the; difficulties of determining its extent, 289 ff.

Protestantism; the different tendencies in it, 329

Public opinion; manner of its formation, 364

Reality; difficulty of the conception, 84 ff.; longing for, 159 ff.; new conception of, 220 ff.

Relation (fundamental), of man to reality; new, from the point of view of the spiritual life, 152 ff.

Religion; the system of life of, 6 ff.; its form and its justification, 273 ff.; its necessity in a spiritual culture, 312 ff.; its present condition, 324; its requirements in a spiritual culture, 330 ff.; specific religious system of life rejected, 281 ff.

Romanticism; its significance and its limitations, 258 ff.

Science; its present greatness and problems, 345 ff.

Self-preservation, spiritual; distinguished from natural self-preservation, 126

Sense; its estimate, 260

Simplification (in revivals), 128

Socialistic system; its significance and its limitations, 41 ff.

Society; the spiritual conception of, 196 ff.; emphasis upon society in the nineteenth century, 358 ff.

Spiritual culture, and human culture, 308 ff.

Spiritual life; its independence a necessity, 141 ff.; as the fundamental principle of a new organisation of the individual departments of life, 157 ff., 244 ff.

Spiritual work; its relation to time, 290 ff.

Stability in life; how won, 251 ff.

State, the; the greater emphasis upon it in the nineteenth century, 359 ff.

Suffering and spiritual destitution, 314

Syntheses of life; in history, 207 ff.

Theodicy; rejected, 279 ff., 371

Thought; its relation to life, 108, 126 ff., 141 ff., 349 ff.; its unique operation (in distinction from association), 125 ff.

Time; fundamental relation of man to, 116 ff.

Transcendent Spirituality; as the fundamental principle of religion, 278 ff.

Transcendental method; in what sense justifiable, 248

Truth, conception of; its history, 138; new conception, 216 ff.

Work; its distinctive character, 122; its power to develop, 201 ff.; the world of work, 201 ff.

World, conceptions of the; chief types, 353 ff.

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Eucken’s influence as a thinker has for long been felt far beyond the borders of his native land. Translations of his books have appeared in many foreign languages, including French, Italian, Swedish, Finnish and Russian. In our own country such articles on Eucken’s works as have appeared quite recently in the Times, the Guardian, and the Inquirer are significantly sympathetic and appreciative. ‘It seems likely,’ writes the reviewer in the Guardian, ‘that for the next decade Eucken will be the leading guide for the pilgrims of thought who walk on the Idealist Road.’


“There are scores of passages throughout the volume one would like to quote—the thinking of a man of clearest vision and loftiest outlook on the fabric of life as men are fashioning it to-day. It is a volume for Churchmen and politicians of all shades and parties, for the student and for the man of business, for the workshop as well—a volume for every one who is seriously interested in the great business of life.”—Aberdeen Journal.








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The New Idealism: Eucken’s Philosophy a Rallying-point for Idealistic Effort

The Category of Action

His Theory of Knowledge

Eucken’s View of Revelation

His Philosophy of History

The Problem of the Union of Human and Divine

The Meaning of a Historical Fact

The New Spiritual Immediacy

The Break with Aristotelianism and Aquinism

The Spiritual Life as Eucken conceives it: its Intrinsically Oppositional Character

Eucken’s Criticism of the Naturalistic Syntagma

Eucken’s Philosophy as a Philosophy of Freedom

The Great Alternative: Individuality or Personality

The New Idealism as a Religious Idealism

“No reader should fail to find pleasure in a book so full of fresh and stimulating thought, expressed with great felicity of language.”

The Scottish Review 

“It is done with just the proper combination of sympathy and criticism.”—The British Weekly