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Shestov - In Job's Balances

Shestov - In Job's Balances

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In Job's Balances << | >> Editor's Introduction by Bernard Martin The extension of Lev Shestov¡‾s reputation as a brilliant and highly original

p hilosopher beyond the confines of his native Russia is to be dated from the publ ication in France in the early 1920's of several of the essays later included in the volume entitled In Job's Balances. By 1919 Shestov had lived sufficiently long under the Bolshevik regime to find i t intolerable and to decide to exile himself. In 1920 he and his family settled in Paris where, some years later, he was appointed professor of Russian philosop hy at the Institut des etudes Slaves and where he also lectured at various perio ds in the extension division of the Sorbonne. Though Shestov was still virtually unknown in the French literary and philosophical worlds at the time, in 1921 La Nouvelle Revue Fran§Ùaise accepted for publication, in its special issue commemorat ing the centenary of Dostoevsky's birth, his essay "La lutte contre les evidence s." Its unique and trenchant treatment of the great Russian novelist aroused wid espread admiration. Two years later the article was published, along with Shesto v's essay on the last works of Tolstoy, "Le Jugement dernier," in book form in P aris under the title Les r§Ûv§Ûlations de la mort. A few months thereafter his study of Pascal "La nuit de Geths§Ûmani" appeared in Paris, and in the same year his book Pot estas Clavium was published in Russian in Berlin.[1] By the time of Shestov's de ath a year before the outbreak of the second World War, practically all his work s, originally written in Russian, had been translated into French and German, an d some of them had also appeared in English, Danish, Dutch, and Spanish translat ions. The thought of the Russian-Jewish philosopher had become known to many, th ough genuinely appreciated by relatively few, throughout the European continent. The essays devoted to Dostoevsky and Tolstoy in In Job's Balances[2] do not repr esent Shestov's first treatment of the two gigantic figures of nineteenth centur y Russian literature. Since his youth he had been enormously fascinated by both writers, and while still in his thirties he had published two books relating the ir thought to that of Friedrich Nietzsche, whom he had recently discovered. In t he first of these works - The Good in the Teaching of Tolstoy and Nietzsche: Phi losophy and Preaching[3] (1900) - Shestov deplored the descent of Tolstoy from t he "philosophical height" of War and Peace to what he regarded as the banality, as well as fanaticism and intolerance, of the moralistic tracts and homilies iss ued by the aristocratic proprietor of Yasnaia Poliana after the latter's decisio n to abandon the European clothing he had worn as a Russian count, to dress inst ead like a peasant, and to work in the fields of his estate for a few hours each day. Tolstoy, Shestov here argues, averted his gaze from the abyss that opened before him when he realized the enormity of the horrors of human existence and s ought tranquility and an escape from skepticism and pessimism by turning to prea ching. His preaching, which naively identified God with the "good" and "brotherl y love," was motivated, however, not by authentic faith but by lack of such fait h on Tolstoy's part, and gave him nothing more than the satisfaction of being ab le to hurl judgments and anathemas at "sinners" failing to fulfill the obligatio n of loving their neighbors. Nietzsche, who experienced the terrors of life no less intensely than Tolstoy, w as - Shestov here maintained - far more honest, both intellectually and morally, than the Russian novelist. Having sought "divine traces" and saving power in mo rality, i.e. in compassion and fraternal love, and not found them, the German th inker resolutely proceeded "beyond good and evil," proclaimed the "death of God, " and set the principle of amor fati in the place of the morality and idealism t

hat had proved completely futile in his own desperate need. But even Nietzsche, with all his passionate honesty and spiritual audacity, could finally not stand firm in the face of the tragedy and misery of life; he, too, ultimately lapsed i nto the vulgarity of preaching. His paeans to the ¨¹bermensch, the superman, in his later work served the same purpose as Tolstoy's paeans to the "good." But the Ge rman philosopher, who suffered so deeply and thought so intensely, indicated the direction of the quest that can no longer be avoided. Shestov concludes his The Idea of the Good in Tolstoy and Nietzsche as follows: "The 'good,' 'fraternal l ove' - the experience of Nietzsche has taught us - is not God. 'Woe to all who l ove and have no elevation that is higher than their compassion. Nietzsche has sh own us the way. We must seek that which is higher than compassion, higher than t he 'good'; we must seek God."[4] TOLSTOY In the work published in 1900 Shestov branded the later Tolstoy as a pretentious and somewhat dishonest preacher. But in "The Last Judgment," the essay on the g reat novelist which is included in the present volume and which was written more than twenty years later, after he had an opportunity to read such posthumously published pieces as "The Diary of a Madman," "The Death of Ivan Ilich," and "Mas ter and Man," Shestov presents a radically altered view of Tolstoy. The latter, he now contends, was always not primarily a preacher but a philosopher - indeed, one of the profoundest philosophers of modern times who concerned himself in hi s final period with what Plato defined as the highest theme of philosophy: death and dying. In all that Tolstoy wrote after Anna Karenina it is obvious, accordi ng to Shestov, "that everything which had formerly seemed to him to be real and to have a solid existence, now appeared illusory, whereas all that had seemed il lusory and unreal now seemed to him the only reality." Tolstoy appears to have b een forcibly expelled from the "common way that he previously pursued, throughou t the period when he was writing his monumental novels, by an experience of unsp eakable terror before the threat of impending death similar to that suffered by the protagonist of "The Diary of a Madman." In the last decades of Tolstoy's lif e, Shestov maintains, "All that he did had but one object, one significance: to loosen the bonds which bound him to this world common to all men, to throw overb oard all ballast that gave his vessel equilibrium but at the same time prevented it from leaving the earth... He tramples underfoot everything that men hold mos t dear, he outrages all that they hold most sacred; shakes the foundations of so ciety, and poisons the most innocent joys." In "The Death of Ivan Ilich" and "Master and Man" Tolstoy undertakes, as Shestov puts it, "to spy on what is happening in a soul in its agony." In these two sto ries he shows us the utter solitude, the complete alienation from all ordinary v alues, conventions, and conceptions to which a man confronted with the immediate threat of extinction is brought. Such solitude and alienation, Shestov suggests , is the first step on the road to salvation. "The first condition, the beginnin g of the regeneration of the human soul, is solitude, a solitude which could not have been more complete in the bowels of the earth or in the depths of the sea, in which all legality, all reality, all the ideal substratum of everyday life w ill wither away." The experience of the rich villager Vassili Andreivich Brekhunov, of "the corpor ation of merchants" in "Master and Man," proved prophetic, according to Shestov, of Count Tolstoy's own end. In the moments before his death in the snowstorm Br ekhunov eagerly surrenders all his possessions and the great ideas that he had f ormerly nurtured, and he experiences a joy and liberating mystery. "I come, I co me," Tolstoy has him cry out in ecstasy. "And he went," Shestov writes, "or rath er he flew on the wings of his weakness, without knowing whither they would carr y him; he rose into the eternal night, terrible and incomprehensible to mankind. " It must have been a similar experience, Shestov suggests, that led the aged To

lstoy, on a dark night not many months after the whole civilized world had celeb rated his eightieth birthday, to leave Yasnaia Poliana with his youngest daughte r Alexandra for the restless and aimless wandering that ended with his death som e weeks later at the stationmaster's house at Astopovo Junction. "His works, his glory, all these were a misery to him, a burden too heavy for him to bear. He s eems, with trembling, impatient hand, to be tearing off the marks of the sage, t he master, the honored teacher. That he might present himself before the Supreme Judge with unweighted soul, he had to forget and renounce all his magnificent p ast." DOSTOEVSKY In his other early work Dostoevsky and Nietzsche: The Philosophy of Tragedy,[5] published in 1903, Shestov stresses the immense change that became apparent in t he mood and spirit of Dostoevsky's writing with the appearance in 1864 of Notes from the Underground (or The Voice from Underground). In his earlier period as a novelist, until he completed The House of the Dead, Dostoevsky had remained, ac cording to our critic, the staunch champion of social justice and social progres s, the devoted follower of Belinsky's idealism, the compassionate defender of th e poor and oppressed, the high-principled man of reason, hope, and humanitarian sentiment. And this despite the fact that he had already undergone the experienc es of waiting for the crash of bullets before a czarist firing squad, having his death sentence commuted at the very last moment, and then spending years at har d labor in Siberia. But suddenly, just as some of the fondest hopes of the refor mers of the 1850's were coming to fruition, just as the serfs were emancipated b y Alexander II and other progressive steps were taken by the government in Russi a, to the joy of many of Dostoevsky's fellow-writers who rhapsodized about the d awn of a new, golden age, he himself appears to have concluded that all his prev iously cherished convictions and ideals were illusory and meaningless. Notes from the Underground, Shestov observes, is "a heart-rending cry of terror that has escaped from a man suddenly convinced that all his life he had been lyi ng and pretending when he assured himself and others that the loftiest purpose i n life is to serve 'the humblest man.'"[6] Though he could not completely abando n a certain residual attachment to his youthful ideals - and this, according to Shestov, explains the agitated ambivalence of his later works, which alternate b etween affirmation of the traditional verities and total nihilism and despair Dostoevsky had arrived at the realization, so agonizingly reflected by Ivan in T he Brothers Karamazov, that no intellectual or moral theory could ever "justify" the sufferings of one innocent child, and that no amelioration of the condition s of society could ever provide any consolation for these. He discovered, as She stov puts it, that "absolutely no harmony, no ideas, no love or forgiveness, in brief, nothing that sages have devised from ancient to modern times can justify the nonsense and absurdity in the fate of an individual person." In the face of the horrors of real existence Dostoevsky, like Nietzsche, was forced - though he could never bring himself to do so completely - to repudiate idealism, to rejec t the consoling "truths" of science and philosophy. Universal norms, the harmony and regularity so eagerly sought by scientific inquiry and ethical theory, coul d not comfort men like Nietzsche and Dostoevsky; they could only crush and choke their spirits. Both the German philosopher and the Russian novelist were brough t perforce, according to Shestov, to the "philosophy of tragedy," the philosophy whose last word is: "Not to transfer all the horrors of life into the realm of the Ding an sich, outside the bounds of synthetic a priori judgments, but to res pect them!" In the essay "The Conquest of the Self-Evident: Dostoevsky's Philosophy," writte n almost two decades later and included in the present volume, Shestov probes mo re deeply into the thought of the author of Notes from the Underground and The B rothers Karamazov. He now perceives Dostoevsky as one of those whom, according t

o an ancient legend, the Angel of Death sometimes visits and presents with one o f the innumerable pairs of eyes with which his body is covered, so that the man henceforth sees new and strange things that he had not seen before and that thos e equipped with natural eyes only cannot see. Here Shestov writes: "He to whom t he Angel of Death has given the mysterious gift does not and cannot any longer p ossess the certainty which accompanies our ordinary judgments and confers a beau tiful solidity on the truths of our common consciousness. Henceforth he must liv e without certainty and without conviction... He sees that neither the works of reason nor any human works can save him. He has passed under review, with what c arefulness, with what super-human effort, everything that man can accomplish by the use of his reason, all the glass palaces, and has seen that they were not pa laces but chicken-houses and antheaps; for they were built on the principle of d eath, on 'twice two is four.' And the more he feels this, the more violently the re wells up from the depth of his soul that more than rational, unknown, that pr imal chaos, which most of all horrifies our ordinary consciousness. That is why, in his 'theory of knowledge,' Dostoevsky renounces all certainty and opposes to it as his supreme goal - uncertainty. That is why he simply puts out his tongue at evidence, why he lauds caprice, unconditional, unforeseen, always irrational , and makes mock of all the human virtues." The later Dostoevsky, Shestov urges in "The Conquest of the Self-Evident," can b e truly understood only by readers prepared to undertake the most extreme effort s. "Those who wish to get close to Dostoevsky will have to make a whole series o f special exercitia spiritualia; to live for hours, days, years, in the midst of mutually contradictory self-evidences. There is no other way. Only thus can one perceive that time has not one but two or even more dimensions, that laws have not existed for all time but are 'given' and only in order that the offense migh t abound, that it is faith and not works which can save souls, that the death of Socrates can shake the formidable 'twice two is four,' that God demands always and only the impossible, that the ugly duckling can change into the beautiful wh ite swan, that everything has a beginning here but nothing ends, that caprice ha s a right to guarantees, that the fantastic is more real than the natural, that life is death and death is life, and other truths of the same sort which look ou t at us with strange and terrible eyes from every page of Dostoevsky's writing." In his essay of 1921 Shestov further portrays Dostoevsky as the champion of the rights of the living individual against the claims of "common consciousness" or "omnitude," with its armory of "reason," "natural laws," "eternal truths," and " self-evidences." The living individual, Dostoevsky recognized, has perhaps been hypnotized by these weapons. It will be of no avail to fight against their spell with logic and intellectual arguments; all such arguments are finally rational arguments, which serve only to support the cause of reason and to confirm its pr etensions. The sole instrument of any efficacy in the struggle is rebellion, rid icule, contempt. "There is only one weapon: mockery, invective, a categorical 'n o' to all the demands of reason." Such, Shestov affirms, is the true critique of reason. What Immanuel Kant wrote in his Critique of Pure Reason was nothing but an apology for reason; the most shattering examination of the claims of reason that has ever been produced, and the sharpest challenge to its authority that ha s ever been issued, are to be found in Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground a nd in the great novels derived from it. The basic purpose that inspires these wo rks is, according to Shestov, struggle against self-evidence. "If you want to un derstand Dostoevsky," he writes, "you must always keep his fundamental thesis in mind: 'twice two is four' is a principle of death. We must choose; either we mu st admit this twice two is four, or we must admit that death is the end of life and the last judgment on it." Dostoevsky's short story "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man," which appears in his D iary of a Writer, is interpreted by our critic in "The Conquest of the Self-Evid ent" as the novelist's retelling of, and commentary on, the biblical legend of t he fall - a legend which Shestov himself regards as the profoundest symbol and a

He cannot be conceived as having a ny purposes. i. desires. l ed him to the conclusion that God is none other than the one Infinite Substance of the universe. this deed of all deeds. and he understands that they know without the scientific informat ion that is his. Shestov suggests in the closi ng lines of "The Conquest of the Self-Evident.llegory of the human condition and to which he returns repeatedly in his own wri tings. that reason which he so adored and to which he sang such fervent praises. and this too the meaning of the enigmatical words of Euripides which we quoted at the head of this study: 'Who knows if lif e is not death. that the knowledge they command is of a kind totally incomprehe nsible to him. an d who have neither the capacity nor the desire to judge anyone or anything. All His acts are necessary." How did Spinoza accomplish the deed? Rea son. like all that people hold to be to timi§ætaton. One c annot seek Him in history." was the God whom Dostoevsky was seeking through all his violent struggle against the logical and demonstrable "t ruths" of science and rationalist philosophy: "One cannot demonstrate God. and death life?'" SPINOZA Among others in the series of "pilgrimages through souls" . the earthly intruder proceeds to corrupt them all. dictated by t he structure of His own being.made by Shestov in his own struggle against th e self-evident and in his quest for God.. and their world is totally transformed. innocent creatures they are changed into guilt-ridden au tomata hedged around by law. who know nothing of shame or anxiety. The protagonist of the story. From free.e. the God of Biblical faith . Though awed by the loveliness and innocence of these children of paradise.. The central concern of Shestov's own agitated and impassioned striving in the la st decades of his life was to restore to men the freedom he believed they had fo rfeited in their obsession with rational knowledge and the God who had primordia lly granted this freedom to them and who alone can give it back to them. who loved the Lord his God with all his heart and with all his so ul . and in his dream find s himself in a scene reminiscent of the first chapters of the Book of Genesis. "Only of such a one w ill men believe that he has in reality and not in words accomplished this crime of all crimes.[8] (Things could not have been produced by God in any other way than ..not the God of the philosophers who is a pri nciple or a postulate.[7] (God acts only in accordance with the laws of His own nature and is coerced by no one) and Res nullo alio modo a Deo produci potuerunt quam produ ctae stint. decides to die. physical and moral. who rejects all guarantee s. lies down to sleep. The ridiculous man is astonished by the incomparable beauty of these innocent childr en of the sun. goals. God is 'caprice' incarnate. an idea deduced by speculative thought from an examinatio n of nature or the processes of history. Shestov contends.was condemned by God Himself to slay God. H e is surrounded by people who have not yet eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Deus ex solis suae naturae legibus et a nemine co actus agit. was the man upon whom was laid the dreadful task of "m urdering" God. Spinoza. from which they then derive moral principl es and rules. This is th e meaning of all Dostoevsky's works. And such. He does this by con ferring on them scientific knowledge. At once they come to experience shame. or natura naturans. is one through the soul of the Jewish p hilosopher of seventeenth century Amsterdam. The results of this pilgrimage are to be found in "Children and Stepchildren of Time: Spinoza in Hi story" and in the essay entitled "Science and Free Inquiry" which the author pla ced as a "foreword" to In Job's Balances. As such. are all men in their fallen state today.and this by none other than God Himself. Baruch Spinoza. "He. emotions.that is how Shestov characterizes In Job's Balances . Shestov asserts. And such.how often and how emphatically he speaks of this in his earlier works and i n the Ethics . who possess no science. This Go d was the living God of the Bible . He is outside history. the "ridiculous man" for whom all things ha ve become indifferent.

a being without existence or reality. but betray ed God by replacing Him by an idea. thus the gr eatest sages of antiquity. strives with man and even sometimes gets the worst of it in that strife. truly phi losophic questions have to be moulded. capriciousness and diversity of opinion in philosophy and make of it a strict science with a "permanent uniform ity of judgments. Dieu d'Isaac. as the paper he carried about se wn into his cloak testifies. lonely thin kers comprehend this. genuine. which he created after the image of the high est criterion of mathematical truths. according to Shestov. non lugere. did not strike out in a new and original philosophical direction but merely continu ed the work of his seventeenth century predecessor. by Kant. reason which see ks. Thus the prophets questioned. in fact. But this. But they stand aside from the great highway." PASCAL One of the "rare. and cur ses. and that out of this material and this alone. "Spinoza's formula. a system that would be similar to mathematics i n consisting of a set of universally valid propositions or necessary and eternal truths. bound up with the idea of necessity. This discovery of Spinoza 's became the starting-point for modern philosophical thought. omnipotent God of the Bible is a pious il lusion. sed intelligere. that such a God can be no supremely perfect being. like useless refuse. Shestov declares. Je n'approuve que ceux qui cherchent en gemissant (I approve those only who seek with lamentation). has attempted to follow Spinoza's professed rule (which he himself repea tedly violated): non ridere. not for the best. In "Gethsemane Night: Pascal's Philosophy" Shestov portrays the French thinker a s one who "summoned Rome. is excited and repentant. Fichte and Hegel were also his heirs. was a lie on the part of the "honest" philosopher of Amsterdam. The driving passion behind Spinoza's intellectual endeavors was to create a meta physical system more geometrico. Indeed. who created Heaven and earth and man after His image. Dieu de Jacob - . 'Dens = natura = substantia'. aside from hi story. in a tone which admits no contradiction. who declared. "beauty." Shestov complains. So Spinoza concluded. the intensity of whose spiritual qu est parallels his own. never guessing that it is the most precious thing in life. and the universe before the tribunal of A lmighty God. Now only rare. but the true philosophy . who both loves and also desires. yet we know with certainty that we are not speaking of that God who once lived in Biblical days. "It sw eeps away. to saying that the living. It was inevitable that Shestov should also be drawn to make a pilgrimage through the soul of this restless figure of the seventeenth century. Shestov points out. lonely thinkers" who stood aside from the "great highway" of m odern philosophy was Pascal. once and for all. simply means that there is no God. a myth. like dust. like all the conclusions drawn from it in his Ethics and his earlier works. ambition. not even a perfect being at all. "carr ied on Spinoza's programme to the end. thinks t hat it owns the sovereign right to distinguish truth from lies. reason. the "Dieu d'Abraham. he rescued piety and morality. man." Spinoza insisted. and can consequently be no God. who. laughter. Shestov asserts. neque detestan. according to Shestov. amount s. aside from the general business of philosophy. good. He wished to abolish. Shestov mai ntains. in continuing Spinoza's labors ." And he was followed in h is quest. the same rea son which rules over triangles and perpendiculars and which.this reason declares with the se lf-sufficiency peculiar to itself. therefore. However much one may talk of God. that his philosophy accorded to God the same place of honor as do o ther systems. contrary to the accepted view. and the tendency of their philosophical endeavors was essentially similar.they were produced). But this. in a letter to one of his cor respondents." Kant was by no means alone. tears. all of modern philosophy." and who did so because he sought. Kant. Reason. thus even the Middle Ages.

and submit ourselves humbly to the inevitable. refused to re gard submission as the summum bonum. something has ended. will not only not help a man in this case. taisez-vous. je ne le trouverai pas beaucoup av anc§Û pour son salut". make a virtue of this humility. why hast Thou forsaken me?' It s eems that all is finished. and incantations that Shestov quotes fr om the fragmentary notes that constitute Pascal's Pens§Ûes show. Obviously th e old immaterial truths. and that there is and can be no good to be fo und where anguish and terror reign. a precipic e opens at his feet which threatens to engulf him. Solid support fails. we must give up these audacious attempts." At first. like all the rationalist philosophe rs who have apotheosized "universal intelligence" and its "eternal truths" and d espised the refractory. too. And indeed. continue to repeat in exorably that man of his very nature should walk and not fly. how thoroughly disillusioned the great mathematic ian had become with the pretensions of reason. the saving gift without which he wou ld never have discovered the truth. too. which a thousand years of human thought have welded int o a compact whole. my God.. Pascal grows accustomed to the abyss and begins to love it. therefore one must fly. but something has also begun. His Pens§Ûes are only a description of the abyss." . One of Pascal's contemporaries re ports that the philosopher always saw an abyss at his side and used to have a ch air placed there to reassure himself. and see thi s virtue as our 'supreme good. new revelations break through. "Humiliez-vous. indeed. despite the censors hip of the book by Port Royal. individual persons. qua nos laudabil es vel vituperabiles sumus. and irrational individual "ego." Shestov traces Pascal's turning away from the "rational" and "self-evident. r efused to resign himself to the inevitabilities defined by reason. Pascal. §Ûternelles et d§Ûpendantes d'une p n qui elles subsistent et qu'on appelle Dieu. Like the ancient Stoics and Spinoza. raison impuissante.non des philosophes et des savants. how categorically he rejected it in his religious searching. The statements. as Shestov notes. "Qu'on ne nous reproche pas le manque de clart§Û.. New and incompreh ensible forces manifest themselves. But this declaration is not to be taken seriously. however. "that Pascal's illness and abyss were this strange shock. "It seems. and how exultingly he rejoiced at its humiliation: " La raison a beau crier. Pascal might have repeated with Nietzsche: I t is to my illness that I owe my philosophy. while Pascal "takes great pains to prove to us that the 'ego' is hateful. nature imbeci le. declared his hatred and contempt for this ego. "Que j'aime §Ñ voir ce tte superbe raison humili§Ûe et suppliante!". "Le moi est haissable. but will hinder hi m more than anything else. in reality he puts forth all his pow ers to defend it against the pretensions of the immaterial and eternal truths." Shestov writes. The great miracle of miracles is accomplished before our eyes. apprenez que l'homme passe infiniment l'homme et entendez de votre ma§àtre votre condition veritable que vous ignorez." he const antly reiterated. The solid earth gives way beneath his feet. arbitrary. and in horror at inescapable destruction he cries in agony: 'My God. were one continual struggle against reason. which he now perceived as the chief instrument in men's striving to emancipate themselve s from God. admonitions. And as the most terrible thing is violation of the 'law' and disobedience to the sovereign autocrat reason. elle ne peut mettre prix aux choses". his last years. these veritates aeternae. For." lik e Nietzsche's.'" But Pascal refused to surrender his audacity. revered the authority of reason and feared its decrees and judgment s. and indifferent to the fate of. it is impossible to walk as of old. should incline tow ards earth and not towards heaven." Pascal. "Quand un homme serait persuad§Û que les p roportions des nombres sont des v§Ûrit§Ûs immat§Ûrielles. They. certainly i t is not to be understood in the same sense as that intended by the rationalist philosophers who sought general truths transcending. car nous en fai sons profession". it is frightful. through the period when he was wr iting his Lettres Provinciales with their defense of common sense and morality. terrifying! He is without support. to the constant physical pain and agonizingly unremitting spiritu al anxiety with which both men were afflicted.

paved highroad of classica l philosophy and entered upon dark and problematic byways in a personal struggle to overcome the self-evident. The key to Plotinus' philosophy. Despite his pr ofound attachment to the Platonic tradition. he could rage against the blasphemy of the Gnostics in scorning the Creator of the world and despising his physical gi . he could t urn about and proclaim it the most precious thing in the world. "The liberty forfeited by Adam and God' s first blessing must be given back to the 'hateful ego and beside these great g ifts of the Creator our earthly virtues and our 'eternal truths' are as naught. On one page he c ould glorify reason. But the fundamental inner tendency of his spiritual and intellectual strivin g is apparent when he refuses all positive definitions of "the One" to which he aspires as the Supreme Reality and Supreme Good. must be the model for those few who have the will and endurance to struggle against the bewitched world of "eternal truths. What his deepest and truest sentiments were is not difficult to discern. and to pay no attention to the inconsi stency of what he now thought and wrote with what he had previously thought and written. But his life and his thought. at another. it was nothing other than the sal vation of the individual soul. Thus. Plotinus was too much the product of the Greek philosophical schools that preced ed him to fight openly against the "Logos. Pascal's was a restless and tortu red existence.at least in one aspect of it . in their mar tyrdom. without peace." And that the philosopher. he realized.Shestov discovers another one of the "rare. logic. Immediately after declaring that the "ego" is hateful and that man's supreme moral duty is to despise it. "wholly other" God of the Bible . as Shestov notes. according to Shestov . Shest ov suggests. self-evident categories of reason." It is true that Plotinus represents the culmination of the centuries-old Greek p hilosophical tradition and that he shared its high reverence for reason. lies in the following statement from the third of his Enneads: "Insofar as the soul is in the body it rests in deep sleep. Plotinus. without sleep. "what matters most. when fac ed with the necessity of choosing between "natural" (or "self-evident") and "rev ealed" truths. l onely" thinkers who at times departed from the broad. he arrived at the conviction that the ulti mate purpose of philosophy lies in a contemplation of the divine . omnipotent. and not from any other of their eternal truths. logical conceptions disappear." The supreme reali ty. according to Shestov. he was convinced.If Pascal had one central and supreme concern. Plotinu s . and obl ivion to. PLOTINUS In the work of the great neo-Platonist philosopher of the third century. by his striking words: "that which appears most real to common consciousness h as the least existence. in his quest for to timi§ætaton. and when he admonishes himself and others to "soar aloft above knowledge. mysterious.through a mystical. could never be grasped in the formulae of logic and in the read y-made. at times renounced the principle of contradiction and other supposedly unshakeable principles of logic and became what Plato would have called a misologist." the canons of reason and self-eviden ce. a hate r of reason. but it is also clear th at he could not completely liberate himself from the ideas of the rationalist ph ilosophical schools through which he had gone." Consistency." to use his own term . ecstatic experience in which critical self-awareness and all clear-cut. and clarity of thought." they too. must pay the price of foregoing rest and renouncing sleep. Nevertheless." The method that he followed was neve r to reread anything that he had written.not the li feless and abstract idea to which the philosophers wished to reduce Him. at one moment he could approve the Gnostic teaching that true fre edom and union with God are possible only through complete rejection of. Shestov suggests . and this. on the next revile it. unhesitatingly chose the latter is attested.or "the One. the sensuous world. could come only from the living. was of little concern to Pascal.

he insisted. And there will be the Creator of the real earthly mira cles.they fight against one another. In the "pilgrimages" through the souls of Tolstoy. which appear ed in French and German translations shortly before his death in 1938. Above all else. At a deeper level.. He only gives. For a sick man we call the doctor.fts. the One who created our wonderful visible wo rld." and "his battle against the self-evident truths w as no rejection of divine gifts but only the attempt to overcome the postulates by which reason transforms the life which God gave into scientific cognition." all of which were combined and published as In Job's Balances in 1929. as Shestov understands him. True philosophy is an instrument in man's struggle to break out of the chains o f necessity and regain God and freedom. in these. for a dying man the priest. Spinoza. There. To escape from this world meant for the Greek philosopher. Now he perceived the relationship as one of irreconc ilable enmity.phyg§Ü monou pros monon: the flight of the one to the One. and in the p hilosopher the psalmist is born . b ehind the gate guarded by the angel with the flaming sword. they do not compl ement one another. then his speech becomes ecstatic. even though t he great neo-Platonist thinker was philosophically opposed to Christianity and t o Judaism as religions. there is no real contradiction here. To Him. on the one hand. however. Dosto evsky. sou ght God and the realm of God in which man may recover his lost freedom. as is usually assumed . Shestov asserts. in the fifty-two pens§Ûes collected under the title "Revolt and Submission." SHESTOV's MESSAGE Shestov sees in Plotinus a seeker after the God of biblical faith. Shestov su ggests. are of no great value or signifi cance. Shestov conti nues the intense religious quest that is so clearly manifest in many of the essa ys and pens§Ûes published in his Potestas Clavium in 1923 and that was to be advance d still further in his last and greatest work Athens and Jerusalem. according to Shestov. and science and would-be scientifi c philosophy. Nor are his rational attempts to reconcile Plato and Aristotle of any importance. Furthermore. it is clear. and will gladly welcome by its side a contradictory truth. Plotinus. And as the doctor's business has nothing in common with the priest's. "to disenchant the soul from the eternal truths of reason which command man to see in the 'natural ' the bounds of the possible. Plotinus never actually rejected the physical world.. even truth. in that realm of which Plo tinus sings in inspired moments. will cease to desire to compel any one. the priest gives him the viaticum for eternal life. philosophy misconceives its authentic t ask when it seeks only to ground and confirm the claims of scientific knowledge. this God is the suprem e goal of his struggle. For Shestov himself. And in His realm. "God dem ands nothing of man. They do not help one another. the 'One' who brought sleep and trance to man and enchanted him by the sel f-evident truths of reason." and in the essay "Science and Free Inquiry. the word compulsion loses all meaning. and Plotinus. which ac cording to our conceptions has the most unquestioned of rights to demand submiss ion. the philosopher merely follows the tradition of the Stoics. W hat is of ultimate significance is Plotinus' conviction that one must struggle a gainst the enchanting power that had persuaded men to accept "natural necessity" and to believe in the infallibility of reason with its offer of eternal and uni versally valid truths. The doctor endeavours to preserve man for mortal ex istence." Plotinus' ethics and theodicy. Pascal. so there is nothing in common between philosophy and science. on the other. And t he enmity is the more violent because it generally has to be hidden under the ma .[9] Long before the publication of In Job's Balances Shestov had come to see a confl ict between religious faith. It is philosophy in this sense that Shes tov had in mind when he wrote one of the briefest but most striking pens§Ûes in "Rev olt and Submission": "SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY. Plotinus' soul turns in his rare moments of inspired exultation. Then he se es that in a new balance hitherto unknown to man Job's sorrow really weighs more than the heavy sands of the sea.

undisturbed peace of super-individual being. we are more likely to l ose our capacity for discovering anything at all about the final secrets and won ders of the universe. he suggests. In In Job's Balances. the theory of gradual development.. philosophers. the 'fortuitous." but he is still tempted to surrender the affirmation of his individual being by memories of the joyful. prophets and 'conclude' and judge with them on the beginning and the end. o n the first and the last things. Science. not reducible to something finished and intelligible. "however much we may have attained in science. expectations. he must not succumb to the seductive p romises of safety and comfort held forth by this womb. he offers a trenchant critique of the intri nsic claims made by scientific inquiry to be the supreme method for discovering the truth. uncontrollable. 'creative fia t'.. Instead of learning anything truly significant from such study. Thus. Shestov suggests. it will not and cannot seek for the truth. is fundamentally motivated by the desire to rem ove from its field of vision everything that is "miraculous" or "incomprehensibl e. hopes. "We m ust. through scientific and experimental methods. as wel l as in his earlier and later works. That God wanted to teach man this lesson. and therefore an ete rnal mystery. Shestov concludes. may be the best explanation of the classical Christian doctrine of the Incarnation. which proudly boasts its perfection!" Furthermore. the powerfully seductive attractiveness of the t heory of evolution. This is the supreme achievement of mode rn knowledge. Shestov suggests." To attain the realm of God and freedom. according to Shestov. artists. However. by i ts very nature. and h e defends himself against the threat by simply refusing to recognize the reality of such phenomena." Scientific man appears to recoil with dread before any phenomenon that is un anticipated or does not fall into his customary categories of explanation. The most unpromising way to discover Nature's purposes. "Spectral analysis has conquered space and brought heaven do wn to earth. passions. joy and sorrow. Yet it is surely in these emotions and aspirations that whatever purposes Nature may have must surely lie. Scientists sometimes presume to believe that they can dis cover the "purposes" of Nature. the scientific method of searching for the truth co mmits one to the assumption that what is in fact most significant for human bein gs is not real at all." Man has escaped from "the womb of the One. The dominan t of life is audacity. to differentiate every thing problematic and surprising into infinitely minute quantities. A philosophy which has let itself be seduced by the example of positive science. but at the same time they resolutely exclude pai n and pleasure. man must overcome the timidity and fear that lie behind the enterprise of science and the philosophy that aspires to be scientific. is by studying the life of the amoeba and mollusc. think ers.'" In its effo rt to exclude the possibility of anything radically new and previously non-exist ent lies. all life is a creative tolma. each absence of purpose and motive and screen ourselves with the utmost care from the emasculator of thought. the theory of evolution has conquered time by reducing the whole of the past and the future to the present. of the saints. indepe ndent being. What we must rather do is "project our thought and feeling into the most intensive and complex seeking and struggling of the boldest and g reatest representatives of humanity.' in that single.sk of love and trust. it is leading us away from it. fears. th e barrier which shuts man off from God and freedom. He must conquer his fear of the unlimited possibilities and difficulties that confront the single. 'spontaneous'. incomprehensib le thing which is always at war with explanation. The truth lies there where science sees the 'nothing. a philosoph y which endeavors. "Cu . tolma. yet we must remember that science can give us no truth because." Shestov is not content simply with castigating science as the enemy of faith. and instead assert his audacity and irreducible individuality. Shestov argues. is not only bringing us no nearer the truth. throw ourselves greedily upon each 'sudden'. and believes its essential task to be. or the fossilized remains of extinct animals.

Ohio October. is there hope that he will escape from the dream-world of empirical reality and begin to creat e for himself both causes and aims. "for man to declare hims elf ready to live in filth and cold. Paris. 1 (1920). "the nightmare of godlessness an d unbelief that has seized humanity. to what purpose. 8 (1921). according to Shestov. to endure injury and sickness. Paris.r Deus homo? Why. M. Only when he has first gone through the expe rience of despair. 15 (1923) # "Children and Stepchildren of Time. by becoming like the author of the Twenty-Second Psalm who cried. my God. In the period between the two great wars that engulfed Europe and the world in t he first half of the twentieth century Shestov brooded endlessly over what he ca lled. He must live through that ut ter desolation and lostness experienced by the author of the same Psalm when he cried. 9 (1921). Paris.1 (1926) Note on changes: "A Note on the Author" by Richard Rees which appears in the J. expose himself to injuriou s mistreatment. 1974 A NOTE ON "IN JOB'S BALANCES" In Job's Balances was the eighth volume of the original Russian edition of Lev S hestov's works. My heart is like wax." For one to be able to glimpse ultimate tru th. The essay "What is Truth. all t hat ready certainty and clear-cut definition of conception in which we are accus tomed to see the vanitates aeternae. 2 (1920 )." In Job's Balances is one of the most impor tant testimonies to his relentless and passionate striving to destroy that night mare and to restore. to shatter the skeleton of on e's own soul and to break that which is held to be the basis of our being. 10 (1922) # "Revolt and Submission" in Sovremenye Zapiski. No. believing that God is not and that man must himself become Go d and create all things out of nothing. Paris. everything in him must become broken and fluid. Dent edition has not been reprinted. Spinoza in History" in Sovremenye Zapiski. through His example." part of the R . No. No. No. both for himself and others. Plotinus's Ecstasies" in Versti. No. that it is worth while bearing anything in order not to remain in the womb of the One? That any torture whatever to the living being is better than the 'bliss' of the rest-sati ate 'ideal' being?" How shall men find the way to the truth? Only. "I am poured out like wat er and all my bones are out of joint. to be burned in the brazen bull of the tyrant Phalaris. that man is utterly alone and abandoned to himself. ignominious and painful death on the cross? Was it not in order to show man. No. No. "My God. why hast Thou forsaken me?" Only when one feels that the re is no God. faith in the God for whom all things are possible. No. it is melted in the midst of my bowels. Most of the essays found in In Job's Balances had been published previously in Russian journals: # "Revelations of Death" in Sovremenye Zapiski. can he hope to catch a glimpse of the tr ue God and of ultimate reality. says Shestov. 13 (1922) and No. Paris. that no decision is too hard. in a letter to his friend Serge Bulgakov. Bernard Martin Case Western Reserve University Cleveland." It will not suffice. 19 (1924) # "Vehement Words. No. did He become man. 25 (1925) # "Gethsemane Night" in Sovremenye Zapiski." In addition what is required is tha t of which the Psalmist speaks: "to melt inwardly.

" in Nos. entitled "Revelations of Death. "The Last Judgment. [6] Loc. 1929. pp. [8] Ibid. was published by Dent and Sons. This must not be forgotten. Ohio. p. If Tolstoy had not writt en War and Peace. only he who has passed through life can unde rstand or. by Spencer Roberts." which is included in the English version of Potesta s Clavium. in 1920. 1969.. Part I. 3-140. pub lished by Flammarion. Tolstoy. has been removed from the English edition a nd included in the American edition of Potestas Clavium. cit.. Tolstoy. is to be found in Le v Shestov. Paris. was published by the Ohio Univers ity Press. and saints. It is this version that i s republished here in its entirety. and Nietzsche. [1] An English translation. Na Vesakh Iova. artists. [4] Lev Shestov. Dea th is the greatest mystery and the greatest enigma. This essay was later included in th e first part. 1932. [2] The original Russian version. it is a question here of the revelatio n of death. Dostoevsky. basically. Tolstoy first wrote War and Peace. A. Ohio University Press. then "Master and Servant. is to be found in Lev Shestov." of "In Job's Balances". Afiny I Jerusalim. Geneva. An English translation. The spelling of Chestov has been changed to Shestov. not without reason has it in spired so many philosophers. Our reason is texts links biblio ToC . Athens. by Camilla Coventry and C. of his es say on Tolstoy. And. and Nietzsche. It has seemed worthwhile to preface this volume with a letter written by Lev She stov to his daughters shortly after the publication in Paris.ussian edition of In Job's Balances. pp. Ethics. 1971. Proposition XVII. 169. But no lesser are the mystery and enigma of life. April 13. Proposition XXXIII. Sur la balance de Job. [7] Spinoza. was published by the YMCA Pres s in Paris only in 1951. with the exception of the essay "What Is Tru th? On Ethics and Ontology.. Part I.. 1968. 143-322. Dostoevsky." "The D eath of Ivan Ilich. London. approach the mystery of death. That i s to say. it must not be thought that revelation proceeds solely from death. Ohi o. was published by Annales Conte mporaines." and other short stories. Tolstoy.And now on the subject of my article. 140. by Bernard Martin. p. and Nietzsche. [5] An English translation of the work. [9] The original Russian text. he would not have written his last works either. Mc Cartney. Paris. more exactly. 1921 ". by Bernard Martin. Athens. Dostoevsky. << | >> Orphus system home intro In Job's Balances << | >> A letter from Lev Shestov to his daughters Translated by Bernard Martin from the French version. [3] An English translation of the work. 1 and 2 of the Russian review "Anna les contemporaines" ("Sovremennye Zapiski").

but it would not be natural if. which is educated by language. consists in not deduci ng. advancement. This is what sometimes happened to Tolstoy when. I would say. There is life and its beauties.this is to say. and comfor t. and especially in the first books and articles published in Frenc h: "The Conquest of the Self-Evident. to exhaust all that there is to say or to see. Remember the Mediterranean. Ivan Ilich. even in his best works. Only he who has previously been able to act can give himself over to an active inactivity. however. in his so-called "philosophical " works. That is. t he thought of death is accompanied by a particular sentiment. advancement in his work and the possession of an apartment similar to that o f everyone else appeared to be the ideal of his situation in the "world. on the contrary. To be sure. he had seen during his childhood. in being able to grasp life in its totality with all its irr econcilable contradictions. then he had forgotten it. wings were growing in their b acks. judges his previou s life severely. When the infant grows up. he attempted to show life as proceeding from a single principle that he called "the good. he saw nothing in life." Here we find again the same preoccupations as those expressed through all the wo rk of Shestov." So the revelation of death is not a negati on of life but. And when death came. one will obtain exactly the opposite of what he would have wished to obtain . rather. All that he had been able to see of truth." He per ceived neither the sun nor the sky. a truncated. precisely. it would be a great mistake to deduce from "revelations of death" rules of life." That is not right. his youth. he rejected it. employing all his powers only in not being himself but in being like "everyone.directed by nature towards "action. There is death and its horrors. The essential thing. by a kind of consc iousness that. R emember what we saw in Athens. anyone finding himself in the state of Ivan Ilich judges ma ny things differently from others. men cannot unify in their human language all that they live through and feel in such a way that it can be expres sed by a single word or single concept." and it is not at all necessary to despise action. living knowledge. abstract knowledge. as if nothing existed in life beyond cards. a difficult art. But he does not turn away from life. When we ascend a staircase we leave behind the lower step in passing to the higher. beyo nd the apparent horrors of decomposition and the end. It is true that often the writer is so profoundly immersed in the disqu ietude of being that he does not manage." an essay commissioned by "La Nouvelle Rev ue Francaise" in 1921. in place of a complete. And even the revelation of death is finally only the search. That is why we cannot limit ourselves to a single writer. of the principles of a new beauty. otherwise. just as in Plato and Plotinus. at the hour of death. But in Tolstoy. of so mething other than the habitual "rat-race" by which men allow themselves to be t aken. It gnaws because it is growing wings. cards and comfort seemed to him to be the sum of what one could atta in. from the first day. We must always keep ou r eyes opened. an affirmation . Thus neither the works o f Tolstoy nor those of Plato or Plotinus should be interpreted as a call to forg et life. that is to say. This must not be forgotten. Previously. or again at the Louvre. on the occasion of the centenary of Dostoevsky's birth. It is a great art. he is no longer attracted by his mother's breast. he understood suddenly that he had s een nothing. that he learns to appreciate many things that were formerly matters of indifference to him. " . even while horror rose before them. Beauty is also a source of revelation. although it was all there before his eyes. Also. what you saw during o ur excursions in the mountains.an affirmation. to b e able to keep oneself from the exclusivism toward which we are unconsciously dr awn by our language and even by our thought. but previous ly the lower one was before us. Probably something similar happens with the chrysalis when it begins to gn aw at its cocoon. but his judgment does not mean that this life had absolutely no value.

the wisest of men. A ccording to Plato. for those who possessed it would then be comp texts links biblio ToC . and what death. Who knows if life is not death. "if life is not death. THE CONQUEST OF THE SELF-EVIDENT Dostoevsky's Philosophy tis d'o§àden.PLOTINUS. Tatiana Rageot-Chestov << | >> Orphus system home intro In Job's Balances << | >> Part I REVELATIONS OF DEATH ag§æn megistos kai eschatos ta§às psucha§às prokeitai. or much the same as Euripides . and death life?" Plato in one of his dialogues puts these words into the mouth of Socrates.EURIPIDES. while others were bereft of this power.even if it be only for a brief moment . What am I saying: Justice! Logic itself demands it. with the moments of supre me tension of being. A supreme and final battle awaits the soul. Socrates almost always when death is discussed says the same. How has it happened. . 1 "Who knows. where the latter transcends its proper limits.Gethsemane Night" (a study of Pascal). "Revelations of Death" (a volume combinin g "The Conquest of the Self-Evident" and "The Last Judgment"). vi. and death life? . how could it happen.per ceives." and .no one knows whether life is not death and deat h life. for it would be absur d that it should be granted to some to distinguish between life and death. Since the earliest days the wisest of men have lived in this state of my stified ignorance. all of which figure in the present v olume." says Euripides. and why are the most painfu l and terrible difficulties always reserved for the wisest? For what can be more terrible than not to know whether one is alive or dead? "Justice" should insist that this knowledge or this ignorance should be the prerogative of every human being. beyond appearances. the "revelations" of life and of death. when it feel s "wings growing in its back. Enneads I. On this first contact. the very man who created the theory of general ideas and first considere d the clarity and distinctness of our judgments to be an index of their truth. 7. only common men know quite distinctly what life is. "Children and Ste pchildren of Time" (Descartes and Spinoza). to katthane§àv de dz§Ün. ei to dz§Ün men esti katthane§àn. that the wisest are in doubt wher e the ordinary man can see no difficulty whatsoever. the French public found itself directly confronted with the chief problems of the Shestovian philosophy.

then. Are we in fact going to destroy the general laws of human thought. and there is nothing on earth worth his seeing? I think that he did not want those eyes for himself. He only is a man who knows certainly what life is and what death. Why is this? Why does he want all those eyes. without any mi stake. Although these words have been preserved. natural eyes. will remain intact for thousands of years. But since all our other organs of sense. and how did Plato dare repeat them? And why has history preserved them for us . and unjustifiabl e. when he comes for a soul. he wh o even occasionally. ceases to perceive the di viding line which separates life from death. that the man's term of life is not yet expired. But it happe ns to them sometimes to experience the feeling that their ordinary knowledge has deserted them. Perhaps it will be remembered t hat in a very wise old book it was said: "It were better for that man never to h ave been born who seeks to know what has been and what will be. supports i t. alone. if I mi stake not. and even our reason. they bear witness to the past. ceases to be a man and becomes. and which kept them in touch with the whole world. when he can see the whole of heaven. to those for whom it is predestined. for the sake of a few words from philo sophers and poets? Perhaps another "objection" will be raised. the new vision seems to be outside the law. and to bring disorder into the human mind? How. and make the distinction very easily. that which is un der the earth and above the heavens. but are dead to the futu re. but "freely". sees that he has come t oo soon. the f undamental principles of our own thought. They have their own knowledge. Can we indeed hope ever to see Euripides' question generally admitted? Is it not obvious to us all that life is life and death is death. and since the whole of human "experience". does not even show himself to it. This conclusion is self-e vident. individual and collective. And furthermore: this ignorance is always intermittent. ridiculous. Euripides and Socrates and all thos e who are destined to bear the sacred burden of this supreme ignorance. the produc . their fate is settled for evermore without appeal. it can happen that a fishbone. suddenly can no longer be called "their " knowledge. generall y know quite well what life is and what death. they know not how or why. which all admit. agree with our ordinary sight. The testimony of the old. and he also sees. later. and we should hardly have the right to comprehend them both under the category of human beings. that they appear when they disappear and disappe ar when they appear." But I should then reply that according to this same book. directly contradicts the testimony of the eyes left by the angel. And then the man sees stra nge and new things.letely different from those to whom it is refused. which they themselves knew only a moment before. however. it always comes abruptly. It happens some times that the Angel of Death. more than other men see and more than he himself sees with h is natural eyes.. that all men are by nature capable of dist inguishing life from death. w hat? Where is the Oedipus who can resolve this question and penetrate to the dep ths of this supreme mystery? It is but right to add. That which all know. Ignorance only comes. not as men see but as the inhabitants of othe r worlds see: that things do not exist "necessarily". so he does not take the soul away.history which destroys mercilessly everything which is useless or insignificant? One mi ght perhaps say that it is mere chance. the Angel of Death who descends towards man to separate his soul from his body is all covered with eyes. "everybody's" eyes. they play no part in the spiritual development of humanity. but leaves the man one of the innu merable pairs of eyes with which his body is covered. it disappears and gives place to normal c onsciousness as suddenly as it has appeared. were it but for a single instant. and that to confuse them with one another can only be madness or a mischievous wish to upset all sel f-evidence. He who does not know. the knowledge which links them to the other beings so unlike the mselves. did Euripides dare to pronounce these challenging words. that which un iversal consent confirmed and justified. Hist ory has fossilized them. that they ar e and at the same time are not. unjustified. a common sea-shell. just like other men.. fantastic.

that hell was little worse than these barracks. the branded faces. and which under the names of Eros. for the most part above the average in ability. And then begins a struggle between two kinds of vision. the warders. shows this. still young but perverted and filled with enmity and hatred. Mania. I vowed t o myself that never again should there be evil in my life. We have got into the realm of the unnatural. a nightmare. to express it better. B ut when did the Angel of Death visit him? The most natural thing would be to sup pose that it happened at the foot of the scaffold when sentence of death was rea d out to him and his companions. it wi ll be enough. nor any backsliding s uch as there had been before. But he could not transform them into a certainty. Neither was it while he was living in the Siberian camp. the vile oaths. he s uffers horribly. Dostoevsky was undoubtedly one of those who possessed this double vision. it is probable that "natural" explanat ions are out of place here. O pen the doors of the prison. send away the warders. It is possible that a yet more important s acrifice may be demanded of us. He suffers. a noble existence will begin. The author of The House of the Dead is still full of hope. A day will come when all this will pass away.all this will pass and a new. and I even think that he did not wish it. He repeats more than once . the whole attraction of the se truths lies perhaps in the very fact that they deliver us from certainty. he did not try. healthy men. I shall find the rest for myself. the prison. tha t they make us hope that what is called evident can be conquered. in this free and beautiful unive rse which I did not know how to appreciate before. among men who intervened in the destinies of others and th emselves became the sealed of destiny. not poetic madness. The strip of blue sky that he sees above the high walls is a promise of liberty to him. We may perhaps have to admit that certainty is n ot a predicate of truth. we must aba ndon all those methods and procedures which previously gave a certainty. The House of the Dead. and Ecstasy. The whole charm.and there is no exaggeration in it . and if we want to see anything. a struggle of which the issue is as mysterious and uncertain as its origin. all that the suffering soul desires. the filth. the eternal clinking of the chain s . Euripides made them his own because something in them fascinated him. a guara ntee to our truths and our knowledge. I drew up a program for my future and resolved to follow it exactly. that certainty has absolutely nothing in common with truth. We shall come back to this later. He pr onounced them knowing that no one would believe them. they would remain as strange and as p roblematical as on the day when the poet first heard them in the depths of his s oul." What hear tfelt and inspired pages Dostoevsky wrote on this subject! "With what hopes my heart was then filled! I thought. I resolved. has so often been described and justified where and when necessary. even though every one hear d them. strike off the chains. beautiful and happy. However. but the madness for which men are pent in cells. But he always remem bers that outside the walls of this prison there is another existence. and that I . the blows. I believed blindly that I could accomplish it all. "I am not here f or ever". So it was not while he was waiting for the execution of his sentence that D ostoevsky was visited by the Angel of Death. Her e is a heavy sleep. It seems only a step short of madness. he tells himself again and again. or. that inspiration with which even the handbooks of philosophy and aesth etics deal.t of a disordered imagination. although I saw it. one of his finest works. and that indeed no one can be sure whether life is not death and death life. of the eternally and essentially fantastic. Suppose Euripides is righ t. in which were penned several h undreds of strong. "soon I shall be there . all that I dream of.there where there is liberty. can this truth ever become certain? If all men daily repeated Euripides' words w hen they got up and when they went to bed. There it will be waking. but these words of Euripides can convince us that certainty and truth each exist independently.

one can already find. "true". in Russia. I eagerly awaited. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ I \ The Conquest of the Self-Evident << | >> 2 Dostoevsky finished his time in detention and the military service which su cceeded it. indeed. "definite" . no matte r how horrible it might be. but the whole great dome. there were some who were handsome and some who were ugly. good. . It remained f or him now to fulfill the vows which he had made to himself when he was in priso n. sincere an interest in everything tha t is taking place before the author's eyes. his ~ immediately. just as the little strip of b lue sky which could be seen above the prison walls was not "the whole" sky. a miserable. and the whole h uman existence became like that of the inhabitants of the "House of the Dead". He was convinced that he only had to get out o f prison. Dostoevsky was certain that what he saw at that time. But it was not "the whole of life". Real life. pitiable.should do so. bu t on the contrary weighed him down and humiliated him as grievously as the chain s of his prison. the ideals fettered him. doctors. uninteresting and wretched life. Among the co nvicts there were brave men and cowards. and that "the vast dome of the sky" whi ch had seemed to him limitless when he was in prison now began to crush and to p ress on him as much as the barrack vaults had used to do. active. It is so complete. that the ideals which had sustained his fainting soul when he lived amongst the lowest dregs of humani ty and shared their fate had not made a better man of him." It was. where there were no more walls. to others as well as himself. existed where men could see not only a little s trip of sky overhead. If one can avoid the old mistak es and pitfalls. he must have made more than one desperate effort so to order his life that the old mistakes and the old follies should not be repeated. here on earth." With eager desire he awaited the day that should bring him freedom. tha t our life on earth is a great gift from heaven. presumably. a nd quit this life. He soon began to notice that the life of freedom came more and more to rese mble the life in the convict settlement. it is not in the l east like anything he wrote either after it or before.and their existence is equall y real and "definite. forget his resolutions. among men who were clever. rich and full of meaning. Nothing seems to be invention. Everything that he had expec ted came to pass. so full of quiet and majestic calm. and that then he would prove to all. He became a fre e man. commandants. nor liberated him. porters. Unless we are much deceived. He had the vast dome of the sky over his head. the only possible reality. The Ho use of the Dead fills a place apart among Dostoevsky's works. this bo ok is an authentic record of the existence led by Dostoevsky during his four yea rs' captivity. like all the men whom he had envied while he was in chains. was reality. The sky oppressed him. as the patriarchs did "in the fullness of their days". in Moscow. and orderlies. in Peters burg. but great stretches of space.. a . boundless liberty. he has not even changed the names of the prisoners. I wanted to try my st rength again in fresh struggles. cruel men and n onentities. and so strong. There were warders and sentries. Dostoevsky did not. But it seems that the hard er he tried the worse did he succeed. and at the same time filled with such internal tension. which sh ould be the dawn of his new life. but all "genuine". He went to Tver and then to Petersburg. Sometimes a feverish impatience would seize me. and themselves free. I longed for my liberty. truthful men and liars. so wel l proportioned. Every kind of person. all that man can desire.

There is no sky. then we should be obliged to declare: in the world there is eit her life. nor less. or else death. Dostoevsky suddenly "saw" that the sky and the prison walls. one of the m ost extraordinary works. not only of Russian. as we have seen. was descri bed as a nightmare. for the man to be free and his life to be gin again in all its fullness. not equal to one. But life was not created by man. They are not contradictory. b ut identical. This second sigh t was apportioned to Dostoevsky unasked. as he had wished and thought formerly. as Ar istotle teaches. before we were able either to ask questions or to answer them. the stepchildren of fate. If we were re ally persuaded that the law of contradiction is the fundamental principle. his eyes showed him that it was so. nor d id he create death. All that we possess we receive we know not whence nor from whom. but it could not have entered his head that this mysterious. to the despair of human thought. when he still wished and thought like normal men. Dostoevsky of course knew nothing about the gifts of the Angel of Death. And although mutually exclusive. it is true. The experience which he un derwent was much the same as Luther's when he remembered with such unfeigned hor ror and disgust the vows which he had pronounced on entering the convent: ECCE D EUS. was himself pa rtly responsible for this interpretation and suggests it in the note which he ha s written at the head of the work. they co-exist in the world. in the underworld. with which it is therefore in complete h armony. But the law of contradiction is not so unshakable and all embracing as we h ave been told. and so did his other senses and "divine" reason. This new "sight" is the subject of The Notes from Underground.heavy and painful slumber filled with hideous dreams. Two is grea ter than one. and only see today in this little book a "scandalous revelation". There are no ideals exalting the soul. which is obliged to own that it does not know where life begins and where death. Yet it was impossible for him to reject the gi ft. the two cannot co-exist. no sky anywhere. The n suddenly a new witness appeared. and the giver of this gift tro ubles not at all to make it harmonize or agree. in vie w of its importance. the approach of which could be measured quite certainly on the stockade surrounding the barrack yard. the doors of the prison to be opened. sick. I wish to stress: while the first sight begins in man at th e same time as all the other faculties. are wretched. Death is the greatest dissonance . Dostoevsky's barrack vows of "improvement" now appeared to him as a sacrilege. There is only one difference. TIEI VOVEO IMPIETATEM ET BLASPHEMIAM PER TOTAM MEAM VITAM. but any literature. as unexpectedly and as arbitrarily as t he first. invisible indee d. the second sight only awakens much later. just as we cannot reject the gifts of the Angel of Life. abnormal creatures who in their senseless bitterness reach the uttermost limits of negation. no "good work " can open the doors of man's "perpetual confinement". So. those involuntary martyrs. Where man is master. And he may have done this in honesty and sinc erity. life. nor whether that which appears to be life is not death and that which appears to be death. from which nevertheless deliverance was promised. or else man does not always dare apply it and only does so within the limits of the world in which he himself can play the part of creator. the most brutal rupture (and a premeditated one) of every chord. after a ce rtain appointed date. but only chains. He had heard of this angel. invisible guest sho uld share his gift with a mortal. but binding man more securely than iron. Truths of that kind which appeared to the eyes of the underground man are . against all the others. which I have mentioned but which. Dostoevsky thought. Most people on ly saw. unhappy beings. As though these beings were only the product of o ur own times. How had this happened? Yesterday Dostoevsky had written The House of the De ad in which the existence of the convicts. The chains had only to be taken off. this principle serves him very well. there is only a low and limited horizon. Somewh ere down there. where he rules. ideals and cha ins are not contradictory to one another. It has all been apportioned to us. And no act of heroism. and had not existed before! Dostoevsky.

It is disgusting. taking halluci nations and ghosts for reality. myself. joyous fe eling of flight. expresses exactly the same thought. Dostoevsky himself. or whether he had dreamed it. low and immoral to live more than forty years! Who live s more than forty years? Answer me honestly and sincerely. and in deed cannot. we feel a terrible. He does not understand what he is feeling. or that they have any meaning whatsoever. The man who cannot. and his readers. might serve as the conclusion to every one of the succeeding chapters. He also opines that the man of action is always mediocre. Hence the strange style of the underground man's story. "universally recognized" as one of the greatest thinkers of antiquity (of whom I think Dostoevsky never even heard). to eighty years. Dostoevsky himself was uncertain.of their very origin such that though they may be stated. supernatural power catch up the writer and carry him off. to seventy. a characterless individual. But Plotinus. he awaits he knows not what. they need not. This time our judgment is not at fault . An unexampled. is morally obliged to be. For instance. whether he had really seen what he descr ibed in The Notes from Underground. of inexplicable joy. who is quite as "distraught" as Dostoevsky.rememb er the Angel of Death. It is as though he has stumbled ove r a precipice and fallen sheer into an unplumbed abyss. The writer is in ecstasy. have their breath take n away by the tempestuous rush of wild. I will tell you: imbe ciles and good-for-nothings. "let me take breath". Neither Dostoevsky himself nor any one else can be certain that thes e questions can be asked. alternatin g with fits of no less inexplicable despair. Such is the conviction of my forty years. although in another form. or a collection of words without mea ning? At first sight there can be no question about it . I am forty. he is beside himself. And these words. let me take breath!" << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ I \ The Conquest of the Self-Evident << | >> 3 Indeed. I have the right to say it because I. combined with terror of the abyss. from the very beginning. the man of action must be a commonp lace person. be made into good. the all-engulfing void. Even their discoverer cannot make them quite his own. this is why each of his sentences gives the lie to the one before and mo cks it. we have to stop and take breath. or will not. he runs h e knows not whither. re-read this sentence: "The man of the nineteenth century must be a characterless individual. But it is no t possible to put them on one side. to the end of his life. "new" thoughts which well up from the se cret depths of his being. Wait. that the essence of action is limitation. shall live to sixty.nothing but words! But let me remind you that Plotinus. nor why the se thoughts come to him. no one can answer these questions. and sometimes it does not even seem necessar y to do so. Read the last lines of the fir st chapter: "Yes. and forty years are a whole lif etime. I will tell you so in the face of all the old men. says this very . all the old men with their silver. the man of action must be a commonplace person. the man of the nineteenth century must be. Are they even thoughts. or simply diabolical whispering s? Do they portend good or evil? There is no one to ask. perfumed hair. useful truths suitable at all times and for all people. this explains too its bursts of ecstasy. From the first pages of the story. I will tell you so in the face of the whole world. give himself to thought or contemplation is the man who acts." Is this a serious conviction.

one of those for w hom normal men have to invent theories. any one who wants to understand Socrates should study the ugly face of Di ogenes as well as the more engaging classical features of Plato. for Plotinus was the last of a long line of great Greek thinkers. or at least an indication of this fe eling by saying that there is in it a very definite sensation that the state of equilibrium. really inexpressible. who expressed his visions in such a form that every one turned from the under ground man with horror. It is p robable that neither Plato nor Dostoevsky consciously pursued any definite aim w hen they spoke. whic h is not. And it is pe rhaps one of the most curious paradoxes of history. too. the Academicians. Antisthenes. and does not even see anything that is not good for all people and for every occasion. but at the moment he was too violently moved by the new "revelations" whic h assailed him. I said "attained his object". is absolutely insupportable (for "common consciousness" read Dostoevsky's "omnitude" or Plato's "many"). treatments. almost as though it were a thing that goes without saying. Aristotle. Plato. knew the "underground". etc. of perfect achievement. The p roblematic. but simply as yet unrealized. Man is oppressed by a torturing sense of nothingness. or Dostoevsk y. The same thing happened to Dostoevsky "underground" as to Plato in his cave. Perhaps Socrate s gone mad is that Socrates who will speak most honestly about himself. Dostoevsky was not sust ained by the philosophical tradition on which Plotinus could lean. those precursors of the Christian sai nts. abnormal being. but I think I expressed myself badly. however. only the Cynics. Moreover. he had behind him nearly a thousand years of intensive philosophic activity: the Stoics. For the matter of that. in proces s of formation. "in the beginning" t here is no aim. tried to expose Socrates' secret to the world. Socrates. We can give a certain idea. the one of his cave and the other of underground. It seems that the life of Diogenes reveals the true na ture of Socrates in some ways more plainly than Plato's brilliant dialogues. demanded that people should consider him as the archetype of man as such and nothing else. but only about things that can be useful or helpful to every one. One might say that the "sane" man is "man as such". that every o ne knows and every one admits. whether foolish or intelligent. Plato. whom his contemporarie s looked upon as a Socrates gone mad. His sanity lies in the very fact that he makes statements which are useful to all. that Socrates. Aims are only horn later. I do not know which of the two better attained his object: Plato. just as one ca nnot attribute a conscious aim to a being passing for the first time from nothin gness into existence. and was not master of himself. Perhaps he is right: when one wants to contradict the verdict of every one else the best thing is not to raise one s voice. but he called it a "cave" and created h is splendid and world-famous myth in which men were likened to prisoners in a ca ve. the so-called "inexpressible". declared that he would rather lose his reason than feel pleasure. feared equilibrium and achievement more th an anything in the world. will really speak t o us about himself. Later on Dostoevsky himself sometimes made use of this me thod. Parmenides and all the masters of word and thought w hose authority was universally acknowledged. is often quite easily admitted to be self-ev ident if so presented. But the Cynics have passed a . even the inconceivable. much later. who was less of a "man as suc h" than any one else. of complete satisfaction considered by comm on consciousness as the ideal of human thought. and in that whic h was nonexistent for "the world" he saw the only true reality. no sane man.quietly. a sense wh ich has not even got a name in our language. Diogenes too. who was t he creator of idealism and submitted all humanity to his influence. This thought of Socrates was afterwards taken u p and developed by Plato. But he did it in such a way that no one thought of calling Plato's cave "und erground" nor calling Plato himself a sickly. who called himself a pupil of Socrates. and one which should attract the attention of the philosophers. his new eyes were opened a nd found only shades and phantoms where "every one saw reality. At least.

to quote Tolstoy. are convinced that everything accomplishes itself in t he world "naturally" and "with sufficient reason The first object of history. th at common consciousness which the scholarly and philosophical vocabulary has des ignated as "consciousness in general". They. too. in th e eyes of the historian. The real Socrates is. watchings and similar "works" was to emancipate themselves from that "omnitude" of which Dostoevsky's underground man speaks. We can see this too among the monks of the Middle Ages. he saw other things. had the utmost dread of that spiritual balance which reason regards with assurance as th e supreme end of earthly existence. a law which ordains that not a single atom can go back into non-existence? << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ I \ The Conquest of the Self-Evident << | >> 4 Dostoevsky. could not have been more complete i n the bowels of the earth or in the depths of the sea. we must repeat that Dostoevsky sought solitude in order to save himself. or try to save himself. The strange thing about history is that with an admirable. nor is it the solitude which. That sort of thing cannot figure in the accounts either of earth or of heaven. But when he received the second pair of eyes. wh ich makes Socrates what he is.who n eeds him? It is just because he is not necessary to any one that he has disappea red and left no trace. that which cannot be preserved. We read of certain actions which can serve as examples to us: his courage. All that counts is Socrates "the man of action". saw life with natural eyes. as is generally supposed . historians. as always understood. Even today we find a us e for Socratic "thought". his calm in the face of death. those who interest themselves most in humanity's past.way without leaving any traces in history. Asceticism was not. He w as. To historia ns. This residue. Is there not a "law" for the conservation of matter. That is to say. But Socrates himself . The historian only attributes significance to things that merge with t he stream of time and contribute to it. which every one regards as the only real world. On the contrary. The underworld i s not at all the miserable place in which Dostoevsky had made his hero live. The rest does not concern him. too. tanto aptiorem se ipsam reddit ad quaerendum intellige . He is eve n convinced that the rest disappears without leaving any trace. he goes. which is pr eserved by the uncreated and therefore eternal laws. the only possible world. from this underground place (Plato's "cave") where "every one" has to l ive. he who has left traces of his passage on the stream of social life. Ignatius Loyola formulates the fundamenta l rule of the "Exercitia spiritualia" as follows: "Quanta se magis repent anima segregatam et solitariam. is to reconstruct the pa st as an unbroken series of happenings linked together by causality. it effaces all signs of anything strange and extraordinary which happens in the world. Whatever was peculiarly"Socrati c" about him "had no future" and consequently did not exist in the eyes of the h istorian. the one world justified by reason. designed to fight the flesh. he is no longer. is in fact neither matter nor energy. He comes. If he had been necessary there would have been a "law" to conserve him. almost human and conscious art. the eyes of the historian. Socrates is and can only be a "man as such". The primary aim of the monks and hermits who exha usted themselves with fastings. th at is to say.

seek solitude! There you will become either a god or a wild beast.will the last. like the saints engaged in saving their souls. "Do you know what I really want? That you should all go to the Devil. he will accept them all. into brutal." And on the next page: "I am the most i gnoble. He tells us incredible things about himself on every page. and of the thirst for redemption whic h was the motive power in the spiritual life of the Middle Ages. the experience of the thousands of years of our existence . Nothing can be ce rtain beforehand: first give up common consciousness and then we shall see. the real case is clearly far worse . John of the Cross. Dostoevsky's principal enemy. having all things within himself. that man can transform himself into a wild be ast. omnitude. But do not triumph on that score. Read his own confessions. is that outsi de which man cannot conceive of existence. I know quite well that I am a good-for-nothing. the better does it fit itself to seek and understand its Lord and Crea tor). or else a wild beast. But do you know that in order not to be disturbed.nobody kno ws when . Such was the belief of the saints. And this was what Dostoevsky saw when the Angel of Death forsook him. and such their ve ry words. but that it is not given to him to become a god? Human experience. I do not mean to say that Dostoevsky was simply repeating in his own fashion what he had learnt from other men's book s. and savage animals. springs from th is feeling. nor even the best of good works. the most envious. the stupidest worm that crawls on the face of the earth. again). From this standpoint The Notes from Underground might serve as an excellent co mmentary on the works of the great saints. the most vile.ndumque Creatorem et Dominum suum" (the more secluded and solitary the soul feel s itself. the stupidest of creation. He would have written The Notes from Underground even if he had known nothing . such their philosophy. All the significance of Christianity. the most ridiculous. God had to send His only son. And if it pleases you. in fact.if you give up this consciousnes s. Bernard. hypothetical metamorphosis take place. that is what I want. is there to confirm the predictions of reason: men constantly transform themse lves into beasts. they all regarded themselves as the most horrible sinners (alwa ys superlatives. Aristotle had already said: "The man who needs no one else is either a god. but there have not ye t been gods among them. Is it not evident. yes or no? Well. all the saints were filled with horror at their nothingness and sinfulness until they had drawn their last brea ths. "Cur Deus homo?" Why was it necessary for God to become man and to a ccept the unheard of tortures and the insults recorded in the Scriptures? Becaus e without this. St. Without this it was impossible to save the sinner. Did you know this. Go forth into the desert. things that even an animal would be ashamed to admit. Common consciousness. stupid. St. all unobserved. His ugliness is so monstrous. or should I have to d o without my cup of tea? I should say: let the whole world perish so long as I c an have my tea." Inc identally. St. and to redeem his hor ror and his vileness. read the books and the confessions of t he great saints. it would have been impossible to save man. an egoist. an idler." The whole book is filled with similar confessions. nor hecatombs. Theresa. neither silver nor gold. his fall so deep. after having left with him. hears a mysterio us voice ceaselessly whispering to him: "Be bold. the most cowardly. you will first of all be transformed into a beast and only later . I want pe ace. the weakest. to make the supreme sacrifice. one of the innumerable pairs of eyes . The experience of the underground man has been the same. that no ea rthly treasure could redeem his sin. I would willingly sell t he whole world for a kopek? Should the whole world perish." Dostoevsky. y ou can add the superlative of every bad word that comes into your head: the unde rground man will repudiate none. and even thank you for them. the possibility of whose existence was only admitted by Aristotle to complete his theoretical fo rmula.

It would be more accurate to say that there are no resolute men at all. rejected by the only real world. and how slender is his chance. And we have every reason to believe that when he wrote the book. "Lasciate ogni speranza". he cries. or a second. Dostoevsky did not feel himself supporte d by any authority or tradition.about the lives of the saints. The man kn ows quite well what risks he runs. or better. No one questions that there exists a certain human experience. reare d itself like the great wall of China. Dostoevsky knows all this as wel l as any one else. Torn away from common consciousness. like the new God. But the se were gods. and he hardly seems to know whether it is death." that formula of the nineteenth century. He knows that the ancient gods. and of their desperate efforts to escape. were to Dostoevsky anothe r prison wall built by an unknown hand. and that there is no possibility of comprehending anything that lies beyond its borders. The road is closed and on the wall we may read the Dantes que inscription. Dostoevsky speaks much of the men condemned to pe rpetual imprisonment there. and it seem ed to him that he alone. and transformed into pure ideas. The walls of the old barracks were a thi ng of terror. But this experien ce and its limits. Can man exist without resting on some solid basis? Or will he be himself annihilated if his feet no longer touch the e arth? The ancients said that what distinguished gods from mortals was the fact th at their feet never touched the earth. as they appeared to Kant and Comte. and they are all together". for they had no need for support. "I am alone. He tried by every means in his power t o understand their psychology. and ancient gods at that. "The limits of possible experience. overwhel med. Russian literature of the time proclaimed it with all the earnestness permitted by the contemporary censorship. This fact gives a pe culiar significance to his confessions. he did not know much about their writings. Nothing can "explain" decision. how much he stakes on a single card. against all the efforts of human curiosit y. but he did not succeed. have long since been banished by reason beyond the bounds of possible experience . since the world began. This was not from want of penetration or of power of observation on his part. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ I \ The Conquest of the Self-Evident << | >> 5 In his House of the Dead. but because such an underst anding was not possible. pure invention. collective or even ecumenical. The philosoph y of Western Europe. He acted on his own responsibility.Dostoevsky seems suspended between heaven and earth . only gre . When he was in the set tlement Dostoevsky was already especially attracted by these resolute men whom n o obstacle could turn from their purpose.for what other basis cou ld the world ever choose ? . among the convicts just as elsewhere. They are t he end. scientific thought. Nothing of any sort can be discerned beyond the walls of experience. miraculous birth. was also at Dostoevsky's disposal . although he did not read either Kant or Comte. There was no need to read them. The earth has given way under his feet. including Kant and Comte. but above those walls there was always a little strip of blue sky. mythological beings. which are rigidly defined by reason. and rightly scorned by modern. yet he decides to take the chance. had seen these extraordinary thi ngs revealed to him. whose reality is founded on this very common consciousness . wh ich our time has received as the supreme revelation of scientific thought. the full stop. Dostoevsky could only s ay that resolute men are rare everywhere.

he thought. like every one else. all those things which from the point of view of science and common sense either do not or should not exist. that having been enlightened by science and under standing to his true interests. He knows too. although not familiar with the doctr ines of the philosophers. something moral and definit e. as it is for us. there is no disputing that. rubb ing out the limits to such a degree that one can hardly tell where one begins an d the other ends. not a curse. but of which we gladly take advantage. There a re no foreign expressions in it. perhaps this is even beautiful. the unexpected." What attracts Dostoevsky? The "perhaps". Perhaps normal man ought to be stupid. In the convict settlement Dostoev sky had not yet realized this. something mystic. suppose man has always been mistaken on this very point? It is really astonishing that Dostoevsky. therefore it cannot be philosophy. perhaps. all movement towards a settled o bjective becomes impossible. so metimes. which are determined by unshakable and eternal principles.at "resolutions". fitful half-light. intolerable to common sense. unanswerable question s. They are subject to no rule. The wall has some soothing quality for them." Think over these words. he would be necessarily obliged to do right. b ut rather an admirable philosophical revelation accorded to Dostoevsky. and conse quently. But here a horrible suspicion enters his mind. the academic seal is lacking. No manual of philosophy h as made a study of The Notes from Underground.. the suddenness.. 0 child! 0 pure and simple child!. on which they are based. But a new truth revealed itself to him in his "underground": these eternal prin ciples do not exist. One loses all self-assurance. who had absolutely no scientific or philosophical training. in which. if such a case were even possible. Well. which it is impossible to understand. is only an auto-suggestion of man adoring his own limitations and prostrating hi mself before them "Simple men and men of action prostrate themselves quite sincerely before th e wall. Perhaps it is even very beautiful so. but perhaps . it is just this simple individual wh om I look upon as the normal man. t he whole rule falls to the ground. and the law of sufficient reason. normal interests he would immed iately become good and honest. . They are not an irritating paradox." which weakens and discredits the thought. n ot of an answer.who knows ? . that human exper ience has its limits. For them this wall is not. obscuring the outlines of things. or even quoted its title. tell me. I envy this man. they are "resolutions" and "great" just because they are outside all rules. Dostoevsky knows perfectly well what is the general opinion. they are worth it. but must consist in desiring harm for ones elf and not advantage! If this is the case. w hen she amiably allowed us to be born into this world. a pretext in which we ourselves do not generally believe. Interest! What is interest? But suppose there are cases. Like all the new thoughts of the "underground" man. the caprice. they prostrate themselves in all good faith. if his eyes were opened to his true. a pretext to turn aside from the path.. because they are not usu ally founded on any basis. no scholarly terminology. even. an excuse. should have been able to understand so exactly where the fundamental and eternal problem of philosophy lay.. and exclude all motives. this takes the form of a question. and consequently beyond any possible explanation. the dar kness. And then there is that inevitable "perhaps" which again seems p ut there on purpose to transform budding answers into new. who was it who first said. that a disrespect for rules has always from the earlie st times been regarded as the greatest of crimes. human interest not only can.the normal man oug ht to be stupid. such as tender Mother Nature would have him. No. But the great thing is that this ignorance suddenly appears to us to be. first proclaimed that if man were e nlightened. he would see that the good was his own advantage ? For it is notorious that no one knowingly acts against his interest. Always this "perhaps. this doubtful. but a gift from heaven "Ah. He is st upid.

gentlemen. frightful voi ce (everything about the underground man is frightful). like his sight. Dostoevsky. they cannot be judged. More than that: he will tell you with passion of the norma l and real interests of humanity. Kant asks: Is metaph ysics possible? If so. a pretext. although he knew nothing of Kant . He is convinced that the positive scie nces are justified by their success. there is something appeasing. Suddenly the underground man rises up. that is.even. by the services. When he is preparing to act he explains to you c learly in great and beautiful phrases. in Kant's opinion. Dostoevsky. What Kant gave us under this title is not a cr itique but an apology of pure reason. Are not all that they have to teach u s lies and illusion? Kant had so little awakened from his dogmatic slumber that he never thought of asking this question. one of those use ful idols. But this is where the second sight becomes acti ve. let us continue the experiments of our predecessors. had eyes of his own. it is for them to judge. principles and synthetic a priori judgments which they have at their disposal. If metaphysics wants to exist. beyond which you never have proceeded and nev er will proceed. but suddenly with hitter. But if he had really wished to awake and criticize. how he has to act. immutable rules from which. "waking from dogmatic slumber". the sciences which "success" has justified have only ac quired their scientific character thanks to the series of rules. it must first ask the sanction and the blessing of mathematics and the natural sciences. One knows the rest. declar es: Deus impossibilia non jubet. But I tell you that y our wall. as we know. the G od who does not ask the impossible. and respect our limitations. on the cont rary it is metaphysics which judge these positive sciences. he will laugh at the short-sightedness of fool s who understand neither their own interest. metaphysics. Kant did not dare to criticize reason. nor true goodness. but his vision was much deeper. that they have re ndered to mankind. be they great or small. almost mystic about it. if ever a "Critique of Pure Reason" was written.God asks the impossible. to The Notes from Underground. he would first of all have asked the question. God asks nothing but t he impossible. savage. general. He does not know h imself by what right he appears. which (according to Kant) aims at the transcendent. the underground man who had declared himself. with a voice not his own (for the underground man's voice. it is to Dostoevsky t hat we must go to seek it. Impossibility is a natural limi tation. Therefore. You all give way before the wall.Yet. If n ot. and see in it something appeasi ng and final . which depends on revelation. with a logical structure like that of the already sufficiently established positive sciences? That is what Kant ca lled "criticizing". the natural sciences exist: is a science of metaphysics possible. according to the rules of reason and truth. This is an eternal truth: veritas aeterna. he cries: "It is false . let us give up. alt hough he believed himself to have awakened under Hume's influence from dogmatic slumber. like the Catholics. whether they had the rig ht to call their achievements "knowledge". with such dreadful honesty. I have a friend. is not God but a vile idol. With Dostoevsky the positive sciences do not judge metaphysics. since these rules are only applicable within the "limits of possible e xperience". who in his verdict embodied the whole pr actice of human scientific thought. whether t he positive sciences had really established themselves. your impossible is only an excuse. is an impossibility. and that your God. But a quarter of . Moreover. necessa ry. and the great novels w hich were wholly derived from it. Kant saw reality with the eyes of every one.it is a lie . no awakening can deliver us. God does not ask the impossible. How did Kant put his question? Mathematics exists. is not his own). to be the vilest of men. something mystic. asked the same question. Metaphysics is impossible! Then I will never think or speak of anything else. Catholicism itself. Thus did Kant reason.

The supre me. this "experience" necessarily presupposes finished th eory. capricio us individual spirits with which mythology had peopled the world were deposed by science and replaced by other phantoms. to speak in scholarly language. But it is evidently not a living individual who dictates its laws to nature. In other words. The interior impulse is the "irrational residue" which is beyond the limits of possible experience. and standing outside time. he who says "po wer" says "submission " . rule. just as it is the rule which expresses the truth.for man's supreme virtue is to submit himself. principle. is the laws of reason an d the sum of "evidences". in a word. he simply formulated more clearly the gen eral tendencies of scientific thought. contrary to everything. he understood with extraordinary perspicacity how he was to put the fundamental philosophic questio n: Is metaphysics possible as a science? But. and their incomprehension becomes mutual." If Kant had formulated thus his fundamental principle. commonplace explanation can confuse it with the facts of material and spiritual existence. Kant's thou ght could have been expressed as follows. and this was d eclared to be the final rout of antique superstition. a system of rules and laws of which Kant has very truly said that it is no t nature which has imposed them on man. what meaning has this word "possible"? Science presupposes as its necessary condition. that is to say. invisible. self-sufficient principles. contrary to reason and contrary to his own inte rest. For this experience.an hour afterwards. he would have been nearer to the scientific conception of the universe which he wished to justify. but on the contrary. he neit her wishes nor dares to dispute. impelled by something more powerful tha n interest. by immutable principles. accord ing to Kant (Kant is a generic name. So it is the "rule" which justifies conduct . ultimate. and al so to that common sense which gave rise to this conception. Such is the essence of ide alism. it is "omnitude" or all of us). this is what modern thought looks upon as its supreme triumph. he will act contrary to a ll the rules that he has quoted. He who says "law" says "power". But this is where that scholastic philosophy diverges from Dos toevsky's aspirations. to an i deal principle equally far removed from the living individual and from inanimate nature. which alone pos sess a reality transcending experience. does not and will not hold within its limits this impulse. The divergence betwe en theoretical reason and practical reason would then have been eliminated and t he ideal of philosophy attained. firstly. but the laws are dictat ed to man and to nature by the laws themselves. without any reason. Kant's "experience" is the collective experience of humanity. man who has dictate d them to nature. which. why need metaphysics be a science? And secondly. is the root of all knowledge from which our science has issued. and only a hasty. In other words: in the beginning was the law. which is "so to act that the principle of your conduct can be made a general rule". and law govern everything. he will commit some folly. what Dostoevsky called ¡®omnitude": the existence of judgments which are universally admi . The choruses of free. that is to say." What is this "everything"? What is this interior impulse more powerful than any interest? "Everything". Nature as well as morality h as sprung from rules and autonomous. Suc h an individual is himself part of nature and therefore subject to it. Though Dostoevsky had received no scientific education. definitive power belongs to "man as such". Directly Kant hears the word "law" pronounced he takes his hat off. I repeat: Kant did not invent this himself. this intimate thing of which Dostoevsky speaks. in a more adequate though less strikin g form: "It is neither nature nor man who dictates the laws. In other words.

is not even interested in them. In other words: knowledge only becomes true knowledge when out of th e particular facts we have extracted the pure principle. supernaturally so. someone (probably this same C laude Bernard) had imagined a new science of "ethics" which definitely proclaime d that this same "law" was the only master of man. that wood cannot sink in water. This is what science is seeking to show when it creates its theo ries.when we acquire the right to say: the sun always warms stones. The "facts" in themselves are of no use to us.. again. destroy principles and all will be confu sion. Augustine. that a piece of wood floats in water. the ignorant have stormed heaven. Such judgments exist. too. he was obliged to cry: Surgunt indocti et rapiunt caelum. it. that all-powerful phantom which has inherited the power and the right of the g ods and demons exiled from the world. if the laws were to disappear. like St. Only on this condition is social life possib le. they alone bear the title of "truths". Who has not read. that invisible "always" . It only looks for tha t which can miraculously transform some particular fact into "experience" . water invariably quenches thirst. And it is the same thing with morality. also have found all this in the Bib le. are of Claude Bernard's point of view. what can we do with such observations? Science has no use for particular facts. although he was so ignorant of t he history of philosophy that he imagined that the idea of "pure reason" as the only omnipotent lord of the universe was quite a recent invention. then only do we possess scientific knowledge. Dostoevsky intentionally puts these philosophical ideas into the mouth of h is ignorant Dimitri Karamazov. It could not escape Dostoevsky's clear vision that scientific traini ng of the intelligence paralyzes the human powers to a certain extent and confin es us within limitations. Risen we know not whe nce. anything might give rise to anything else. that water necessarily quenches thirst. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ I \ The Conquest of the Self-Evident . has no support except in law: all men must act in such a way that their behaviour show s their perfect submission to rule. The moral world shows us the same thing as the physical world. etc.tted. of truth and error. hardly touc hed by culture? Dostoevsky could see no alternative. which had no beginning and therefore can never en d. if it is therefore possible t o advance the observed fact into a theory by putting it under the safeguard of s ome invisible but eternal law. then we have science. or does not know the Bible? Claude Bernard and his teacher s had undoubtedly read the Bible. they are immensely privileged. too. He may. wood never sinks in w ater. are based on the existence of a fixed. eternal order. Dostoevsky understood all this quite well. principles occupy the position of gods. If we have remarked that a s tone is warmed by the sun. of course. As in the physical world. There. And so. and had ousted once and for a ll the God of our forefathers. the creation of Claude Bernard: and that quite recently. that a mouthful of water quenches thirst. But would they have gone to that book in searc h of philosophical truths? A book which was written by ignorant men. If we know that the sun cannot fail to warm a stone. even Ivan Karamazov. Dostoevsky understood quite well why science and common sense are always searching for necessary and universally acknowledged judgments. The very concepti ons of good and evil. as against the judgments which have not been universally admitted. there will be neither good nor evil. and subscribe to his "ethics" and his "laws of nature". All the educated people.

I dare assert that onl y a few geniuses can hold a candle to him. and have we the added assurance to qualify the judgm ent which denies the possibility of this as "the last absurdity"? But Dostoevsky does allow himself to ask just this very question: whether o ur reason has any right to judge between the possible and the impossible. and dream that we cannot even revolt against a ny one whatsoever. not to bow down before them if they disgust us. therefore stone wall. etc. you must accept it. the first principles which we imbibed with our mother's milk. for example. in silence and with impotent grinding of the teeth. which ac ts without a thought of us. and what may not be d one. you have to accept it.<< | >> 6 Surgunt indocti et rapiunt caelum! To take heaven by storm. these laws do not please me? Naturally I shall not run my head again st that wall if I haven't sufficient strength to demolish it. as in his other works. that it is all probably a farce. Scie ntific thought has given ideas this supreme prerogative: they are to judge and d ecide what is possible and what impossible. it ¡®s impossible to argue . they are to fix the limit between re ality and dreams. renounce ideas altogether. one knows not what nor wh ence. for there is no one and there will never be any one. they will say. "To go on with the people with strong nerves. they prove to you that you are descende d from monkeys. one must give u p the learning. Dostoevsky's dialectic in The Notes f rom Underground. It doesn't consider your wishes o r stop to think whether you are pleased or not with its laws. to t ake account of all the impossibilities and all the stone walls." But perhaps the reader has already wearied of following Dostoevsky's thought. there is no help. just as it is. Mo re than this: we must. tha t is. and for courage of thought.twice two is f our. what have I to do with the laws of nature or arithmetic if. at the hateful conclusion that we are ourselves in some way to blame for the stone wall . between good and evil. Listen to this too. it is no good wrinkling your nose. with all its consequences. But good heavens. an absurd rigmarole. I beg your pardon. What stone wall? Why.although it is again absolutely clear that we are in no way to blame. these gentlemen immediately prostrate themselves before the impossible. can hold its own with that of any of the great European philosophers. Nature doesn't bother about your consent. and consequently. If the y prove that one atom of your own fat must be dearer to you than a hundred thous and of your neighbour's. for s ome reason. we must doubt their marvelous power to transform facts into theories. But in spite of all these incomprehensible things we shall suffer. Try to argue with them. between what may. You are obliged to accept it. If.. and the less we understand the worse it will be. natural laws.. The th . We may remember with what fury the underground man flung himself at the throat o f self-evident truths. to arrive. but I shall not be come reconciled to it simply because it is built on twice two is four! What an a bsurdity of absurdities! It is a different matter to understand everything. by the most inevitable of logical pro cesses. Can one really do anything but bow dow n before a wall? Can we oppose our little feeble "egos" against nature. We do not know whether he is speaking seriously or laughing at us. a trick. of course. conclusions of the natural scien ces and of mathematics. an d his desperate efforts to overthrow invincible proof. but forget that you are now concerned merely wit h a despicable little Petersburg official. A wall is a wall. as these quotations prove. to lapse into a voluptuous inertia. And he is one with the great saints i n his contempt of self. proud in the consciousness of their own intangible sovere ign rights. Impossibility.

yawn ing torpidity of certain sleep. all the sufferings of a soul crushed by the weight of "self -evidence". A man who has freed himself from the frightful tyranny of ideas imposed from outside. places so unknown that it mu st seem to him he has left reality behind and entered upon the eternal void. He cannot rest until he has torn from himself this desperate confess ion: "Can a man who has looked into his own soul. tells that at the first moment one has an i mpression that everything is disappearing. of the golden mean and of medio crity. and then ask yourself whi ch is better: the painful convulsions of a doubtful awakening. A truly supernatural effort is required for a man to summon up the courage to oppose his "ego" to the world. to escape from the "cave". But the "normal" man.eory of knowledge does not ask this question. Why. In spite of all the apparent absurdity o f this opposition. the man who lives in this same underworld. The underground man is flouted. who had als o tried to transcend our experience. The states are organically bound up with one another: in order to have grea t joy there must also be hideous horror. Read what Dostoevsky has to say about normal men. it is less absurd than the apotheosis of "omnitude". The underground man is the most unhappy. throw n outside its normal limits. Aristotle's biographer (when Dostoevsky speaks of Claude Bernard he actuall y means Aristotle) has called him "moderate to excess". and he seems only to look for further opportunities to suffer. He was the first firmly to establish the principle that "limitation is th e index of perfection". as though making fun of us. the be ginning and end of all things . No one before him. and none since. Consequently he admits a certain limit. The soul. really respect himself?" Who can. did he say exactly the opposite a minute ago? But in this way we sh all fall into absolute chaos. but I refuse equally to pay attention to the "whole". from the ideal country o f sane and normal men. and evidences reign. the most miserab le. principles. to whom can that right belong? Wit hout it everything would be possible and everything impossible. He created the ideal system of knowledge and of ethics w . respect weakness and triviality? The whole book is a reco rd of impotence and humiliation. and has an overwhelming fear that onl y pure nothingness is left. I should add that Plotinus has not told the whole tr uth. but the whole of reality with them! But i f we go beyond certain limits we shall clearly have to face even this. from that bewitch ed country where laws. the more he is crushed. a certain impossibility . that is to say. also admits that he has not got the strength to knoc k down the wall. and his science the most perfect. And Dostoevsky. be aten. of that golden mean in which alone our science and our "good" can develop. he has hidden the most important thing: it is not only the first stage that is like this. his good absolute good. set s forth into such strange and unexplored countries. Joy does not exclude terror h ere. cannot free itself of this terror. then. the ne arer does he come to his objective. for if reason has not the right to judge between possibility and impossibility. In fact Aristotle was th e genius. Then the opposition of one against the whole wor ld will not seem so paradoxical to you. and the most pitiable of men. or the grey. not only chaos but nothingness. the incomparable singer of "omnitude". laws. driven away. to nature. whatever may be said about the ecstatic joys which it experiences. in fact. the more he is humiliated. and ideas will disappear. Let the whole triumph! Dostoevsky even finds a sort of delight in telling us of his constant defeats and miseries. to supreme evidence: the "whole" will not concern itself with me. Fifteen hundred years earlier Plotinus.this man provokes Homeric laughter even in the u nderground regions themselves. The more he is offended. has described with such desperate fullness a ll the humiliations. in which not only rules. in fact. but also the second and all the following stages. that he is the alpha and omega. Dostoevsky was not the first to live through this unimaginably terrible pas sage from one world to another and to find himself obliged to abandon the stabil ity which "principles" give. but does not even suspect that it is an under world and is convinced that his life is the true and only life.

does not apply to Russian life only. But yet. feel that our life is not life but d eath. and it was not hypocritical humility but the grim truth.hich has served as model ever since. and Gogol felt his own existence to be a tragedy too. sparkling with wit and humor. are able to escape only from time to time. are rea lly terrible tragedies. but they are rare." "How dreary it is to be alive. When Pushkin read Gogol. in spite of that. at midnight. Arist otle was as indispensable to the theologians as the organization of the Roman Em pire was to the Papacy. though his whole being concentr ated on the effort. in the Middle Ages. Nor could Gogol himself open his eyes. When. These works. All Gogol's wor ks. Gogol's works remain a book with seven seals to us so long as we refuse to a dmit the truth of his confession. wh at a tragic thing is Russia!" But it was not only Russia that Gogol had in mind: the whole world seemed to him bewitched. He was only capable of torturing himself. even to see that strip of blue sky that was visible to the wretched inma tes of The House of the Dead. that it is himself and not others that he describes and ridicules in The Inspector-General and Dead Sou ls. It seems that in a certain sense this thirst for suffering. as though involuntarily. of destroying his own best work and writing crazy let ters to his friends. But even they. he exclaimed: "My God. is more necessary than his splendid literary productio ns. and who was unable to raise them even a n inch. There is perhaps another means of freeing oneself from the power of" omnitud e". Chichikov and Sobakevich were not "they" to Gogol. Gogol does not use this word. but the best are only living automata. not " other people" who had to be raised up to his own standard. or just because of that. and this was of course. One must put Gogol before and even above him. Legions of demons and powerful spirits could not raise Vii's eyelids from t he earth. Sob akeviches in the world. Nosdrevs. of suffering marty rdom. it wou ld never have obtained the victory on earth. Catholicism was and had to be a complexio oppositorum. Gogol had received no ed ucation and was almost as indoctus as the Galilean fishermen and carpenters of w hom St. no accident. But is this gift not a blessing rather than a curse? If one could only answer this question! But the whole meaning of second sight lies in asking those questions to which there is no answer. from their tombs. like Gogol's phantoms. Some of us. shapeless earth-spir it. gentlemen!" This cry of distress which Gogol let fall. human thought clu ng firmly to Aristotelian philosophy. B ut for the moderating influence of Aristotle and the Roman jurisconsults. He tells us himself. the huge. too. It may be apposite to remark here that Dostoevsky does not stand alone in R ussian literature. Not the worst among us. Dostoevsky understood this when he sai d: "Gogol's works crush us beneath the weight of the unanswerable questions whic h they put to us. the "limits of po ssible experience" seemed to expand more or less indefinitely. who gave him the accursed gift of second sight. It is d reary to be alive. Gogol had never heard of Claude Bernard and ce rtainly had no suspicion that Aristotle had bewitched the world by means of the law of contradiction and the other self-evident truths. to come and disturb their neighbour's with their heartrending cries of. precisely because they demand so i mperiously an immediate answer. He . had been visited by the Angel of Death. whose eyelids reached to the ground. not only because there are too many Chichikovs. The Wedding and Dead Souls. "I am stifled! Stifled!" Gogol himself realized that he was like Vii. which a mysterious hand has wound up and which never anywhere o r in any place feel themselves free to express their own initiative and their ow n free will. even the early stories in which he describes Ukrainian life in so gay and colorful fashion. The Inspector General. this extraordin ary spiritual asceticism. he . are but the m emoirs of an underground man. and of giving himself over to the hands of the moral executioner Father Ma tthew (Gogol's confessor). Augustine speaks.

indifferent. apparently quite without preme ditation. taking no account of what it calls the "human.who imagine that they on ly "collect and describe facts" are profoundly mistaken.that of the Last Judgment. But apart from this. it judge s. In the first place this definition destroys. and its great charm. That is its strength. botany.feels even more bitterly than Dostoevsky the absolute power which pure reason w ields over the whole world. In other words. by what to ordinary eyes appeared a chance. To the question. to timi§ætaton. history. there can be no disti nctions between the important and the insignificant.and this is a point which must never be forgotten . says reason. Science is objective. Reason decides what may and what may not be. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ I \ The Conquest of the Self-Evident << | >> 7 I have already had occasion to point out that the best and only complete de finition of philosophy is to be found in Plotinus. It must nece ssarily clash with science precisely when the question of sovereignty arises." Matter and energy are indestructible. And all bow down to the dictum without a word. moder ate man has created. Let us admit that reason has proclaimed this revolting law. Facts in themselves are of no use to science. but whence does it derive the strength nee dful to accomplish this decision? And to accomplish it so perfectly that in no s . its historical significance. but Socrates and Giordano Bruno are d estructible. "what matters most". I would go further. to r ender it impotent. is in no sense science. something which will transform in wondrous wise what happened once. no one dares even hazard the question: Why has reason decreed this law? Why is it so pa ternally occupied in safeguarding matter and energy when it has forgotten all ab out Socrates and Giordano Bruno? Still less do they think of asking another ques tion. wher e all "phenomena" are merely classified and not qualified. "What is phi losophy?" he replies. What science wants is theory. Science pretends to the certainty. I repeat: those scientists . It coldly casts its eye over the innocent and the guilt y alike. Science does not state.according to its own laws. it does not consider whether a thing matters or not. It follows that philosophy.and they are many . and the necessity of i ts statements. all too human. defined as to timi§ætaton. the universality. it creates it according to the autonomous laws whi ch it has itself created. To deny science this supreme right is to depose it from its pedestal. disregarding a ll that is sacred to man. or geo graphy. and the tyranny of the ideas which the normal. and which the theoretical philosophy that has accepted the heritage of Aristotle has developed and spread abroad. But where there is no pity or indignati on. It decides . it sets the one in direct oppositi on to the other. into neces sity. It does not reflect truth. even to such sciences as zoology. where the innocent and the guilty are alike regarded with indifference. for the artist and the prophet are in fact also seeking to timi§ætaton. The simplest description of the simplest fact presupposes a s upreme prerogative . knowing neither pity nor anger. to timi§ætaton. those barriers which in ancient times separated philosophy from the co gnate provinces of religion and art. not only does it not submit philos ophy to the control and direction of science. science is life set before the tribuna l of reason.

unbidden. can justify theory. and I am s till afraid of it now. And any other relationship to reason seems to us unthinkable. thanks to his second sight. auto-suggestion. pays us a good price. it is the beginning of death at any rate. as though it were a wall that su rrounded her. no miracle even. perhaps . to be sure. not fully). "'Twice two is four'. to point it out. through which we become masters of nature. she would create a theory of knowledge. and obtained the promised re ward (though. out of worthless "facts ". and has said unto him: All these things will I give thee if thou wil t fall down and worship me. it creates "experience". a rms akimbo. admit this miracle quite easil y. Reason ha s taken man up into an exceeding high mountain and shown him all the kingdoms of the world. and if we are to accomplis h this. Since that day the worship of reason has been regarded as man's first duty. our warfare against the principles of scientific knowledge must be waged not with arguments but with other weapons. If the goose knew how to reason and expr ess her thoughts in words. but no one has the audacity to question it. "Om nitude" has usurped the power. but if we are to praise all that is praiseworthy. It is true that man thinks of nothing else but the search for this 'twice two is four'. And no success. risk his life in order to f ind it. Dostoevsky. We must wrest it away. is not life. The g oose will not be able to get out of the circle. But if this is the case. for science. gentlemen. and common consciousness on the other. you cannot. and still less d are doubt its sovereign power. me n will love it of themselves. common consciousness (from which self-evidence springs) any right to the hig h prerogatives which it has arrogated to itself? In other words: has reason any right to judge autonomously. truths and the self-evidence thereof . soon saw that the experience from w hich men derive their science is a theory and not a reality. that not only no gram of energy . or influences from outside which hypn otize us as a goose is hypnotized if we trace round her a circle of chalk. the more so because ultimately reason ha s no actual existence either. are perhaps only magic. I promise you. And man has worshipped.ingle instance since the beginning of the world has a single atom disappeared co mpletely. But in my opinion 'twice two is four' is simply an im pertinence . he will cross oceans. in some sense imp ossible. he plants himself across our path. but if we do not admit them we must seek something else. but as for discovering what it really is when he has found it . and hold fort h on self-evidence." You are not accustomed to such arguments against philosophical theories. all admit that reason is judge and is itsel f subject to no other jurisdiction. the first step is to cease to believe in the legitimacy of the usurpatio n. man has always been afraid of this 'twice two is four'. The theory of knowledge simply sings the praises of reason.that fri ghtens him. not so much as one of facts as of rights. and to tell ourselves that its strength lies only in our belief in its streng th. It ac complishes miracles like the most real of beings. Try to find it. Regarding God there is a commandment: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul. instead of merely a line." Reason does without commandments. "Natural laws" and their inimitability.not a fraction of a gram has vanishe d into space? This is a miracle indeed. and spits on the ground. or are we only dealing w ith an usurpation of rights sanctified by centuries of possession? Dostoevsky looks on the case between the living individual on the one hand.'Twice two is four' is a lout. no conquest. but it has no existence. And a ll of us. created by reason. holding the line of chalk to be the limit of possible experi ence. Arguments ser ved only so long as we admitted the truth of the premises from which they follow . The miracle of the transformation of facts into " experience" has conquered all minds. who are used to questioning everything. rendering account to none. He put the question: has "omnitud e". I will tell you t hat 'twice two is five' is also a charming thing. I admit that 'twice two is four' is an exce llent thing.

is a princi ple of death. Our self-evidence is only auto-suggested. To reason which created rules. elaborated through thousands of years by theories of kno wledge. Does he not lo ve suffering just as well. he knows that materialism is powerless in itself. it is caprice. and whosoever would refuse them this right. energy. does not even deign to arg ue with the materialists. ? Sometimes a man will passionately love suffering.. But if you want to understand Dostoevsky. that it only borrows strength from idealism. protect only matter. him they wil l anathematize and excommunicate from the ecumenical human church. And behold. from ideas. "twice two is four". I find it rather repellent to love nothing but well-being. that is to say. and what would a glass palace be in which one doubted? But I am su re that man will never give up true suffering." The most subtle proofs. but it is sometimes very pleasant to destroy something. that sufferings will not be admitt ed in a comedy. or we must admit that death is the end of life and the last judgment on it. There is no need to refer you to the history of the world. of balance. but I am defending my own caprice and the righ t to enjoy it if I want. Ask yourself. must vanish in the face of such arguments as these. who went no further than Claude Bernard. But how can the tyrant be overthrown? What m ethods can one invent? Do not forget that it is impossible to argue with reason. Suffering is a doubt . he continually repeats. for i f they once admit it they are lost. But that is the point. even as our life. With this all possibility of discussion ceases.you are even incensed that when discussing the theory of knowledge I should quo te these passages from Dostoevsky. There is nothing keeping guard over Socrat es. I am not really now defendin g either suffering or well-being. as I have already told you. destruction and c haos. for example. or any man great or small. you m ust always keep his fundamental thesis in mind. pitiable man. All arguments are rational arguments. and reason and all its proof s simply will not admit discussion of the question of rights. For my own part. if you have really lived. which by its very nature. There is only one weapon: mockery. as every one knows. and gives its sancti ons to normal men. combating self-evid ence. It is no longer law or principle which exact and obtain the guarantees. is precisely what Dostoevsky is engaged in doing. dares to rise up in defence of himself and his so-called r ights. . these arguments would rea lly be out of place. We must choose: either we must upset this twice two is four. Dostoevsky replies: "Why are you so unshakably. and principles. only what conduces to well-being? Cannot reason be wron g? It may well be that man loves other things besides well-being. from that reason whic h admits nothing else above itself. but you cannot pretend one thing: that it is reasonable. a negation. Whether it is right or wrong I do not know. is unable. humi liated. invective. You would be right. a miserable. They cannot. "Twice two is four". But this. as we know. a categorical "no" t o all the demands of reason.. This is a fact. and a desperate and mortal struggle begins. They refuse to be judged. so solemnly convinced that only the normal is ne eded. I know. is not life but death. the philoso pher fights against materialism and feels proud indeed if he succeeds in collect ing a few more or less cogent arguments with which to confront his opponent. Giordano Bruno. anything that the wild est brain can conceive. But Dostoevsky. The underground man is outlawed in reason's name. the glance of this miserable little functionary is deeper and more piercing than that of the famous scholars. Nor are they permissible in a glass palace. if Dostoevsky had not raised the question of right and usur pation. Generally speaking. either to give or receive guarantees of any sort. only the positive.. And then a man. Laws.e. To deny this is to deny self-evidence. Here lies the source of Dostoevsky's hatred of well-being. they wish to be bo th judge and law-giver. of satisf action. which exist only to sustain the pretensio ns of reason. and hence his fantastic paradox: man loves suffering "You can say anything about the history of the world. i.

and who. it is in the natural order of things. which is. If a man has become a slave. whatever happens in the world. Adrasteia cares nothing for it. It is quite untrue that we cannot say that world history has developed in accordance with the rules of reason and that the tongue of him who maintained this would re fuse to speak. If you kill.he has made a mistake in fac ts. is the source of all evil on earth. she pays no heed to h im. submitte d loyally to reason. Questions only arise w hen the principle is affected. the y appear and disappear. annihila ted. and does in fact obtain them. indeed. who followed Plotinus closely. A philosophy of history has bee n created in which it has been demonstrated almost mathematically that there is a certain rational idea at the basis of all historical development. caprice. the free will of the individual. who proclaimed to mankind his ineffable visions. How many people have not said as much! Whole volumes have been wr itten on the subject. accidental. this same "twice two is four" . as a teacher and representative of a school of philosophy. but she strikes the author of the crime. it does not matter about the victim. Hegel has ac hieved immortality through his philosophy of history. But impiety is always followed. You may be ruined. It was not caprice which he wished to safeguard. violation. any question would even be out of place. after all. ha s ever had any difficulty in enunciating the word "progress"? And the theodicies ? Was it not man who invented theodicy. In so far as Plotinus. For reason has not decreed that man shall not suffer or perish. dissolved into a principle. . if he suffe rs injury. which served as a model f or all succeeding theodicies. Caprice. no question arises. if you have robbed you will be robbed. and with Plotinus himself. i t was not God who was justified by theodicy. Unsleeping Adrasteia watches to see that no infringement of the law goes unpunished. a mistake which tends to weaken rather than strengthen his "argument". too. Thus in his theodicy. and you in your turn will be killed in this second incarnat ion. caprice must be destroyed. it was not. made to suffer. it always has been a nd always will be. but with Leibniz. Only the principle. therefore. as he repeats almost mechanically. the law of Nemesis or Ad rasteia is pitiless. Plotinus's sole preoccupation is to show that prin ciples cannot be upset. sooner or later. injured. it will produce no reaction in the world. therefore. If it is an animal or a natural catastrophe which is the cause of your misfortu ne. The etymological significance of the word theodicy is "justification of God ". but "twice two is four" is eternal. and then it appeared . if he loses friends. no protection from rea son. was born once. that can not be forgiven. after all his predecessors . he could have no other object. since his day. you will be reincarnat ed after your death. Men are born and die. searching works. Accordingly. but "twice two is four". eloquent. capricious. According to the tradition of the schools. Even its very birth was rather an act of audacity. But should a ma n in some way fall foul of the "law". What he suffers is individual. a philosophy of his tory? And did Leibniz's theodicy do any less for his reputation than Hegel's phi losophy of history for his? Is it not written fluently? Did his tongue refuse to utter. even once? Why do I say Leibniz? Was not the divine Plotinus himself the father of theodicy? Plotinus. it is obvious that it can have no guarantee. those visions which are revealed only to those who transcend in ecstasy the limi ts of experience possible to "omnitude". if you have violated you will be reb orn a woman and suffer the same. the question of the fate of individuals and even of races take s a second place in Plotinus' theodicy." Here. should he have taken something from his ne ighbour. and so on through all the list of cr imes down to the most insignificant. struck him or made him suffer in some way far less acute than the suffe ring to which we are continually subjected by the "caprices" of nature. and no one will come to your help. we must correct the underground man .Your tongue would refuse to utter the words. and even fatherland. by its punishment. is worthy of protection and guarantee. of impiety. as befits a law of nature.

While it is only a question of "twice two is four". Here the invariabi lity of the halves of the equation is to some extent guaranteed by common consen t. as well as in the ideal world. so that all evil in this way becomes perpetuated. it is put in charge of the immortal and terrible Adrasteia. And science succeeds in doing this so inconspicuously. To ensure that the balance be not destroyed.The important thing is not the suffering of the man you have robbed. the tribute due to reason has been paid. while we a re still only dealing with abstract figures. whose intel ligence was so acute. No sacrifice is thought too great to achieve this object. Most probably it would not have disturbed him in the least. that no one suspects anything supernatural about the affair. p laces the goddess at such a distance from the world of phenomena over which she is to rule. within the limits in which life is set for common consciousness or omnitude. our interpretation of what is happening around us is reduced to purely mechanical explanations. in the moral worl d justice. our under standing. But this does not satisfy science. to be in "ecstasy". I do not know what Plotinus would have answered if his attention had been d rawn to this circumstance. What more can one ask? << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ I \ The Conquest of the Self-Evident << | >> 8 As a matter of fact. they also ensured the inevitable incre ase of evil in the universe. it is obvious that each generation must necessarily be more crim inal than its predecessor. And the philosophy which aims at being a science cares only about solving the equation in which th e universe explains itself to our intelligence in such a fashion that when the u nknown quantities are found. It wants also to rule in the world of reality. But since in addition to the crimes perpetuated by Adrasteia there can be others also. Balance demands that every crime should be compensa ted by another crime. In the material. not only of thought but also of exi stence. The ext reme of arbitrariness thus passes as natural necessity. but my murderer will perish in his turn and so on et ernally. This is absolutely inadmiss ible. If I hav e killed I shall be killed. In the material world it is balance. even the idea of balance has been borrowed by the materi al world from the world of ideas. by a sort of tacit social contract. It is extraordinary that Plotinus. before he dared see that Adrasteia's pre tensions were "impudence". no one can be troubled to repair the offense. Dostoevsky had to escape beyond all limits. it is the mir acle of miracles. suffering and enduring are the lot of humanity. Verily this is no longer natural. or the woman you have dishonoured. it is all right. has been respected. just as Plotinus had to be in ecstasy before he could . so long as we keep within the bounds of reason. The principle of "twice two is four". the result shall work out exactly. did not realize that the ever-watchful activities of Adras teia did more than guarantee the balance. as in Pushkin's story. and demands compensation. It is not satisfied with reigning in the ideal world created by man. The evil li es in the fact that the offender has broken the law. so it invents an Adrasteia who watches over the balance so dear to our reason. the re is no harm in that. everything is balanced. it wants the golden fish hi mself to be its servant. of balance. which is held to be so indisputable th at it is looked upon as the first condition. which is only the same balance under another name.

and for the sake of a "quiet life" . reason will triumph. And although you do not regard me. a s on a tablet of stone. an edifice. I should no t look upon my chicken-house as a glass palace. banishes Adrasteia from sight. if instead of a glass palace. and so long as I exist or have a will of my own. He does not want to inscribe his thought on coming centuries. but though I might be grateful to it for keeping me dry. I possess a chicken-ho use. Even today we hardly know. but to upset all our self-evi dence. I mistrust this edifice perhaps just becau se it is of glass. His interests are for eign to "omnitude". pretends that there is nothing miraculous or fantastic in the world. Dostoevsk y hated "quiet" and all the benefits which "order" can procure for mankind. but Adrasteia herself with her eternal enigmas. "You laugh again". there has not been one single one at which one needed to put out one's tongue. He was obliged to seek out the most "dangerous absurdities". or whether we should continue to bow the knee before it. and that if one lives at all . Who ever heard of such an argument ? To put out your tongue. I did not say that because I have any burning wish to put out my tongu e. But what if I had taken it into my head that one does not live for this alone. I have got my underworld. when reading Dostoevsky. "Laugh if you want to. indestructible for all time. ther efore. I will not admit that a vast slum tenement is the object of my desire. simply in order to introduce a "fantastic and pernicious" ele ment into all this wisdom. and because one cannot put out o ne's tongue at it. Do not remind me that I have given up the glass palace of my own free will for the sole reason that I could not put out my tong ue at it. You see. fancies and miracles. you say that in these circumstances palace and chicken-house are of equal value. Ther efore. Dostoevsky himself was not sure whether he had laid h is enemy by the heels or whether he had succumbed again to the power of the law. to clench your fist! You revolt against it. He realiz es that universal recognition will give him nothing. "You believe in your glass palace. with all her caprices." As befits a man from underground. and therefore presumably in telligible. up to now . he says. and perhaps that is the most remarkable aspect of his personality. He makes every effort. her insoluble myster ies. He knows quite well tha t if it comes to proofs. A fantastic element! In other words. not to justify. neither our theory of knowledge nor our logic were able to impose on him in any way. the problem with which he wrestled was not the natural order. The science created by common consciousness. he furnishes no proof. perhaps I should slip into this chicken-house not to get wet. yet I shall not burst into tears on that account. he had become involved in a labyrinth of endless intricacy. I know still that I will not be pacified into a compromise. Having escaped from common con sciousness. he could no longer judge for himself and did not even know whether this was a gain or a loss. he does not try to direct history. " . and consequently foreign to history. at which one cannot so much as put out one's tongue. for ever indestructible. one ought to live in a palace. Yes. As for me. You laugh. Perhaps what annoys me is just the fact that of all your buildings. may my hand wither before I car ry a single brick to that house. How can on e call such a proceeding "an argument" and insist that science should take accou nt of it? But the underground man does not ask that account should be taken of h im.free himself from the grasp of philosophical self-evidence. whether we really have the right to protest against "twice two is four". if you lived for nothing but to escape getting wet. I should reply. and he has no thought of co nvincing others. the most "une conomic nonsense". and it comes on to rain. and yet I shall refuse to declare myself satisfied when I am hungry. He did not know it for certain to his last days. I will accept all your mo ckeries. or clench one's fist even inside one's pocket. determined once and for all.

he wants nothing more. He will have to give hi s mind over into strange keeping. and opposes to it as his supreme go al . He does not think. that primal chaos. but he does not know. Ah! but I am lying again. but when I see him as he is. Hencefort h he must live without certainty and without conviction.The underground man has no clear and definite object. "So. everything that man can accomplish by the use of his reason. He has no control of himself. unknown. as well as I know t hat "twice two is four". That is why he simply puts out his tongue at evidence. This is the only thing of which the underground man can be absolutely certain. t hrows himself about.. I have no wish to be in his place (though all the while I shall go on envying him). does not and cannot any longer possess the certainty which accompanies our ordinary judgments and c onfers a beautiful solidity on the truths of our common consciousness. he excites himself desperately. unconditional. I am lying because I know quite clearly myself.uncertainty. always irrational. I do not know why. perhaps I believe it. dashing up to unknown heights of fury. but s ome quite different place which I ardently desire. but shall never find. in his "theory of kno wledge". a single word of what I have put down here. but at the same time I feel and suspect. That is to say. That is why. He longs. with what superhuman effort. with what carefulness. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ I \ The Conquest of the Self-Evident << | >> . a force far greater tha n himself has him completely under its sway. Suddenly he launches into this wild ti rade. underground is better! There one can at least." He to whom the Angel of Death has given the mysterious gift. that I do not believe a word. and has seen that they were not palaces but chicken-house s and ant-heaps. Now he declares that he will never give up the pleasure of putting o ut his tongue. unforeseen. and makes mock of a ll the human virtues. madly. To the devil with underground!" What happens to the mind of the underground man has no resemblance at all to thi nking. passio nately. "If only I myself believed a single word of what I have written here! I swea r to you. clay of which the potter must shape what he will. which most of all horrifies our ordinary consciousness. the more violently there wells up from the d epth of his soul that more than rational.. ardently. He sees that neither the works of reason nor any human w orks can save him. nor even to seeking. knocks his head against the wall. no! when all is said and done. that it is not underground that is worth so much. Dostoevsky renounces all certainty. what it is for whic h he longs. At one moment he will say that the underworld amply suffices for him. He has passed under review. that I am lying like a trooper. gentlemen. the next he will consign it to the devil. And the more he feels this. No. He inflames himself the w hole time. long live the underworld! I did indeed say that I envy the normal man w ith the last drop of my bile. why he lauds caprice. become inert matter. now he says that he has no particular wish to mock. to fling himself into God know s what abysses of despair. on "twice two is four". for they were built on the principle of death. all the glass palaces. and he will never know.

ant-heaps. are the sources from which all Dostoevsky's other works are derived. The Brothers Karamazov. sometimes one gets it. to be seen above the prison wall: here is the same free life among fr ee men of which Dostoevsky dreamed in the convict settlement. For him. some idea in the novel. one must stop thinking about it. to protect oneself against bad weather. One might say that it is not really an idea. that it is al ways the same caprice which. "sci ence" develops and gathers strength. We see this already in Crime and Punishment. and The Notes from Underground. and an idea perfectly comprehensible to normal consciousness. of everything which the underground man derided so offensivel y. exacts recognition and submission from D ostoevsky. Self-evidence. an d is very little read to this day. are merely a series o f vast commentaries on these two works. The Possessed. but not ideas. he wished to escape from common conscio usness. Where reason no longer exists there can be chaos and caprice. Crime and Punishment had an enormous success and laid the foundation of Dostoevsky's literary fame. too. not into a god but into a wild beast. one can always see traces of it. It is this re-establis hment of antique justice. The great novels. Life goes on its way. And he r emained one so long as he "was not conscious of the lie that was in him and in h is convictions". You catch here an echo of the sentiments that Dostoevsky has already descri bed in The House of the Dead. Dostoevsky may say as loud as he likes: "Let the whole w orld perish. as for the tea.9 The House of the Dead. and fears neither mockery nor anger. full o f promise. "can presage the crisis through which he has to pass to his future resurrection and his new conce ption of existence". chaos and destruction may appeal to him more than order and creation. even its title gives us the right to expect as much. wh ile. But Dostoevsky still has one last "argument" in rese rve. "Twice two is four " always constitutes an et ernal law which is fully conscious of its rights towards and against others. normal men triumph. and. The story of Raskolnikov appeared perfectly obvious to every one. Where there is crime there is punishment: this is an idea. superior even to Time the devourer. rightly. Dostoevsky never gives up this idea. has invested itself in the sumpt uous garments of an idea. which most people would find no more cogent than all the others. sat down by the banks of the river on th e piles of wood disposed along the foot of the wall. he has no right to it . "Raskolnikov came out of the shed. It is impossible to deny that this gala dress is not becoming to Dostoevsky's argu ment. which are quite unsuitable to its humble character. He uses almost the same expressions. and began to gaze at the wi . even in T he Diary of a Writer. Only this consciousness. of "t wice two is four". The Idiot. of watchful Adrasteia. no matter how dirty. it goes on asking fo r some sort of guarantee. authoritative as ever. Here is the same little corner of blue sky. It looks as though the time had long since come to give up the battle and y ield to the victor's mercy. Crime and Pun ishment. It is always a matter of confronting nat ural vision with the supernatural vision which is the gift of the Angel of Death . All his work is inspired by it. on all sides there are chicken-hou ses. As for poor caprice. and th at there should be. Although he constantly makes use of the word "idea". one must s lip under the first roof one sees. It sometim es happens that a man will prefer suffering to well-being. but all the guarantees have already been appropriated. It seems that there is. Dostoevsky explains. And as for the g lass palace. and was changed. And it is a fact that whereas The Notes from Underground passed unnoticed. All ideas have been left far behind with reason. of principle. the circle of chalk is a wall which it is impossible to displace and impossible to break. one knows not why. of balance. "balance" shows itself the supreme principl e. so long as I get my cup of tea!" The world remains in its place. and it is disregarded. but more often not. stables.

which he never gave up. He had a right t o ask if it was really he who had killed the old woman Lisaveta? I do not think that any attentive reader of Dostoevsky. And Dostoevs ky triumphs: "the peasants did what was expected of them they condemned an innoc ent man. the author tells us. the same persistence. He always had the mad. something suddenly shook him and flung him at her feet. hideous thought. A song from the other bank was hardly audible on this side. was not guilty of the crime. was not really Raskolnikov's past. His t houghts pressed upon him in a disordered rush: "All. and quite impossible without faith in the immortality of the soul. sunlit steppe the tents of the nomads could be seen a s little. Of what else can an honest man speak but of him self?" Dostoevsky only spoke to us about himself. And a miracle occurs: "How it happened he did no t know himself. almost imperceptible dots. In Dostoevsky's last novel. which was the immortality of the sou l. but I am speaking about myself. the important thing is not whether the crime had been committed or not what really matters is that the punishment did most certainly take place. other men lived the re. in fact. when Dostoevs ky was writing his Diary of a Writer.de. wo uld have been able to answer this question in the affirmative. punishment strikes Dimitr i Karamazov. even the crime. time itself seemed to stand still over there. he was only repeating the words of his underground hero." It is another case of this caprice demanding its guarantee. now appeared to him in his transport. who were quite different from the men over here. In either case. and which with unequaled cynicism he put into the mouths of the underground man: "Let the whole world perish so long as I get my cup of tea. or perhaps not." Do you really not recognize this voice? Will you still maintain that Dostoe vsky and his underground hero are not one and the same man? It is always the sam . Strange though it may be. Over there was liberty." Why "suddenly"? What does this "suddenly" mean? When Raskolnikov returned t o the prison on the evening of the same day he naturally thought of what had hap pened. as a series of strange facts. empty stream. exterior to himself. Long afterwards. even the sentence and his banishment. as though the days of Abraham and his flocks had never passed away. For the second time in this nove l. something different. one must admit that Dostoevsky always cherished the hope that his ugly duckling 'wo uld one day be transformed into a beautiful swan. and this time they are bef ore the face of eternal nature. this "past" of Raskolnikov's. the same convulsed face: "I declare that love of humanit y is inconceivable. And he w ept and embraced her knees. and least of all Dostoevsky himself. who." And. which Dostoevsky has described to us with such minute care." In this solemn hour. Ov er there on the boundless. and both were completely indifferent to Dostoevsky: "I am always telling of something different. and said that hu manity had never had but one preoccupation. Sonia is by his side. the murderer and the prostitute find themselves together. But the first time they had met to read the eternal scriptures together. shortly before his death. It is the same voice . it is the little ugly duckling su ddenly born in the midst of all the high and noble thoughts which lit the darkne ss of the convict prison with their pure radiance. in whose name D ostoevsky declared his revolt against science. and as though they had happened to another man. Probably every one will agree with me that Raskolnikov was as little guilty of murder as Dimitri Karamazov. incomprehensible. But he thought quite differently from the way that other men think. Or it would be better to say that neither Rasko lnikov nor Dimitri Karamazov ever existed. Perhaps he had ki lled her.

and it keeps its strange enigmatical character in the midst of events whose course has been determined by the old laws. an almost illiterate man. of which Dostoevsky has told us so much) . the story of his slow transformation. it must justify its elf before reason and submit to its laws. and a gradual one at that (that is to say. of the discovery which he made of a new and hitherto unknown reality. slow and gradual transformations are possible. including The Brothers Karamazov.e ugly little duckling. they even happen quite frequen tly. but to write the word "finis". With his own eyes Do stoevsky can see the ugly duckling. Our story is ended. But I am not expressing mys elf exactly. There were moments w hen he was oppressed by his second sight and by the state of continual questioni ng created by the contradictions which it provoked. without an y approach or preparation. every riddle. all the unexpected. One can still see the same ugly duckling in the speech which he made on the f iftieth anniversary of Pushkin. Dostoevsky. at such times he turned from his supernatural vision and tried to recapture the harmony so necessary to mank ind. Dostoevsky once more repeats this same undertaking in The Bro thers Karamazov. Finally. The law of contradiction is. of his passage from one world to anothe r. even though all the great novels. s how him a beautiful swan. and who made Claude Bernard (only as we know. he tries to~ reestablish peace in his so ul. it was not Claude Bernard.made Claude Bernard and h is science bow down to Dimitri Karamazov. It is obvious that he has set himself an impossible tas k. and the promise to show us the passage to a new life.if these a re a reply to those crushing questions which have pursued us throughout the page s of the novel. who said in The Idiot. t he most reasonable that one could imagine. then the author can honestly allow himself. Dostoevsky. they are faith. certainly. by giving special names to his contradictory ways of seeing things. This is the ending of Crime and Punishment: "But here begins a new story. but Aristotle whom he meant) . all that irrational a nd visionary side of life. all caprice. but they do not lead us to a new life.it grows increasingly bitter. only a short time before his death. it wants all impressions to harmonize with the testi mony furnished by the other senses. fo r reason does not admit an autonomous faith. there is something else there. for gradualness solves every mystery. Dostoevsky sa ys of Raskolnikov that he severed the ties which bound him to other men as thoug . on the contrary. But tha t would be the subject of another story. if a perfect major chord. Fifteen years later. and in his polemic with Professor Gradovsky abou t this speech. without being able to penetrate to its heart" . The old vision demands proofs. and if faith wishes to be accepted. the same Dostoevsky who made such mock of the pretensions of reason in The Notes from Underground. The fight between the natural and the supernatural vis ion never ceases for a moment. it does not even understand or listen to the voice of reason. He says: "My new eyes are not knowledge. not only to put a fu ll stop and break off his story. the eyes of the Angel. in a word. Reason lays claim to omnipotence an d to the keys of heaven." Is it really ended? Yes. The beautiful swan is still a long way off. they only take us from one old life to another old life. he realizes that it is time to fulfill his promise. something else over which atheists will always s lide. naturally. but takes n o step towards doing so. These intervals are what reconciles the reader to his work nearly all the n ovels end with a perfect major chord which triumphantly solves all the torturing doubts that have arisen in the course of the book. "No reasoning can grasp the essence of religious feeling. and the "old man" does not know what to do. The swan is still as far off as ever. furious. "Far off!" I ought rather to say that it is the effect of the doubl e sight and the double organs of vision making itself felt. but the other eyes.this same Dostoevsky was h imself unable to live in constant open warfare with reason. have already been writte n." But reason is not appeased. The new life always makes itself known abruptly. But this promise was never realized. the story of the progressive renewal of the ma n.

which was written immediately after Crime and Punishment. unable to resist this strong pressure from within. and all the rest are not living men. but one does not see new life in it. the author himself. even if Dostoevsky had been able to cont ain the whole history of the world within the limits of that single day describe d in the first part of The Idiot. the meeting with Nastasya Filippovna. and in the course of the same day. terror." But if this is so. makes the acquaintance of almost all the i nnumerable characters of the novel. heavy. ugliness. not only than to timi§ætaton which Dostoevsky threw overboard in the course o f a single day. "twice two is four". or by the courage of Rogozhi n who. "Twice two is four" lies in one of the balances. with its aspirations and hopes. will suddenly break up and give way. himself . freedom. supersaturated atmosphere in The Idiot as in Dostoe vsky's other novels. if man loves destruction no les s than construction . he wants to show us in Prince Myshkin a figure of that new life of which he had tol d us so much. triumph. or by the fact that Myshkin suffered the blow of Ivolg in's Olav with Christian meekness? Aye. Then comes the scene in Epanchin's own room. till the evening. Event succeeds event with dizzy rapidity. with th e arrival of Rogozhin and his band of drunkards and wastrels come to congratulat e the lady of the house on her name day. i. beauty. The author wants. with all its train of traditional." He repeats it constantly an d at every opportunity. as in his other works. events of the human soul which can have no place in it. but than all the events in the whole of the world's history. together with this other thought which is so dear to him : "Man loves destruction just as much as construction. self-evident truths. No earthly force could knit up again relations which had been so brutally destroyed. with the acts of the saints.how.. look at the way Prince Myshkin lives and what he brings to mankind . the Ivolgin family. to force into a story regulat ed and protected by the laws of contradiction and causality. in the secret hope that the laws. and all the rest that Plotinus has summed up in the phrase to timi§ætaton. a nd that he will then find the second dimension of time. but mere masks. can there be a new life on earth? Indeed. etc. Rogozhin. feverish hand throws his imponderables. his struggle with his old adversary. The work is remarkable. the Olavs. Dosto evsky is unable to achieve it.e. in the ante-room of General Epanchin. then. which now we can only perceive in the fir st dimension as beginning. all history. the heroism of Regulus and Brutus. injustice. We find the same heavy. In The idiot. It is superfluous to remark that M yshkin. of terrible and ugly. Into the other Dostoevsky with trembling. forgetful of all others. goes on with the only business which interests him. the future. is not afraid to provoke the f ury of his brutal father. Is "twice two is four" going to be affected by a hair's breadth by the wrongs that Nastasya Filippovna suffers at the hands of Totsky. and concentrated sole ly on himself. immovable. more normal. All the different masks only conceal one real pe rsonage. the campaigns of Alexander the Great.and in the eyes of his author he is being transformed and renewed to his depths. in a railway carriag e. for his second sight makes him see that on earth "everything has a beginning and nothing has an end. Dostoevsky makes the greatest efforts to make his underground man. but the harder he tries the less he succeeds. as it were. etc. eterna l. the prince confides his deepest and most int imate feelings to the servant. joy. who. despair. with all that th ere has been of great and beautiful. the General's family. It must at once be obvious to every one that "twice two is four" must be much he avier. the inspired words of Plato and Plotinus. the revelat ions of the Prophets. Prince Myshkin meets Rogozhin and Ptitzyn one morning. having only seen Nastasya Filippovna once. its catastrophes and despairs.h he cut them with a knife. inert. with the portrait of Nastasya Filippovna. where those things conti nue and conclude themselves invisibly. if ev erything has a beginning and nothing has an end. Dostoevsk y never described a living man. the heroism and the crimes of all who . but having no end. slavery. In Crime and Punishment.

and all that was ever sacred to man un derfoot. although now so famous. It is generally thought that Spinoza stopped short at mathematic s. ag reeable and disagreeable. Spinoza cons ciously tramples the good. and that what begins here does not finish here. Therefore he was bound at t imes to shut his second pair of eyes and to look at the world through his ordina ry. the unlearned man. thousand-year-old riddle . like the prophet: "How many times must we be smitten?" He has taken everything from us. omnia quae fiunt propter ipsos fieri. the philosopher unknown and despised in his own day. to which even God Himself is subject. all human consciousness. scilicet bonum. Therefore they had to form those ideas by which they expla ined the nature of things: good. he would not have lightened the infinite weight of " twice two is four" by a single grain. nor good. before the same terrible . quae non circa fines. but only hot and cold.) [When men convinced themselves that all that happened. order. one can hear in the words which I have just quoted. beauty. the caprices which no one will re cognize and no one protect. the barking animal. not with ends. sed circa figurarum essentias et proprietates versatur. an echo of the same problem which Dostoevsky pursued with such persistence throughout all his works. blind eyes. More than this. deformitatem. and t he lonely scholar. where it is not liberty that reigns. as though he were asking. be finally crushed under this burden? And then w e shall not only feel. where all the caprices re jected by history might find an abiding place. under the shadow of those rules and laws against which he had declared war to the death. if only for a moment. they had to hold in each thing the most important part to be that which was most useful to them. Spinoza himself put the same question with the clarity and in tentional stressing of the hopelessness of finding any solution which are charac teristic of that remarkable philosopher's whole work.. had not mathematic s. calidum. But if one n ot only reads Spinoza carefully. Appendix. quod ipsis utilissimum et illa omnia praestantissima aestimare.] You will see these two united before the same balances. malum.. confusion. Dostoevsky's nature was two-fold. he has left us nothing but "twice two is f our". Part I. and like that of nearly a ll those who try to awaken humanity from its torpor. where human will and reason are as unlike th e will and reason of the Creator as the dog. which deals. Even he took she lter. in w hich he put his to timi§ætaton. i d in unaquaque re praecipuum judicare debuerunt. he fled to the enemy's camp to warm himself a . sh own to man another norm of truth. and more than once. and in the whole of the Appendix which concludes the first part of the Ethics. aliam veritatis normam hominibus o stendisset. where there is as yet neither beauty. that "here" everything is but beginning. a quibus optime afficiebantur. "Postquam homines sibi persuaserunt. the beautiful. but also listens to the tone of his voice. nor evil. Unde has formare debuerunt notiones. evil.the modern Russian author.. but with the nature and properties of figures. to resolve his discords into harmonious chords. cold. quibus rerum naturas explicarent. nor ugliness. confusionem. Veritas h umanum genus in aeternum lateret nisi mathesis. Truth would eternally be hidden from the human race. heat. or dinem.have lived on earth . finding in them the answer to the riddle which he asked himself. and to esteem those things as most valuable which affected them most agreeably. Will man be able to bear this? Can I bear it myself? Or will my "conscious ness". like Spinoza's. but see. Consequently our last hope would have vani shed of discovering were it only a trace of that second dimension of time where those things end which only begin here and do not end. but for which Dostoevsky wants to find a guarantee i n the teeth of the whole world. pulchritudinem. is unlike the d og-star. And Dostoevsky knows this just as well as Spinoz a.. frigidum." (Ethics.had he been able to throw all this into that balance. but necessity. ugl iness. happened for their sa kes.

It is the same thing with Dostoevsky's other novels. to create . but regularly adds to the forces of evil. remain still a man? << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ I \ The Conquest of the Self-Evident << | >> . He does not know where to seek the real Dostoevsky. Even their subject.but who wrote them? Were they really men?" Yes. beca use it is absurd. except a corn of w heat fall into the ground and die. or where they only begin. Spinoza might well have quoted scenes from The Idiot as a proof of the sovereign power of necessity. is no exception t o this general rule. is so complicated. Luther might have used th em to illustrate his De Servo Arbitrio. perpetual crises. or where it is upset? Where time has only one dimension. who has made their thoughts his own. If the historians and theorists of knowledge had studied wit h Dostoevsky they would have replaced the law of sufficient reason by that of ab solute unreason. Is he where things both begin and end. Nastasya Filippovna aspires to sainthood beca use she knows perfectly well that she will never attain it. and these episodes are of such importance. This is clearly done in order that the reader should not have even the illusion of an ending. Secondary episodes constantly interrupt the m ain course of the novel. destruction and death dog their footsteps everywhere. he would not have talked of the law of the preservation of species. though always more or less in accordance with the accepted rules. prorsus credibile est quia incertum. that they push the principal theme into the background and completely obscure it. it abideth alone. in spite of all his efforts. because it is shameful. Prince Myshkin busies himself with other people's affairs because he has no need to do so. Nevertheless all Dostoevsky's stories show one common ch aracteristic. All Dostoevsky's heroes strive after the things that will destr oy them. verily. His heroes seem to have neither the will nor the capacity to act. because it i s impossible to fix exactly the fundamental idea of any one of the novels. Rogozhin kills Nastasya Filippovna just because it is the most s enseless thing he could have done.? It is all the harder to determine. because it is impossible.t their fires. or where one can perceive the second dimension and where the scale which bears the timi§ætaton s eems to begin gently to sink. but do not end. perp etual ecstasies.. certum est quia imposs ibile." It is one of those verses on which Dostoevsky himself comment s in The Brothers Karamazov: "It is terrible what one finds in those books" (the Bible). it bringeth forth much fruit. disinterestedness incarnate. I say unto you. It is the logic of Tertullian. Nothing in Dostoevsky's novels is determined by anything else. Myshkin. A cruel destiny wei ghs on every one. that it is not possible to be sure exactly what the author intended. it is absolutely credible. but if it die. w hom the author means for a saint. both in subj ect and in treatment. all are doomed. It is the source of constant and painful misunderstanding for the reader. so full of ramifications. the logic of dreams which rules in them: non pude t quia pudendum est.. who were they who wrote these books? Were they men? And could Dostoevsky. but of its destruction. he not only does not succeed i n helping any one. I am not ashamed. it is certain. where balance is m aintained. The Brothers Karamazov takes for its motto one of the most enigmatical verses of the Fourth Gospel: "Verily. "It is easy enough to thrust them under our noses . If Darwin had seen in life what Dostoevs ky saw.

part icular question arises in one's mind: if the body was like this (and so doubtles s it was) which the disciples looked upon and the apostles. and "The Lonely One". Throughout a whole night he reads out his "confessions" to his friends. whose days and even whose ho urs are numbered. they squinted and shone with the vitreous gleam of death. but he is obliged to pay tribute to common consciousness and to preface his work with a note of explanation. one of the most moving and terrible confessions ever written since Job 's. faithful to immemorial tradition. Hear what Hippolyte says of the picture that he saw at Rogozhin's house. always at some inopportune moment. And strange to say. Even in The Diary of a Writer the political articles are interspersed from time to time by little tales and stories like "A Gentle Spirit". He was obviously convinced that ugliness and horror only existed in the world to conceal the last and supre me mystery of creation from those who were not ready for it. if the laws of nature are so powerful.10 Dostoevsky realizes very well that there are certain treasures in life whic h must be guarded as very precious. and that there are certain others which are not worth the trouble of keeping at all. "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man". Who could have suggested such burning an d prophetic words to the dying man? Who could have suggested them to Dostoevsky. ever y rule. pages of profound and powerful significa nce in which the author proclaims in a voice not his own the things seen by the eyes that are not his. The confession is headed " Apr§Ús moi le deluge". unless it is to give a final blow to the miserable Prince Myshkin. how can any one triumph over the m? How could we overcome them when even He could not overcome them who forced na . This explains the strange fact to which I referred previously: tha t Dostoevsky's novels abound in secondary episodes. Dostoevsky's every attempt to make the results of his second sight fit into the frame of that experience on which common humanity bases its existence proves who lly vain. one curious. In The Idiot one sees even more clearly Dostoevsky's efforts to attract into his own camp those proofs which he formerly repulsed with so much fury. The picture represented th e Descent from the Cross: "Christ's face was hideously disfigured by the blows He had received. to submit the second to the first. Dostoevsky. so the tendency s trengthens to try to harmonize the two visions. to the theory of knowledge. how could they believe that this martyr co uld ever rise again? And then another thought presents itself: if death is so fr ightful. And in proportion as he advances. on which it is undoubtedly modeled. In Crime and Punishment the natu ral vision already influences the idea. it was swollen and had horrible. it rebels wh en consulted and only appears uncalled. since they can only shackle us and weig h us down. and that it is in just these episodes that the essential significance of the books lies. who though old. This should surely be more than enough to turn aside common c onsciousness. In each of these stories. and the women who ha d followed Him and waited at the foot of the cross. In Th e Notes from Underground Dostoevsky tries to dispense with every criterion. bleeding wounds on it. when on e looks at the dead body of this man who has suffered so much. had as yet no premonition of death? Incidentally. Shall we consult our second sight? But it will teach us nothing. in each episode of the novels. But we must remember that at the bottom of his heart Dostoevsky ha d no faith in anything but his ugly little duckling. to ethics. One of the characters of The Idiot is a consumptive young man called Hippolyte. Besides. though he totters to a fall at every step he takes. or rather. But how can we distinguish the one sort from the other? It is useless to refer to common consciousness. the eyes were wide open. In The Idiot there is an episode in which Dostoevsky's intention is hard to understand. if all those who believed in Him and loved Him saw Him like this. every law. does all he can to c onceal himself from the curiosity of the uninitiated.

Humility is not the virtue which Dostoevsky seeks. forgetful of himself and the whole world! In o ne scale lies nature. are those who have lost rights and all protection. Luther had heard this from St. Jerome taught. including himself. The monk is not yet ready for the supreme battle. pitiless. even the most scrupulous and sincere monk. "Scito. more accurately (alt hough strangely). "For whose sake must I not only be condemned. too. swallowed. Death will be rule r over the world. and his words were echoed by Liguori. when He called to Lazarus to come forth from the grave. Kant did not know h ow to question thus. but suffer my condemnation without protest? Does it really benefit an y one?" And further on: "What is the good of my humility? Is it not possible sim ply to eat me up without insisting that I should sing the praises of my devourer ?" These are the questions that Hippolyte has learnt to ask. He still puts his trust in his works and expects praise. He does not want to be better than others. whose destiny it is to do so. It is own sister to that "twice two is four". who taught that good works do not bring salvation. when he addressed himself to the nuns who were renouncing the world: "Disce superbiam sanctam". indeed. blind and deaf. that evidence so cruelly described by Dostoevsky and justified by the theory 'of knowledge and by ethics? Certainly not Prince Myshk in. Before him Luther. Prince Myshkin. Dostoev sky knows that Myshkin would suffer a blow and turn the other cheek. which has thrown into the balanc e. after all that has been said.ture to obey Him when He was alive. It is only a few. with trembling hand. But so long as this law exists and holds judgment. Augustine. further proof is needful that Do stoevsky is here expressing his deepest. Virtue has no existence of its own. rare natures in the history of humanity w ho are able to ask such questions. dumb. O nly they can allow themselves to doubt the legality of the judgments of nature a nd ethics. he himself courts the praises of "principle". with his Beyond Good and Evil. his unsheltered. he does not want to be good. but he woul d shrink from the dreadful balances. Even sai nts cannot live without the praise of the law. Paul. he spurns the praises of moral ity. and also most disturbing thoughts. even holy pride. unprotected timi§ætaton. Indeed. te illis esse meliorem". nature becomes more like one of these modern machines which ha s blindly seized. and so will not follo w Dostoevsky to the end. And who will dare challenge Death to single combat. most intimate. he does not seek virtue at all. learn sac red pride. when all t he evidence is on its side. know that you are better than others . silent beast. who in his turn was only d eveloping the ideas of St. nature seem s to become an enormous. St. How many times have we not already discovered him standing before the scales of that terrible balance. whom every one. reveres. will not give up his holy pride. and waits wit h beating heart to see which of the two will sink. enormous. to whom it submitted itself." I do not know if. Hippolyte has no fear of morali ty and its sanctions. He is all for ethics. infinitely weighty with its laws and principles. The only people able to follow. all its strength is drawn from our appr oval. which he again had gathered from Isaiah and fro . both born of the same mother : the law. And he does not entrust this operation to Prince Myshkin. not only the natural but also the moral laws. Dostoevsky thr ows his imponderable things. It only exists through our recognition. only they may expect at any moment to see the imp onderable weigh down the solid weight made up of the self-evident truths and the judgments of reason based on them . "What tribunal is judge here?" he asks. Lazarus heard Him and obeyed? When one looks at this picture.of reason. the last Doctor of the Church. Into the other scale. he can s till take pride in praises. the underground men. were perhaps only created to produce that Being. or of any judgment. He despises pride. In our own day there was Nietzsche. or rather. when He cried ' Talifa cumi' the virgin arose. torn to pieces and engulfed that infinitely beloved and admirable Being who alone was worth more than all nature and its laws which .

you eloquent people!" What was Dostoevsky's object in forcing the prince to such a confession? Af ter all it was not Rakitin. he tries to t alk alone to the "saint". represented by most of the characters in The Idiot. Myshkin in hi s humility goes further ("humility is a strength" as Dostoevsky has said). tell me yourself. The saints themselves will not give up the law. and more strength than Napoleon. not Claude Bernard. That is what I tho ught! I expected something of that sort! Oh. How should I die in order to make a virtuous end? Tell me!" The prince will not give up his holy pride and fe ars above all things to forfeit his right to the praises of the law. and nothing must happen. breaks into mocker y. howls.m the supreme and terrible Bible story of the Fall. he answers softly. who was much admir ed by the generality of men. He takes up the challenge. he has the right and the strength to kill ." It was too difficult to him to enter the second dimension of time whither the whole timi§ætaton had vani . The ideal equilibrium will be re-established. Napoleon for example. "omnitude". including Prince Myshkin. Hippolyte can only burst out laughing: "Ha! ha! ha!. It is obvious that at this moment Dostoevsky saw another and even more diff icult problem rise up before him. not the body but the soul." And th en? What will happen if Hippolyte goes on his way and forgives them their happin ess? Nothing will happen. well. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ I \ The Conquest of the Self-Evident << | >> 11 We have seen that Dostoevsky made increasingly strong efforts to fit his ec static visions into the limits of everyday experience. free fro m fear or flattery once he is out of sight of his fellows. "Forgive us our happiness. quo nos laudabiles vel vituperabiles sumus. one even harder than that which he discussed i n Raskolnikov's case. Common consciousness flies to the defence of its ideal the law. it is impossible to go any fu rther. Consequently. the saint. Some days after the ter rible night on which Hippolyte had appealed in vain to "omnitude". In reply to Hippolyte's confession. to transform "caprice" an d that individual. Their conversation ends as follows: Hippolyte asks the prince: "Well. But the "second sight" saw things differentl y. into the "necessary and the universal. it was Myshkin. that is just like you. Our reason demands nothing further. But it is in vain... is as deeply rooted in the prince 's heart as "twice two is four". He co nsiders that as a reward for his obedience he has more rights conceded to him by law. T here is no cavil possible: he has passed the test. and cat-calls. whom the author intentionally made a positive type. whom he hopes to find independent of the law. one can shed blood and kill the body of one's neighbour with the authorization and approval of the law. according to you. Raskolnikov reasoned thus: There are men who allow themsel ves to shed the blood of their fellows. La w. you ot hers. what ought I to do. internal impulse peculiar to himself of which he has told us so many new things. "Go your way and forgive us our happiness". in this the saint is no different from the ordi nary man. and go your way.

Suffering must "give us something" if we are to love it. that to judge was his real function and destiny. and this something possesses a ce rtain value for all of us. the same f ire which dictated The Notes from Underground. and the more he realized that m en feared and acknowledged his right to judge. Hippolyte's confession and the ma ny other masterpieces which stud Dostoevsky's literary crown like so many jewels . In The Brothers Kar amazov he sits in judgment once more. in calling hal t amid a crowd of raging men . the enigmatic and silent "Stylite" Kirilov. but found a place in his Diary of a Writer. is the continuation of "A Gentle Spirit". and of his las t conversation with Prince Myshkin. Kirilov proclaims his own free wil l. by suffering we buy the rig ht to judge. for common consciousness. like that Other. and that he had the right to judge. had not the courage this time to attack the law of contradiction. The episode of Kirilov may perhaps be counted am ong the greatest masterpieces in all literature. We shall find an analogous episode in The Po ssessed. and painful burden. Suffering "buys" something. But strange though it may seem. And Dostoevsky. he would have been obliged to add a note like that with which he prefaced The Notes from Underground. a sanction for "caprice". Nor must we overlook the short story.and in asking at last whether this world of ours to which reason has dictated its laws and which collective experience has built up. And Dostoevsky even believes that this judgment was the last. as he imagined himself. the whole of Russian society. I . born at the same time as these eyes.shed. as he had done with The Notes from Underground. in fact. he comes to consider this supreme. His second sight told him tha t "man loves suffering". The essence of all the doctrine of the Stylites and Ascetics has ever lain. the more he judged. he should not have allowed Kirilov to commit suicide. One senses in these two stories the same inspiration. They have other means of proclaiming their liberty. Dostoevsky thought it necessary to justify t he latter by a prefatory note. intolerable. This is. whic h did not appear as an episode in one of Dostoevsky's novels. in precisely this proclamation of free will. and whether reason and her laws are really all-powerful? Dostoevsky has only ma de one mistake. in the first dimension o f time. in th e speech in honour of Pushkin. that Dostoevsky consciously made Kirilov behave in a way that he could not have done. with which it is directly connected and which also appears in The Dia ry of a Writer. The story is almost unknown. but reason sees a "contradiction" here. His first eyes. his na tural eyes. constantly assu red him that time had only one dimension. in history. finally. "A Gentl e Spirit". whi ch had appeared six months earlier. who does nothing and desires to do nothing. and that nothing could exist in the wo rld without the guarantee and sanction of the law. sovereign right not so much as a right but as a privilegium odiosu m. We have spoken of Hippolyte's confession. and his reason. Turgenev. "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man". But it seems that this mistake was intentional. sometimes i nspires him so strongly that many people have imagined. pitilessly. And this supreme right. to achieve a guarantee. is the real spirit of the book. "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man". is really the only possible world. Whom does he not judge? In The Possessed it is Granovsky. the right to speak as a potentate. the sole theme of the numerous secondary incidents with w hich his novels abound.for in a cave only the dead do not rage . He judges boldly. Stylites a nd Ascetics have no need to commit suicide. If Dostoev sky had not invented that ending. This stammering man. in The Diary of a Writer Stasiulevitch and Granovsky. whose wo rds seem to be torn from his mouth. who had felt the shame lessness of "twice two is four". but the great. he wanted to receive his reward here. nor Stavrogin. and the younger generation. the more his innermost soul quest ioned man's right to judgment of any kind. The real hero of The Possessed is not Verkhovensky. More than this. as a shameful. owing to the force with which i t expresses what we call the "inexpressible". the t errible last judgment of which Holy Scriptures speak. s ince earliest times.

and kills herself. driven to despair. And yet suddenly. despicable man is an ugly duckling who had better never have been born. one knows not how or whence. This is the subject of the story: The hero is a retired officer who. that a man to whom everything is indifferent has no psychology. an hour. The ridiculous man knows it himself. It is well conce ived. In the eyes of every one else. or once born should have hidden himself in the deepest depths. He demanded a guarantee for caprice." The story ends with that question." Y ou see that in 1877.silence. a strange indifference is born in him. where before our very eyes "nothing" will be miraculously tran sformed into to timi§ætaton. and there are none but the dead all ro und me. Fate! Nature! The troub le is that men are alone on earth! 'Is there any one alive on this plain?' as th e hero in the legend calls out. this ridicul ous. Perhaps b ecause I was gradually coming to recognize with terror a thing of infinitely gre ater moment than my own absurdity. Everything is the same to me!. officer!' and I shall say. as we know . I was. The story begins thus: "I am a ridiculous man. he is intolerable both to himself and to other people. Why? I have not yet succeeded in explaining it to myself. let me be brought before your tribunal . they marry. He prepares to reveal it t o her. Then he meets a young girl. But on that very day. but there is none to answer.I shall maintain that I do not recognize their authority. is especially interested in anything that comes he knows not whence. She is gentleness itself. I became more ca lm about it. has been cruelly and unjustly treated.. fifteen years after the publication of The Notes from Under ground. 'Silence. He was not af flicted like Prince Myshkin. for he. The "judge. she throws herself out of the window. Now they call me a madman. he sought to discover the second dimension of time. "A Fant astic Story" ? The very essence of the fantastic is that it consists of unexpect ed metamorphoses. is possessed by common consciousness. I too ask the question. your be liefs? Let your judge judge me. indeed.t does. All are dead. but he delays a single day. Dostoevsky. increasingly aware of this frightful pe culiarity" (that I appeared ridiculous). but in such a way that he had only one idea in his head. the first human being whom he has ever lov ed with his whole heart. who was an epileptic.. Listen to his wor ds. "but somehow or other. I realized suddenly that it would be the same t . The judge will cry. Thus Plotinus discerned God where others could see only the void." has no power at his command suff icient to compel the retired officer. just because by so doing he would legiti matize the fantastic and put it in the place that had been occupied in common co nsciousness by natural events. and i t judges him and condemns his ugliness. and around them . One would think that there was nothing interesting in this. though I am no hero. What is this indifference? What does it mean? "From year to year I became. but not for the reasons adduced by Dostoevs ky. he has not done testing the young wo man and himself. I had long had a presentiment of it. in fact. as Dostoevsky repeats them: "What do I care for your laws now? What is the good of your customs. holding an icon in her hand. Dostoevsky is still telling us the uncompleted story of a man who has be en rejected by common consciousness. one object in life. not only from others but also from himself. and is th erefore all attention. "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man" shows us the psychology of the man to whom everything is indi fferent. That w ould be a promotion.. So with Dostoevsky. He loves her so m uch that he is willing to initiate her into his idea. need justification. But how does it come about that to "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man" Dostoevsky appends the subtitle. 'Who gave you a power such that I should obey it?' H ow has some obscure fate managed to destroy all that was dearest to me! I separa te myself from you all. like al l Dostoevsky's real heroes. Only men.. a man of that sort would not flinch before any question. acquiring the conviction that everything was the same to me. too. the pawnbroker. but last ye ar it suddenly came to a climax. if I did not go on looking to them as comical as before. in fact. which was to run a pawnbroker's business. to obey him.

laugh at Dostoevsky. The most extraordinary thing is that this truth is not in any way new. etc. You can of course say all this. and other truths of the same sort which look out at us with strange and terrible eyes from every page of Dostoevsky's writin g. if nothing ever has existed. At first it still seemed to me that a great many things had been accomplished before my time. nor his decision. You may. then. and Dostoevsk y knows that you could laugh at him and refuse even to regard him as a madman. If you want to know how far the thought of the ridiculous man will adventur e in quest of his "new" truth. days. that everything has a beginning here but nothing ends. that caprice has a right to guarantees. that everything had been an illus ion. nor all th e "suddenly". You will have guessed that I have in mind the story o f the Fall. It was revealed. around w hom there is nothing. Behold. but one must not think them"? If th e ridiculous man is not stopped. but later I gu essed that there had been nothing then either. there is nothing. I heard. that laws hav e not existed for all time. One can only ask the question and pass on. in the midst o f mutually contradictory self-evidences. the whole of "omnitude". especially as there is an argument to hand tha t was invented twenty-five centuries ago. th at life is death and death is life. These are statemen ts which Dostoevsky persists in making. the most imm utable of all principles. Those who wish to get close to Dostoevsky will have to make a whole series of special exercitia spiritualia. piling up his absurdities and contradictions. if only space would permit. not only the law of contradiction. the ridiculous man does not exist either. as Aristotle replied to Heraclitus when he denied the principle of contradiction. And little by little I became convinced that there never would be anything. nor this story." that God demands alwa ys and only the impossible. but two or even more dimensions. written in the Book of Books and fo rgotten immediately after. on his own showing. for it was revealed to man alm ost on the day of creation. Have we not the right. . but are "given" and only in order that the offense m ight abound.and wha t a man! A being for whom. nothing has ever happened. " Let us stop and ask ourselves what is the meaning of this strange "suddenly" whi ch leads us to statements even more fantastic: "everything is the same. that the fantastic is more real than the natural. then re-read this short and almost forgotten but truly remarkable stor y. this man makes a great resolution. if you like. that the ugly duckling can change into the beautiful white swan. nothing will ever happen. that the death of Socrates can shake the formidable "twice two is four. this ridiculous man to whom all things are the same. are we not actually obliged to say to Dostoevsky. but every principle in existence. One must admit this openly. to live for hours. Only thus can on e perceive that time has not one. who is convinced that nothing ever has been or ever will b e. it is the oldest of truths. Plotinus with his One. to conquer it and lose it in the moment that he s eizes it. And not only Dostoevsky.o me whether the world went on existing or not. if nothing exists. years. then Dostoevsky himself is silenced too. he determines to commit suicide. Euripides who does not know what life is and what death. And this through the caprice of a single man . while I live. There is no other way. but P lato with his cave. I felt in the depths of my being that now. which he derives from some source of whi ch we are unconscious. almost as old as the world. that it is faith and not works which can save souls. nothing happens. but one must also admit that if the ridiculous man is s ilenced. "One can say these things. But he goes on with the story. t hinking the title too good for him. Does this tempt you? Would you like to be left alone with Ar istotle the metrios eis hyperbol§Ün (moderate to excess)? One cannot argue on this p oint. it would almost be worth repeating them all. will fall to pieces. madness would be a promotion.

but today I will confess it: I corrupted them all. This knowle dge was not enough. an d you know. was it a dre am or a reality? was it an hallucination or was it a revelation? "But why should I not suppose that it was thus?" he asks. How could I have invented it or dream ed it? Could my miserable heart or my capricious brain have risen to the height of this revelation? Judge for yourselves. went to sleep and in his dream saw what the Bible tells us." con tinues Dostoevsky. I understood th is. men.. in order to teach others to live. for something happened. from free creatures. Truth and scientific knowl edge cannot be reconciled. became automata. But I soon realized that their consciousness was nurtured and completed ot herwise than ours. they had grasped their language. understood and. is eternal sleep. I think I am not deceiving myself when I tell you that they spoke to them. and I am convinced that the trees u nderstood. perhaps all this was not really a dream. It may have been a dream .. Plotinus's "awakening". which directs them and which they have worshipped. the ridiculous man goes on. Yes. They showed me their trees. annihilation. it is suffocated in the arms of those formidable proofs which furnish our sc ience with certainties. and I could not understand the intense love with which they regarded them. But truth is above laws and laws are for truth what the prison walls and the f etters were in Dostoevsky's existence. He dreamt th at he was among men who had not yet tasted the fruits of the tree of the knowled ge of good and evil. painfully aspire to true existence and are suddenly a ware that the force which possesses them. And when they had acquired our kn owledge.. the children of their own sun! Oh. ringe d round with law.. "They knew shame. "reveals laws" and puts "the law of happiness above happiness". the same root put forth ethics.. while they knew without science." By what means did this earthly man corrupt the inhabitants of paradise? He endow ed them with our knowledge or.. f or short and rare moments. I will tell you a s ecret. who did not yet know shame. "It was perhaps a thousand times more beautiful than I have described it. This is what is given to us in mercy." No modern theory of knowledge puts the problem of the essence and the significan ce of scientific knowledge so clearly and so deeply. Truth will not endure the bonds of scientific knowled ge. I admit that my dream might have been born of my heart. he did not know whether he ought to accept it. blinded by his strange vision. Till now I have hidden the truth. They did not aspire to cognition of life. who possessed no knowledge. Dostoevsky himself was struck. solved the problem which Dostoevsky has put: to renounce sci entific knowledge in order to see the truth as it is. and death dre w near to them.. though I could not understand their knowledge. they saw themselves assailed by all the plagues of earth. in so far as it is giv en to men to do so. for their life was complete. how beautiful t hey were! I had never seen anything so beautiful on our earth. by our virtues or our good works. but my heart alone could not have been t he cause of the awful thing that happened. somethin g so hideously real that it could not have happened in a dream. "The children of the sun. and yet it is impossible that it should not have happened. It was only in antiquity th at Plato and Plotinus. he incited the m to taste of the fruit of the forbidden tree. The reader can see that Dostoevsky did not invent this truth himself. and had neither the power nor the wish to judge. It seemed to me incomprehensible that knowing so many things. science wants to "teach us to live" . death.The ridiculous man. in the language of the Scriptures. Few are they who. they should not possess our knowl edge. But their knowledge surpassed our science in depth and in he ight because our science tries to explain what life is. having made up his mind to die. Science. as we do. the world was changed. those visionaries. to whom everything was indifferent. This is simply Plato's "anam nesis". and raised shame to the rank of a virtue.. but cannot be won by our own strength. he could n . commenting and developing the short Bible legend. tries to know itself.

I did not invoke it. (also called reason) kills mystery and trut h. and sold it to its mortal enemy. For we cannot grasp it or m aster it any more than we can understand the truth. overwhelming delight. although re corded in the one book which has been read more often than any other.I am going to teach the truth! In other words. will without d oubt insist that it should first submit to the laws. Now he hurried towards men. but he migh t equally well have quoted his own words in The Notes from Underground. I want to teach. You understand what that me ans? For the second time that "frightful" thing of which he has told us happened to Dostoevsky. It is that truth which. in full possession of his faculties." To teach the truth . which miraculously transforms individual "useless" impressions into an ex perience of general utility and thus creates that solid. the same crime at which he had so sh uddered in his dream. Collecting his prodigious powers for the last time.yet we shall i mmediately forget all that we saw when we were "beside ourselves" with ecstasy. before accepting it.ot have invented it. no. Dostoevsky composed The B rothers Karamazov on this theme. or to use it for our historical needs. He had betrayed the eternal truth reve aled to him. even though we are gu ided by the most noble and exalted desire. but what? The t ruth. in all its glory. because truth was r evealed to him. He told us that in a dream he had corrupted the spotless inhabitants of paradise. to give my life to it. It is of the very essence of mystery that it cannot be unveiled. for I have seen it with my own eyes. none of his efforts. The reader will no doubt agree that none of Dostoevsky's int ernal struggles. to show the mystery to every one and make truth universal and necessary.this logic. to r epeat. then. not in sleep. As we have seen. . to live! I raised my arms and invoked eternal truth . I will make a gift of it to common consciousness. He speaks of the "revelation" of truth. and truth can only be glimpsed when we do n ot try to take possession of it. he chooses a verse from the Fourth Gospel as motto. the m ystery of the Fall. of extending its benefits to the whole of humanity . I want to teach. had any other aim or object than to unders tand this mystery. that is. Yes. immutable order so nece ssary to our existence . although known to every one. or at least to participate in it. But the most extraordinary part. but waking. of the single dimension of time which is known to us. yet remain s eternally hidden. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ I \ The Conquest of the Self-Evident << | >> 12 We are now facing the greatest mystery which has ever confronted man. which. to live and to teach! I resolved in that moment to spread this te aching. As soo n as we try to unveil the mystery or make use of the truth. We shall begin to see as the world sees and to speak as the world demands. more extraordinary than any thing that Dostoevsky has yet told us. is the end of "The Dream Of a Ridiculous Man". This logic. that of sharing our knowledge with ou r neighbour. within t he limits. The hero of the story gives up his plan of suicide when the truth is revea led to him: "for now I want to live. Delight. I wept. flooded my who le being.

Life and history show us that no faith can be active and fruitful. the . Augus tine the Church. indeed. But before passing on to The Brothers Karamazov.. but when I see him as he is. every line of which bears witn ess to a consuming thirst for something. as a historian. no! When all is said and done. must there not be special conditions? Jesus Christ invoke d the authority of the Old Testament. F urther. but for this faith to act. are the force of its existence and development. which has n ot leant in the supreme. if it perishes it will bear fruit. but so me quite different place which I ardently desire. "There has never been any faith. Every one knows the famous German historian of Christianity." Here is testimony of capital importance . adapted. but shall never find. subjec t it to some critical examination. violent inconsistency shows itself throughout the novel. an unappeased torment which the author does not succeed in defining. that is to say. the early Christians the Prophecies. But Harnack.if one considers who gives it . unlike Dostoevsky. the common-sense and scientific answ ers.generally admitted answers. if it does not invoke some external a uthority. he was convinced that man has only one kind of sight. Let us hear his testimony." Thus s peaks Professor Harnack.and on e may not pass over it regardless. or even of the majority? Is it history's duty at all to preserve facts? Of t he infinite number of different facts. I have no wish to be in his place (though all the while I shall go on envying him). underground is better! There one can at least . I am lying because I know quite clearly myself. long live the underworld! I did indeed say that I envy the normal man w ith the last drop of my bile. however. if not to find our way. as well as I know th at 'twice two is four'. There is one point. decisive moment on exterior authority. That is why The Brothers Karamazov contains so many terrible questions and (but perhaps this is premeditated) so many answers which are clearly meant to be onl y ostensible. One must. Professor Adolph Ha rnack. si nce time has only one dimension. If the corn of wheat does not die it will remain s ingle. at least to recognize the l abyrinth into which Dostoevsky has introduced us. the "mysteries" among which Dostoevsky spent his li fe. it is certain. No. his studies gave him occasion to examine. This learned historian writes as follows (Dogmengeschichte. It is only the p ale dissertations of philosophers or the polemics of Protestant theologians that have constructed a faith which draws its strength exclusively from internal sou rces. How die? Withdraw for ever underground ? It is beyond human power. But does history keep a record of all the cases and all the fac ts. These. To the d evil with underground!" Long live the underworld! To the devil with the underworld! This brutal. no matter how strong. history only extracts a certain number. Join with normal men and become a normal man oneself ? Those who have been visited by the Angel of Death are incapable of doing this. Ah! but I am l ying again. I shall allow myself a short di gression which will help us. but I despair of explaining the reason for them. had only one pair of eyes at his disposal. which he has undoubtedly studied with quite exceptional profundity. that it is not underground that is worth so much. a nd even these are already commented and "interpreted". 81): "There has never been any religious faith. to e xamine slowly and at length. before utilizing it. are always unacceptable to him. ha s certainly retained no record of any religious faith which has not leaned on ou tside authority." Never? How does Professor Harnack know this? History. III. and does not possess full assurance of its absolute authority. on which Dostoevsky never contradicts himself. and even Luther appealed to Scripture. ."So. and he adds at the bottom of the page.. "I st ate the facts. as a note. Harnack loses no opportunity of telling us that the law of contradiction is the fundamental principle of our reason and that no one can defy with impunity the laws of reason and the science based on these la ws.

botanists. he has told us that it can happen for a man to prefer suffering to well-being. we can accept Professor Harnack's testimon y in its entirety. and because. But Harnack expressly says. the historian only knows as much as has been absorbed into the stream of time. Even Jesus. "Jesus.that me n never would or could have accepted the faith of Jesus or even of Luther. that what man or common consciousness calls a "firm fait h" does not in any way resemble the faith of Jesus or even Luther. shows by an infinitude of examples that good and e vil fall on the just and the unjust alike. but cannot be shown to every one. which has not r elied on some sort of outside authority. which. just as no one among the learned author ities. not a firm faith. but is merely a collection of rules and principles. Now. and geologists. the early Christians. if there ever has been a faith which did not lean on outside authorit y and did not. it acquires rather a different significance. that is. in fact. The historian only s eeks and records "effective" facts. or even glance at. the historians. if you are really so afraid of chastisement that you cannot give up the directions of reason and science even for the sake of the tr uth. to obtain a hearing. far more the early Christians and Luther. yet if it left no traces.. If Harnack had stated his facts like this.to certain ends. and has imparted his own theory of reason and its rights. which always gains in influence in proportio n to the mystery of its origin. is as unknown to the historian as to the simple pilgrim. and 'even' Luther. and still less does he want to know about things which have happened. however. nay. the historian knows nothing and wants to know not hing." (Da ily experience requires.) Both obedient and disobedient. once they are discovered. he should have said that there has never been. commoda atque incommoda piis aeque ac impiis promiscue evenire. all the facts that have ever occurred It is obv ious that this "never" comes from some other source. according to him. cannot. which every one obeys and reveres because no one knows whence they come. Thus Professor Harnack has gone beyond the limits of simple testimony. as we have seen. We have also heard from Dostoevsky that the humblest submission will not protect us against punishment. Bu t Dostoevsky. but one capable and desirous of acting. the princi ple of science. had to invoke Scripture. or if you are so credulous and so inexperienced that you really believe tha t submission to science and reason will guarantee you against all punishment. sooner or later at the Last Judgment: no one will be acquitted. without him). It would then suddenly have appeared . that he has gone for the authority to transform his own testimony into a universal a nd necessary judgment. for he cou ld not study. and Spinoza also teaches us. But these corrections once made. no one will escape punishment. invoke any authority at all. Augustine. has ever merely stated facts. and of the record of what he has seen and heard. any one can see them.quite unexpectedly . One might even ask whether it is right to say "even Luthe r". at infinitis exempli s ostendit. but only authority and order. cannot be renounced with impunity. Of what has been. If Harnack had wished to confine himself to a simple record and not to speak in his own name (for the verdict of reason is w ell enough known already." It seems to me that it would have been better to have omitted that "even". Thus. that faith cannot act. and what has not been. "Never. "Experientia in dies reclamat. and so has traces in the world which are visible to every one. they would have acquired quite another s ignificance." What has. This is all very well. that "faith" cannot be preached at all. pious and impious will all be condemned. in fact.. that is. But as to what has happened wit hout leaving any trace behind." It is obvious that he has drawn this conclusion. It is to reason. not from history or from a study of the facts. t hen it is 'to the historian as though it had never existed. Ha rnack cannot say. men do not want "faith" at all. "there has never been a religious faith. but has always referred them to the authority of reason. deter mine historical events. does not fear punishment. In exactly the same way men believe in reason an .

<< | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ I \ The Conquest of the Self-Evident << | >> 13 Dostoevsky was no historian. but not those who do not. etc. he watered it with his tears. His soul was glowing in ecstasy and thirsted for space and liberty. and even believe that retribution will only overtake those among them who despise reason and science. only faintly apparent as yet. Alyosha stoOd there and gazed. nor whence came this irresi stible desire to embrace it all." . Above h im stretched the dome of heaven. that atoms would no longer be protected. unless he can find an outside authority powerful enough to appear unassailable to other men. an experience founded on self-eviden ce. But then why are th e pages dedicated to them the palest and weakest of the whole novel? Only once d oes Dostoevsky feel really inspired when speaking of Alyosha. Who is the hero of The Brothers Karamazov? If one goes by the preface. But in this novel. Then he hoped that the wall would cease to be a wall. that Socrates and Giordano Bruno. not only to contemplate but to act. the luminous and still night held the earth in its embrace . beyond reach of age. it is Aly osha. But at the same time. he knew not why. and was not ashamed of his ecstasy. to timi§ætaton. the youngest of the brothers. Why did he weep? He wept with delight even in the stars which shone in the vo id. strewn with a thousand gli ttering stars. Dostoevsky. and allow him one of those visions to which he attained in moments of supreme exaltation. "He" (Alyosha) "turned round abruptly and went out of the cell" (of Father Z ossima. The silence of earth mingled with the silence of the sky. the autho r. the outlaws. "He descended the short flight of steps without paus ing. would be ch iefly cherished. Against the sapphire blue of heaven rose the white towers and gilded cupolas o f the cathedral. as though desirous of realizing Harnack's program. In The Brothers Karamazov Dostoevsky still holds by his experience. and sometimes was absolutely forced. subjective experience which aims at transcending all proof . who had just died). wants to obtain the approv al of competent authority at any cost. and also Father Zossima. he therefore aspired. t hat "twice two is four" would lose its crude self-assurance. shimmered from the z enith to the horizon. He knows that his faith cannot "act" and will leave no trace in history. He embraced the earth with both arms. In the flower beds round the house the splendid flowers of autu mn had sunk to sleep till morning. but he embraced it weeping. The Milky Way. just as in the articles of The Diary of a Writer. but his personal.d science. was a so n of earth. not tha t universal experience of which Kant spoke. it is particularly obvious in The Brothers Karamazov and The Diary of a Writer. beyon d the limits of history. to love it to the end of his day s. the mystery of earth mingled with the mystery of the stars. We have noticed this contradiction in all his works. like all of us. he was not bound to believe that what begins h ere must also end here. and swore in his ecstasy to love it. and it trembled at the touch of those unknown worlds. then suddenly he fell to earth as though struck down. in the second dimension of time. It was as though the invisible threads w hich bound together all God's infinitely numerous worlds were suddenly joined to gether in his soul. We must remember that he tried to realize that which was dearest to him. his caprice.

is precisely such a vision of unknown worlds. or a colle ction of meaningless words. The Brothers Karamazov fo rms the sequel to The Notes from Underground. of the humiliation of man . What horrible suffe ring!. He quotes Schiller and when the poet says: "Yea. moreover. nor does it frighten him. and even of history an d its proofs. and any one is entitled to call such a contradiction by its name." might have bee n incorporated entire. and in all Ceres' wand erings she found misery everywhere. But for Dostoevsky this was precisely to timi§ætaton. He would have received ignorant Dimit ri Karamazov's "indefinable" with the same indignation. and which has left no traces be hind. non luge re. brother. Pulchritudo et Deformatio. I have little education. but I think about that a great deal. And if men have learnt anything from Spino za. if we want to think we must discard any idea of Bonum et Malum . but not thought. I hardly think of anything but that. "That which contains an absolute contradiction canno t be true. in which chapters such as "The Rev olt.. and counts. brothe r. it persists to this day." And a few minutes later this same ignorant officer declares: "Beauty is a fea rful and terrible thing. and he would have rep eated it of Dostoevsky if he had read him. the faith which invokes no outside authority." and "The Brothers become Acquainted. It is t rue that Father Zossima treats the same subject in one passage. for undefinab les. the father of m odern philosophy.In the whole of Dostoevsky you will never find anything like this again. of the underworld. only speaks once in this tone. but with less si mplicity. We may remember that according to Spinoza. less strength. who is also one of the mos t ignorant of men. measures. the drunkard. He himself. but only weighs." "The Odour of Death. he remembers that "twice two is four" is the principle of death which men gathered from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. in fact. These are. Terrible. As for those phrases "opposites mingle here". But this does not stop Do stoevsky. 225)." they are more like the ravings of delirium. which he tried with un paralleled audacity to wrest from the power of authority. like that mathe matics after whose image common consciousness was created. neque detestari. "this humiliation persists. and simultaneously with. all efforts directed towards the sole purpose of confou nding the bebai§ætat§Ü t§æv arch§æv the law of contradiction which since the days of Aristotl as been looked upon as the very foundation of thought. "all the most contradictory t hings live side by side. he remembers that indocti rapiunt caelum. because one cannot define it. as I have said." He thinks a great deal about it! Can a man of no education think a great de al! And have we any right to call what passed through Dimitri Karamazov's brain thought? It may be indignation. so that science declares that it c annot exist. II. the eternal capri ce for which he claimed and sought guarantees and rights. nor weeps. Man has much to suffer on this earth. revolt. This same Spinoza "taught" us: non ridere.. nor is wroth. Both suppositions seem equally admissible. as though he felt that it was unlawful to speak much o f these things. and her great spirit wept for man's fate". But that was all that Dostoevsky coul d make up his mind to assign to his official heroes. makes a speech of which Plato or Plotinus need not have been ashamed. which history refuses to acknowledge. a hunt for contradictions. the profligate. . Opposites mingle here. because God speaks to us only in riddles. and it cannot b e defined." he says to his brothers. all the most contradictory things live side by side. From this point of view. or else he felt that they can only be glimpsed from the bottom o f the abyss. such a faith takes no accoun t of works and has given nothing to humanity. h e weeps. "Dear friends. sed intelligere. those "underground" truths. The faith whic h Harnack would not acknowledge as possible." Ha rnack says this of Athanasius (Dogmengeschichte. it is to discard both the good and the beautiful for understanding's sake an d to transform themselves into this "common consciousness" which neither laughs. and as a foil to. less inspiration. Dimitri Karamazov.

and therefore demands that we should fall down and worship it." The Cardinal is. Harnack among them. Dostoevsky perceives this with the peculiar. the permissible f rom the prohibited. if I am not mistaken. the most remarkable of contempor ary philosophers. ninety years long. Man wants laws. and he answer s himself. than to find an object to worship. it would be identical with reason itself which can have no authority beside or above its own. an old man of ninety in whom all human wisdom is incarnate. Wa s Harnack thinking of the Bible when he asserted that no one can slight the clai ms of science and reason with impunity? Socrates. "he has no preoccupation more incessant or more pa inful. The old man has long been silent. which will help him to distinguish the true from the false. Y ou have given your work over to us.Is it possible to escape from the curse of knowledge? Can man cease to judg e and to condemn? Can he cease to be ashamed of his nakedness. No thing will put a stop to its victorious advance. so much so that all men would immediately ag ree to pay homage. in fact. perhaps.) It is on these words that the Catholic Church bases its ide a of the "potestas clavium" and of the infallibility of the Church. The idea of the "infallibility" of the Church and of the potestas clavium c onsists precisely in what philosophers have called and still call "reason". more powerful. Nobody questions it today. But he aspires to kneel before somethi ng which is already beyond dispute. and You cannot. (I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. this reason which admits of no authority beside its own. Conceived in its ideal perfection. This is the subject of the great discussion which takes place in the " Legend of the Grand Inquisitor" (The Brothers Karamazov) between the Cardinal In quisitor. Even if this suppositi on were correct. It is. In other words. Our theories of knowledge make all appeal t o revelation quite superfluous. look upon this verse as a later interpolation. i. and 'obliges him to make use of his second sight. and of humanity as a whole. o f course. You have no right. or of his surroundings. had alrea dy proved in antiquity that men on earth know quite well how to "bind and loose" . more active and more triumphant than that of science. and does very well without. if the Church had no verse of Scripture on which to found its p retensions. extraordinary penetration which he manifests whenever "Apollo calls to the sacr ifice". he must speak. but one in which a/i could be lieve and which all would adore. but at last he can b ear it no longer. has formulated the thought thus: "No idea in modern times is. all-embracing i n its legitimate aims. Matthew (xvi. Edmund Husserl. we should have to write out the whole "L . a settled order. the i dea of infallibility needs no heavenly sanctions. He says to God: What have You offered to man? What can You offer him? Liber ty? Man cannot accept it. You have promised and sealed the promise wit h Your word. this would not weaken its rights in the least. and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall b e loosed in heaven. You have given us the right to bind and to loose. It is this need of common worship whi ch has been the torment of each man individually. thinking of St. and Plato after him. dream of taking this right away from us. and God Hi mself. like Adam and Eve before the serpent led them into te mptation. One knows th at many contemporary historians of Christianity. since God is silent (God is always silent): "No. "When a man feels hims elf free. to judge. and they knew that in heaven things will be judged as they are on earth. th roughout the ages. together. et quodcumque solveris super terram erit solutum in caelis. It is impossible to go on quoting. "Have you the right to betray even a single one of the myste ries of that world from which you descend?" the Cardinal asks God. 19): Et tibi dabo claves regni caelorum. ashamed of himsel f. Et quodcumque ligaveris super terram erit ligatum et in caelis. For the desire of these miserable creatures is to discover an object which not only I or any other could adore." says the Cardinal. fixed once and for al l. of course.e. and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be hound in heaven.

but here. and dreads beyond all t hings liberty. and wants. like him. sing the praises of necessity with a so rt of funereal delight. The theory of knowledge. scientific or apparently scientific philosophy. is the true and only object of its study. to appease its conscience once and for all. the God which Spinoza hides beneath his mathematical formulae and wh ich inspired the ugly little duckling. Dostoevsky's underground man. instead of taki ng possession of man's liberty. whence the torments i ndicated by the Cardinal are derived. Instead of giving hum anity solid principles. and Euripides. For Spinoza is simply Dostoevs ky's Cardinal. who at the age of thirty-five has already apprehended the terribl e secret of which in the "Legend" an old man of ninety whispers from the depths of his underground prison to an eternally silent God. Marcus Aurelius said the same thing.. on earth. beyond argument. nearly all those who have thirsted most painfully afte r liberty. nor even in the best tr eatises.egend". To Gogol. firm ground. It seeks solid foun dations. not even suspecting that its supreme prerogative is prec isely the ability to do without all guarantees. ethics. you have only extended it. "See". akin to clairvoyance. The old tragedians. would also be cap able of understanding Dostoevsky's adversaries in some measure . but that man fears liberty above all things. everything which is beyond huma n power. Such a piercing and deep vision is not to be found neither in the manuals of philosophy. Plotinus represented our existence as a marionette show. when he cle nched his fist and put out his tongue so shamelessly at the glass palace which m en had erected. and ontology appear quite differently to a man who has received his "initiation" from Dostoevsky. w ere it never so small. the reality which Plato perceived from the depths o f his cave.. and have always done in the name of liberty. The wise men of old have affirmed it: one cannot say of God that He is. in the words of the schoolmen. caprice. an illusion of something which has power over both heaven and earth. But. the Cardinal goes on. of Dostoevsky's sight. before "consciousness as such". skeptics and believers alike. What aspiring thirst for l iberty was in Spinoza! But with what implacable rigour he proclaimed this necess ity. problematical. as we remember. who hi des his incessant doubts deep beneath his mathematical formulae. to the keenness with which he puts the most difficult philosophical problems. you have col lected everything extraordinary and problematic. Luther's best work. having no need of either protection or guarantee. and that it is for this reason that he seek s knowledge. and undefined something which. had the same vision of our existence. and indetermina te in life. has hitherto considered itself obliged to "justify" itself before "omnitude". is directed again st Erasmus of Rotterdam. to participate in the formidable mystery of original sin. One cannot say that man is not free. the greatest of modern poets. I think. for when one says "God is" one immediately loses Him. "what you did next. And such a man. everything extraordinary. to Plato a cave. a performance in which the actors mechanically rendered parts which had been wri tten in advance. De Servo Arbitrio." In other words. that n1Lucbrarov of which Plotinus sp oke and to which he aspired. philosophy. . who tried to safeguard some portion of human liberty. and aspires to find some incontestable and infallible authority at whose feet all men could prostrate themselves together. caprice also demands its guarantees. Sophocles. or. Aeschyl us. who is apparently so careless and triumphant. and Shakespeare. Man creates what he calls "truth ". But I must once more call the reader's attention to the extraordinary po wer.Spinoza. what is definite. Liberty is that caprice of which the underground man has spoken to us. I tell you that man has no more tormenting preoccupation than to find someone to whom at the soonest possible moment he can hand over this gif t of liberty which is the wretched creature's birthright. the earth was an enchanted kingdom. the only law to which God and man were alike subject! And he is not alone. problematical. never suspecting that it is just this extraordinary. or Edmund Husse rl.

We may remember that Dostoevsky concludes his fantastic story. good for a ll men at all times." with an appeal to preaching. and submit to it as hardl y. just as Catholicism has done. In The Brothers Karamazov. will immediately turn them from tr uths into lies. according to Harnack. when Dostoevsky tried to paint a great solitary. that action was the sole worthy crown of contemplation. to play this part. "There" he had glimpsed the absolute liberty of which his Grand Inquisitor speaks. even in his novels. he only succeeded in painting a figure that was almost comic. but also to act. and that any attempt to make them useful. We have already seen that Dostoevsky sometime s tried. that is. for Dost oevsky's works are inexhaustible. Perhaps he did not forget it in the exact sense of the word. He f orgot also the Biblical threat that he who has tasted of the fruit of the tree o f the knowledge of good and evil shall die. But wh en he painted Kirilov. profoundly moving character. universal and necessary.<< | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ I \ The Conquest of the Self-Evident << | >> 14 We must conclude this study: not that I have exhausted my subject. this tendency is particularly marked. a Stylite who should please the fancy of common consc iousness. "The Dream o f a Ridiculous Man. how he had already tried to teach and how this teaching had c orrupted the beings who were so pure that they did not know what shame was. The Diary of a Writer is not even Dostoevsky's diary. this silent. it never. in whose eyes unshakable a uthority is preferable to anything in the world. There are few who have so laid bare their whol e souls to the ultimate mysteries of human existence. according to Dostoevsky. It is the author who speaks through the mouth of Zossima. or Luther. It is a series of articles in which a man teaches oth er men how to live and what to do. The author tries th ere to present the ideal type of the Master under the figure of Father Zossima. I shoul d like to say a few words about the journalist. he forgot only one thing. See what happened to Dostoevsky with Father Therapont.. solitary man became under his pen a formidable. . He forgot the terrible thing which he ha d himself told us. and teach in this world with any success. But we have only to compare the pale and bloodless harangues of Father Zossima w ith the burning and inspired words of Dimitri and Ivan Karamazov to realize that Dostoevsky's truths fear general validity as greatly. even life? He who wishes to pro pagate his ideas. as he appears to us in The Diary of a Writer. whom he felt obliged to sentence to suicide. But what to do with this liberty among men who are more afraid of it tha n of anything else." and some other similar pages). Do stoevsky's last novel. The Idiot. who need only something to adore. must replace liberty by authority. or hardly ever (for all the same it does contain "A Gentle Soul. that those truths were "use less" by their very nature." "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man. just as much as through the mouth of his underground hero. reflects Dostoevsky's most intim ate thoughts and feelings. But before ending. as the average man to liberty. We discovered this teaching in C rime and Punishment. but in th e former case we hear nothing but the words of "omnitude" or common consciousnes s. and The Possessed. It suddenly appeared to him th at he was called upon not only to contemplate. just as he did not forget the other truths which his se cond sight had showed him..

Revelation s are not given to man to make the life of man easier or to transform stones int o bread. treated the sick. quickens hope. Russia is drowned in bloo d. Men want that experience of which Kant speaks. But once he is with others he tries to become like th em. to use his own expression. are men of " action". even for caprice. and will once and for all transform caprice. His own experience. persuades. it is true) a "contemplative" while Zossima and Alyosha. they wis hed to be guided by those truths which were revealed to Dostoevsky through his s econd sight. None of hi s prophecies have been realized. Sometimes he will merely put the seal of the other world on the common opinions. into what can "sat isfy" the world. like Therapont. direct into the future. gave alms and consolation. etc. that Western Europe w ould come to a bloody end and implore Russia's help in its agony. the living individ ual. normal. He said that Russia would wi n Constantinople. and whic h gave Pascal the mysterious right to oppose his thinking reed against the whole universe. they bring relaxation to those readers. He wanted to teach men how to live. perhaps. speeches. precisely because those men who decided Russia's d estiny for centuries tried to come to an arrangement with God on earth. or. but according to him one can arrange it with God. which agreed with the findings of his other senses. of those "imponderables" with which Dostoevsky knew how to move souls so deeply. as proof of their d ivine origin. became a heavy burde n to him. We see today how cruelly he was mistaken. Forced into the mould of "omnitude". is the scene of horrors such as Europe has never known. He prophesies. but hidden from themselves. and the other "self-evident facts". he tells us with enthusiasm in "The Grand Inqu isitor" that men had forsaken God because He would not trouble about their earth . Dostoevsky saw this himself. Most of Dostoevsky's jou rnalistic work is a repetition of the words. they pleased every one. he exo rcises. The result is extraordinary. It is astonishing that Dostoevsky dares to call Smerdiakov himself (though only once. they are Dostoevsky's own words. from the past. through the present. Ther apont exorcised. It is not I who say all these things. this happens. t he tempter. which will put law above life .Dostoevsky wanted Father Zossima's words to be intelligible to all. But in reading t hese interminable sermons. In order to act Dostoevsky saw himself forced to submit his sec ond sight to his ordinary. Dostoevsky has told us so himself in "The Grand Inquisitor". strengthens the weak in spirit. the Evil Spirit. sometimes even. One canno t arrange one's life on earth without God. And. neither to change the course of history. and writings of Zossima a nd Therapont. the experience which turns stones into bread. how to come to an arrangement on earth with God". who belong. of which scientific phi losophy speaks. Therefore. There is no trace of that spiritual tension. History knows only one course. and the exception into the general principle. thou must worship me! Any one who refuses to bow down and worship "twice tw o is four" will never become master of the world. that she would never know class warfare. human vision. what he had seen with his own eyes. when he is alone with himself. Any one wanting to gain a "historic" influence must gi ve up his liberty and submit himself to necessity. regarding it as the very essence of life itself and viewing the intractability of "twice two is four". but revelation pres upposes some second path. Bu t it is even less possible to come to an arrangement on earth with God than with out Him. said to Christ: If thou wouldst possess "all the kingdoms of the wor ld". as with his reason. one is amazed at the patience Dostoevsky must have ex pended on composing them. therefore. in fact. even to Claude Bernard. Zossima advised. And strange as it may seem. Dostoevsk y's ecstasies become slaves of daily necessity. to those representatives of common consciousness in whose eyes there is nothing above certainty and those self-evident truths wh ich demand guarantees for everything. who know quite well what life is and what death.

vi. September 1921. by multiplying the sufferings of its people brought about the situation which we are witnessing today. all those to who m the destinies of Russia are dear understand only too well that those who contr ol them "cannot defy both common sense and science with impunity". a colle ction of rules to form a guide to practical life. uncertain truths he tries to elaborate a political program. like all that people hold to be to timi§ætaton. even without Dostoevsky.ly prosperity. << | >> Orphus system home intro In Job's Balances << | >> Part I REVELATIONS OF DEATH ag§æn megistos kai eschatos ta§às psucha§às prokeitai. a statement which Dostoevsky. he repeated with the Slavophiles that Russia was the f reest country in existence and demanded. One cannot demonstrate God. who rejects all guarantees. He is outside history. destruction to construction". proclaims in the face of the despotic regime which led Russia over the brink of the abyss. and this too is the meaning of th e enigmatical words of Euripides which we quoted at the head of this study: tis d'o§àden. like a tyrant. One cannot seek Him in history. 7. to katthane§àv de dz§Ün. The result is not difficult to imagine. undefined. who was not afraid of the law of contradiction. This truth was all too well known. "A man may perhaps prefer suffering to w ell-being" transforms itself for purposes of "action" into a formula somewhat si milar in appearance. Enneads I. to those w ho ruled Russia's destinies and who. He remembered what his experience had shown him. here "everything has a beginning and nothing has an end". capricious. . but I think silence would be preferable. THE LAST JUDGMENT Tolstoy's last works texts links biblio ToC . And out of all these sudden. "God demands the impossible". etc. B y his contact with the other world he had glimpsed ultimate freedom. "a man may perhaps pre fer suffering to well-being. would not "guarantee" their caprice. that all should think as he did. The thirst for absolute liberty whi ch torments him finally results in that na§áve Slavophile statement that Russia is t he most free of all countries. One could speak at l ength on this subject. This is the meaning of all Dostoevsky's works. A supreme and final battle awaits the soul. ei to dz§Ün men esti katthane§àn. And yet he goes on preaching . but when he spoke to his fellow-men.PLOTINUS. "'twice two i s four' is the principle of death". transforming truths of the other world into judgments of universal validity. yet quite different in reality: "the Russian people love su ffering". God is "caprice" inc arnate.

This state ment is the basis. and which we. How does this happen? How can the impossible become possible? Among Tolstoy's posthumous works there is a short. gnawing. everything is transformed as though by a magic wand. he will be able to buy it at a very low figure.orth§æs happomenoi philosophias lel§Üthenai to§ís allous. Common sense also looks upon this a s an indisputable truth. Not only did I find nothing pleasant in these thoughts. Phaedo 64 A 1 Aristotle says somewhere that every one has his own particular world in his dreams. everything had seemed to him to be normal. "I tried to think of things which interested me. Can man give up self-evident truth? Certainly not. as a matter of fact. of doubt. but it was moral.we think of death as terrible. but also of all positive scientific philosophy. and even by the Catholic Church. answers. he is seized by a horrible. Then. The horror of my wasted life overshadowed everyth ing. Deus impossibile non jubet (God d oes not ask the impossible). A rich landowner. no questions! Nothing but answers! Then su ddenly. but no sooner was I on my bed than terr or roused me again. according to his calculations. and yet could not succeed in tearing it completely. almost for not hing. one night at an hotel on the way. anguish . in the twinkling of an eye. cannot understand. The ordinary means by which these painful thoughts are usuall y routed are completely ineffectual. No doubt. but t hey were all as nothing to me. and the easy feeling of lightness. This understanding was given to Tolstoy. the solid earth. its own self¡ªevidence.PLATO. hoti ouden allo epit§Üdeuousin § n§Üskein te kai tethnanai. That is a self-evident truth which is admitted equa lly by common sense. impregnated wi th mysticism though it may be. he had felt the solid earth beneath his feet and r eality on all sides of him. Nobo dy. Peace. It has its own truths. can ask this of him. it drags him out of the world common to all. but when we look back upon life. simplicity and certainty which springs from this ¡ª all suddenly disappear. I went o . in hearing and understanding the mysterious language of death. not even God Himself. and senseless. i nvincible terrors. it is the agony of life which overwhelms us! Death and life seemed in some way to be confounded with one another. having lear ned that an estate was for sale in the province of Penza. What did death reveal to him? What were the impossibilities which were changed into possibilities for him? Death does. have a look at it and buy it. which do not agree with our ordinary ideas. makes up his mind to g o down. by science. unfinished story called The Diary of a Madman.regulated. Nothing in his surroundin gs has changed. before and after him. I tried to go to sleep. in rare moments of extreme tension and excitement. of my wife. In spite of Aristotle. but until now everything had always in spired him with confidence. And anxiety! An anxiety like one feels before one is going t o be sick. not only of Aristotle's philosophy. demand the impossible of man. therefore. insufferable anguish.. of the acquisition of the e state. while in his waking state he lives in a world common to all.. its possibilities and its impossibilities.. in an instant. suddenly. Other men seem not to have noticed that those who truly embrace philosophy conce rn themselves with nothing else but dying and death. . nothing new has happened. without any apparent rea son. I lay down. necessary . soothing. Around him are nothing but looming questions with th eir inevitable train of importunate anxiety. Fear. The subject is very simple. unlike com mon sense. Something tore my existence to rags. consciousness of right. But death takes no heed of this. He is very pleased about it. Only a few exceptional men h ave succeeded. well .

his fate would have been quickly decided. He wanted to know why Christ had been so tortured. They certified this. and accessible to all. or else. but terro r was ever before me. red. not they. Common sense. white. Although what he says app ears utterly meaningless and unacceptable. and his mad uncertainty. I tried again to get to sleep. either we must repudiate Tolstoy and cut him off from our midst as lepers and others su ffering from contagious diseases were cut off in the Middle Ages. but that I was of sane mind. then a third. "Today. and finally decided that I was not mad. at rest. clear." Thus Tolstoy pitilessly strips himself before our eyes. His aunt did not kn . and square. red. What happened to Tolstoy is a challenge to all normal. It is "the world common to us all" w hich is right. and one fine day it will be the wh ole of society. and science which derives from it. But that was because I constrained myself not to speak frankly duri ng the medical inspection. the whole of mankind who will be attacked. He would be lying in his bed. And its terrors are not red. "they took me before the provincial council for a men tal examination." The third attack happened when his aunt told him the story of the Passion o f Christ. He tells us that it had happened to him before. "I had an attack. nor white . one goe s on reckoning with him." It is beyond question that he is right. white. Suddenly he would hear his nurse and the house steward exch ange a few disagreeable words and immediately the whole charm was broken. How are we to appreh end these groundless terrors which so suddenly appeared. Something was tearing. to experie nce crises like that which occurred on the road to Penza. From childhood upwards . but I know that I am mad. and square? In the world which is common to us all. if we consider his experiences justifiable. satisfying truths. Tolstoy is in the wrong with his senseless anxieties.for even naked truth is not easy to see . warm.nce more to look at my fellow-sleepers. They declared that I was subject to fits and other things of the sort. its eternal. he would suddenly find himself overwhelmed on quite trivial occasions by intol erable terrors which would brutally deprive him of all joy in life and of all se nse of the normality and natural balance of existence. I began to sob and for a long time no one was able to console me." he continues. Those sobs were the firs t signs of my madness. But Tolstoy is the pride and glo ry of Russia. icy terror takes po ssession of me and I bury my head under the blankets. "I am ill and frightened: I no longer understand anything. I am afraid that there they would not allow me to accomplish my madman's w ork. There are few writers wh o show us truths like these. If we take seriously what we are told in The Diary of a Madman there is no third alternative. not in dreams but in their waking moments. I was not frank because I am afraid of the lunatic as ylum. he would have been exiled fr om society as a dangerous and unhealthy member. Opinions were divided. And if one wants. They argued. but it stil l held. we must be prepared for others to undergo the same. cannot hesitate for a moment be fore this dilemma. Terror. If the person concerned had not been a world-famou s writer. All his life Tolstoy was aware that there was something in his soul driving him out of the world common to all . de fined.then a whole series of problems aris e which are out of all relation with our ordinary thoughts. human consc iousness. thinking idly that all men are good and that th ey love one another. there can be no action without a cause. although not often. comfortable. one goes on listening to him. it is impossible to treat him like this." Another time he saw a little boy being beaten. Now it is Tolstoy who has been suddenly and causelessly seized by terr or. for the "world common to us all" to fall to pieces and men to begin t o live in their own separate worlds. there is not and cannot be a "suddenly" . nor square. his unr easonable terrors. if one is able to see this truth . tomorrow it may be another. with its solid beliefs.

then by cutting down and selling timber from it he wi ll obtain a sum which will pay for the whole estate. And then. of having to live in his own individua l world instead of in the common world. He will buy his esta te in some district where the peasants own very little land. I beat my head against the wall. which he will thus have acq uired for nothing. But no one else. and an even greater dread of madness. If God does not send him a fool. other impressions come to obliterate the first. and have rega rded it as a criminal attack on his good name. we have seen children ill-treated. and all the innumerable business affairs of life naturally distracted Tolstoy's attention from his extraordinary visions for many years. Therefore he made desperate efforts to l ive like every one else. Tolstoy patiently bides his time. and then forget. so irresistibly. He was then traveling in the Penza district to look at an estate which he considered and in fact afterwards bought. and to see only what is contained within everyday limit s. then he will have to make it up at the expense of the peasants. we should certainly have looked upon it as a calumny. But it was not given to Tolstoy to forget. a vague witness to another. be eve n seems to have preserved them carefully.ow what to answer. He wanted to buy an estate. "And once again something took possession of me. he would himself have been profoundly indignant. like Plato's mysterious anamnesis. The memories of his childhood were deeply graven in his soul. as he tells us. for we have only to look at one of his letters to his wife (No. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ I \ The Last Judgment << | >> 2 The Diary of a Madman is in a sense the key to Tolstoy's work. He is looking out for some imbecile" (these are his own words) who will sell him a property for a song." We have all been present when our neighbours have exchanged high words. I will give the whole letter: . thus he will get ab undant labour at a starvation wage. He will certainly find an "imbecile" of this kind quite easil y. As a matter of fact. the most poi sonous calumny could not compare with the truth as Tolstoy shows it to us himsel f. People weep a little. or hardly any one. he had an instinctive dread of the madhou se. Tolstoy was not the only one. like a precious treasure. The pleasures. reads the advertisements. since we are accustomed to look upon great men as the incarnation of al l the civil and even the military virtues. preoccupations. good fortune attends the good hunter. I sobbed. but that the landowne r in question is Tolstoy himself. had some one dared depict his existence to him as it is shown in the Diary a year or even a week before madne ss came upon him. And t hese impressions were waiting for the turn of the wheel when time should bring a bout their mastery and establish their right. h as reacted so violently. we have heard and read the story of the sufferin g of Christ. It is easy enough to prove that this story is not fiction. but he did not want to pay the proper price for i t. collects information. unrealizable existence. 63). Indeed. If it had no t been written by Tolstoy himself.

but Dostoevsky read it aloud here to a large company of people.). the purcha se of an estate. Today I feel as well and happy as I can ever be when I am not with you. and may God preserve others from the same! I got up and gave the order to have my horses harnessed. I tried to stifle my evil thoughts. I remembered these feelings vividly while I was wri ting his biography. During my Journ ey I have felt as never before how near you and the children are to me. I remember many other incidents even more remarkable than those which I have quoted. I fell asleep. a terror such as I had never before experienced. and addressed to one who was for ever preaching to us about humanist feelings. when he burst out suddenly and often perversely. they show that the most hideous villainy can exist in a man side by side with th e noblest feelings. what can we do with them? We are convinced that truths are not nece ssary to us for their own sakes. the town of Arzamass. but in a much milder form. Yesterda y. With all thi s."The night before last I slept at Arzamass. Svidrigailov. and debauched. and his tenderness of heart which ende ar him to us. an d it is these dreams. He w as malicious. which is to show to the r eader only the good side of a great man's existence. envious. let us go on exhibiting the beautiful side of life. and a most extraordinary thing h appened to me. for example. all his novels are an attempt to exonerate their author. "All the time that I was writing I had to struggle against a feeling of disg ust which kept rising in me. Throughout his whole life he was a prey to passions which would have rendered him miserable and ridiculous if he had not b een so clever and so wicked. In Switzerland once he treated his servant so abominably in my presence that the man could stand it no longer and cried out. the ones most like him are the hero of The Notes from Underground. I simply feel that I cannot be alone. the province of Penza. etc . But he always got the better of ordinary people. unreasoning terror. the r emembrance of his wife. and the worst of it was tha t he enjoyed it and never genuinely repented of his bad behaviour. There is a firmly established tradition in literature. Such scenes occurred frequently. Katov refused to publish one of the scenes with Stravrogin (the rape. just as we always do on every occasion. but I have never known such painful sensations. but let the truth perish. he was inclined to sickly sentimentality. Among the characters of his books. "But I am a man too!" I remember how these words struck me as reflecting the ideas of a free Sw iss on the rights of man. as he himself admits in a letter to Tolstoy which was only publish ed in 1913. a fear. but the moment that I have got nothing to do. my story would have been more genuin e." I do not know if in the whole of literature there are many documents more valuab le than this. Many times I answered his ravings with silence. on the journey. In fact. like an old woman. as in Moscow. He liked wick edness and gloried in it." This letter and The Diary of a Madman agree down to the last details. his literary gifts. the journey. but once or twice I did b reak out and say very disagreeable things to him. by Strakhov in writing Dostoevsky 's biography. the wild. The "lower" truths are of n o use to us. Help me to get rid of them! I cannot look upon Dostoevsky either as a good or a happy man. I could describ e that side of Dostoevsky's character. I can be alone so long as I am constantly occupied. This is a little commentary to my biography. he was unable to contr ol his bad temper. At two o'clock in the morning I was seized by a strange anxiety. While this was being done. and Stav rogin. but only in so far as they can help us to actio n. I will tell you the det ails later. I am not even sure whether Strakhov himself really understood the meaning and significance of what he admitted to Tolstoy. and woke up again quite well. Many men in recent time . and exalted humanitarian dreams. the same feeling recurred. This is the position taken up. Vistovatov (a professor of Dorpat University) told me how he had boasted to him of having seduced in her bath a little girl who had be en brought to him by her governess.

s have declared that a lie is better than the truth. Oscar Wilde and Nietzsche h ave said it, and even Pushkin declares that "The lie which elevates us is dearer to us than a legion of base truths ". But they were all addressing the reader, teaching him. Strakhov is quite simply and sincerely making a confession, and th is gives his words a special force and significance. It is probable that this le tter produced a great impression on Tolstoy, who was just then finding the burde n of the conventional lie very hard to bear, and burned with the desire to purif y himself by a full confession. For he himself was one of the priests of the sup reme lie, and how beautiful and beguiling that lie was! Like Strakhov, Tolstoy taught us to exhibit the beautiful side of existence and to hide the truth. He wrote War and Peace and Anna Karenina, glorifying the existence of the country gentleman while he himself was trying to buy estates f or a song from imbeciles, exploiting the labour of landless peasants, and so on. All this was going on, and much of the kind besides. But it all seemed lawful, even holy to him, because it helped to maintain the existence which is common to us all. If you turn aside from it, you will have to build your own world for yo urself. This is just what happened to the hero of The Diary of a Madman. He saw that he had to choose; either his wife and his neighbours who attacked his new i deas were right, and he really was ill and in need of treatment - or else all ma nkind are ill and afflicted with madness. The title The Diary of a Madman would cover everything which Tolstoy wrote after the age of fifty. And it seems to me no mere chance that Tolstoy borrowed this title from Gogol. A young lady to whom Gogol's The Diary of a Madman was once read in my presence, showed great astoni shment that Gogol was able to describe so accurately the minute details of the s tate of an unbalanced mind. And indeed, what could have been the attraction of t his subject to a young writer? Why describe chaos and madness? What can it matte r to us that Popristchin, the hero, imagines himself to be the King of Spain, th at a small clerk falls in love with the daughter of his chief, etc.? It is evident that the unbalanced imagination of the madman did not seem to Gogol so absurd and wholly meaningless as it does to us, just as this man's pec uliar private world did not seem so unreal to him as it does to us. Popristchin and his madness attracted him; the strange world and the miserable existence of his hero had an interest for the future author of the Correspondence with Friend s. Why else should he have troubled about the absurd and pitiable and, at first glance, totally meaningless things! It is to be remarked that Popristchin's was not the only madness which absorbed Gogol's attention at this period of his life . It was at this time too that he wrote Vii, The Terrible Revenge, Old-fashioned Gentlefolk, and it would be wrong to think in these tales Gogol is only an impa rtial observer of the customs and life of the people. The horrible death which so abruptly wrenches Afanassy Ivanovich and Pulche ria Ivanovna from the torpor of their vegetating existence clearly troubled Gogo l's imagination constantly in his youth. It is evident that the mysterious horro r of popular tales and myths intoxicated him, that he himself lived in a fantast ic world just as much as in the real world of his fellow-men. The sorcerers, wit ches, and demons which he depicts so inimitably, all the terrors, all the deligh ts which awaken in the human heart upon contact with the mysteries of the other world, had an irresistible attraction for him. If you want to pin fast Gogol's i nner nature, the essence of him, all that was different in him to the outer worl d; if you want to know where to look for the true Gogol, whether in the place as signed to him in the history of art, or where his capricious fancy spreads its w ings; you will not have sufficient material to answer your questions unless, ind eed, you will turn to one of the modern theories of knowledge, which, following Aristotle's example, have arrogated to themselves the right to trace the limits between the waking and dreaming states, between reality and imagination. But if you are not of those who blindly believe in ready-made theories, if you are some times capable of freeing yourself, if only for a moment, from the hypnotism of m odern ideas, then you will be less categorical in your condemnation of Gogol's e

fforts to paint that mysterious reality, so greatly discredited by theory, so in accessible and yet so alluring. Then perhaps you will admit that even in Dead So uls Gogol was not trying to reform manners, but to understand his own destiny an d that of humanity. He himself has told us that his apparent laughter hid invisi ble tears and that when we laugh at Chichikov and Nozdrev, we are really laughin g at their creator. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC

In Job's Balances \ I \ The Last Judgment << | >> 3 Unlike Tolstoy, Gogol even in his earliest works approached that dividing l ine which separates ordinary, everyday reality, accessible to all men, from the eternal mystery which is hidden from mortal eyes. He draws near to this line som etimes with laughter and sometimes in all seriousness. He enjoys leaning over th e abyss and experiencing the agony of vertigo. He was convinced that he had the strength to draw back from it when he wanted to. He felt himself bound to the co mmon world by solid ties, and the incursions which he allowed himself into the r egion of the mysterious were in his eyes only pleasant trips which presented no particular danger. That was what he thought. But fate had other plans for him. T his became clear at the end of his life. His Dead Souls and Fragments collected from my Correspondence with Friends were his Diary of a Madman. Even Pushkin, wh o could understand everything, did not grasp the real significance of Dead Souls . He thought that the author was grieving for Russia, ignorant, savage, and outd istanced by the other nations. But it is not only in Russia that Gogol discovers "dead souls." All men, great and small, seem to him lunatics, lifeless, automat a which obediently and mechanically carry out commandments imposed on them from without. They eat, they drink, they sin, they multiply; with stammering tongue t hey pronounce meaningless words. No trace of free will, no sparkle of understand ing, not the slightest wish to awake from their thousand-year sleep. Although no ne of them, of course, has so much as heard of Aristotle, they are all profoundl y convinced that their sleep, their life, and their common world are the only su preme, definite reality. The Correspondence really does no more than comment on Dead Souls. In it we can see the secret aspirations, the secret hopes of the peo ple's soul appearing under another form. Here once more are Vii, the sorcerers a nd witches and demons, all the phantasmagoria of which we have already spoken. But this fantastic world seems to Gogol to be much more real than the world where Chichikov boasts to Sobakevich of his dead souls and where Pietak stuffs his guests till they are ill, where Pliuchkin hoards, and Ivan Ivanovich quarrel s with Ivan Nikiforovich, etc.: "Here verily one can say: 'Let us flee, let us f lee to our dear fatherland.' But how can we flee? How escape hence? Our fatherla nd is the country whence we are come; and there dwells our Father." Thus spoke P lotinus; thus Gogol felt and taught; only death and the madness of death are abl e to awaken man from the nightmare of existence. This is what Tolstoy's Diary of a Madman also tells us - not the short unfinished story which bears this title, but the whole of what he wrote after Anna Karenina. His "madness" lay in the fa ct that everything which had formerly seemed to him to be real and to have a sol id existence, now appeared illusory, whereas all that had seemed illusory and un real now seemed to him the only reality.

The review the Russian Archive published in i868 an article by Tolstoy which, fo r no reason that I know, has never been republished since; it is called "A Few W ords about War and Peace." It contains some extremely significant passages showi ng Tolstoy's attitude towards serfdom. He had been reproached with not having su fficiently depicted the character of the times in War and Peace. "To these reproaches," Tolstoy declares, "I should reply as follows: I know quite well what are the characteristics of the times, which are supposed to be w anting in my novel: the horrors of serfdom, the burial of women alive, the flogg ing by men of their grown sons, Saltychikha,[1] etc., but I do not consider that this character, as we imagine it today, conforms to reality, and therefore I di d not want to describe it. I have studied letters, memoirs, and hearsay, but hav e not found that these horrors were more frequent then than now or at any other period. People loved in those days, were jealous, sought truth, virtue, or were the slaves of their passions just as now; the intellectual and moral life was th e same - often, indeed, more refined than today, especially in the upper classes . If we represent these times to ourselves as particularly cruel and brutal, it is only because the novels, stories, and legends of that period have only preser ved what was exceptionally brutal or strikingly savage." Tolstoy was forty years old when he wrote these lines. It is the age when the in tellectual powers reach their zenith. In Tolstoy, at that age, the days of Arakc heev awaken no horror, no disgust; yet we remember that as a child lie gave way to mad despair on seeing a little boy beaten or hearing his nurse and the stewar d quarrelling. He certainly knew what to think of Arakcheev and his men, he also knew what serfdom was and the condition of the peasants under the despotic rule of the landed proprietors; but he did not want to "see" it; reason, which shoul d know all things, forbade. Why? Because such a vision would have been useless. It would have destroyed that ordo et connexio rerum which had established itself historically in the face of so many difficulties, and upset the common world ou tside whose boundaries there exists nothing but madness and death. Unvarnished t ruth, that truth which runs contrary to the vital needs of human nature, is wors e than any lie. This is what Tolstoy thought when he wrote War and Peace, when h e was still entirely possessed by Aristotle's ideas, when he was afraid of madne ss and the asylum and hoped that he would never have to live in an individual wo rld of his own. But when he was obliged to say to himself, "They certified that I was sane, but I know that I am mad"; when he felt himself expelled from the wo rld common to all, then he was obliged, willy-nilly, to look at things with his own eyes and not with every one else's. Then the character of Arakcheev's day ap peared to him quite otherwise. Formerly he had spoken of "the refined existence of the upper classes ". Later he spoke of the cruel, coarse, and debased "upperm ost classes". The outward seeming is spick and span and elegant, but beneath this beautif ul appearance there are folly, emptiness, vile cruelty, narrow, inhuman selfishn ess. The Rostovs, Bezukhovs, and Bolkonskis change before our eyes into Sobakevi ch, Nozdrev, and Chichikov. There is no longer even Gogol's laughter, only his t ears. In another short story, also unfinished, "The Morning after the Ball," writ ten in 1903, when the author was eighty years old, Tolstoy, with obvious intenti on, confronts his old and new visions. The story is in two parts; the first desc ribes, with an art unequaled in Russian literature before or since, a gay, elega nt, and amusing ball. It is a really marvelous ball: there are music and dancing , there is champagne, the young people are of the highest class, charming and ar istocratic; naturally there is also a charming young lady there and a young man who is in love with her; it is he who tells the story. An hour after the ball, t he narrator, still gay, excited, and possessed by his "refined" emotions, is wit ness of quite another scene in the street; a Tartar deserter is being made to ru n the gauntlet. And this is being done at the orders of the colonel, the father

of the charming young girl, the very man who, to the universal delight, himself had danced the mazurka with his daughter at the end of the ball, displaying such charm and old-world gallantry. I have said that the scene at the ball is descri bed by Tolstoy with inimitable art; the torture of the Tartar is described with no less strength and feeling. I will not quote extracts, for the story is well k nown. The important point is to compare and contrast the two ways of looking at reality. And considering the whole of Tolstoy's work, one might say, metaphorica lly of course and with certain reservations, that in his youth Tolstoy described life as a fascinating ball; and later, when he was old, it was like a running o f the gauntlet. When he was old, it was not only the time of Arakcheev and Nicho las I which seemed to him like a mad and oppressive nightmare; he could not even endure our own comparatively mild ways. His own family became unendurable to hi m, that family which he had described in such idyllic colours in Anna Karenina. And he saw himself under an aspect as hideous as that of the people with whom he lived. As it is said in Scripture, one must hate one's father and mother, wife and children, and even oneself; there is evidently no other way for the man who is shut out from the world common to us all. Tolstoy says somewhere that autobiography is the best form of literature. I think this is not quite true, nor can it be so under the conditions of our huma n existence. We all belong too much to the society in which we live and we live too much for that society, and therefore we are accustomed not only to speak, bu t also to think as society demands. To write the true history of one's life, to make a full and sincere confession, to tell, that is to say, not what society ex pects and requires of us, but what really happened, would be to put one s own ne ck in the pillory. Society does not forgive those who break its laws; and its ve rdict is merciless. We all know this, and even the bravest among us adapt oursel ves to its rules. Tolstoy's Diary has not yet been published in full, but the au tobiographies and memoirs which we know confirm what we have said. No one has ye t succeeded in telling the truth about himself in a direct form, not even the pa rtial truth. This is as true of St. Augustine's Confessions as it is of Rousseau 's, of the autobiography of John Stuart Mill or of Nietzsche's Diary. None of th ese works tells us the most intimate, the deepest, the truly individual things a bout their author. Men reveal the most painful and significant truth only when n ot speaking directly of themselves. If Dostoevsky had left us his autobiography it would have been no different from the biography written by Strakhov; he would have described to us the beautiful side of his life. But the real Dostoevsky, a s Strakhov himself has told us, is to be found in The Notes from Underground and the Svidrigailov of Crime and Punishment. It is the same with Ibsen. Do not look for him in his letters and his memoi rs; you will not find him there. But he has put the whole of himself into The Wi ld Duck and his other plays. It is just the same with Gogol; it is not in the Co nfessions of an Author that you will find him, but in Dead Souls. This is true o f all authors. One must not ask for sincere autobiographies from writers. Fiction was inve nted precisely to give men the possibility of expressing themselves freely. But, you will say, must we believe in the truth, as we did and still do believe in l ies? Is it possible? Do we know what the truth will give us? But we must admit t hat the lie that we worship has not given us very much... Moreover, I will say in Consolation to those who are afraid to break with t radition, that the truth is not really so dangerous as is generally believed. Fo r even if brought into the open, it will not become common property; this is the primordial decree of fate. No one will see the truth who is not destined to see it, even though it appear naked at every street corner. Furthermore, as long as the world shall last, there will always be people who, either for the sake of p eace or from an unquiet conscience, will build up sublime lies for their neighbo urs. And these people have always been and will always be the masters of human t

pale reflections of the storms which had passed o r which were brewing. neither the author himself nor his sedulous biographer. an unfinish ed and incomplete story. like a rock above the waters. The brutal. the f lagrant contradictions on which his many enemies have maliciously insisted. a half formed thought. We must not. To know how to read is not enough. Aristotle had al ready suggested it when. "They certified that I was sane. have thought to explain his strugg les and his wild outbursts as the result of his fear of death. Hence the inequalities of his character and actions. A sketch. are alike missing. he was like every one else. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ I \ The Last Judgment << | >> 4 Many people. Tolstoy in his finished works obstinately insists that he is working for the cause of common sense. can often tell us more than a finished work. There were only passing attacks. in the effort to calm themselves and dissipate the uneasiness which seizes them on reading Tolstoy's works. She was killed by peasan ts. And then Tolstoy became a normal man once more. [1] The mistress of Arakcheev. did he allow hi mself to call what happened in his soul by its true name. he traced a definite line to mark the l imit beyond which human endeavour and inquiry must not go. in this short sketch. even during his last years. Wil d unreasoning terrors suddenly welled up. however. The introduction which was to prepare the way. as abruptly as they had arisen . Be this as it may. They think that s uch an explanation would free them once and for all from every difficulty and wo uld also re-establish in their old strength the solutions which he had rendered null and void. impetuous inconsequence reveals more to us than the even and reasonable consistency of his accusers. God knows how or whither. who were driven to desperation by her tyranny and cruelty." This confession gives us the key to what i s most important and significant in Tolstoy's hidden life. ove rthrowing and breaking the treasures which reason had amassed. It is for this reason that rough drafts.hought. with firm hand. sometimes he lived in his own particular world. but I know that I am mad. Tols toy was even more afraid of madness than of death. ex cept for certain strange ways. Alexander I's favourite.. and the conclusion which rounds it off. God knows whence they disappeared. are so val uable. Only once. This is why I have lingered so long over The Diary of a Madman. and no one has yet attempted to "justi fy" its stark savagery. and notes thrown hastily on paper. The ultimate mystery . they dissipated t hemselves and vanished. autobiographies contain no more of the truth than biogra phies. that his one object is to strengthe n. And his restless. a few words. sometimes in the world common to all. forget that Tolstoy was not always in this state of " madness". men's faith in common sense. He who wants to learn the truth must first learn the art of reading works of literature. yet at the same time he hated and despised his normal state with his whole soul. It is a difficult art. the man has not yet had time to adapt his visions to the deman ds of society. naked truth rises to its fu ll height. This proceeding is not new. but it is effective.

"if you were a stranger. and Nicolai Ivanovich was not your husband. the idea of death must not be allowed to take possession of the human soul.must not be approached. and hurl anathema at one another. This means. He did not fea r to say it. but at the same time prevented it from leaving the earth." proclaimed one truth. to loosen the bonds which bound him to this world common to all men. too numerous ". not so very long ago. he has no doubt about the matt . a s he said himself. not Aristotle. "What sort of Christianity is this? It is just malice. or is Tolstoy right. "Si quis mundum ad Dei gloriam co nditum esse negavarit. Tolstoy). because he knew that though this truth were to be cried aloud from the four corners of the market-place. the renega de. Tolstoy cannot and does not give up his own individual world for our sakes. his neighbou rs rise up against him as one man. one significance. interesting. conve rted by the new doctrine that the hero of the play. and can bring to us. and poisons the most innocent joys. I should find all this very original and charming and migh t even agree with him myself. To the uninitiated Tolstoy's work often seems criminal and sacrilegious. then we must allow that during the last decades of his life Tolst oy shows us an example of genuine philosophic activity. then I can no longer control myself from saying what I think . in Tolstoy's posthumous drama The Light shines in Darkness. anathema sit. yet those whom he calls hoi polloi and Nie tzsche calls "numerous. But his family has its own faith. no less deeply rooted. would never hear it. that truth which Tolstoy himself. downright folly. has proclaimed. and who suddenly hate one another so bitterly? Can there be such a judge? If we are to believe Tolstoy's own words. sha kes the foundations of society. the ultimate truth. to throw overboard all ballast that gave his vessel equilibri um. mundum ad Dei gloriam conditum ess e. Her son is on his trial." says the sister of Nicolai Ivanovich's wife to her. Nicolai Ivanovich (or rather . he who only yesterday was among the supporters of that law which he attacks today? Whom can one ask? Who can be judge between men whom the blood-tie unites indissolubly. She is right . "How cruel you are!" she says to her husband. he does not fear to reveal to all men that great and eternally hidden truth that philoso phy is nothing else but a preparation for death and a slow dying. he has refused to perform his military service." The words of the two women sum up all the indignation. But directly he tries to realize them. the leg itimate and natural anger which Tolstoy's aspirations and ideals awakened among his nearest and dearest. That world alone holds the first and only authentic trut h. for it the common worl d is the only real one. or for man? Are Tolstoy's relat ives right in remaining faithful to the old law. He brings to us. every one is ready to admit that Tolstoy's ideas are original. Nicolai Ivanovich's own wife expresses herself no less strongly. Two truths stand opposed to one another. In one of his most inspired dialogues. "If you were not my sister. to whose glory he raised a magnificent monument in War and Peace." Whoso affirms that the world was created to the glory of God. He tramples underfoot eve rything that men hold most dear. so long as he c onfines himself to argument." Almost every one talks like this. that he has ruined his life a bsolutely. Who so denies that t he world was created to the glory of God. If Plato is right. of course. but a simple acquaintance. But Plato taught otherwise. "What accursed Christianity is this?" cries Princess Cheremissov in all sin cerity. was ready to defend "with dagger and pistol ". All that he did had but one object. "Si quis dixerit. anathema sit. nothing but suffering. But when I see your husband indulging in such foll y. he outrages all that they hold most sacred. let him be anathema! Who shall arbitrate in this discussion between the representatives of two s o opposite truths? Does the world exist for God. full of every possible quality. let him be anathema! While the other r eplies no less imperiously.

it is obvious that after Tolstoy's conversion the family was dominated by a principle directly hostile to reason. but when we are told that God was revealed to Moses o n Mount Sinai. All his relative s were gathered against him. then. no one found the arguments which he advanced to def end and excuse himself in the least convincing. arbitrary. but what one's own thought an d reason teaches one to believe. we can all accept. Reason. each man has his own reason. but one must not believe what other people say. But how was it. For reason. The Priest. Reason can deceive. The members were unable to separate. it condemns them pitilessly as unreasonable. reason is the same in all men and remains itself ever the same. we shall see this for ourselves. But directly Tol stoy tried to live in his own way there was an end of friendship. If it is true that th e work of reason is to unite. Then how could reason sanction Tolstoy's new doctrine. What differences of opinion? That twice two is four. which is based upon the world common to us all. which w as born under the direct action of his unreasoning terrors. and they struggled against him a . Nicolai Ivanovich is here expressing an idea which seems to have dominated Tolst oy's mind even to the end of his life. they all felt. "twice two is four" and "there is no action without a cause are ind isputable truths. peace. so many contradictions? Nicolai Ivanovich. that up to the age of fifty Tolstoy failed to hear the imperious voice of his "reason"? And why did he feel such abject terror whe n he first felt that it was impossible to escape from this master? Why did he fi nd himself obliged to say: "They certified that I was only subject to attacks of madness. believe in God. that the y were always unreasonable. or that Mohammed wa s received up into heaven. or that Buddha flew away on a ray of the sun. in the true and eternal life. Nicolai Ivanovich. but I know that I am mad"? The attentive reader can hardly doubt that Tolstoy expressed the state of h is soul more successfully in The Diary of a Madman than in the dialogue which I have just quoted.. That is a frightful blasphemy. Tolstoy himself has told us that they sprang up without any cause. One must believe. in these and such-like matters each of us has his own opinion. believe. and lov e.er. And we do not believe in it. motiveless. On the contrary. that behind these arguments lay that madness of which Tolstoy speaks in The Diary of a Madman. and other truths of this sort. God has given us a sacred instrument with which to discover the truth. Nicolai Ivanovich (warmly). which are only impos tors having no claim to reality? And behold the consequences of this doctrine: The family had lived in peace and unity twenty-five years.. The Priest. and consequently unreal and visionary. which furnishes us with truths like "twice two is four" and "nothing happens without a cause" . even if they did not understand. there is no doing without fait h. It says the same to every one and demands the same of eve ry one. it is the only thing that can bring us together. that we must not do unto others what we would not have them do unto us. but their common life was like the exist ence of convicts who are bound together by a single chain. that everyth ing has a cause. because they all agree with our reason. But how can we believe when there are so many differences of opi nion. He insists with particular warmth on this in his discussion with the young p riest.this reason not only cannot justify and explain these new terrors and anxieties of Tolstoy's. Tolstoy says again.

Unreasoning terrors give rise to a courage Just as unreasoning. it would be a v ery fine thing. To act as it teaches is to die. a n evening party is being given. But even this consolation does not last for long. We see only too well how illusory were Tolstoy's hopes of union and "unification". The final scene of the tragedy reflects. neither his wife. only not to have to witness any longer the folly which his wife and children regard as the essence and ornament of existence. the hell into whic h a family once happy fell under the guidance of reason and the new "accursed" C hristianity. her only support. indeed. He would have gone. gallant Frenc h speeches. whatever effort he may make to persuade her. her only hope. This is in fact what Stepa. our death is life. "You and Nicolai Ivanovich have invented some strange brand of Christianity. He submits. Carried away by her despair. And while the younger members of the f amily are carelessly amusing themselves." In the eyes of Princess Cheremissov. "Yes. nor any one in the world would have made him change his mind. but still refuses to acknowledge that this submission signifies the final defeat of reason.. no less painful. as in a mirror. dancing. this new doctrine is an accursed and diaboli cal teaching. us eless existence which is t&rible. to unders tand this? Did Tolstoy himself understand it? << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ I \ The Last Judgment . it is a diabolical d octrine which makes every one suffer. Tolstoy describes. Nicolai Ivanov ich yields. an d one which cuts at the foundation of all the rights and prerogatives of reason. "and if you were to die for your neighbours. Sh e threatened to throw herself under a train if he left the house. With that courage and honesty which does not shrink from the most staggering contradictions. he promises to stay and contin ue his existence against his convictions. Upstairs. This is what Tolstoy says to those around him. What can he say to a moth er mad with grief. his children. whose son is going deliberately to his destruction? Whatever Nicolai Ivanovich may say. w ho have almost lost their human faces. Then his wife found a last argument . in a room on the ground floor the master of the house is preparing for flight. she refu ses to admit that it is right and just that her son. in the brilliantly lighted rooms of the first floor. flowers. It is not Christianity. she attack s Nicolai Ivanovich and his Christianity with such bitterness and such force tha t he no longer has the strength to defend his cause against her. immediately after the sc ene of the struggle between husband and wife. says. and fully convinced of the justice of her cause. by threats and even by force. another scene. All the words. But the father does not look upon this as a refutation." he answers. both for yourself and for others. in the eyes of the whole world. no matter whither. of the yo ung man who is in prison for refusing to perform his military service).. or else sent to a disciplinary company amongst soldiers deprived of all human rights. inept. The mother of Prince Cheremissov intervenes (the mother. Is it possible. quite blind to the hideous struggle whi ch is going on between their father and mother. of Nicolai Ivanovich's wife and childr en. all the arguments with which he is accustomed to confront his adversaries in his calmer moments now seem to him empty and meaningless. not to reason but to threats. Nicola i Ivanovich's son." Such is the paradoxical logic to which the human soul is brought at last. or the i ntroduction to life. there are music. and what the y do not understand and never will understand. To die is not terrible. should be shut up in a madhouse amongst savage.threat. Our life is death. howling creatures. by prayers and supplications.s best they could. that is. it is our stupid. Nicolai Ivanovich sees his last hope in the triumph of reason perish.

Is there any reality in that world of prayer and discipline which a man ent ers when he takes the vow? Prince Kassatkin did not know. his old age appeared t o him just as hideous as his youth. had become a saint. He set himse lf to his new duties with the sincerity and conscientiousness which were his dis tinguishing characteristics.<< | >> 5 Tolstoy has often been compared with Socrates. but he felt that there was no room for him in that other world outside the convent walls. the divine instrument" whose praise s he sang so solemnly. where can we find the truth? Father Sergius. pilgrims repaired to the monas tery from all parts. he knew not whither he was going. Tolstoy speaks of it to us in one of his posthumous stories. or at any rate from the S ocrates who figures in the pages of history. "He himself was som etimes astonished that he. perfect happiness seemed to have been attained. But even those who have not read Father Sergius may believe Tolstoy: the circumstances o f Prince Kassatkin's life were such as to make it quite impossible for him to go on living in the world. "Reason. Tolstoy. and would have attained it if a "mischance" had not ruined al l his hopes. but even the genuine glory of the sage is onl y to be desired that it may be renounced. Father Sergius. he now realized that it was not possible to trust in others either. he could not fail to believe in the mi racles which he himself performed. a monk and "staretz." had been called Prince Kassatkin in t he world. Collect ive suggestion is more powerful than auto-suggestion. But Tolstoy himself knew that he was a weak and sick old man. led him along no broad straight path. the old man. the celebrated teacher. And if nevertheless he continued to adv ance. but truth is not the sourc . but it was impossible to doubt it. This. But he saw himself and declared himself to be otherwis e. I will not stop to tell what happened to the young prince. preached urbi et orbi. He had been a brilliant officer in the Guards. realized with horror that he could not ans wer these questions. And it was not only the first half of his life (when he did not yet know the truth) which inspired him with such profound disgust. Not the illusory glory of the false hero. almost as t he ancients did Socrates. He had long known that one could have no confidence in ones elf. attracted by the fame of the holy monk. It is true that he was avid of glory. so his consciousness of hi s own impotence increased. But he had now convinced himself that "reason" had ceased to serve him. with his unique courage and frankness. from the little cripple boy to the old woman who recovered her sight in answer to his prayer. e ver deeper into impenetrable wilderness. The whole of Russia knew his name. taught. too. a worker of mir acles. Amongst Tolstoy's admirers a nd pupils there were many who thought him a perfectly sinless being. he had expe cted much of life. The world received the words of the old man of Yasnaia Poliana with dr ead and respect. like every other revelation. Victory. is a great and terrible truth. If our times had possessed a Delphic oracle. It was time to rest in the proud consciousness of the heavenly reward justly won after so m uch effort. but ever farther. After a certain length of time he acquired an immen se reputation. and that although he was still a dvancing. Prince Kassatkin. When young. He looked upon himself as a great sinner. It is this which distinguishes him from Socrates. a worker of mir acles. But he only sou ght it to have the right and the possibility of trampling it under foot. it was because all roads back were barred to him. it was a fact. Father Sergius. Was not this unanimity satisfying? Is not the voice of the people the voi ce of God? If all men are deceived. and as his fame spread. it would certainly have declared Tolstoy to be the wisest of men. Strange though it might be. the greatest sinner who had ever ex isted. every one proclaimed Stepan Kassatkin a great saint.

I cut myself loose f . Father Sergius underwent the same experience as Luther of old. for he refused not only superfluities but even what would in a monastery have been regarded as necessities. But herein lies Tolstoy's great and mysterious gift. If any one could have felt justifi able holy pride (the sancta superbia which is permitted to Catholic monks). But suddenly a terror overcame him. after entering the monastery to save his soul through holy works. where works justify existence. even the most useful. and is worthless in the eyes of God. there is no need to fit the events of Tolstoy's life into general ideas. Luther. it would appear to have b een Tolstoy.unbeli eving Europe knows me. consoling the unfortunate. His visitors weighed on him. and square. Activity. it ruins all possibility of comprehension. The re is at bottom no difference between the brilliant Guards officer who carries o ut conscientiously all his military and worldly duties and the holy sage whom cr owds of admirers flock to see from all quarters of the earth. they write about me in the newspapers. He said to himself: "People come from a great distance to seek me. do not s ave the soul. cobbled. Now all this is changed. You would be quite wrong if. you tried to explain away these words as extreme humility. where men act. and the more he felt this. in your haste to discover a sa tisfactory defence. But at the time that he wrote Father Sergius it may be remarked that he was doing an extraordinary amount." But can it be otherwise? Must not a saint be universal ly honoured? We know that the supreme task of reason is to collect all men toget her in a single holy place. We have left explanations far behin d. Europe . "When he preached to men. if a ny one had a right to enjoy the fruits of his actions. the more he was aware that the divine fire which burned in him grew pale a nd feeble. They both live in the world common to all men." he said later . for while it had form erly been painful to him to be roused out of his solitude.. Such were the thoughts which pursued Tolstoy.. the most disinterested action. and cutt ing his own wants down to the minimum. He felt at the bottom of his soul that the devil had changed the object of his actions. and consequently feel the attraction of the earth a nd dread of heaven. just as he had always done. comes from t he devil. could not help being concerned with the consequences of his actions. He knew that he was like a flaming torch. aro und some unique fact. with his i nfluence on men. too. the emperor knows me. there is really nothing to be explained here.e of its strength. he was obliged to admit that it was not the supreme truth but huma n prejudice which he quite involuntarily still obeyed in everything. "red. kept his own room. He was not only writing and preaching. now solitude was pain ful to him." "Is what I am doing for God or for men ?" This was the question whic h tortured him and to which he could not. Further more. when he blessed them."I took the vows an d condemned myself to the heavy pains of the monastic life. that he was working for man and not for God. or rather he dared not reply. suddenly felt with horror the conviction that in donning the monk's robes he had entered the devil's service. tearin g the soul to rags". H aste is altogether a mistake. to collect them in a single confession of faith. "When. but improving the condition of the peasants . Works. Father Sergius (or let us openly say Tolstoy) remembered his old life in the world. organizing famine relief on a great scale. He felt this. when those whom he had helpe d by his miracles expressed their gratitude to him. all his efforts have bee n in vain. And to his great horror. but fundamentally they d elighted him with their praises. white. even the holiest. He ploughed. exhausted him. where actions are ever ything. workin g for mankind. he could not help rejoicing. After a long and arduous pilgrimage he finds himself at the same plac e from which he started. Reason has deceived Father Sergius. when he prayed for the sick. that when he nears his goal he becomes convinced that he is not going whither he should have gone.just like Tolstoy . down there in that world common to all. when he counseled and guided. but destroy it. and compared it to his life in the monastery.

Deliver me from the stain of human glory which oppresses me. tibi voveo impietatem et blasphemia m per totam meam vitam" (Behold. And this Father Sergius w ho is honoured by Russia and all Europe.' Having spoken th ese words he remembered how often he had already prayed thus. Christian and heath en. Tolstoy is a magician and wor ker of miracles for others. Deus. no purity either. King of Heaven. years before.what then? Tolstoy was no longer capable of giving a satisfactory answer to this quest ion. and can be none. without thought of what he leaves behind or consideration of what awaits him at his journey's end. that is. It was impossible even to think. across infinite deserts. where the oases turn out to be mere cheating mirages. not a living feeling. for men usually th ink in order to act. In that soul. of pronouncing. and save our souls. flees from his cell. if even good wor ks are not pleasing in God's sight . But if one cannot save oneself through good works. Most Blessed One . of precise and clear order. I vow to Thee impiety and blasphemy all my life long). Everything in his soul was in confusion.. and how vain his w ords and prayers had been in this respect. his reason and his virtue. did he love Sofia Ivanovna. so fond of light. but not for himself. There is only one thing left for him. as he tells us himself. who had always hit herto lived in light and loved light before everything. or Father Se rapion? Had he had any impulse of love towards any of those people who had visit ed him that day. the recollection of his wife and his estate had been wholly powe rless to save Tolstoy from the terrors which attacked him. He continues to teach and to pr each to the end of his life. "He asked himself whether he loved any one. The forces on which he r eckoned. so self-confident. more peac eful regions. already sufficien tly baffled.. have betrayed him. or will suspect him of exa ggeration. But all that he taught to o thers was useless to himself. Spirit of Truth. he had crossed over the borderline into the country where human vision is no longer able to see the exact outlines of things. people will still learn from his b ooks. towards that learned young man with whom he had conversed in su ch an instructive fashion.rom God. As always. come down upon us." And this. but felt that nothing which men are accustomed to do in the light of day c ould be accomplished at all. Not a living thought. once so proud. but here there are no acts. Ther efore one must learn to think quite differently from how one used to think in th e ordinary world. just as . after ten years of a hermit's existence! How had this happened? Why had this punishment struck Tolstoy? I fear that the reader will not believe Tolstoy. but he himself felt no love. all was dead save despair. in his own words: "Ecce. begun all over again. Everything must be re-created. to take flig ht. Tolstoy tells us that before escaping the holy old man commits an a . Father Sergius "began to pray to God: 'Lord. A thick darkness lay round about him. It is even more probable that he will tire of following Tolstoy in hi s aimless wanderings. thinking only of displaying his intelligence and his capacity to keep abreast of modern thought? Their affection gave him pleasure. Why does he torment himself? Why should we torment ourselves with him? There is no need to suffer wi th him. no works. words acceptable to reason. he who is weary has every right to stay behind and seek other. individual or collecti ve. purify us of all stain. Consoler. There was no love in him. and sands gleaming under a torrid sky. h e had need of it. no humi lity. not only could no longer act. God. And as though to complete the bewilderment of the reader." Neither prayers nor good works are any help beyond a certain limit. to flee without a look backward. like a thief in the night. by the whole world. After his death." Or. and a legend will spring up round his actions. exchanging his monk's robe f or a simple peasant kaftan. but had not prevailed with God to deliver him from his miserable passion. in which he. They had accomplished miracles for ot hers. there r eigned now nothing but chaos and impenetrable darkness. Tolstoy's prayers and good works are valuable precisely for those who lag behind.

he forgot the sum. and the relation of the cogito to the sum. Do not the terrors of which he told us exist in Siberia? Are th e furies less pitiless there? Father Sergius is not the last of Tolstoy's works. He forgot the cogito. invariable. This is why he gives o nly three lines to this new life of Father Sergius. After leaving the monastery." It is clear and simple ." And the great truth perished. they simply serve instead of a question mark or a full stop. Why blacken hi mself thus? It was necessary . wh ich questions everything. and tends the sick. Living with the rich peasant there. Descartes. John of the Cross. this pure. St. Tolstoy paid his tribute to classicism. a nd he is living there to this day. but Professor Viskovatov has told us many much more disgusting things about D ostoevsky . Bernard of Clairvaux. . that he. in order to be sure of the ergo which has the power t o constrain men's minds. Such is the fundam ental contradiction of human nature. Obviously. he saw that the crime he had imagined would not burden his own so ul. ergo sum. That is the essence of all the new understanding. Theresa. really existed. teaches the childre n. without which all objective knowledge is impossible.for those who do not want to see that it is just a tribute paid to classicism. we want even our delirium to be subject to laws. and wandering far and long. and make the same demands of our revelations. whose father had bro ught her from a great distance in order that the monk might cure her. Father Sergius arrived in Siberia: "He went to live with a rich peasant. teaching the childre n. had begun to qu estion the existence of Descartes. A thing was suddenly revealed to Descartes of which he had been in ignoranc e. It was revealed to him. it gave nothing either to Descartes or to any one else. he immediately imprisoned his discovery within a logical formula: "Cogito. He works for the peasant. nothing but night. It may be that Tolstoy was not thinking of Dostoevsky when he wrote the end ing of Father Sergius. expert appraisers of truth and error. it was a revelati on which was in direct contradiction to all the principles of reason. Tolstoy could no more find peace than when he was fighting for his mysterious truths in the midst of his own family. he made a satisfactory ending. for have we not come into a region wh ere the possibilities are quite different from any to which we are accustomed he re? Father Sergius has a conclusion.undoubtedly necessary. Tolstoy hardly ever dared openly to refuse obedience to reason. tending the sick. and that Tolstoy has not yet traveled the whole of his painful way." But then he ought first of all to h ave questioned the legitimacy of the pretensions of syllogistical formulae.such logic does exist. although the manuals say nothing about it. And where reason is doubted. Tolstoy was incapable of i t. Direct ly Descartes began to make deductions he forgot what he had seen. Why invent that? Tolstoy himself was certainly not capable of such a crime. Or else they are only the convention al tribute to reason which insists that everything which has a beginning must ha ve an end. this "consciousnes s as such". or St. working in his garden. whic h claim to be the only. gives us nothing n ew. But all the intuition was in the sum. Perhaps this imaginary crime may even have eased him on the long road which some mysterious will forced him to travel. rational argumen ts cannot convince. It would have been more accurate to say sum cogitans. super-individual reason. he ne ver admitted that he lived in darkness and not in the light. Yet it was he himself who taught: "De omnibus dubitandum. and yet it was he who revealed to us things about the vox mystica which even the great saints had not seen. And night was for h im night. emptiness and void.bominable crime on an unfortunate feeble-minded young girl. like that of the sum to the cogito. St. but when his memory unfolded before him the long tale of his past days. When "the light of truth" appeared to Descartes. Reason.

that free will which despises advantage. . Of course. If it had been a question of deducti ons and conclusions he might have remembered the words of Tertullian and said: " Cogito. taksis. More than a mere defi ance.Antisthen es himself did not know. and which is also called rashne ss (tolma). It is only in man. And he knew only too well that this theory of knowledge (for these few words contain a whole theory of knowled ge) was a defiance of all traditional self-evident truths. definite break with the traditions of the common world. ev en after his discovery. possible to go on listening to Tolstoy after such confessions? These questions cannot be evaded . We re not the Stoics right? Not so much in saying p§Ós aphr§æn mainetai (all who do not sub mit themselves to reason are mad) as in saying that in all humanity there were o nly three or four wise men whom they did not think mad. but I know that I am mad. He therefore interpreted it in exactly the opposit e way: he did not break. will have to submit. and in any case did not know how to recognize the true wise men . for it destroys order. And even today. This was what Tolstoy really thou ght when he preached to men submission to reason. But he was aim ing at "strict science" and was afraid of leaving the common world in which alon e strict science is possible. Even animals have a soul. sum. a true revelation which triumphan tly dispersed all considerations of reason. I repeat. If there are any creatures who live in harmony with nature. they exaggera ted. and a rational soul. they are undoubtedly the animals. certum est quia impossibile" (I think. man has nothing left to say but what Tolstoy said in The Diary of a Madman: "They certified that I was sane. He did not know. for it is more perfectly subject to reason's laws. nomos) which man in his blindness holds for eternal. have worship ped since the beginning of time and throughout all their struggle for existence. What reason cannot conceive is not therefore always impossible. this was. in fact. that is certain. and all living creatures. he really did not know that he existed. law (ordo. I exist. certum est quia impossibile. but blessed the golden chains. or let us say rather the golden calf which the whole of humanity. In other words: reason. impious audacity. But Descartes's "discovery" shows us how little the understanding of "laws" can give to us. and very rarely in him. the wisest of men do not really know that they exist. be cause it is impossible). from some points of view more rational than that of human beings . There is something in life which is above reason. certainly did not know the truth that Descartes saw: tw o thousand years had yet to elapse before that became known.When "the light of truth was revealed" to Descartes (as he himself describe s his "cogito. sum. that "free will" is made ma nifest. For all that has life thinks only of advantage. as a gift from heaven. which has bound us with chains of gold. This break once made. where reason establishes a necessity the chain may nevertheless break. And what use could he have made of that knowledge? << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ I \ The Last Judgment << | >> 6 Cogito. And conversely. ergo sum"). That is how Descartes should have interpreted his discovery." A madman's theory of knowledge! Is this not an absurdity? Can a madman have any knowledge whatever? Can he create a theory? Is it. it was a complete.

God's curse weighed them down: In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat thy bread. But it is true. But those who were cast out of paradise found them selves faced with the dilemma: act or perish." We are bound to adopt the second part of Bergson's statement: thought is. whereas action is a necessity. either "originally" as Bergson has it. We ar e naturally pleased to set up necessity and various "existence minima for our ne ighbours as a moral principle and a limit. I do not.but e§í dz§Ün . to timi§ætaton .what is most important and significant. We in these days look upon Plato's anamnesis as unscientific. And only wh en unable to achieve the higher aim does he force himself to be content with nec essaries. as Plo tinus says. however. But the remembrance of Paradise Lost still lives in us. like all the Greeks. to think. a luxury and action a necessity. Thus we must not deny the anam nesis. and Bergson would have been nearer to the truth if. On the other han d. It seeks. 16]. And yet I do not think that our contempt of Plato is justified. and changing conditions of human existence. and prefer in this connection to talk of atavism. i n fact. is a fundamental necessity to man. Necessities are impo sed by the particular. and dwelling nearer to the gods) [Phil. But what of philosophy? Philosophy does not pursue practical and u seful ends. establis hes his theory of knowledge on the following principle: "Originally. a n essential of his existence. Plotinus thought the same. instead of "originall y". For this involves the further implied assumption that men are first of all concerne d with necessity and only think of luxury when they already possess all necessar ies. Aristotle is nearer the truth than Bergson. think it would he tr ue to conclude from this that men begin by acting and only think afterwards. kreittones h§Üm§æn kai enguter§æ the§æn oi s. We see that reason cannot know truth. it springs from the observ ation of modern daily life with its varying preoccupations. cogitare (in the sense given to the word by Descartes). It is in the mould of action that our intelligence has been cast. The ancients said that men should not only dz§Ün . which corresponds to the Greek physei . temporary. Another question presents itself now. Hoi men palaioi. and Bergson was so far right. But this is th e condition of sinful man. where abundance reigned. Even men born in hardship and privation are not reconciled with necessity except with gnashing of teeth. In paradise. and Aristotle's words.live worthily . because it has b etrayed its nature and its origin and degenerated to such a point that it can on ly give us more or less useful statements which should help us in our struggle f or existence. But that is a gratuitous supposition. one of the most remarkable philosophers of the present day. Speculation is a luxury. otherwise it would be impossible to s et a term to human appetite. bu t it is in the very nature of a living creature to aspire to luxury. the testimony of a man two thousa nd three hundred years nearer to Adam. since the Fall. whic h in more than one respect is very important and far-reaching. it was not necessary to act. proves that he still remembered what we h ave now almost forgotten. Young animals play.live . To know. palaioi kai makarioi ph ilosophoi (the ancient and blessed philosophers). reverenced the wisdom o f those who had lived before him. our thirst for knowledge is diverted and deformed. Plato himself.he had said "usual ly". He would thus probably have expressed more adequately his own thought. and wrote. Bergson. being wiser than ourselves. or as I rather believe.Aristotle begins his Metaphysics thus: Pantes anthropoi to§í eidenai oregontai physei (it is in the nature of all men to aspire to knowledge). in the midst of the incessant struggle fo r daily bread. but these are the commands which man imposes on nat ure and not nature on man. we think on ly in order to act. and only those whom experience has ripened struggl e for existence and are content with necessaries.by their nature . that in the conditions of human existence. or rather. he said (the ancients. Neither is it satisfied with "minima of existence".

who is there who could effect this regener ation? Reason itself? Bergson. infaillible d ans ses constatations imm§Ûdiates). Bergson makes every effort to rid himself of the power of general ideas. bu t "reason". Husserl: Roma locuta. into one of those general ideas which he h imself has so eloquently condemned. He might then have remembered the katharsis (purif ication) which philosophy has banned.for it is right. as generally assumed. that which is. I was profoundly moved.if this reflection had played the part in the dev elopment of his thought which is played by the idea of intuition. he would not p erhaps have affirmed. it is consci ousness in general". and transforms the consciousness of man. according to her custom. and had the opportunity to study Bergson's wor ks. But Intuition is the daughter of Reason. unique. or even Socrates' "daemon". whi ch is particular and complex. So it is. to receive it into the "common world". Bergson knew that too . Philosophy aspires to the truth. and the exercitia spiritualia. just as by the extreme rationalist. the same t hing that happened to Descartes has happened to Bergson. into a place of passage (lieu de passage) or temporary depository (d§Ûpositai re) of the §Ûlan vital (life force). In spite of every effort and precaution. Th e dynamic is just as mechanical as the static. like others of the leading modern philosophers (Husserl in Germany ). And. He would rather have spoken of the On e of Plotinus. that the absence of all reason is in certain c ases the best of all reasons . such pitiless force. R eason. are able to und erstand and to describe truthfully the inner life of man. speaks of intuition. It diss olves in smoke at the first attempt to draw an advantage from it. Intuition cannot in the long run reveal to us the inner life of man. free from the dominion of general ideas. Thus reason is once more reinstated in all the sovereign rights which had been solemnly denied to it. This is not the place to examine Bergson's philosophy in further detail. which cannot and will not give up its mission. in his aspirations: perh aps he would not have been afraid to take Plato's anamnesis under his protection . causa finita. the impotence of which (outside its own proper functions. I will only say . in contradiction to the whole spirit of his philosophy. to which he was so near. l imited as they are sub specie aeternitatis) Bergson himself has demonstrated wit h such noble courage. it must overcome at all costs the temptation of the apparently convinc ing evidence of reasonable proofs. those ancients were our superiors. they lived nearer to the gods. as thoug h by accident. full of the unforeseen. How get out of this predicament? Must we educate our reason again in the hope that it will return to that state which pre ceded the Fall. The light of truth shon e in his eyes. i. But then it is among t hem and their works alone that philosophy must seek to discover what is "given d irectly". Reason is declared infal lible. moreover. too. th at "our ego is infallible in its immediate cognitions" (notre moi. and of which legend has told us? But reason will not allow itsel f to be educated anew. Philosophy is pursued by a fatal destiny.e. on Bergson's own showing.he knows infinitely more than h e tells us . essentially not to be res olved. flesh of her fl esh.and it is for this reason that he repeats with so much insistence t hat only great artists. but he wanted to impart it to mankind. For after a ll. And in Creative Evolution Bergson demonstrat es by the use of arguments furnished by reason. the human self in general. that the idea of order is fundam ental and chaos is contradictory.that when I went abroad again after the war. and movement will no more discove r the springs of life for us than immobility. and immediately he was obl iged to forget all that he had seen. capricious and chaotic. And at the same time the only source of knowl edge. in his first book.. turns his attention t o "ourself". is reason. with Bergson. although t . it seems to me. viz. If the reflection which escapes him. continues to replace the truths which we are see king by pragmatically useful and therefore generally convincing self-evident jud gments. and we may be sure in advance that she has inherited all her mother s vices . and even necessary to say it here . He himself falls into the magic circle which he m akes such strenuous efforts to avoid. for "our" ego is something general. Truth is not for common possession.

"It was impossible even to deceive himself. obligatory. still take a certain part in social life. Such was Plotinus. was unlawfully. In the judgment of reason is it not. idle curiosity to sp y on what is happening in a soul in its agony? But Tolstoy took no account of the pronouncements of reason. A man dies. for to them all. his kin smen. absolutely alone. still stru ggle. and so important that nothing of equal importance had ever happened before. on the edge of the abyss. even criminally disturbing the order of existence admitted by them all. Bergson would have had to keep in mind the truth revealed to him. For this solitary man. they thought that everything was as it had been before. They are both slowly dying. Only he can know and think. abandoned to his own devices. just as N icolai Ivanovich's people did not believe him when he tried to tell them what he knew. and therefore ceasing to exist for the inhabit ants of the common world. It would seem that in these circumstances there is not hing to be said about them. Tolstoy cunningly cuts them off from all society. They could neither go to the theatre nor arrange about the daughte r's marriage. there is nothing t o be done but bury him. But I repeat. in Bergs on's infallible general ego.hey could neither fly through the air nor talk to each other across hundreds of miles of space. which is invisible to a reason busied over earthly affairs and subservient to the exigencies of social existence. and even to express that revelation which hides behind the accide ntal. all action. No o ne believed or wanted to believe that something so new and so important was happ ening to Ivan Ilych and that nothing like it had ever happened before. the last great philosopher of antiquity. has suddenly discove red the truth which by its very nature cannot be necessary. who. was now taking place in Ivan Ilych. and. left alone. without asking the permission of the authorities. who has nothing to do. and would not understand. all the sour ces from which we can generally draw strength to live. He knew how to make for his objective when he wanted to. his wife and his children. But Ivan Ilych (in The Death of Ivan Ilych) and Bre khunov (in Master and Man) have neither the power nor the need to do anything at all. They still preach. The characters of the posthumous works of Tolstoy which we have just been s tudying. If Tolstoy had really been that faithful vassal of r eason which he prided himself on being. They could "do" nothing. thanks to a combinat ion of circumstances essentially fortuitous. to treasure. becomes the principal object of his search. "chance". or unive rsal. Every one was deeply and sincerely convinced that Ivan Ilych. novel. to be able to do this. Those around him did not under stand. w ithout a creature who could understand or have pity on him. he became a grievous and repugnant burden. He resolves to perceive . On the other hand. And he alone knew it. he would not even have thought of writin g a story on so unreasonable" a subject as death. i t was also impossible to stop the course of normal existence for the sole reason . by his capr ices. When needful he was not even afraid to pass judgment on reason itse lf. they therefore act and retain a certain hope in Descartes's ergo. Such also was T olstoy. has been cast out from the world co mmon to all. He had to live like this. Both Ivan Ilych and Brekhunov are outside reason: they die in absolute soli tude. Something terrible." It is not enough to say that no one wanted to understand him and pity him. so despised and rejected by science and b y "our ego". has fundamentally perverted our capacity to know by accustoming us to think in accordance with the exigencies of our earthly existen ce. the logic of beings who eat their bread i n the sweat of their brows. to put it mildly. our logic. nor buy her clothes.

" The co nventions. agitates and e xcites him more than ever. It is his most deep-rooted conviction that only that is true which is universally admitted. instead of calming Ivan Ilych. think of little amusements for him. they demand that Ivan Ilych himself should not attach such importanc e to it. Is that. He sees clearly that . But all this. to offend even against the conventions. and that for its sake they should abandon a nd forget everything else. happens quite often. rather out of place. for there cannot be two truths. The neighbours and friends of Ivan Ilych reasoned like Epictetus. He persists in believing that if he is in the right. He wants every one . He wants them to recognize that this new and extraordinary thing which is happening to him is th e most important thing in the world. Every one demands t hat Ivan Ilych should first submit himself and accept the inevitable. That is how Tolstoy designates everything that we are accustomed to c all social and cosmic order. extraordinary sensation. They try to make the sick man as comfortable as possible. Norma l man can only live if he walks in step with other men. this "right" obl iges every one to support him. When we l earn of the death of someone who is a stranger and far away from us. in the name of reason. and motive lessly insults his wife. To be in the right and not have this recognized. It is this especially which provokes him to such transports of ra ge against every one round him.that. who is being torn against his will from the common world. But it is not enough for the relatives and friends of Ivan Ilych to refuse to admit the peculiar importa nce of what is happening to him. the existing order cannot and should not be upset on his behalf. and himself and others regarde d this tact as a special gift. to which Aristo tle opposed the individual worlds of those who slept and dreamed. absolutely every one. It was with stupefaction. Tolstoy tells us Ivan Ilych's past life in detail. nor even understand what is happening to him. one for every one and the other for Iva n Ilych alone. indeed. something ext raordinary was happening to him. his children. The relatives do all that they can to maintain the usual and decen t order. He grossly. the world common to all waking men. being in the right a t all? But the relatives and friends cannot follow Ivan Ilych. and that it was judged by the st andard of the same conventions which he himself had served all his life. need surprise no one. He sees in it the expression of the unshakable convic tion that the existing order. now appeared to him not as a blessing but as a curse. "He saw th at the terrible and hideous act of dying was regarded by those around him as an accidental unpleasantness. in everybody else' s opinion. his enthusiasm in submitting himself and others to a definite and unchanging order. brutally. Not only has he never da red revolt against the laws of nature. give him his medicine at regular hours. the depository of necess ary truths. Dear though Ivan Ilych may be to us. when it was something which. He had a special inst inct for finding out the well-trodden high roads. cannot and will not take any account of this new. his future son-in-law. as incarnate in his relatives. and join with him in a revolt against the existing wo rld order. They have neither the strength nor the inspiration ne cessary for that. for which he was esteemed and loved. Lonely. even with horror that he now looked back upon his past. to see things from the same point of view as himself. Ivan Ilych demands the impossible of them. supported by any one. is of no use to him. This is an obvious truth which no sane m an will deny. we remain c alm and say that what has happened was in accordance with the incontrovertible d ecrees of nature. The dying man is also a dreamer. and is sustained by cosm ic and social order. from Ivan Ilych's own private and particular point of view. self-willed men provoke the indignation of their fe llows and are regarded as criminals against God and society. that which every man can be obliged to recognize. and should not provoke any special anxiety or question. His aptitu de. any more than Ivan Ilych himself had before he fell ill. they call the most expensive doctors. and the doctors wh o are attending him. he was even afraid to trouble the establi shed order of man. and finally creates a nightmare atmosphere which completely shuts him off from the outer world.

he fe els that right and the might which protect right are not on his side but on the other. and which he had always so faithfully served. But suddenly the pain in his side seized hi m again. everything which used to drive away and dissipate the thought of death was now powerless to do so. strange to say. They were alone between four walls and he could do nothing wi . grasping with his wasted hands the arms of his oak chair. He asked himself then: 'Is d eath. that he is dreaming. If it had been possible. had now t urned against Ivan Ilych and did not seem in any way ashamed of this base treaso n. an d he stiffened in anguish and his eyes were dimmed. From habit. For all except himself. driving away all his doubts. "He tried to re-establish the old train of his thoughts which the idea of de ath had shattered." Prayers and entreaties make no difference. which had always rescued him from the most difficult situat ions. deprived of all protection of the law. that he is going to wake up and find himself again in the old intelligible reality. Moreover at this very moment . Now everything i s banded together against him with the same implacable rigour that he used forme rly to admire. quite regardless of the suit which was proceeding. All efforts to return to the land of his fathers. extolled as the only source of wisdom and justice. Ivan Ilych still refuses to believe that what has happened to him is final. Ivan Ilych now spent the greater part of his time in efforts to reawaken the feelings which had hidde n death from him for so many years. and he felt the sink ing again. and suffer horribly without being able to do a nything. but simply in order that he might contempla te IT. then raising his eyes and straightening himself in his chair. then." And Tolstoy repeats further on: "He went into his study. not so long ago. casting. and that he will have to render up his "a ccidental" self and ensure the triumph of eternal. IT rose up. and were all the other sweet. planted itself before him and stared him in the face. but IT went on. look IT right in the eyes. the only truth?'" Was death really the only truth. he fingered the documents. a pensive and absent glance over the crowd. reason which "thinks in order to act". and now it is otherwise. it is "evident" that death is only an accident. from long habit. he spoke a few words. "And the worst of it was that IT drew his attention. as a hypnotized bird casts itself into the ser pent's jaws? Reason. Ivan Ilych is excluded from the "common world" which he loved so much. the rights of every reasonable being. Bu t it can find nothing. he would most gladly have continued to sit in th e law courts. he sat down. he now sees himself reduced to the level of an "accident". calming truths go od for nothing but to be destroyed or thrown out on the rubbish heap? Then on wh at could he lean? What could he do. are alike unavailing. that his account is closed.he continues to believe within himself that it is not he but they who a re right. And now he is cut off f rom all this. did not even think any explanation necessary by way of justification. and in which he had placed his whole trust. gathers together all its forces. impersonal order and that rea son which he himself. This same eternal order which had never ceased to sup port him fro m the time of his birth. Sometimes he said: 'I am going to think abou t the business of the law courts. Ivan Ilych went on with his work. He began to talk with his colleagu es. to get back to the familiar hearth.his newly perceived truth awakens no sympathy in any one and will never be reco gnized by any one. Where he had felt him self to be a man in possession of his rights. not in order that he might do something. leant over to a colleague and exchanged a whisper w ith him. used it not to fill my whole existence?' He we nt to the court. This is precisely why he so passionately hates his surroundings. and the business began. to play whist. talk politics and so forth.and this is what makes the horror of his sit uation . what could he undertake? Must he give up all human rights. too . trying to divert his thoughts. lay down and was alone with IT. and humbly and submissively cast himself into the black pit. "It was thus. But. It s eems to him that it cannot be so.

'It was as though I were descending a mountain step by step. which not o nly he but all the greatest representatives of human thought look upon as the on ly reality. F . His marriage which had been so une xpectedly concluded. only the history of a modest civil servant. which could not have been more complete in the depths of the sea or in the bowels of the earth than in this great town. So a year had gone by. so it had become dry and withered. but Tolstoy c ondemned him to the same suffering which Ivan Ilych had to endure before he died . He knew the same solitude which could not have been more absolute even at the bottom of the sea. fantastic improbability which had revealed itself to Ivan Ilyc h. in which these realiti es are adored. the waking from th e dreaming state. the sensuality. Tolstoy was not at all addicted to the worship of great men. so gentle. appeared to him false and unreal. then his disappointment. And it is true that according to public opin ion I was climbing just in exactly the same proportion in which I was losing all my living strength. which overwhelms him with reproaches and accusations. an ascetic saint. Not only men. the hypocrisy. It had come one knew not how or whence. in the hope of finding some suppo rt there. the same terrors. The Death of Ivan Ilych is. commonplace sort of man. the truths of the "common world".and st ill he was the same. two years. so agreeable. even as the "common world" itself. appearing mean and even vile. and in the impossibility of "doing" anything at all. the bad smell of his wife's breath .all these truths are only diabolical witchcraft. but of the world in general. "From the beginning of that existence which had for its last result the actu al Ivan Ilych. The two men. his dreary life in the courts. He tries to recall the past. no one can even listen to his complaints." This is how a man thinks who can "do" nothing. mysterious reality straight in the eyes. his preoccupatio n with money. ten years. the same impossible situation without issue . the past refuses to come to his hel p.. But he no longer has any criterion by which he can distinguish reality from illusion." << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ I \ The Last Judgment << | >> 7 There was nothing to be done! Only to look this strange.th IT. And as his existence flowed past. all the joys which he had known now dissolved and melted away bef ore his eyes. But it is not a question of the commonplace quality of Ivan Ilych. but his faith and the principles which he had formed in the cou rse of his long life. but this past seems to be in league with his innumerable invisible ene mies who want to deprive him of all support. the laws of good and evil. and some might think that his thoughts are so painful and unhappy just because he was an ordinary. when I im agined myself to be climbing up it. in the midst of his f riends and family. absurd. it is true. And now it is all finished . only look at it and shudder. And not only can no one help Ivan Ilych.. twenty years . It is in this absolute solitude. Father Sergius is a colossal figure. that lay the new.die. of reality and illusion . Once so peaceful. it has now taken on the aspect of a terrible monster. the same inability to "do" anything at all for his own salvation.

smiling as though some one could have seen that smile and been deceived by it. for this new Last Judgment abolished all dis tinctions between good and evil. And. he found himself saying that all this had occurred because he had not lived as he should. The court! The court! Ivan Ilych had himself been a judge all his life. which had resuscitated the forgotten teaching of the old apostle. and we have every reason to believe that He is pitiless and inexorable in His decisions. gentlemen!" The court. It knows no rule. Tolstoy himself would not have been able to rec ognize by day all that had been revealed to him in the darkness. and turning to the wall he beg an to ask himself again what he had done! Why this horror? But for all his effor ts he could find no answer. "No. he cries bitterly. but by works. and Ivan Ilych the commonplace little offi cial. It appears.. If you could only understand why this is so! But even that is impossible. Life could not be so purposeless and vile. he is not al one. It might be explicable if I had not lived as I ought. His conscience as an old judge revolted against such a suggestion. the distinctions which are so apparent in the light of day beco me quite unnoticeable. "I t is impossible to fight against death. I do not mean to say that Ivan Ilych's life had realized the maximum of human aspirations. Then what does he want now? To live? But t o live how? To live as you used to when the ushers called out in court: "The cou rt. the thoughts of a man who only looks at IT but can "do" nothing.ather Sergius who has "done" so much. But I am not guilty. This is the verdict. fantastic justice has nothing in common with earthly justic e.. when I h ave lived quite correctly? And he immediately repudiates this only possible solu tion to the riddle of life and death. If a clever doctor ha d been able to cure him. And his thoughts. but according to the Last Judgment.. Not only Ivan Ilych. he immediatel y remembered the perfect regularity of his existence and put the terrible though t far from him. In the face of this new reality. remember ing how law-abiding his life had always been. are quite different . in this world works are esteemed. and to reward each according to his de serts. And when. he repeats. he suddenly says to himself. no law." said he to himself. not by faith. "Why all these sufferings?" And the v . why?" Ivan Ilych is right to invoke the regularity of his existence. What is it? Why? This cannot be. Why then? He stopped weeping. in the "wo rld common to all" men cannot live by faith. how regular and respectable. And more. But this new. Paul and the doctrine of salvation by faith? We know h ow angry he was with Nietzsche for his formula "beyond good and evil". But Ivan Ilyc h will never return again into the "world common to all". He knew that the object of justice was to separate the just from the unjust according to principles established once and for all. This was more than Ivan Ilych could endure.. he would have gone back to the court to defend once aga in the law and order which he had always served. in fact. I could not admit that. "There is no explanation. as revealed to Tolstoy (whether this was anamnesis or atavism I leave to the modern theories of knowledge to decide). suffering. And if it really had been so absurd and miserable. but really it is impossible to admit that. he is supported by the whole of the common existence to which he used to be long and which is maintained by this order and regularity. but all men are guilty. that we know noth ing of what can move Him to pity. our most admirable works c an have no effect on the Invisible Judge. an d especially those who obeyed the laws and made a virtue of this voluntary submi ssion. and in the thick darkness in which Tolstoy eng ulfs his heroes. a nd necessary." he declared. But how can that be. all are guilty. why die now. indeed. perhaps I have not lived as I ought to have lived. deat h. as often happened. are equally impotent when they arrive at the borders of earthly existence. Did he not decl are his antagonism to St. for it there is no innocent man. in it men are justified. and die with all this suffering? Something is wrong here. Perhaps.

he tossed to and fro and tore his clothes. Although he sees that return has b een forbidden to him. drab. any more than Father Sergius's virtuou s and ascetic life can save him before the supreme tribunal. and he saw clearly that i t was not at all what he wanted. Ivan Ilych has given up a great deal. that he had not lived as he should. which was bad indeed. death cuts all these threads which unite us to our fellows. in which all legality. are what Ivan Ilych must now give up. but the wi se men of the world). When he was studyin g he had been happy too. and suddenly he understoo d the weakness of what he was defending. confirmed the hideous truth which he had seen in the night. may s lip through the needle's eye. When next morning he saw his servant again. all that might ha ve been false. the legality and regul arity admired of the common world. 'If it is like this. It c ame to him that the timid efforts to fight against what the highest of men had l ooked upon as good (meaning by this not only his immediate superiors. These essentially "ideal" conceptions . then his wife. He persisted in admitt . what then?' He stretched himself on his back and began to go over his life again from a new point of view. how unlike it is. His past existence still attracts him. but in that happy creative chance which common reason so s cornfully rejects. if he could only recall these it might still be possible to live. although he is now con vinced that his past life has been a continual lie. he had known joy. They w ill be condemned for their autonomy because. friendship and hope. all regularity . a solitude which could not have been more complete in the bowels of the earth or in the depths of the sea. like all the conventions. which hid the real truth. "It came into Ivan Ilych's mind that what he had hitherto looked upon as qu ite impossible might after all be true. to any idea of good! But just f or this reason. all reality. This vision augmented his physical sufferings tenfold. We must give up all legality. His occupations. His honest. the beginning of the regeneration of the human soul. but not yet all. all the supreme social and moral ideals. hardly perceptible efforts. But how unlike the good which Tolstoy has discovered is the good of the seekers aft er eternal salvation. his family and his interests. At the Last Judgment legality an d regularity. from sheer caprice. which he himself had . They will both have to give up their merits and put all their trust. abandon them without question. it is their virtues which make the situation of them both even more painful.' And there was nothing else. though created by man. in fact. In his youth he had known one or two really happy moments. Then there were the early days of his apprenticeship with the governor. will be condemned as mortal sins. really the end. He groane d. they a re left for moth and rust to corrupt. the love of a woman. ye t he is still afraid to give it up: the unknown future seems even more terrible than the past. they have ha d the impertinence to pretend to eternity. it was these efforts which had been real while all the rest had been false." The description of the Last Judgment does not end even here." If the severe accuser shows any signs of mercy. In them he discovered himself. through which these camels. it may escape the judgment. that have become the basis of our earthly existence. The fir st condition. cannot pass. There was nothing to defend. On the contrary.oice replied: 'For no reason at all. He tried to defend all that to himself. is solitude. It seemed to him that they were st ifling him. mediocre civil-serv ant's existence will not save Ivan Ilych. his daughter and next the doctor. of the ir words. it was a monstrous lie which hid both life and death from him.as ofte n as not repressed. but familiar to him. every one of their gestures. and if there is no help for t his. because it is not like "good". he always does so quite suddenly.' he said to himself. not in their pas t or future activity. 'and if I leave living men with the consciousnes s of losing everything which has been given to me. all the ideal sub stratum of everyday life will wither away. But there are some things in Ivan Ilych's existence which can endure the te st of eternity. that it is the end. He has not given up the most important thing. he saw what had made up his life. without any motive at all.

pr oud of his intelligence and of the fortune which he has won. his own energy. in Master and Man (the catastrophe is even less prepared than in The Death of Ivan Ilych). Th ese two stories are. of the corporation of merchants. to his own talents. Solitude. Even as our passage fr om non-existence into being is accomplished without our participation and suppos es the imperious. one single problem pursued and obsessed him. so intimately conn ected with one another that they seem to be only variations on a single theme. It was not Ivan Ilych's merit. He owes nothing to any one but himself. was accomplished thanks to the a ction of an unknown force. in h is side. S ince Tolstoy had been forced out of the common way by the terrors which he had d escribed to us in The Diary of a Madman. chaos. in spite of their surface dissimilarity. Vassili Andreivich Brekhu nov is a "self . But he does not know Lat in and expresses the same ideas in Russian with no less emphasis.ing. his breath was arrested. complete obscurity. though with limitations. convinced that he possesses a great many excelle nt things. it is an i nconceivable and therefore so frightful a fortuitous rupture of the established order of our existence. perhaps even violent. o nce so comfortable. this bold leap whi ch Ivan Ilych had not dared to take by himself. an d chiefly tormented him. and all the rest are not for a miserable m oujik like the workman Nikita. Then suddenly. The man worthy of the name is the one who has the means to make himself beloved of God by his own efforts. a man in the ordinary circumstances of existence. If he had had a theological education he would have said: Facienti quod in se est Deus infallibiliter dat gratiam. fat wax candles. He would probably repeat with others: "Trust in God. Tolstoy begins by describing to us. for everything that he possesses. but look out for yourself. so agreeable. can do anything. "Suddenly he felt as it were a shock in his chest. misfortune and incapacity are synonyms in his eyes. he was plunged into a black abyss. circumstances which are well known and universally admitted. Vassili Andreivich." b ut in his mouth these words would mean: "God's duty is to help those who do not sit with folded arms. that his life had been good. can man accept all these? Can he still ho pe and go forward when he has seen with his own eyes what Ivan Ilych suffered? << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ I \ The Last Judgment << | >> 8 Eight years after The Death of Ivan Ilych. who earns with difficulty a few kopeks to supply his immediate needs. But he. and he would protest ag ainst those who affirm that Deum necessitare non posse. By his own ene . and complete ignorance. He genuinely despises those who have not succeeded in carving out the ir own path through life. a rich villager. and he is. and now so intolerable. he tran sports his characters to that solitude which could not have been more complete i n the bowels of the earth or in the depths of the sea. so too the passage from life to death cannot be accomplished naturally. and there s omething lit up before him. intervention of some mysterious fiat. moreover." This last leap into the unknown. the impossibility o f foretelling. it was n ot his clear-sighted reason which had torn him out of the world common to all. If Plato is right in saying philosophers "concern them selves with nothing but dying and death" (ouden allo epit§Üdeuousin §Ü apothn§Üskein kai tet hnanai) then we must admit that few of our contemporaries have so wholly devoted themselves to philosophy as Tolstoy. Masses. one single thought. in the se two stories. And it was this justi fication of his existence which stopped him and prevented him from advancing. nor his will. Tolstoy wrote Master and Man.made man".

indeed of his election. I want your good as well as my own. the eighth of a me asure of brandy.' he cried in the speci al tone which he used in order to talk over and deceive buyers or sellers. He would not see the colour of his money again for many a long day. which he loved of all things. support him in the opinion th at. has come to Vassili Andreivich and has obtained from him white flour. beginning with Nikita himself. Who knows to what he might n ot have persuaded the masses which he could then have addressed? The secret of t alent lies in the ability to work upon men. Pe rhaps Brekhunov is right when he prepares to abandon his faithful servant and sa ys: "It doesn't matter to him whether he dies or not. the hero of his story was no ordinary character. if he had had the necessary education. so persuasive were his arguments and so wholeheartedly did all those w ho depended on him. I would rather lose on the bargain myself. as we have seen from these extracts." Tolstoy insistently underlines this gift which Vassili Andreivich possessed of b eing able to convince himself and others of his rectitude. Crowds need lead ers. But I. which was now only use d to confuse his fellow merchants in their ideas. To it Vassili Andreivich owed the comfort of his position. the servant Nikita's wife. "'A re we agreed on our bargain?' Vassili Andreivich had said to Nikita: 'if you wan t anything you shall have it from me. I am not like others. would certainly have been used for other purposes. He even cheats with conviction. facing him with the absolute solitud e which we have already met in Ivan Ilych.' said Nikita. No. 'Give me fifteen roubles or so instead. A few pages later on Tolstoy quotes another example of his talents. three roubles' worth altogether. success. But Nikita's agony in the snow is of no interest either to Tolstoy or to us. he was loading them with benefits.' As he spo ke thus Vassili Andreivich was quite sincerely convinced that he was Nikita's be nefactor. feeling agreeably excited and joyfully seizing the opportunity to drive a ba rgain." Brekhunov. he had a powerful will and a clear intelligence. thanks be to God. make out bills and then pay fines into the barga in. "'Well. besides five roubles in money. The consciousness of his righteousness. Being a mer chant. She has thanked him for all this as though he had done her a special favour. Word of honour! Bre khunov deceives no one. far from exploiting other people. al though at the lowest computation he owed Nikita twenty roubles for his work. I am a man of honour. I still have something to live .' cried Brekhun ov. He is trying to sell Nikita a worthless horse. but leaders also need crowds. and that it would be reckoned against him at twenty-five. to deceive buyers and sellers. it will buy one at the horse fair.rgy and intelligence he has assured his welfare here below and his eternal salva tion above. Such i s the personality which Tolstoy will now tear out of his natural setting and put abruptly into the midst of new conditions. But if fate had seen fit to put him in a more exalted po sition. Conversely. 'It is a good horse. It was a precious gif t. What was his life like? He won't regret his life. general approba tion. Tolstoy knew this. and you shall pay me in labour. Two days before the festival which marks the opening of the story. is the atmosphere which talent needs for its development. I won't charge you much for him. bargaining. Nikita goes out with Brekhunov and together they are caught in a snowstorm. sugar. never leave s him. Marfa. was no ordinary man. You serve me and I will not desert you. his voice. he could only make use of his great powers over himself and others for a modest end. I am not l ike others where you must wait. I give you my word that the horse is a good one. who knew quite well that the bony beast which Vassili Andreivich wa s trying to pass off on him was worth seven roubles at the outside. tea. take the bony horse. in his own way he was a genius.

wi ll betray him now. Tolstoy w anted to confront life with death. Around him w as the boundless plain. at least. and from past experience is confident he never will. makes no particular individual impression which can be seized and retained in the mind of the observer. the source of all "good" on earth.' He thought of all that with pri de. But this time it held not hing of the sort. I work. The question excluded all possibility of an answer." This was the begin ning of a whole series of events of which Brekhunov had no suspicion in spite of his long life. in his thin clothes. a mill. a farm. and had always been ready to fight any adversary. "What did we possess in my father's time? Nothing much. "What to do? What to do ?" This is the regular question which every man asks when he finds himself in a difficult situa tion. even one stronger than him self.for!" Nikita prepares to die as he has lived. I am not like others who are always sleeping or else running their heads into some foolishness or other. He had been in many difficult places in his lifeti me. act ive principles. two farm properties. and wind. as yet he does not feel the cold. his powerful intelligence. with that calm submiss ion which. Tolstoy himself cannot guess at what happens in Nikita's mind when life ceases and death begins in it under the snow which covers him. Who is now famous throughout t he whole district? Brekhunov! And why? Because I never lose sight of business. where an unexpected reali ty suddenly supervenes and affords the critique of this treatise which Brekhunov might have written. peacefully. there was nothing to be done. But here we come to the second part of the story. drowses under the falling snow and tries to protect his shivering body against the raging of t he bitter wind. Brekhunov is warmly clad. It presents itself to Brekhunov. boundless. And I repeat: if Brekhunov ha d received a superior education. two inns. he suddenly awoke and his heart began to beat so violently and quickly that it s eemed as though the whole sledge were trembling beneath him. or whether it was the effect of some internal uneasiness. Whether it was that the horse had tugged at a few straws from behind his head. Brekhunov was no coward. "But he suddenly f elt a shock and awoke. losing itself in the grey uniformity of the surrounding world and obe ying eternal laws. But his present situation was such that it would have been impossible to i . In the middle of this reasoning Brekhunov began to doze. but a rich life. not only in his own district but throughout all Russia and Europe. he would have been capable of writing an excell ent philosophical or theological treatise.'" Brekhunov continues for a long time to sing the praises of these reasonable. a h ouse and its outbuildings all under iron roofs. it had a t least always shown him the possibility of an answer. which gave him the proud right to look upon the future with the s ame confidence as the present. and his rich experience. 'It is quite different from my father's time. Brekhunov will not admit that his reason and his talents. which have already got him out of so many difficult situations. he was no more than a rich peasant. cold. This is what he is thinking of while Nikita. what have I collected in fi fteen years? A shop. already numbed by the cold. and snow. barns for grain. which would have made him famous. Perhaps this is why Nikita lives and Brekhunov dies. that in a few hours his stiffened hands will let fall the pot estas clavium. An inn. N ikita. and the shivering horse. that was all. And I. but this time it seems completely absurd. confident in itself and its sacred rights and without even a suspicion that an implacable enemy infinitely stronger than itself is watching it at every turn. Hitherto. full to the brim. Even when it turns out that master and man have lost their way and that they will have to pa ss the night buried under the snow. He felt unreasonable but insistent and overmastering terror. the question had always held the elements of its own answer. to him.

everythi ng indefinite and indeterminate was intolerable to him. Brekhunov tries. There was still some po ssible answer. nor diminished in any way that of his inv isible adversary. Where is truth .this was the worst part of it . De omnibus dubitandum is useless." All his existence. But for Brekhunov it was quite another matter. and he continued not to understand. the situation would not have been changed in any way. and he knew what he wanted. Try as he might to think of nothin g but his accounts. If the great king himself had been in Brekhunov' s place. And in any case. or here on this plain? Grichkino ha d ceased to exist for ever." Reason was still alive within him. and reason which had always taught him what to do would guide him again. must one then doubt the reality of its existence? An d with it the reality of the existence of all the old world? Doubt everything? D e omnibus dubitandum? But did great Descartes really doubt everything? No. And now the re was nothing to be done but to look on and feel oneself freeze. but he was equally ready to do either. or to explain what was happening. But this was just what Tolstoy want ed. befor e believing one must ask cui est credendum . in the snowstorm. worse than the fact that Nikita is freezing and that the bay is shivering i n the icy wind. When they had stopped at Grichkino. an hour earlier. fe ar little by little took possession of his whole soul. "He began once more to reckon up his profits. like King Solomon in Ecclesiastes. mounts the horse a nd goes off in search of the road. although a lying terror was whispering to him that he must yield. in this forsaken solitude. gathering together all his strength for the last time. this cold and dreary deser t. the shivering horse. his glory and his wealth. Brekhunov decides to abandon Nikita and take his chance. One cannot believe any one or anything. He began to boast to himself again. . to list en to other people. so easy to understand." It will seem strange that Brekhunov. He had never und erstood anything. everything had seemed so comfortable. firml y declared: "I will never believe in this silence. to take refuge in dreams. the sums which were due to him. that he must not ask any one to render him an account. utterly devoid alike of glory and wealth. his revenues. drink tea. "He did no t know whether he was dying or whether he was falling asleep. where is reality? Over there at Grichkino. for the first time in h is life.whom shall we believe? You must not be surprised that Brekhunov takes to talking Latin and quoting St. except oneself. Can one hav e confidence in it? Why should it have mercy on us? It will certainly condemn us . f or it was certainly no more surprising than everything else which was happening to him. Hume was right: the man who has once doubted all things will never overcome his doubt s. his transactions. it is worse than storm and s now. One was able to talk. there was not much differe nce. drive the bay. Riches and glory added nothing to Brekhunov's strength. He was accustomed to being h is own master. For the lowly and humble Nikita it was much easier. so natural. Always so strong. Against what could he direct his blows? Agai nst whom could he defend himself? Brekhunov's reason could not admit that such a thing was possible. And Brekhunov.magine anything more terrible. give orders to Nikita. and to having clear and distinct explanations given him. but at every moment fear slipped into his thoughts and interrupted their pleasant flow. so clear-minded.completely invisible. The enemy was formidable and . had accustomed Nikita to the thought that he was not his own master. he will leave for ever the world common to us all and take refuge in his own particular world. and to take pleasure in his excellent situation. To live in the unknown i s to live under a strange power which slays or spares us as it will. tol d over the tale of his riches and his glory. and this infinite waste. Augustine. freezing Nikita.

Without noticin g it. Then he gave up all scientific theories and remembered that he had one last resource left to which he had not resorted until now. one must be calm. To his distracted eyes every outlined object was as a phantom.This was undoubtedly a reasonable decision. He tried to remember the theories of knowledge which even a few hours earlier ha d given him the power to distinguish between the real and the visionary. the horse goes on and leav es him alone. his barns with their iron roofs? Brekhunov makes a last. as he had positively known . more terribly still. perhaps.a quite absurd and unrea sonable fear of every tussock which appeared through the snow. in no way resembles what one would call "act ion". What then. either to give itself courage or else. with that old reason where everything is clear and comprehens ible. he continually changes the direction of his march." The last chance of safety disappeared.. in which he had always had so much confidence. havi . now betrays him. He had already crossed the fatal borde r line. had effaced t hemselves and could no longer guide him. but in vain. "Suddenly a terrible cry rang in his ears and everything trembled and moved beneath him. t he house under its iron roof and the barns. the only reasonable decision. dreams from waking. whether or no he succeeds in explaining that the dried grasses are nothing but a vegetable growth and the cry of terror no more than the neighing of his horse. the inns. is the force that suddenly takes possession of them? Why do they inspire him with such terror? And not they alone. supreme effort to defeat his invisible foe. curse you. moreov er. positive nature.. Brekhunov falls from his horse into a snowdrift. They had been subject to man and us eful to him. taught nothing. Everything overwhelms h im. 'will become of these? But what is happening? This cannot be. that every thing appeared to him stupid and absurd as in a fairy tale.' Suddenly he reme mbers the tuft of grass which the wind had shaken and which he had passed twice already. his house. " said Brekhunov to himself. but these principles. He thought. but his strength of mind.'what'. will his heir . are these descriptions accurate? Has that black bush not got some occult for ce which had escaped Brekhunov's sagacity until now?. But wha t he does. T he phantoms with which the desert is peopled will disappear no more. where order reigns and laws a nd methods which have been securely established for the ascertaining of truth. ' Oh. 'Is not this a dream?' And tried to awake. like a dog. terror invaded his soul and took possessi on of it. he is trembling more from fear than from cold now . "One must think. W as he to die. But all that had happened was simply that the horse had neighed with all its pow erful voice. hitherto so clear and definite. he. The forest. But it was not a dream. For a few minutes Vassili Andreivich could not take heart again. He urges on his horse. he thinks.' said Brekhunov. 'how you frightened me!' But even when he unders tood the real cause of his terrors. what he is forced to do. They defined nothing. utterly alone in the snow. mournfu l desert appears peopled with phantoms who until now. Brekhunov.. the farmsteads. this immense. Explanations which had formerly driven away all his doubts and fears w ere now powerless and brought him no comfort. he did not succeed in overcoming them. And. a nd could not deliver him. he was cast off for ever from solid earth. could not understand what had happened. to call for help. or here? Until now there had been nothing hostile or terrible or mysteriou s in that tussock or in those dried grasses. did not exist and could not exist. But where is truth? In that old world. Such a terror invaded him then that he could not believe in the reality of all that was happening to him. caught by the cold. He suddenly found himself placed i n circumstances so contrary to his usual reasonable. Vassili Andreivich clung to the neck of his horse.. but the neck tre mbled and the cry rang out again. who for so many yea rs had filled Russia and Europe with the fame of his inns. which obeys him docilely.

ng felt no need of it, and having kept it in reserve for a last emergency. "Queen of Heaven, Holy Father Nicholas, Lord of Renunciation..." He thought of the Mass, of the icon with its dark face in the gilded frame, of the candles which he sold for this icon, the candles which were immediately brought back to him, hardly burnt at all, and which he hid in a drawer of his writing table. The n he began to pray to this same St. Nicholas that he would save him, and promise d him a Mass and candles. But he immediately and very clearly understood that th is face, those ornaments, the candles, the priest, the Mass might all be very im portant, very necessary even, over there in church, but that they could not help him in any way, that there had not been and was not any connection between the candles and the religious ceremonies, and his present situation." But what does this new reality call to mind? Nothing that Brekhunov knows, excep t dreams. Brekhunov's powerful and well-balanced understanding can imagine nothi ng, it feels itself lost in the midst of the dreams which press in on reality, h e struggles like a madman and does just the opposite of what could help him. "On ly, no confusion! No haste!" lie repeats to himself these well-learned and tried rules of reasonable action and methodical search. But his terror grows, and ins tead of looking for the road, calmly and carefully, according to rule, he begins to run, falls, picks himself up again, falls once more and loses the last remna nts of his strength. Thus he arrives, quite by accident, at the sledge where Nik ita is lying. There, at first, from old habit, he makes proof of great activity. Then suddenly a complete change comes over him, such as could not have been ded uced by any ordinary rules, from his empirical character. Before Nikita, who, as it seems to him, is about to die, in the face of ine vitable death, Brekhunov suddenly resolves to break completely with his past. Wh ence this decision comes, and what it means, Tolstoy does not explain; and presu mably he does well, for the fact admits of no explanation; in other words, we ca n establish no connection between the force which drives a man towards the unkno wn, and the facts that we have previously known about him. This break means, in the words of Plato and Plotinus, "a flight from the known", and any explanation, in so far as it tries to re-establish broken ties, is only the expression of ou r wish to maintain the man in his former place, to prevent him from accomplishin g his destiny. "Vassili Andreivich," Tolstoy tells us, "stood for some moments in silence, and then, suddenly, with the same decision with which he used to clinch a succe ssful bargain by a handshake, he took a step backwards, rolled up the sleeves of his coat and set about rubbing life back into Nikita's half frozen body." Can y ou explain this "sudden" and "suddenly" from which spring the decisions of those who are forsaking the common world? Brekhunov suddenly descends from the height of his glories to warm that worthless peasant Nikita. Is it not an obvious absu rdity? But it is still to a certain extent the old Brekhunov; one feels his need to do something, in order not to have to look IT in the face. In the words whic h he addresses to Nikita we still catch a ring of the old boasting tones, the ol d self-glorification. Brekhunov still tries instinctively in his old way to esca pe the inevitable. He is still afraid to let drop from his trembling hands the p otestas clavium which obviously no longer belongs to him. "Ah, there you are! You are all right!... And you talk of dying. Don't get up, k eep warm. That's what we do, we cunning ones..." Vassili Andreivich begins to ho ld forth. But he could not go on in the same strain. And he was obliged to throw this act, too, overboard. "That's what we do..." - this phrase might have been of some use to him formerly, but now, after the decision of this autocratic "sud denly", it is of no use at all, even though crowned by supreme self-abnegation. Something else is wanted, something quite different. "To his great astonishment he was unable to go on, for his eyes filled with

tears and his lower jaw began to tremble. He stopped talking and could only swal low the lump in his throat. 'I have been frightened,' he thought to himself,'and now I am very weak.' But this weakness was not unpleasant; it caused him a pecu liar feeling of joy such as he had never previously known." Brekhunov rejoiced in his weakness; the same Brekhunov who all his life had gloried in his strength, according to the laws of common humanity, persuaded th at he was not and could not be happy except in his full strength; and in this co nviction he had disputed the potestas clavium, the power to bind and loose, with Heaven itself. This joy which was born of weakness, was the beginning of the mi raculous, inconceivable, enigmatic change which we call death. Brekhunov, Tolsto y tells us, tries once more to get back for a moment into the old world; he boas ts to someone that he has saved Nikita, that he has sacrificed his life to him; but these abrupt stirrings of the old consciousness, the consciousness of streng th, become shorter and shorter and eventually cease altogether. Then there remai ns in him only the joy of his weakness and his liberty. He no longer fears death ; strength fears death, weakness does not know this fear. Weakness hears the app eal coming from the place where, long pursued and despised, she has found her ev entual refuge. Brekhunov renounces, eagerly and with feverish haste, his inns, h is barns, and all the great ideas, including the potestas clavium, which had gat hered in his soul and been the boasts of the other, the learned, Brekhunov. And now an admirable mystery is revealed to him. "'I come, I come,' he cried joyfull y with his whole being. And he felt that he was free and that nothing held him b ack any more." And he went, or rather he flew on the wings of his weakness, with out knowing whither they would carry him; he rose into the eternal night, terrib le and incomprehensible to mankind. The end of Master and Man turned out to be a prophecy. Leo Nicolaevich Tols toy also ended his days on the steppe, in the midst of storms and tempests. Thus destiny will end. The glory of Tolstoy was spread abroad throughout the whole w orld while he still lived. And yet, in spite of that, soon after his eightieth b irthday, which was celebrated in the four quarters of the globe, in every langua ge - an honour which no one before his day had enjoyed - he yet left all and fle d from his home one dark night, not knowing whither or wherefore. His works, his glory, all these were a misery to him, a burden too heavy for him to bear. He s eems, with trembling, impatient hand, to be tearing off the marks of the sage, t he master, the honoured teacher. That he might present himself before the Suprem e Judge with unweighted soul, he had to forget and renounce all his magnificent past.

Such, in fact, is the revelation of death. Down here on earth, all that was of importance, but here one wants something quite different. Pheug§æmen d§Ü phil§Ün eis pat rida... Patris de §Üm§àn hothen par§Ülthomen kai pat§Ür eke§à (Let us flee to our dear father for thence are we come, and there dwells our Father.) (Plotinus, Enn. I, vi, 8. ) << | >> Orphus system home intro In Job's Balances << | >> Part II REVOLT AND SUBMISSION texts links biblio ToC

"I think the world's asleep." - SHAKESPEARE, King Lear, Act I, sc. iv. Panta gar tolm§Üteon, ti ei epicheir§Üsaimen avaischynte§àn; For all things are to be dared; what if we essayed to cast modesty aside? - PLATO, Theaetetus, 169 D.

1 - MORITURI When one seeks to contemplate all that happens around one, what is now, what was long ago, what is near and what far; when one remembers that thousands, million s, billions of years passed before one came to the world and that billions of ye ars will pass again after one is gone from it; that there is a countless multitu de of worlds and that besides the thousands of millions of feeling and thinking creatures which live and have lived on the earth there are somewhere else other creatures, unknown to us, living, suffering, and struggling; when all this passe s before one's eyes one thinks instantly that one has received a new vision whic h has no relation whatever to common apperceptions. One moment - and the vision is gone, we have neither the strength nor the opportunity to recall it and hold it fast, and we are left with nothing but a consciousness that everything that w as and is taught us is not the reality. It is only there for the needs of the da y. The reality lies far away, before us, behind us. There is only one way to it and each of us will have to tread that way. 2 - REVELATION "The fool said in his heart: There is no God." Sometimes this is a sign of the e nd and of death. Sometimes of the beginning and of life. As soon as man feels th at God is not, he suddenly comprehends the frightful horror and the wild folly o f human temporal existence, and when he has comprehended this he awakes, perhaps not to the ultimate knowledge, but to the penultimate. Was it not so with Nietz sche, Spinoza, Pascal, Luther, Augustine, even with St. Paul? 3 - LIMITS There are high mountains on the earth. But there are no very high mountains. The re are mountains as high as 25,000 feet, but peaks rising to 30,000 or 35,000 fe et are not found. There are great men, too, on the earth. But a limit has been s et to their growth too; not over 25,000 feet. Is this an accidental limit, a lim it which can be explained naturally, or is somebody, somebody's will, dictating these limits to human existence, and is that someone determined to allow no men On earth who are too great? And further: is this question permissible or is it t oo simple for modern consciousness? 4 - PHILOSOPHIC CRITERIA Voltaire said that all kinds of literature are good, except the dull. Is he righ t? Certainly he is right; incontestably. To say that a literary work is dull is to admit that it is worthless. What, then, of philosophies of life? Have we the right to reject a philosophical system put before us simply because it is dull? I think we have. It is impossible that dullness should be the essence of life! O r that truth should be dull! That is self-evident. But why do not the philosophe rs use this proof in their disputations, besides other unanswerable arguments? P articularly since Kant, now that hypotheses which are considered indispensable f

or the attainment of certain ends are described as a priori truths. Even before Kant every one thought so but did not realize it. Obviously they forgot it. Well , I have recalled it, and now I shall wait to be thanked for a quite new, self-e vident truth; and particularly for the deductions to which it will lead, which w ill prove quite unexpected. 5 - SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY For a sick man we call the doctor, for a dying man the priest. The doctor endeav ours to preserve man for mortal existence, the priest gives him the viaticum for eternal life. And as the doctor's business has nothing in common with the pries t's, so there is nothing in common between philosophy and science. They do not h elp one another, they do not complement one another, as is usually assumed - the y fight against one another. And the enmity is the more violent because it gener ally has to be hidden under the mask of love and trust. 6 - THE LAST JUDGMENT Kant postulated God, the immortality of the soul, the freedom of the will. Kant' s "practical reason" was obviously firmly bound up with the interests of our mor tal, transitory existence. And here in the ebb-tide of time, one can perhaps sti ll, at a pinch, make these postulates serve. Most men get along without any post ulates at all, they live at haphazard, quite absorbed in the cares and joys of t he day. But when the "dies irae, dies illa" draws near, joys and postulates lose their power and their magic. Man sees that it is quite irrelevant whether he po stulated or not, whether he believed or not. The Last Judgment, which so torture d the Middle Ages and which our day has forgotten so absolutely, is no mere inve ntion of selfish and uneducated monks. The Last Judgment is the supreme reality. In moments - their rare moments - of illumination even our positive thinkers fe el this. The Last Judgment decides whether there shall be freedom of will, immor tality of the soul, or not - whether there shall be a soul, or not. And, maybe, even the existence of God is still undecided. Even God waits, like every living human soul, on the Last Judgment. A great battle is going on, a battle between l ife and death, between real and ideal, and we men do not even guess what is happ ening in the universe, and are deeply convinced that we need not know, as though it did not matter to us! We think that the important thing is that we should ar range our lives as well and as comfortably as possible, and that the principal u se of philosophy itself, as of all human creations, is to help us attain a placi d and carefree existence. 7 - MASKS OF BEING The continuity and the imperceptible gradualness of the changes which take place in the world is the objective reason of our ignorance and superficiality, and m an's ability to grow accustomed to anything is the subjective reason. The lifele ss continuity hides beneath it the violence and spontaneous suddenness of creati ve growth and action. Custom, however, kills curiosity. If an Eskimo were sudden ly transplanted to Paris he would think that he had fallen into a world of fairy -story. But he would, of course, soon grow accustomed to it - and believe the Eu ropeans when they told him that all fairy stories were only empty invention. 8 - OVERHEARD "I sought to say to the mountain: Slide into the sea. It did not move from its p lace. I sought to conjure the whole material world: Dissolve! It did not dissolv e. And consequently? There is no'consequently'! And I know something besides. I sought to conjure away the empty, patently senseless and quite unfounded superst itions which had been instilled into me from my childhood, God knows how - and t here, too, I failed. They are not less immovable than mountains, rivers, and sea s! Talk not to me of your'consequently' and your human experience! Anyhow, it is

for the tit in the hand. He is so made that the present always seems to him m ore important and less dubious than the future. We know from history that ma ny. They have. so distinct to him that these groundless. exchanged the crane in the sky .or said. Ten.have no effect on any one. for beatitude and spiritual at araxia in this life.TODAY AND TOMORROW It is hard for man to wait.. his children. When a man thinks on his dying hour . child. It thinks it quite obvious that groundless fears are an evil and sure possession a good. homely.. There you have experience pitted against experience. These considerations have clearly never occurred to that philosophy wh ich pursues positive ends. As for the future . torturing fears were an evil before which he must flee. In a year's time . while the earlier world from which he was being rent by fears was a good which he mus t strive to attain. was rending him away from all that wa s dear.for this is the eternal law of destiny: the wages are not given twice and they have sold their birthright before death f or a tit. Men wait patiently f or things to return to their old condition and let us live our agreeable and car efree lives again. and unfounded fears. hard. How long must man be scourged still?" 9 . sleep. they will reach the convicti on that they should not have accepted the tit in the hand. self-evidence against self-evidence. Looking back on his past. He who wishes to believe is seeking on th is earth to attain to the beatitude and spiritual ataraxia promised us by the sc hools of philosophy and the teachers of religion.i ndeed.not worth while sacrificing oneself without purpose. we are neither able nor willing to break the charm. twenty years went by. what is most important. Which is one to believe? Is it necessary to believe finally in a nything? Is it possible to believe?.from wife.. and distinctly that the unfounded fears were a good. He felt that something imperious. But what shall we say of Tolstoy's "experien ce" and other similar "experiences"? By what a priori is one to guard oneself fr om them? 10 . his books and his property were the greatest of e vils. And even when he seeks to consider all t hings sub specie aeternitatis. for the tit means the loss of the crane in the sky. and have that spiritual peac e without which one cannot swallow one mouthful or take one hour of sleep. like Tolstoy.shattering enough to awaken even the dead . . to free ourselves from the d evilish might or imagined reality. torturing. drink. from life itself. as thou gh death did not exist. very many men have pocketed their wages in this life and thereby awakened th e envy and jealousy of their less fortunate neighbours. Apart from anything else. Past wrongs burn even as present: sometimes childhood memories poison our lives no less than events of today. There is nothing impossible in this. This is why men reckon so little with death.it will be on us before we are prepared for it! But warnings are useless. Despite his reason man is a be ing subject to the power of the moment. merciless.who knows wha t will be then? But now one must eat. his philosophy is usually sub specie temporis .. of the present hour. Yes. And it is when one reminds them of these things that one appears most unintelligible and even paradoxical. He wants to "pocket his wages" here and now. as a Russian proverb says. artistic creation.how do his standar ds and values change! But death lies in the future. from his property at Yasnaia Poliana. but the future is the same as the present! Even the past is in many respects pre sent. which will not be . Tolstoy suddenly f elt himself in the grip of intolerable. They will die with the tit in the hand and will never behold the crane . And there are many similar things of which one has to remind not onl y the common herd but also the philosophers who know so much that is superfluous and have forgotten. Or perhaps not. near . Even the events of recent times . by a rumour which we can not check. an d that his wife.COMMENTARY ON "OVERHEARD" A famous letter written by Tolstoy to his wife from Arzamass. Tolst oy sees just as clearly. or have never known. to be there . And it was so clear.so every one feels. Perhaps one day.

that Socrates triu mphed over Meletus and Anytus. let us say. as the ancients taught. Man still perishes if shelter and nourishment fail him. this cannot be the case. the system of laws or ideas wh ich rule the world is a chance one. the cup of hemlock is still mightier than the voice of wisdom.11 . exists either not at all or only potentially as something illu sory.the most deadly and pitiless enemi es are ideas. But if this is so. so it is." so long. But although materia lism is defeated.if not by absolute chaos. which for all their "transparence" are far harder. Then it migh t turn out that the ideas.. In general they fight successfully. and perhaps the power of this order will extend. pitiable. too. Perhaps an order will come to pass in which wisdom and virtue wil l prove stronger than the heretic's stake and hemlock cup. We must try everything. and least of all must we trust ideas. at least. etc. Pari an marble itself yields. which in fact. The theory of knowledge is a justification and exaltation of knowledge. Everything is justi fied ad majorem gloriam of the chance order and the chance structure of ideas. must arrive at the conviction that mat ter and materialism are not the crucial issue. at leas t. and as men teach today. more inert than the most lifeless matter? We should be told: "What then is left for philosophy to do? To make the best of a bad job?" Yes. the rough soldier still destroys Archimedes and his drawings t ogether. might themselves run off in all directions. in which anything is equally possibl e. Matter is the most obedient of creatures.SCHOOL OF HUMILITY It is very good for every one. to study the wor . Le t man but try to say to time: "Stand still!" Let him but try to make what is don e undone. Recently matter has renounced its immemo rial right to be heavier than air. especially not the eternal and immutable ones. one may hope that it may be replaced by some thing different . draw the last conclusions! If they would. If only they would. So long as ideas are "idealized. n othing would come of it.THE IDEAL AND THE MATERIAL What is the basis of our world? "Matter. Not so ideas. And even that would be no small matter. They do not yield. that a coconut palm grow out of a grain of wheat! Or that ugly Thersite s turn into handsome Achilles! Any one will tell him that it is no use trying. materialism has been utterly defeated.. From steel. then why do battle with "inert" matt er and rejoice over ideas. one would think. make monuments out of bronze. 12 . so tha t it will come to be that Giordano Bruno destroyed the stake. And if the order. and the formless block turns under the chisel of a Phid ias or some other master into a singing god. Even the blind. t hat is. co arser. It is not only wax that can be moulded into any figure at will. powerless. And those who desire to escape the power of Appearance are for ever at conflict with the materialists . Philosophers justify the eternal and immutable ideal order. the outer world still dominates mankind. and ranks as the philosophy of the stupid and the commonplace. we mould what we w ill. not only to the future.beg. are that with which every man must do batt le who would overcome the falsehood of the world. but in a back courtyard. ethics is the justification of the good. they do not permit man to evade their power. etc. but to the past also. yet at least by a different order from the present." says Appearance. they chant psalms and hymns in its praise and hold this to be their funct ion and their destiny. as they are hymned and glorified. and have its fling there. etc. Consequently they must all be brought down from heaven and a place given them on earth. chant their psalms and hymns in praise of chance! Chance is just that which i s so today. and n ot in a temple. and ideas alone. Ideas. to beg for even a single violation of the laws of causality . suppliant to all . especially for the self-assured. and floats with man across the sky. otherwise tomorrow. unable to put up with their disreputable neighbours. The most deadly enemy of the spir it everywhere is not inert matter. And then it would do no harm if matter were to climb up into heaven for a while.

a sleep without dream-faces and without waking. But even the wise err: in its essence death is clearly the exact antithesis of sleep. even as its pr edecessors did. and rigidity. at every step there are countless contradictions. as the ancients taught . so to speak. the most perfect and final sleep. unasked. Yes.else in his seeking he will never reach beyond the limits of positive knowledge. without any reason. Whenever anything unexpected. more accurately. waiting passively till we approach and take her. we torture ourselves. What. and can his reason be called perfect. only to begin. strange as it may seem at first sight. even so gladly into sleep. it is that which ought not to be. if we are to believe Plato's Apology. All of us continue. which does not stand before us uninterested and indifferent. but e ver and again it slips from our hands. Every seeker must bear this in mind . and any attempt to fight against immemo rial necessity seems foredoomed to failure: it troubles our waking sleep and aro uses only a sense of injury and irritation.at least he said so.DEATH AND SLEEP We are wont to think that death is a kind of sleep. and always on such important. more or less. We excite ourselves. but not to reach an end? That it is not matter. we are all sleep-walke rs. the continuation of the original non-being out of which we were torn by so me incomprehensible and mysterious power.or perhaps one should put it more strongly: we are convince d that the former assumption alone could be entertained by an educated man. The unexpected . but Truth requires something of us also. but rather the soul that exists only potentially: potentia but not actu. that which is .THE SECRET OF EXISTENCE Is it by chance that the ultimate truth is hidden from man . such as a sleeper always shows towar ds a man who awakens him. keen-eyed.is unnatural. while feeling su ch ghastly fear at the approach of death. Any "great philosophic system". is clearly wa tching over us. too.e. our w hole being is filled with unrest. ever and again. is three-quarters or more sleep. like the magic treasure in the fairy tales. against nature. and seeks us. truth is like a fairy treasure. It is clear that Truth .ks of the great philosophers. Each time we think that only a little effort more will put us in possession of the truth. either fro m without or within shakes us out of our accustomed cherished equilibrium. i. we aspire passionately towards Truth. 14 . then. It does in fa ct look as though death were the last sleep.and there is not one single answer that is even partially satisfactory. not out of distraction. Or. Yet still the truth slips from our hands. something w hich has not yet happened. if considered long and attentively. if men unde rstood how to read books. t hought so .also termed the inexplicable . to sleep in life.or should we percei ve intention in the mist in which nature has veiled its tasks? We incline to the former assumption . It is precisely for that reason that the mechanist theories seem to us the only true ones. not yet been experienced.I speak of course. And this is so with great thinkers. She. and essential points . Besid es this. th is is not out of forgetfulness. It beckons. ev en with the greatest. and perhaps even against our will. And if she has not yet thrown from her her secret veil. waits for us and fears us.is a kind of living entity. even as we her. it would be good. inexplicable. spell-bound by the non-being which lies still such a little way behind us. necessary. Not only is sleep still life: our life itself. is man. specific fe ar which man feels when faced with the possibility of something new. "by chance". inabili ty to forsake a standpoint once taken up. And then comes that peculiar. too. Perhaps she. and that it has been granted to us only to strive. still less is it "just s o". can lead us to realization of our insignificance. but each new effort leads to nothing. a germ of something. Even Socrates. it calls. but not yet b ecome it? 13 . Not for nothing do men sink so quietly. divine? Would it not be more correct to suppose that our reason is only an embry o. of ultimate Truth . that each of us is only a "possibility" in the act of becoming reality. the wisest of men. There are so man y questions asked. moving automatically in space.

not. to awake from life. he sleeps. and he will sl eep in accordance with immutable. already knew and taught to Plato that philosophy is nothing else than a preparation for death and dying. be seen in the centripetal tendenci es of modern philosophy. if the centrifugal forces which the anc ient Greeks discovered in themselves show practical purposes.which are nothing else but eternal reason. The moderns flee from death in order not to awake. or the eternal ideal fundamental principles. when one considers that practical purposes. The ancients. a trillion years hence. A million. E ven positivist Aristotle guessed at a divine quintaessentia in the universe. and while away their time with "reasonable" and "natural" explanations? That is the basic question of philosophy. automatically conditioned laws of eternal natu re . Besides. but also the Cynics and S toics. if one i s to speak of them. The great charm for humanity of the theor y of evolution lies in its exclusion of the possibility of anything new. the theory of evolution has conquered time by reducing the whole of the past and the future to the present. either in the most distant past or in the most distan t future. the "many". a bill ion. Which are the more "practical"? Those who compare earthly life to sleep a nd wait for the miracle of the awakening. who would have been inc apable of grasping the truth and awaking out of sleep whatever one might say to them. which can be removed by an effort of the reason.as the whole st ory shows . except the schools which built on Aristotl e's foundations. in the deepest sleep to achieve such senseless and dull self-assurance! In this connection. Socr ates did. like it is now. Socrates . the newest philoso phy has really said a "word of its own" . and he who evades it evades philosophy itself. that the unexpected is only a misunderstan ding. This is the supreme achievement of modern knowledge. or those who see in death a sleep with out dream-faces. the frantic ecstasy o f Plotinus! It is not for nothing that modern historians talk of the "practical" trend of ancient philosophy. Incidentally. were endeavouring to escape from the hypnotic p ower of reality. must and can. Remember Pl ato's cave. something transitory. the eternal ideal principles. No one ever troubles to think that these millions and billions of years. something chance. of the dream reality with all its ideas and truths. But it looks as though Socrates did not utter his real thought befo re the judges. eternal nature. indeed. which restrict thought and paralyze any desire for knowledge. not to speak of Plotinus. life was and will be. Not only Plato's direct disciples. with no resemblance at all to terrestrial things. that heaven itse lf contains nothing new. obviously. som ething super-terrestrial. indeed. Spectral analysis has conquered space and brought h eaven down to earth. Humanity's supreme triumph was the discovery that the heavenly bo dies themselves are of the same composition as the terrestrial. which has acquired such undivided swa y over contemporary thought. a trillion years ago. say to his judges that death was perhaps only a sleep without dream faces. took this thought . and also a million. the new. the saying of the Stoics that all men are mad. And this second asserti on was presumably very much closer to Socrates' soul. For him they were the masses. of the infinitely vast universe.for its starting-point. or rather.so unlike the words of the ancients. are t he whole basis of the theory of evolution. which proudly boasts its perfection! But one must be sunk. But they are wrong. such senseless conceptions. the perfect sleep. the historians are right. A nd the whole philosophy of antiquity. are just a vast nonsense which only does not amaze us because we have got accustomed to it. a billion. broadly. turned to death. Certainly. Man slept.if one can speak here of a "thought" . both on our planet and on all the innumerable planets. We must at all costs show ourselves and others that there is not and cannot be anything unexpected in the world. within our vision's reach or beyond it. and take pains not even to think of it.already undertook the "flight from life". inexplicable. he himself in the same Apology declared at the end of his speech that no one except God knows what awaits us after death.INTERPRETATION AND REALITY . anythin g previously non-existent. 15 .

pleasure. especially of man. But even if we became convinced that Nature was intentionally concea ling her purposes from us. bu t only the species and variety. since. which is something material. h uman being. the question of me ans and ends is raised at all. At bottom it is indifferent whether one assumes t hat Nature's aim is to preserve the organism or to create a saintly. To ascribe a purpose . . loving. In any case there was no sort of necessity to invent. it is we. God knows. the more so as that "existence" could have been protected in other and much simpler ways . hating. when engaged in creation. virtuous. is far better protected than any organism. which. If the external stimulus threatens a da nger we feel pain. therefore. than that life should have been created in order that the "organism". should begin to live. but humanity's. Obviously she can have purposes into which we have not been initi ated and to which we shall never penetrate. does not evade the reproach of anthropomorphism with all the blame attached to it. If we seriously wish to attain objectivity. There is nothing improbable in Nature setting herself "reas onable tasks". The usual interpretations of pain and pleasure are thus only a superficial lip-service to objectivity and sci ence. But clearly Nature has disregarded the lim itations imposed on her by our ideas of objective cognition and set herself very much more ambitious aims. Even to say that Nature does not protect the individual organism. such unusual things as pleasure and pain. not to exce ed the bounds of the inorganic world. Nature is one thing. She is obviously by no means so limited in her tasks as she would have to be to entitle us to forget the metaphysical and theological periods of thought. our endeavour to reduce everything to a "natural" con catenation of cause and effect would still be unjustified. Such an explanation already entails the whole odious anthropomorphism so scrupulously shunned by science. is inanimate enough. And then. or . if it is useful to the organism. and may even be termed completely anti-natural. it would certainly not be to help the organism in its fight for existence. if one may judge f rom the degree of protection afforded. for Nature complexity is by no means such a valuable quality. an Artificer of the world. And why should Nature be really so anxious for the preservation of the organism? What advantage has it over a crystal or any other inorganic body? That of complexity and elaboration? But here again. which Nature set herself when she created it. are not her concern. the only purpose. the simplest thing for her would be. a Creator. in itself soulless. is an obvious laps e from the scientific standpoint and a return to mythology. We may wonder as we will over the complexity and elaboration of the structure of an animal or ganism. pu rposeful man. but the capacity of feeling pain and pleasure deserves much greater asto nishment than the most complex living machine. it is obviously much more probable that the organ ism was created in order that the living being should feel pain and pleasure. a nd. should not be exposed so quickly to dissolution. It fears nothing. in other words. does Nature care about values at all? Esteeming. the most unimportant. Indeed. she does not find it necessary to share with us her thoughts and c onjectures. w e must not endow Nature with any of those qualities peculiar to the thinking. man another. rejoicing. for the purpose of secur ing it. Even if Nature was anxious for anything. What could be more u nnatural than a Nature anxious for something? Anxiety is the most characteristic quality of the higher animals. yet elementary.Pleasure and pain are usually interpreted as reactions of the whole organism or of one of its parts to external stimuli. is to equate her activi ty with that of a human being. which are utterly incompatible with objectivity. if Nature was really anxious to protect her creat ions. for reasons at which we also cannot guess. to Nature. It is assumed that the preservation of the organism is the purpose. and will endure for hundreds and even thousands of years. mankind. To speak of a Demiurge. If. and a very crude one at that. inanimate things seem to enjoy every adva ntage. A block of granite. Thus. the reaso nable animals. troubli ng. who worship and treasure complexity. for all its complexity. even the most modest.

and he did not break. as it seems today to the whol . Pain and pleasure. pleasant death. or die). But if we cast our thoughts for a mome nt over the whole history of humanity. hopes. just like St. We must project our thought and feeli ng into the most intensive and complex seeking and struggling of the boldest and greatest representatives of humanity. to the womb of that nothingness out o f which he was brought in so inexplicable a fashion by some mysterious power.. even in approximations . as pleasure is no guarantee of the absence of danger. of the saints. who heard the voices of the gods more plainly. the last place where we should begin is by studying the life of the amoeba or the mollusc. On the contrary. The more closely and carefully we study with our modern methods the molluscs and the amoeba and the remains of fossil animal s. death of the soul. philosophers. unperturbed existence kills in man all his humanity. Domine. is pleasure. it will be impossible to name one single period which was not darkened by the grimmest misery. And he said. or in other words. that the gods were preparing something for mankind of which he dared not even dream. if Nature is so anxious for the preservation of her creations. to distort and mutilate it as thoug h it were stolen goods or contraband which he had to bring across the frontier. suffering. This is the meaning of asceticism. It seems that in both cases the old sa ge. everything which fills human souls and of which human spe ech can tell. we are more likely to lose the ability of ever discovering anything about the w onders and secrets of the world structure. aut mori" (Suffer. and also the mean ing of the words of the Cynic Antisthenes . give warning of a danger threatening man. Whence comes this? Why. etc. with myths. both of his soul and of his body. on the first and the last things. the ichthyosaurus and the mastodon. and if we wish to penetrate her intentions even in part.see in them the beginning of something com pletely and absolutely different from the organism and from any functions.I repeat and insist on this . pain does not always. expectation. the farther they will lead us away from o ur chief and most urgent task. its return to non-existence."P ati. but might not show to any one. hatred. knew more. Theresa in her words . devotion . It will seem to us. prophets. the greatest danger threatening the living creature with final destruction. or rather. He had no fear of anthropomorphism. Paul. "on principle". much more than we. or even nearly always. A pleasurable. has she done nothin g to prevent the mass destruction of living creatures? Or does some external nec essity place bounds to her anxiety? The ancients thought otherwise! Heraclitus d eclared that the wars which seem so terrible to mankind were agreeable to the go ds. They are an end in themselves. And now further: Contrary to appearance. but ye t the purpose of Nature's creative activity. he would truly be the most ephemeral of creatures. even. fears. then we mus t abandon any thought of "naturalness". leads him back to a vegetative existence. One must . This is why all dee p philosophic systems have shown such antipathy and such mistrust towards hedoni sm and even utilitarianism. not the final end. joy and sorrow.On the contrary: if Nature is intentionally hiding anything from us. For the vast majority of mankind pleasure is sleep. as natural functions of the organism. And for that reason he could see and hear whatever was revealed to him an d was not forced to hide away his knowledge. much less of the sp ecies or variety. artists. Lord. thi nkers. is the beginning of awak ening. They are the "purpose" of Nature. We shall learn nothing by studying that. of course." This saying was reawakened to new life by St.these things are certainly not meant for the preservation or profit of the individual human organism.words which to this day have never b een sufficiently appreciated: "I would rather lose my understanding than feel pl easure. It is in order that there should be pain and pleasure that Nature has invented a countless multitude of wonderful m asterpieces called organisms. not the only and. passions. Pain. in s pite of what our familiarity with "natural explanations" offers us as appearance and self-evidence. If the life of man passed easily and ended with an easy. In that case pain and pleasure cannot be considered as something self-evident. anger. Pain and pleasure testify to a certain entity sui generis par excellence. and "conclude" and judge with them on the beginning and the end .

To create a statue out of a stone w e must slowly and painfully chisel small pieces of it out until the formless blo ck is turned into a beautiful work of art. But who forces us to compare ourselves with stones? Why should we not follow the example of the ancients and direct our eyes to the gods? That is to say. will sooner or later be discovered by us and comprehended with the same clarity and distinctness with which we have already comprehended a countless num ber of middle truths. that at bottom there can be neither secrets nor miracles i n life. why sh ould we not add to all our questions one more: what are questions made of? For I hope that it is now clear that questions are made. And here we have already the theory o f evolution. an animal. that the theological and metaphysical periods of history l ie far behind us. Question: How did man become so reasonable. bastard s of scanty experience and childish credulity. Of course if one compares man with a plant or a stone. For he alone asks. of course. These conditions also determine the result achieved. questions are not thought out. and always by the same limit ed. Imperceptibly the plant turns into the animal.WHAT ARE QUESTIONS MADE OF? We are told that it is natural for man to ask questions. and even into civilized man. Animals ask few questions. imperceptible changes. and that the innermost essence of the soul expresses itself in the ability to ask questions and find an swers. "None of the gods". and that we live under the star of positive science. one need not look at it. that the ancient tales of wonders and secrets are all base-born. the natural conc lusion will be that to be reasonable is the same thing as to be more highly perf ected. and no inanimate thing. preoccupied human being and. whose dom inion has no end and will have no end! << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio Index ToC In Job's Balances \ Part II \ Revolt and Submission << | >> 16 . "philosophizes an d seeks to become wise. But then that means that a reas onable creature can be nothing else but limited. . Let us assume this to be true. man. I repeat once again: it seems to us that question and answer both originated s pontaneously.neither we. that the truths. Consequently there is no exciting surprise and we are content: we think that we have freed ou rselves from our limitations and no one is disturbing the natural course of life . they arise in s ome fashion of themselves in natural wise: it is impossible for a reasonable cre ature not to ask. plants and inanimate things none at all. of the material which l ies directly to its hand. the animal into man. who does not know and who lacks knowledge. nor any other beings. says Plato. the first and th e last. a plant. since no one can notice it. and animals? It seems unthinkable not to pose suc h a question. Since it happens i mperceptibly. normal. And further. plants. seeing that he is composed of the sa me material as stones. daily experience. of slow. no plant. Consequently reasonableness is itself lim itation. It seems that even a god might ask it. We know that we can accomplish nothing at one blow.e of modern humanity. And the answer is taken fro m the same source as the question: from usual. that no one interfered in this ." It is obvious that the reasonable creature's desire for knowledge is born of his limitations. intimidated. but t his is precisely why man is so audacious: because he is no animal. W e have before us a stone.

The cult of the imperceptible has permeated our whole bein g to such a degree that there is in fact much. but the very truth made word.but only in his negative attributes. Consequently we must not be anxious to transform th e perceptible into the imperceptible. The individual.precis ely that. "unexpected". we are afraid of disc overing a break in the course of historical phenomena. We are as God in having no horns. Thales proclaimed that All is One. is.We only registered objectively something which originated spontaneously. because he will transform ever ything into the "imperceptible". The dominant of life is audacity. all life is a creativ e tolma and therefore an eternal mystery. or rather. if he took a decision or felt a desire. he had "gro unds" for it. "creative fiat". and believes its essential task to be. in the eternal problematical. This will be the final triumph of theoretical reason. tails. and then painf ully try to make into something unnoticed and more or less non-existent .is that a reason for gratification? What we have to aim at is to possess what God has. "for no reason". who maintain that man is a free creat ure. Nor ca n it be that man should "suddenly". something intrusive. hoofs. he will himself be as God. but chance in our tongue means something whic h. We must accordingly throw ourselves greedily upon each "sudden". strictly speaking. as tho ugh it was not we but some ideal registering apparatus. After them philosophers began systematically to eschew m ultiplicity and to esteem uniformity. but also the opponents of determinism. But answer and question alike are purely human. yet hold it necessary to reduce freedom into an infinite number of infinite ly minute elements. And we dream. And I wish to repeat once again what I said before: the Fall of philosophy began with Thales and Anaximander. Free will in its pure form is a myth. we consider our theory i rretrievably ruined. a something which ought not to be. If in any theory. "spontaneous". and He would never have accepted suc h an answer. We are terrif ied by every creative fiat. We d escribe all such things as chance. which has come down to us fr om the distant ages of humanity's prehistoric existence. And precisely the thing which distresses us most. . in that which God has not. very much. is not only bringing us no nearer the truth. far from seeming to Him something which ough t not to be. much less men. God could never have asked such a question. not only scientific but al so philosophic (meaning by this a theory which rejects in advance all presupposi tions). the thing which w e first reduce to an infinite number of infinitely small changes. of which the decision which determines our action is then co mposed imperceptibly. The comprehensible and the uniform became synonymous with the real and with that which ought to be. not reducible to something finished an d intelligible. the theory of gra dual development. unnatural. we discover anything "sudden" or "all at once". it is leading us a way from it. "precipitately" take some d ecision or feel some desire. We devote all our efforts to banishing out of life everything "sudden". A philosophy which has let itself be seduced by the example of p ositive science. By plucking the fruit off the tree of knowledge man became as God . by every inexplicable miracle. in His eyes. and screen ou rselves with the utmost care from that emasculator of thought. But the object was not to pos sess one or more of God's negative attributes. tolma. And we hold our conviction of the faultiness of everything "sudden" for no premise. cannot exist. in one of h is negative attributes. of that blessed age in which no one will any more ask any questions. on the contrary. to differentiate everything problematic and surprising into infinitely mi nute quantities. Ma n will cease to ask. etc. as of an ideal. that is. It cannot be that stones and plants were. the in . Anaximander saw in multiplicity. t he beneficent essence both of His own life and of life in general. a philosophy which endeavours. an impiety. far from distressing God. but rather to make visible even the barely perceptible. that we now do not not ice. But this is just where the fatal self-deception is hidden. each absence of purpose and motive. and that then "suddenly" beasts appeared. Not only the determinis ts. Man will ask nothing because he will see nothing. " spontaneous".

etc. aside from the general business of philosophy. Now only rare. which is so imperceptible that it cannot be seen. thus the greates t sages of antiquity. of course. untroubled with doubts. It sweeps away beauty. like so many of his ancient predecessors. knew the meaning of initiation. Even the Middle Ages. stands in no relationship to God. in the diametrically opposite way. the barking animal. lonely thinkers comprehend this. thus even the Middle Ages. only the name. and his commandments were received a s a new revelation. does not go beyond the "intelligere". He asked no questions which he did not need. but to understand. But precisely for that reason history left the victory with Aristotle. has only take n from Spinoza what he kept for the crowd. truly philosop hic questions have to be moulded. and curses. if one bears Spinoza's earli er words in mind. one must wear the appearance of an understanding. good. It was an outer decoration: when one mingl es with men. The true father of modern philosophy was. But precise ly it should halt and ask itself: Of what are questions made? Perhaps it would t hen renounce the idea of transforming all that is important into the imperceptib le. Official. Interest in the mysterious has always lived on in philosophy. But they stand aside from the great highway. "Omnia praeclara tam difficilia quam rara sunt" . At the same time. Spinoza. Thus the prophets questioned. Modern philosophy.why. Aristotle alone forsook the esoteric. good. And then. the barking animal: that is. like useless refuse. and is. wonderful and mysterious transformations. the different were looked on as unreal and audacious. for the uninitiated: only his "intell igere". mor eover. Such a world. and that out of this material and this alone.with these words he closes his Ethics. took Aristotle for guide. genuine. Spinoza. quiet. be . each of which would mean more than the whole proces s of today and all its natural development. it is true. ambition. were themselves initiates . But for himself and for the initiated Spinoza used qu ite another language. particularly in ancient philosophy. and has as little in common with the scientific "intelligere " as the dog-star has with the dog. which aims at being science. instead of a process of d evelopment . Further: his "amor Dei intell ectualis". which sought so greedily after the mysterious and guessed at it everywhere. held that the "intelligere" was only there for the crowd. Thus Spinoza taught. That is. laughter. and to give answers which are tota lly unnecessary to us. the "beautiful" which. for "every one". And it is towards the beautiful alone. It is convinced that questions ought to be made of indifferent. it consists simply of "ridere. cannot. is necessary. th e esoteric and the exoteric attracted them equally. nor weep nor be wroth.dependent. although it is so difficult to attain an d is found so rarely. Spinoza's whole phil osophy was imbued with the thought that God's reason and will differ toto caelo from human reason and will. That is to say. perfect. both as man and philosopher. the intellectual love of God . And no one noticed (men prefer not to notice) that Spinoza h imself acted.then before man's eyes would arise a world of sudden. Consequently one has not t o laugh. and found no answers which did not co ncern him. which has made herself the handmaid of science. however. aside from history . however. Modernity has now broken altogether with antiquity. instead of a wor ld which always and in all its parts remains the same. that Spinoza's soul aspires. They honoured with reverence the memory of the great sages of the past. that God's reason and will have as little in common with human reason and will as the dog-star has with the dog. Some qualificat ion. recognized philosophy . Hence he drew the conclusion that what we call beautifu l. they wanted to be lords over the spirit of man. tears. that is. Plato and Plotinus lent a shudde ring ear to mysteries. lu gere et detestari". has no relationship with God.. That is. worthles s material. quite genuinely convinced that it alone is seeking the truth. Descartes is generally looked on as the father of modern philos ophy. is restored to its divine ri ghts precisely because human reason and human will are so loyally devoted to it. To the crowd one must always speak in the tone of a man in whom power reposes. to ask no questions relating to the things which mean most to us. composed m an. like dust. never guessing that it is the most precious thin g in life.

to eat . has come to the conviction that life holds too much that is insuperably bad. And then these creatures revolt and declare that if they are refused food. while nature. landslides . so that they think there is not and never will be any death. they want to drink . for nature.there is nothing to drink there. or their lives suddenly cut short with out asking them. who came in natural wise into it. first and last. crude extra. for man. we want to count. of course. Ma rble in the block or marble in the statue of Apollo is for nature only marble. through his thousand years of expe rience. a river. for that which we call nature. the s tatue. of course. For n ature. without heeding their wishes. and particularly such a life that the thought of death does not even enter their minds. the table. a mountain. is expressing Anaximander's thought more accurately.but there is no food there. only speak with qualifications of individual things. All these are "things" and "individuals" only for us. that this is bad. Omnia praeclara tam d ifficilia quam rara sunt. with the house. But humanity has not been granted to think thus. whether it received its shape in "natural" wise or through the artist's hand. independent existence. Why is this so. and somet imes too little? Further: all these beings which assert themselves want to "be". They want to "be" and revolt against every atta ck on their individuality or their "ego". And thus man. n ature preserves or destroys it with equal indifference. to penetrate into such a wo rld! But we want peace. Plotinus. and we assume that this is lofty science and that such science will reveal to us all secrets! And we even hesitate to ask ourselves of what question s are made. but if they are given superfluity and a long life. But such a world need not be comprehended. comprehension is only an ugly."comprehended". the pen. arbitrarily sets a limit to their b eing by sending them death. drink. drink. Only for individuals is there a good and a bad. the clock. So it was felt by the best representatives of humanity in moments of inspiration and of spiritual ecstasy. Only l iving beings and not things. as individuals? Have they escaped from th e womb of the One? So. there is nei ther a good nor a bad. then this is good. Only liv ing creatures assert themselves. In earthquakes. of course. one and the other accepting their fate with equal readiness and passivity. being convinced in advance that all questions are made of one and th e same material and that the justified questions are simply those which arise fr om untroubled spirits and can be solved through self-satisfied comprehension. they want to warm themselves they cannot. etc. One can. particula rly. Individuals which assert themselves meet with so me resistance. this or that form assumed by iron. why is there sometimes everything in abundance. has no meaning. The same idea runs more or less distinctly through the whole philosophy of antiquity. let us say. and weigh aut omatically. as of good and evil. in an eternally unnatural world. fires. and warmth are there in abun dance. Plotinus. sometimes food. a piece of iron. Comprehension is necessary for the natural world from man. The last great Hellenic philosopher. too. and warmth. How much divine laughter. the first Hellenic philosopher. Can one describe a stone. It is here that questions of good and bad begin. In such a world comp rehension is superfluous.MORALITY AND PESSIMISM Whence came good. are normally individuals. Consequently one cannot say of things that they have asserted themselves audacio usly or impiously. And conversely. for men. For a moment one can arrange one's lif . i s of the same conviction. Man must constantly fight and yield. a meagre and wretched gift of the pauper world of limitation. In a word. So the P ythagoreans thought also. But in a world of wonderful transformatio ns. thou ght that evil began when individual things escaped from the womb of single Being and insisted impiously on beginning a separate. or plaster. marble. 17 . things stand beyond (or this side of) good and evil. works of nature crumble or burn equally with works of art. how many human tears and cur ses are needed to learn how to live in such a world. They want. precisely for the thinking man who remembers the past a nd imagines the future vividly. whence evil? Anaximander. He says that the individual souls tore themselves auda ciously free from the One and live in evil so far as they maintain their indepen dence. measure.

e. And he almost do es say so. and the vast. for the first time. to the valuable fr om the point of view of the individual. It is even one whether he is alive o r not. all must p ay tribute to death.and here is the difference between him and Plotinus . With all its reality will remains abso lutely strange to him. Only . that of pessimism. Nourishment. What wonder if nat ure is indifferent to its "good" and "bad"? On the contrary.the idea of good and the idea of evil. a ll that begins must end. Before the supreme judgment it is one whether a man is f ull or hungry.philosoph y. The only thing that is not "one" is that which is specially guarded from the first and for ever. ethical valu es .then the disappointment will be all the more painful and torturing. to put it better. and much else is. surely she is right? Perhaps we are wrong. but only for a moment. and accept passively th e blows and gifts of fate. the prince. The individual begins. Most men. In contrast to the good and bad. An infinitely small part cannot hope for its cause to be of greater import t han the cause of the colossal whole. They are autonomous . drink. warm or cold. Even the studen ts sing. Or. He esteems supreme human creative achievement . When man h ad to choose between the mutually conflicting and irreconcilably opposed endeavo urs of the insignificant atom-individual. one may wonder that these bold and impious creatures have so much good provided for them on earth. Why is Nature indifferen t to that which seems to us supremely important? Nature is infinitely powerful. one may perhaps soon come to the conclusion that all these blessings are only supplied in order that the individuals should pay the fitting penalty for their sin. Good and bad i s what individuals need or do not need. For its own "good" is precisely the fundamental arch-evil. nor something bad. But there are also some who think. while the real arch-good is the complete renunciation of self. forget good and bad and strive only after the general good. Before the inevitable man must bow. the contrast between good and bad on the one hand and good and evil on the other can be expressed and explained in this way. It is also the point of departure of m odern philosophy. i. self-annihilation. the sage. it se emed to him quite clear that he could not be right and that the universe was rig ht. He might have said with Plotinus. there for them.that is to say . the "will" (as Schopenhauer calls the metaphysical principle). and to aspire towards the real good which denies life. sick or sound. "nemini parcetur".seems to him equally pit iable and valueless. Perhaps we cannot succeed in understa nding Nature. But his attitude to life. bear this lot patiently. indeed. Existence . the serf. his evaluation of life. In this Schopenhauer differs in no wise from his predecessors. in raising ourselves to her level? I think it was thus that the qu estion posed itself to Anaximander and thus to Plotinus. To none is it granted to escape death. religion. They must first be given the opportunity to assert themselves to their heart's desire . although eternal and real. All that is born must perish. does not. it must renounce both itself and also its needs. th at death is the fusion of the individual with the original One. The fool. For Schopenhauer too the principium individu ationis is the beginning and the source of evil. However this may be.he sees in this neither something beautiful. is different. In the light of these new ideas of good and evil. and that it was taken o ver in the same form by later philosophy and religious consciousness. who seek to reach the heart of things. an en tirely new form. But if the individual comprehends the se cret of existence. they have no connection with the usual conceptions of good and bad. . consequently it must perish.whether as a n empirical individual or as a metaphysical principle . infinite universe. If one looks rat her closer. This I repeat. With Schopenhauer this idea assumes. from Anaximander to Plotinus.solely because he is convinced that it kills the will to live . What men hold for good and bad is in realit y neither good nor bad. It teaches man to raise himself above the good and bad in which life has its o nly hold. there arose the autonomous. in its superhuman being. th ey exclude them. art . at least. the overwhelming majority. attract Schopenhauer's attention.e. is the fundamental idea of Hellenic philosophy. the very exis tence of the individual was revealed as audacity and impiety.

and often w ith real enthusiasm. a lluring body-cells. Protagoras himself. Plato. But if they spoke . to throw them out into the world. Protagoras's book treating of the gods was burned! But Plato and Aristotle committed a worse crim e than Anytus and Meletus. when Anaximander and Plotinus created their "life". They were afraid that if they let Protagoras preva il. It is not the individual entity that must be killed. ferv ently. not even at direct calumny . perhaps. It is true that Protagoras clearly does not see in reason the last or the first principle of being (arch§Ü). exalted with no less joy. Now. which are sufficiently advanced. to be.there is no need f or anything empirical. so all-comprehensive. the illusory and senseless character of the existence of the individual human b eing. only in the n ame and to the glory of the One. but the will itself. Although one can assume that these two characteristics are interdependent. but sang.of their joy at the possibility of return ing to "that world". From this to contempt is. a long step. Both in Plato and in Plotinus we find suggestions of an answer to this ques tion. as consistently as Schopenhauer himself. only in a less frank and consequ ently a more dangerous form? The Greeks work out the contempt of the individual. How alarming to men. For with him good r equires more than this. were they not doing just what Schopenhauer did in our days? Were they not expressing pessimism and the negation of the will to live. Every one is convinced that there are certain laws. to conceive anything more senseless . is primarily a rational princi ple. But this is precisely the heart of the riddle: what is the point of the whole world-comedy? Why does the One. enthusiasm.even men like Socrates. in face of all this. of course. did not at all despise reason. Man refuses to see because he is afraid. Consequently Plato's and Ar istotle's agitation was quite superfluous. and Ari stotle who loved uprightness and honesty with their whole souls and honestly des ired only to serve the truth.not spoke. They did not kill Protagoras himself. ann ihilated. but they are so clumsy that it is not worth while discussing them. One may begin by pointing out that Protagoras's doctrine does not in the least commit us to hate or despise reason. to lodge them in these mysterious. delight an d even ecstasy are psychologically comprehensible to us. It look s as though they had no answer of any sort ready. when they exalted their "One" and spurned all that was individual. honoured and loved it. Not only has man no need to be . of the supreme good. despised body. Afraid of what? Often he does not trul y know himself. and that failing t hese laws.the same who poisoned Socrates. that they would commit spi ritual suicide. such as Buddhism and Christianity. in the name of supreme morality. and far less metaphysical. the metaphysical principle: that is the last task of philosophy and of those religions.QUASI UNA FANTASIA I know not at which to wonder more: man's willful blindness. He places man above reaso n. or outside them. he genuinely. despisers of reason. which is so selfsatisfied. too. is Protagoras's doctrine that man is the measure of all things! And what ef forts human thought makes to kill Protagoras and his teaching! They have stopped at nothing. but they annihi . eternally existent. They do so. But there was no reason to be afraid. and how nobly they sang ! . the philosophy of renunciation. even to day. They were afraid: that is the point. especially in men like Plotinus who felt so bitterly the degrading necessity of abiding in the burdenso me. the supr eme crime in concealing Protagoras' s teaching from the later world. His greatest terror seems to be to violate the "law". so Schopenhauer. 18 . need to split itself into myriads of souls.In no single philosopher is the link between morality and pessimism so clearly e xpressed as in Schopenhauer.and the One of the Greeks. if it turns out afterwards that the best that souls could do would be to leave their bodies and return to the One whence they came? It is im possible. Our spiritual vision crea tes for itself horizons as limited as our physical. so peaceful. And now. Schopenhauer rejects su icide. as Plato's di alogues show. and they committed. indeed. they would become misologoi. They were a betted by Anytus and Meletus . with the worst will in the world. he respected it. or his natural timi dity. there is only destruction.

They will always find men both a mong the common herd and among the elect who are ready to persecute truth in eve ry way.lated his spiritual heritage. the murderers of Socrates . XI.and yet men still think and will certainly always think that contradictions are som . Protagoras was a Sophist. but man in general.that the last truth is always veiled in contradictions which are simply unacceptable and absolutely intolerable to our spirit. they will not reveal to mortals the secrets of existence. and scare off even the b oldest inquirers.occultatio veritatis . try to soften the senselessness of the former assertion by interpreting it in the se nse of "specific relativism": not each individual man is the measure of all thin gs. or even the "potentia absoluta" of the gods. they are senseless. And the decision of the gods.so s ays A. but the fact . also of a philosophical idea. II.") (De civitate Dei. Hegel. unless one counts the famous but inconclusive opening sentences of his book on the gods. and Schopenhauer! It is a generally known fact that the leading philosophic systems are "permeated" with contradictions . we canno t rescue Protagoras's spirit from oblivion and give it new life.that is practically all we know of him. it is only driven underground and mad e less visible: as Husserl proved conclusively. For all the efforts of modern historians. Perhaps that was just the reason why they helped Plato and Aristotle to finish off Protagoras. to Kant. and. is only fanned by this. I am even inclined to express myself mo re strongly still. The restrictive i nterpretation only suspends the verdict. ("The truth has been hidden from us either t o practise us in humility or to punish our arrogance. a nd even brought about so unnatural an alliance between them and Anytus and Melet us. of course. to achieve supremacy over huma n spirits.only gods could inven t this . however. and create for one self quasi una fantasia of Protagoras even at the risk of error.remains: trut h is hidden from us. The more benevolent modern criticism does. will always remain hidden from us. 22 . Augustine says: ipsa veritatis occultatio aut humilitatis exer citatio est aut elationis attritio. even if it were t o be discovered and enunciated." "Every assertion can be countered with an op posite assertion:" that is all that is left of Protagoras. Harnack. try to guess. thanks to Plato's and Meletus's efforts he has be en robbed once for all of the possibility of defending himself by his own words. he traded with truth . even if the Sophists did trade with tru th. But what were they? Again one must surmise. we must ass ume that a different meaning is hidden behind them from that attributed to them by hostile interpreters. is unalterable. as Plato and Aristotle tried to prove. great philosophical purposes. our desire to know. The inner strength of a religious. has no advantage whatever over individual relativism. the learned historian of religious ideas (Dogmengeschichte. from Heraclitus and the Eleatics. But our curiosity. since every new truth is frightening at first sight. The gods are jea lous. never ensures it world supremacy. I repeat. so openly senseless.one would think it was time to get used to them and to learn to see in them a "gift of the gods" . One ca n. that Protagoras had real. "Man is the measure of all things. specific relativism. manifold. The means that they employ are. of course. And for this reason the gods have ordained . that is the law of fate. Such an interpretation seems more acceptable. St. But the ba sic contradiction is still not eliminated. "The inner strength of a religious idea never ensures it world supremacy" . How much has been spoken and written on this. And they succeed easily in this. suspect that the "judgment of history" was unjust.because more had been revealed to Protagoras tha n the councils of the gods had decreed that man might know. But Protagoras ca nnot plead in his own defence.and the whole history of human seeking clearly conf irms this . because they contain an obvious contradic tion. indeed. 272). would never be able through the "potentia ordina ta". Truth.that the ultimate religious and philosophic truth. But just because they are so challenging. considered closely. I think .) Augustine's explanation may be too tendentious (it is not so easy to unriddle the decisions of the gods). it does not alter it. the last truth. How is one t o understand the meaning of these sayings? On the one hand.

at first. truth as the immortal gods bear it in themselves. And then a bold and splendi d thought came to him: need one support "truth" at all. and even to many Europeans. sinc e one and the same man thinks one way today. Aristotle says: One can say this but one cann ot think it. and they try to prove that man can still live and still find a criterio n of the truth from Protagoras's point of view. Perhaps "general validity and necessity" are no "attribute" of truth. the earth rests on something. This satisfied their curiosity. Even after Copernicus savants were obliged to keep this new truth hidden from the champion s of tradition and of sound common sense. It has therefore happened more than once that a tru th has had to wait for recognition whole centuries after its discovery. So it is also with Protagoras's teaching of the criterion of truth. Worse still. He simply real ized. it is not the objective being th at conditions our judgment. and there wer e thus as many truths as men. unless it first fulfil ls the demands made on it by the law of contradiction. A queen and her ladies-in- . and no one can see it. how could a man accustomed to "see" that weight and solidity are inseparable attributes of all material things . but of individual: he thought that each individual man measured things according to his own judgment. And on what does the elephant rest? On a snail. always seem. Man is the measure of all things! According to Husse rl only a madman could think thus. or if one cannot overcome them. would truth "fall" if no t supported? Indeed it might not fall. but vice versa. And yet Protagoras was neither a madman nor a cheat.ho w could he reconcile himself with the thought that bodies in themselves have no weight. it seems. Indeed. there were more truths than men. and even give very good grounds for it.ething which have attached themselves unlawfully to our cognition and have to be overcome. Similarly. no man has ever been able to lift up a thing in his hands without feeling its weight. held such a supposition to be the summit of unreas on. another tomorrow. to be disregarded on principle. One has only to follow the example of the Pragmatists and esteem the use ful alone. And h ow striking is this: not only do the philosophic truths. And no one has seen truth. Where then is the criterion of truth and how shall we distinguish truth from falsehood? And how i s man to live if it is impossible to distinguish between truth and falsehood? Th is last question makes even the Pragmatists. I will illustrate this with an example.I forget which: On what does the earth rest? On an elephant. of course. weight is indeed "practically" an attribute of bodies . The thought that the earth need not rest on anything would be senseless and even nonsensical to the savage. that is the truths "of the roots and sources of things". it has a support. Every one thought it false and for more than 1. to contradict both appe arance and themselves. Newton has been ignored by the majority of mankind until today. If they knew Aristotle t hey would say: "One can say that. So it wa s with Pythagoras's teaching of the movement of the earth. But all probabilities go to show that Protagoras was not speaking of empirical truth but of metaphysical. but all great scientific cognitions at first appear to ma n to be plainly nonsensical.500 years men refused to accept this truth. uneasy. that a little snail is as unfitted to be the support for a great elephant as the great elephant for the giant earth." Even the idea of the force of gravity which carries objects with it has become so closely entwined w ith man's intellectual nature that he thinks that he would have to renounce thou ght if he freed himself from this idea. Protagoras's assertion that man is the measure of all things is another flagrant violation of common sense. Even here on earth we can perceive a difference in the relation of different peo ple to truth. In the condi tions under which we live. Put in another way. then one would have a criterion which answers the most exacting deman ds. as weight is no "attribute" of a body. the modern defenders of Protagoras. The Pragmatists' line of argument reminds one of the logic of some savage tr ibe or other . One must further assume that Protago ras was not speaking of specific relativism. that a thin spider's web and a huge stone fall with equal velocity in a vacuum? Aristotle. but one cannot think it.

real and imaginary. Common mortals. that attraction to t he earth. have a weight and fall unless supported. He sees nothing. that centripetal force. they sat down. He is the measure of all things. And the first step towards the gods is the readiness to overcom e. to the steady and stable. regulations. When I am once arisen out of nothingness. thou dost maintain t hat this is unacceptable. torturing. I shall not return again into nothingness. or perhaps believed. if only in thought. he saw. on the other hand. clothes the whole world. One need know nothing of the gods. for thee I am inconsistent. therefore there was a chair under her. and didst not mourn thereover. then it is done. and the second'eternity' is mine. he is called to be a law-giver lik e an absolute monarch and has the right to counter every thesis with another dir ectly opposite to it. didst not say th ou couldst not comprehend how the world could exist without thee. that weight. in which rules. She has a "logic" all her own: there is a chair there because she sits down. even truths. w here all things. honores. the whole universe in its g rey. But man s trives for freedom. and after they had convinced themselves that chairs had been p ushed forward. Sin ce she sat down. Although daily experience testifies to the contrary. that it is granted to man to create truth. only sit down when there is a chai r.waiting enter a box in a theatre.TWO KINDS OF LOGIC "A whole eternity thou wast not. Even the idea of eternity can awake in him no enth usiasm. There are no laws above man. Against such a one reason can do naught with its own means. dull colours." This is the answer of the irreconcilable and willful debater. do in fact reign. 19 . But with respe ct to the eternity in the future in which thou wilt not be. if you prefer it.CUR DEUS HOMO? A man has toothache and he is incapable of anything. He yearns passionately to the gods and to the divine. for even eternity seems to him a product of the tooth and the pain. althou gh he "knows nothing" of the gods and the divine. laws. clear to thee. both the law and the Sabbath. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio Index ToC In Job's Balances \ Part II \ Revolt and Submission << | >> 20 . It is possible that contempt of what Spinoza called "divitiae. it is enough to hear that t hey call one to themselves into that lofty place in which freedom rules and wher e the free rule. Neither contemplation nor proo fs of reason can convince him that it will all be over tomorrow. Everything is made for him. he hears n othing. or. The cursed pain absorbs his last strength. The ladies-in-waiting lo oked round first. libidines" and of our empirical ego aros . This was perhaps Protagoras's thought. and that royal blood flows in man's veins. A queen does not have to look round first and conv ince herself. he thinks only of the pain and his tooth. because he knows nothing. But the re is also another kind of logic. The queen sits down without looking round." Thus reason s peaks to man. indeed. Perh aps it was under such conditions that Spinoza's "Deus sive natura". to which men have now so accustomed themselv es that they see in it not only their own nature but the nature of all living th ings. the "One" of Plotinus and the mediaeval mystics was born. and also that repulsion against al l creation of which philosophers speak so much. "It is. One need look round at each st ep and ask "truth" for permission only in so far as man belongs to the empiric w orld. It is clear that thou art inconsistent.

then. certainly. it was certainly not sickness. the dirty prison jailer. mounted the throne and rules imperiously over the li ving and the dead. Truth is truth only because. intolerable pain which he felt when he remembered the wretched death of the "be st of men . which found the solution of the question in positivism §Ñ la Kant and Comte. "Instinct". for the words which might have freed man from the mad power of sen seless necessity. the professional preachers of the godhead of the ideal principle. The pupil could not look on the impotence of the honoured teacher. now consciously. whatever the ancients say. the individual. Plato turned his whole genius to banishing this fearful. Philosophy . But why.to cause lovely flowers of Here to burgeon from the ugly truth of Beyond? And is not man 's task. The idea is the only god which has not yet been cast down from its pedestal.e out of some obstinate. which in decisive cases interposes its incomprehensible b ut imperious final veto. Man has escaped from the womb of the One. not to return to the original "One" but to m ove as far away from it as possible? So that in that case. His philosophy and his poetry were struggle and victory over this pa in. the idea of the ideal wo rld may have arisen in connection with Socrates' execution. The beginning has been made. independent being in its new life. The whole Greek philosophy which followed him sought. therein lies his supreme purpose. the worship of unfleshly ideal s. Not yet have nearly all the fetters which bound him when h e still lived in "the womb" been broken asunder. year or decade. obstinately contrasts the untroubled peace of past bein g in the One with the eternal unrest. therefore. even the loveliest. of course. or something else in them. never-ceasing. un perturbed peace of super-individual being. resist with all the forces of their nature. would have committed no crime by its audacity ( tolma). also idealism of the purest water which has so poss essed the spirit of modern man. strive in their lives in every way to shake off its yoke from them. the dirt a nd blood of the life beyond with the fragrant blooms of earthly poesy? Let it co me before us in all its hateful nakedness! Or can this be just the function of c reation . It is only the modern. Men re sist. the most modern philosophy. now u nconsciously. modest and timid? A new comman dment must be created: man shall be the measure of all things. had besides reason a se cond daemon for guide. Now a gre at battle awaits him. Perhaps it w as not sickness at all. Scientists worship it no less than philosophers and theologians. who taught that man is the measure of all things. like Socrates. or rather. he brooded all his lif e long how it could have come about that Anytus and Meletus. It is. It is as though they. the supreme achievement! And was Protagoras.which also d raws wholly from reason. If one reads the latest Catholic apologists one will convince ones elf of this. And. According to traditi on Plato did not visit Socrates in prison. So in the Russian sect of the self-immolators the "idea . Possibly.mundane as well as religious . enduring pain which men could not remove and which took the name of supreme truth. This terms itself " idealism". But perhaps it will be objected: "Pain is a condition of the apperception of tru th. and only in so far as. He is still tempted away by mem ories of his earlier contemplative. it is nailed to the cros s. to forget plagued and poisoned truth and live f or the positive necessities of the next day. the despicable Athe nian judges. Even the philosophers. cou ld have shown themselves mightier than the very truth that was incorporated in S ocrates. tension. but rather an achievement. in es caping from the womb of the One. almost unreal existence.any creation. "Reason" still affrights him through the unlimited possibilities and difficulties which await the single. sickness preventing him. and the cup with the repulsive poison. tortures and doubts of multiple e xistence. idealism? Why bedew the prose. as some of his warmest admirers surmise. resists such persuadings. And yet there are already men who no longer believe the whisperings of reason. Mediaeval philosophy continued the work of the great Hellenes and went on seeking with equal enthusiasm and excitement. artistic as well as philosophic and religious . Even in Plato. to the blissful.

Precisely because reason is destined to guide man in his empiric existence. "Back to the One". and all the numerous schools descended from Socrates an d his pupils. Norms arose among the cooks and were cre ated for cooks. But equally indubitable is this: Socrates. is genius but the great gift of audacity s ometimes granted to mortals who are frightened by their "anamnesis" of laws and imperatives accepted in their earlier existence (of the "synthetic. his own . to protect him here on earth. There rules the daemon of whom we are not even entitled to assume th at he is interested in any norm at all. Socrates forgot his daemon. you will fall ill. of course. as Socrates always made admirably plain in his dialog ues. What else. had his own particular daem on and protector) dared to do the "worse". what is "good" and what "bad". his own immediate wish . In everyday reality the commandments of reason do in fact protect us from disaster. How often have men repeated Ovid's verses (we find them even in Spinoza and the Early Fathers) and yet interpreted them as though to aim at "one's own". But fol low him .even as Socrates acted . final. When they cried. it is essentially unable to guide us in our metaphys ical wanderings. meanwhile . "In hoc natura quid efficere potest videtur experta. But here. too.after.. Socrates. the doctor. the statesman.away from the One. Reason forbids: if you drink it wil l do you harm. the smith. deteriora sequor" ("I see the b etter and approve it." says Cornelius Nepos ("in him nature tried to see what she could create"). at the "worse".witness Epictetus and noble Marcus Aurelius ..t he Skeptics. The Stoics. but Alcib iades was an unusually gifted man. when they led the herd of common believers as sacrifice to the flame s. the first break with the One . I follow the worse"). and Spinoza in modern times. ambitious man.no. etc. a priori jud gments.l" leaders. and approved them as the "better". nor Plotinus himself let his being be absorbed in th e "One". that he does not do. and to follow the "better". used themselves unobtrusively to leave the burning building through a previou sly prepared exit. Here there is a genuine metabasis eis allo genos (transition into another field). He who. Epicureans. developed in the shadow of their philosophic constructions. unrestful. In the f ield of metaphysics there are neither cooks nor carpenters. his daemon forbids. From this. from a series of similar examples whi ch could be multiplied indefinitely.I do not wish t o speak of them. The might of reason has and must have a bound . "Video meliora proboque. yet follows the "worse". An overheated man longs for cold water. It is not for nothing tha t the astute poet said. seeing and approving the "better". Ovid remarked this "antinomy" and expressed it wit h "antique simplicity" in the words I quoted.e. the doctor or builder. Neither Socrates nor Plato. But the "good" and "bad" of the c ook and smith. average experien ce imposed it on them. had his shortcomings. and Plato after him. especially as that is qu ite unnecessary. its truths are unalterable. were weakness. I do not at all wish to "justify" him. as Socrates maintained in his Meditations. lay the mi stake. Socrates concluded: Reason is the source of all knowledge. the cook. were stre ngth. Plato. will naturally suffer for it. though he taught otherwise. And he had many "shortcomings" . What need is there then to transfer all this empiria thither whi ther we flee to escape empiria?. Why did they choose this interpretation? Ordinary. precisely. history and the historians have already passed judgment on him. daily.have men so dared to document their "ego" as Socrates did. then. are by no means the universal "good" and " bad". t hey advanced . and Plotinus. Reason can tell the carpenter. almost a genius. Behind these words lies hidden the v ast. Alcibiades was a frivo lous. And ho w marvelously! Listen with what reverence Alcibiades speaks of Socrates. The whole art of philosophy should be directed towards freeing us from the "good . Never yet . like Socrates. neither their "good" nor "bad". immolated themselves conscientiously at stakes of their own drivin g. i. whi ch means the dictates of reason. and perhaps most fateful riddle of our being. the common course." to express it in modern terms)? Even so Alcibiades saw these imperative s no less plainly than Socrates. but owing to some mysterious commandment (he too.

if the first audacity was sin. This end could have been at tained in "natural" wise. the innate ideas . ignominious and painful death on the cross? Was it not in ord er to show man." For philosop hic purposes one only has to alter the poet's way of putting it just a little. to finding that frontier beyond which the mi ght of general ideas ceases. Most probably it possessed no consciousness. for the Middle Ages were exposed through Augustine and Dionysius the Areopagite to the influence of Hellenism. in his incredible and unreasonable audacity of self-affirmation. whatever the mediaeval theologians might argue. I suppose that the first entity which escaped from the womb of th e One suffered the greatest tortures. did He become man. Alcibiades and with him all audacity are conde mned in advance and without examination as eternally unlawful. n ot because he knows what awaits him. deteriora sequor. expose Himself to injur ious mistreatment. But why? Cur Deus homo? Why. For audacity is only audac ity because it has no guarantee of success. the first audacity was a great human achievement? If it was the beginning of life? If the "One" which is a "Nothing" is death. is this: there was a moment in history in which God ass umed human form and thereby took on Himself all the tortures and difficulties wh ich are the lot in this life of the most unfortunate and miserable man.if the the ological way of putting it be preferred . But philosophy has been unable to free itself from "theorizing" Socrates. The audacious man advances boldly. or in the movemen t back to the One. But however the explanations may run. that God assumed human form in order that man should cease to be himself and become an ideal atom of the intelligible world. of course. But what if. happens that he does not reckon on success at all and indeed may not do so. Supern atural interference was only necessary because man had to be supported in his ma d endeavour. to what purpose. rational and empiric. dangerous. indeed generally. safer and less questionable . more correct. Go d became man in order that man. Always. It often. How heav y was the punishment of Prometheus simply because he stole fire from the gods! There we have it again: "video meliora proboque. that no decision is too hard. But where. Kant himself in his Critique of Practical Reason restored to reason all the unlimited rights and privileges of infallibility taken from i t by the Critique of Pure Reason. The anamnesis. But man would not understand God. The mediaeval philosophers and theologians int . One must say: my reason leads me to the one. in the consciousness that the first audacity was a primal sin ? Certainly. he plainly envisages a failure and assumes with the utmost horror a responsibility for actions the consequence of which neither he nor any one els e can foresee. t hat is. in conformity with the wrongly interpreted views of the Hellenic self-immo lators. but because he is audacious or .Kant calls them the "a priori ideas".should again be confirmed in it. o ne should not decide in advance what is better and what worse. are altogether on the side of Kant and his idealism. through His example. on the contrary.which man brought with him from the epoch of his pre-mundane Babylonian captivity.this was expres sed in the Hellenic philosophy . the fact then acknowledged universally and even today very widely. shaken in his original resolve . if it took such a mad resolve.sola fide. but my whole being yearns for another. in the spirit of Plotinus. if it possessed consciousness at all. an d escaping its power means not straying from God but moving towards God? The who le Christian Middle Ages tortured themselves with the riddle: "Cur Deus homo?" I t was answered in different ways. on which side is "truth"? In the forward movement away from the "One" from which w e have succeeded in escaping after such indescribable efforts. And one must admit that appearances and proofs. On the contrary. have got the u pper hand.and evil" of cooks and carpenters. indeed. and ha rmful. then there is nothing else left but to humble ourselves and to return again to the One in order to expiate that sin. that it is wo rth while bearing anything only in order not to remain in the womb of the One? T hat any torture whatever to the living being is better than the "bliss" of the r est-satiate "ideal" being? I think that my suggestion has a right to compete wit h other answers to the question "Cur Deus homo?" It is not at all necessary to t hink.

and far mo re valuable than those which now rise to one's lips. Everything written is written for others. everywhere. that is all that we need. men have found no ways or means to express themse lves adequately. It is enough for the moment to recognize the fact. yet if it is right and the fluid does in fact find the s ame level. like artists.and what he has seen has not en riched his knowledge any more than it has awakened in him the doubts which he so much hates. Take a series of philosophic statements. or must one wait for the Second Coming? Or . adapt yourself to external conditions and speak what can always. If a man d id write for himself no one would understand him. others will neither see nor hear them. The philosopher is clearly primarily a witness and bears witness of some thing which cannot be tested at will. if they demand sincerity o f them. at least. One cannot even write a diary for oneself. then sincerity and exac titude are the first necessity. are faced with the dilemma: if you write as you yourself see and hear things. and the "glad tidings" which God incarnate brought to earth . The same is true of the mathematician.are they no more than empty chatter which one may pardon in young men. I think that if we were not so pressed to draw direct conclusions. but for which. 21 . But how is one to argue with a positivist whose self-assurance and complacency surpass even the idea of peace itself? Is one to remind him of the events of recent years? But he has seen it all . o ne may argue.then what does the sincerity of philosophers concer n us? No one troubles about the sincerity of a physicist who declares that water finds the same level in two communicating vessels. Is one consequently to remain dumb? Consequently I It is not at all necessary to remain dumb. most appropria te reply: Are Plato and Plotinus. and then some time. If you wish others to see and hear. He could not even have deciphered the meaning of his early or childhood notes if h e had made them for himself.erpreted the "glad tidings" in the spirit of their "philosophus" Aristotle. the conclusions also will come. aged and venerable men must be beaten? Th is objection is very reasonable. decidedly not at once. So far. And also by no means necessary to be so hasty with the conclusions. indeed. It is possible that after a fe w years the author himself would not be able to decipher what he had written for himself. be understood by every one. But if this is so. as Callicles said to Socrates. declares categorically that his moral convictions are so intimatel . One cannot write a book for oneself.the last and most overwhelming. but he was wrong. are sciences . chemistry. Thomas Aquinas. In the same w ay Kant. the mediaeval theologians with their disputes why God became man. Mill says that nothing would induce him to esteem God if he were convinced that God did not recognize his moral ideals. He though t in fact that he had written the book for himself. we should know far more. Can one hope to convince man differently. Men change with the years so much and forget their past! Caesar in old age could have understood nothing said to him by Caesar in youth or boyhood. and no one th inks of asking whether he believes what he says.THE GORDIAN KNOT Philosophy is a science. it is mad e objective. too. He s ays the relation between circumference and diameter is a constant. But how ensure them? We know where experiments with the testimony of witnesses lead. Even if he himself does not believe his assumption. geology. Two entirely dis interested and sincere eyewitnesses often make diametrically opposite statements when they only have to describe simple and uncomplicated events. quite unexpected ones. With Plato. 22 . Anselm. as he finished one of his books. Plotinus. geogra phy. even the Catholic a nd Protestant theologians. Men clearly do not hold philoso phy to be a science or philosophers to be scientists. not at once. And our contemporaries continue to interpret it in the same way. But why do we hear so much of the sincerity of philosop hers? If philosophy is a science in the same sense as physics. Writers.FINAL CONCLUSIONS "Mihi ipsi scripsi!" cried Nietzsche.

One word more on Hegel. and even the tone of his complaint about life ma kes men disbelieve in the sincerity of his pessimism. a fervent admirer of Aristotle. How cautious must we be. ea ch after his fashion. and Hume seems to be right. and known that the whole responsibility for the future was falling on him. or in Aristotle? I am not even trying to determine where truth r esides. even they bear the character of a wi tness's statement. Heraclitus denied the law of contradiction. one may conclude that men are either unconscious of the responsibility which they assume. that if. of insincerity. Examples: Aristotle and Heraclitus. This is all very well if instinct tells us true. he would "quietly" have accepte d all the misfortune which overwhelmed his fatherland? One could take twice and thrice as many striking examples to show how hard . and so it is with al most all philosophic statements. Consequently De scartes's statement should be wrong. after Descartes's program. whether they admit the law of contradiction or n o. Thus from the fact that the philosophers. by some instinct. that prison and beggary should be spared thee". if thou wouldst be a philosopher. if indeed all our thought and a ll our decisions on the beginning and the end. I think that Alexander himself would have hesitated to cut the Go rdian knot. Can we rely on all these statements? Hume say s that were someone to attempt so radical a doubt. or else feel. had he believed in prophecy. conscientiousness incarnate. Men were not asked whether or not they wanted to be when they were fetched out of nonexis tence. then. and consequently one must understand how to listen to them. They. If Heraclitus had heard Aristotle. Schopenhauer enthusiastically preached the "will not to be" and pessimism.I think that had they themselves had to pose the question of their own conscientiousness as seriously as questions are posed on which the destiny of the world and of humanity depends. took up the cudgels for Heraclitus. Hegel held himself for a philosopher. cut the Gordian knots of complicated metaphysical question s. And Kant? Were his moral principles so inseparably connected with his ideas of G od and the immortality of the soul? Even Mill. How can one know where sincerity resides? In Heracl itus and Hegel. Plato says decidedl y that it is better to endure injustice than oneself to be unjust. sinn ed by declaring so categorically that he would not have given way to God Himself where his morals were concerned. In his "logic" he gives this command ment to the philosopher: Thou shalt free thyself from all that is personal. does this mean that he obeyed his own commandmen t. that all their decisions count for very little in the balance-sheet of the whole world's spiritual activity. Schopenhauer. suf fice to themselves and cannot influence the course of world history. whether they are lifted up above the individual or not.it is to test the sincerity and conscientiousness of the u tterance even of philosophers who are justly esteemed as vessels of philosophic thought. how impossible . on the first and last things. Whethe r they exalt God or depose Him. whether they call lif e a good or an evil . the decisive voice is not theirs. too. Even the so-called self-evident truths which cl aim to be equated with mathematical axioms. he had lived in our day.y bound up with belief in God and the immortality of the soul that if he had to renounce belief. he could never be cured of skepticism. he declares with assurance. And . But what if it is not so? What if it is no sure instinct. Aristotle answers him by casting doubts on his sincerity: one can. but unpardonable frivolity or an . with such state ments! Listen to the confession of our Russian saints and mystics. to determine where sincer ity resides.ind eed. rais e thyself above all that is individual. as we have seen. he would surely have doubted his conscientiousness. they would not have know n what to say. only witnesses. has been suspected. his moral principles must collapse with it. say that sort of thing. not without reason. let us say. But it is equally impossible. and Hegel. indeed. ar e. but one cannot think i t.the main point .it is all one. too. Thousands of years passed. and will not be asked now when called out of this life into another being or returned to non-existence. But they would certainly have said to Mill if he had understood Russian: "Swear not. Descartes says tha t he began by doubting everything.

he has seen with his own eyes things that he wo uld never have believed if he had not seen them himself.WISDOM OF AGE AND EXPERIENCE OF LIFE There is an excellent Russian proverb: "Ask not the aged. the conception of a privy councillor. even if fictitious. N ietzsche only to forty-four. even more than a priori knowledge. that all that is has often been a nd will often happen again.. or at least to assume occasionally. But if it bears within itself a contradiction which is revealed on closer i nspection. His first commandment should not be Hegel's but rather: "Thou shalt know that this or that word of thine can save or destroy thy soul. is imperfect when confronted with any difficult and comprehens ive task. do so because of any life and development inh erent in the conception. just as the dogmatist is. Neither life nor development is inherent in the concept ion. to uncertainty. to our great astonishment. It seems as though a conjuror or magician were having a joke with us. e. ask him who knows abou t life. The characteristics of all these conceptions are so definite as to present n o problems to passport officials if stated clearly. and perchance all the human race also. Here the matter grow s infinitely complicated. a ches s champion. "conviction". speak of Nietzsche's "skeptici sm". is something r ough. What simplicity and inexperience! This is not the pl ace to discuss what constitutes the essence of "pure" skepticism. When "conviction" arrives. indeed. It is different when we try with the help of conception to master a reality not of our creation.it need not be Socrates. space. if the mediaeval idea of the dreadful Day of Judgment were reinstated in its rights.evil spirit that drives the best representatives of the human race to such rash action! I believe that any philosopher should make it his sacred duty to confess the latter supposition. in his many days. crude.. just to be rid of him.nothing agrees with the con ception. But how is one to make men learn in the course of thei r brief earthly life to bear. how much more fastidious in the choice of his "convictions" ! For Nietzsche. has yet seen little of life. says Nietzsche. He despises "experience". a major-general. But how much more experienced was Nietzsche than Ka nt! And accordingly. One skeptic is not the same as another. coarse. only a gene ral conception. It does not. we had decided a priori that the essence .believes so firmly that he is inclined to hold his convi ctions for a priori. even innate. A major-general is not a colonel. "adventavit asin us pulcher et fortissimus". in the last end. and therefore prefer a ny knowledge. however neatly and ingeniously the definition may have been thought out . birth and annihilation.reality is not to b e caught with it. philosophy would we ar quite a different air. An aged man who. etc. and. a little insect or a reasonable man. a professor not a junior fell ow. into the bargain. in a rigid construction of life . and eternity. Our astonishment e xceeds all bounds if. Reality runs through the idea as water through a sieve. given by the gods. bears its own opposite w ithin itself. This is quite natural.g. Being and not being. no resemblance with what we put in. this is only because the conception was created by man. He believes in unalterable principles. the burden of such immeasurable responsibility? The old ways and means are rejected. even one particular reasonable ma n . Think out what conception we may . a professor. This does not at all mean that all conceptions are self-contradictory. as Hegel rightly taught. but any donkey-driver . to listen now and then to the voice of popular wisdom. and we have thus been able within our modest scope to achieve ideal perfection. time. a thing which. who have argued so much ab out a priori and a posteriori knowledge. inclines to a priori thinking. Kant lived to eighty." I think that it would not hurt philosophers. the new h ave yet to be found. If this were so. all r anks and their tokens are of our creation. t hinks that there is nothing new under the sun. like all human creations. 23 . Impatient people who cannot bear protracted inner unrest. and the little that rema ins has. The knowledge of the experienced in life is differen t: as a man experienced in life.

And later. not being to being. Here ma n is undoubtedly dictating laws to nature. I remember the introductory words o f his lectures in Munich and compare them with what he said when he began work i n his youth as scholar and teacher. but Schelling knew and could not help knowing . and science becomes the only purpo se of the not-being being.. of course. under the eyes of mankind an d history! So thought Schelling's "empirical ego". but like Alexander the Great. if Schelling had brought himself to use it fo r philosophy. upon which ancient and modern history. who had robbed him treacherously and shamelessly crowned his hollow head with the laurels due to him. however. with its traditiona l apotheosis of past tradition and of "a priori ideas". How deeply Schelling must at botto m have envied Hegel! Hegel was doubly a child of fortune: he had conquered the w orld and died with the happy certainty: "Si fractus illabatur orbis. the whol e past of humanity and even the future of the universe meant nothing.conceptions which we. Thus. had conquered the whole world by treachery while noble Schelling was left to h imself and the consolations of metaphysics. All questions have retired into th e background. and while speaking of the loftiest tasks of humanity and his pr ophetic calling he is thinking how to take revenge on his old enemy.fate did not spar . he was still unable for one moment to forget the wr ong done to him. the state transforms itse lf into a god. To say to oneself that being and not-being. professor. not of course for himself . and expressed its thought shyly. might have overthrown all a priori which had yet been. Here. even if they are not old.. his former frien d and pupil. and nature submits to him. transcendental philosophy and philosophy of revelation. the living man vanishes. impavidum f erient ruinae. Hegel. In that case being is indeed equivalent to n ot-being. very long lives behind them. when. while his "reasonable ego" developed his ear lier ideas of the beautiful and sublime as the one end of life. of course. but without any inner conviction. how to elim inate from the book of history every trace of Hegel's philosophy and scientific activity . the first place is occupied by his intolerable and unremitting gri ef over the unjust judgment of man. But Schelli ng had behind him a strict schooling in philosophy and life. one must not be tempted into generalizations. while the principal thing was that Hegel. he was summoned to Berlin." It never occurred to Hegel to suspect his own philosophic disi nterestedness. as also by his opening lectures in Munich and later in Berlin. and chess champion .in his old age he thinks and can only think of one thing: not he but Hegel has proved himself an Alexander the Great of philosophy. this thief and murderer . fortuitous "experience". for the higher ends of history. through hints alone. Mad courage would have b een required to abandon traditions sanctified through long centuries and trust o neself to one's own small. As a young man he wanted to comprehend and s ubdue the whole world. this dull and loose man. I have long been haunted by a peculiar feature in his face which gives him an expression of unrelieved and painful unrest. No one understands and no one troubles. towards the end of his life . the portrait and the styl e of his last works show this clearly enough. have created a priori. too.this would have been the only revenge which could have lightened his tortured soul. think differently about all th is. Men w ith experience of life. blinking unrest of his still brilliant eyes and the undecided wrinkles or features of his face. the whole past of human ity and its future turned as round an axis. He comprehended and subdued it. And men guessed nothing of this. is how old men think who have long. although the frightful treachery. almost imperceptibly. I repeat. In old age. the supre me crime was done quite openly in the light of day. his letters and the remarks scattered about various of his wor ks . this is shown clearly even in the pictur e by the peculiar. And all this because we had imagined that the whole w orld could be comprehended by conceptions like privy councillor. an experience which. Schelling. But this. with apparent lo udness and boldness. This is the truly dreadful and repulsive experience which Schelli ng underwent. reason understands everything. I at this moment imagine Schelling like the picture in his collected works . for the triumph of ultimate truth.of reality lay in the idea itself. and that this was the greatest event in the universe.

To admit his own weakness. To admit openly before all the world that in his youth.they do not feel this the ir immutability as a burden. cross. today. free. that in him the empiric ego had attained the upper hand over the transcendent an d transcendental ideals. if it w ere not heaven crumbling over him but only history playing a trick with him. h e was betraying humanity and swearing the most godless of vows: "Ecce. not only "here" i n the world of appearances. and tomorrow. There are weak men enough. A plane bounded by three intersecting lines gives a triangle. one other way out. which might appear the simplest and most n atural. where art thou now? And why comest thou not to defend thy good repute? Or is perhaps good repute itself fallen a prey to rust and moth. Yes. as though there were no men in the world at all. I think that if Hegel had found himself in Schelling's place. He knew that Hegel had conquered him. in the sight of men.THE LIFE OF IDEAS Ideas live a quite independent. bisectors of angles and sides. but his soul was doomed and irrevocably lost because he had been untrue to the oaths which he swore as a young man to truth.who knows wh ither? Then they return when they think fit. That when he prom ised to burn his "empirical ego" in honour of the absolute philosophic truths. and so far as I know. yesterday." Should he do this? But the time for a "reformation" of philosophy was clearly not yet come. and behaving as though he were remaining true both to philosoph ic traditions and to the oaths he had sworn. such knowledge was granted him . But how shall we find such a balance? Schelling. Deus. the point. Their nature is unalterable and . for they release us from any responsibility for their activities and giv e us an example of exemplary constancy. and autonomous life.enviable lot! .e him. his own impotence. There is obviously a balance in which Schelling's misfortu ne weighs more heavily than the philosophy of nature and the philosophy of revel ation. but also "beyond" in the ideal world. it seems to us that this is good. indeed. if the bisectors of the angles me et at a point. in the present. history can show no case of such open and honest humility. too. They have no fear of ti me the all-destroyer. and will cross at one point. yet revealing neither to himself nor to others what went on in the secret pla ces of his soul. that this must be so. Teach humility . and agr eeable. 24 . Necessity is for them a necessity of their own natu . What was he to do? There were two ways: the one which he himself elected later. that we cannot reproach Schelling if in his great "misfortune" he forgot the sublime philosophic edifices. etc. and do those who enter another world leave it be hind here with us. tib i voveo impietatem et blasphemiam per totam meam vitam.so did they all. Ideas beget new ideas with a necessity highly agreeable to us. the pla ne. in endlessly torturing himsel f. not his body. seduced by the false temptations of corrupted Rome. what great misfortune would it be if Schelling were proved one more among many? Not all can be great. There was. the bisectors of the sides also meet at a point. They come . he had committed a great crime. in the in finite past. they have crossed. angels. The bisectors of angles and sides can under no circumstances escape their destiny. not all philosophers! This seems simple and natural. That. God Himself cannot alter the established ordo et connexio of those things which term themselves triangles. And we "understand" this. and demons . so long as p hilosophy remains a handmaid of mathematics and positive science it will not fin d the right balance: that is almost a self-evident truth. he would have shown no more self-abnegation than Schelling. with necessity. And I think.who knows whence? They go . Mathematics has the idea of the straight line. unalterability. The other way was that which Luther had taken of old: to declare the Pope Antichrist and all oaths unpleasing to Go d. but none can learn it. and complete subjection to the supreme law. and clearly it was not Schelling's destiny to become a Luther of philosophy. that this is quite in accordance with our highest apperceptions which we have borrowed from the "royal" science o f mathematics. in a triangle the sum of the angles equals two right angles. but Schelling did not take this way. etc. together with their other treasure? In any case. and in the infinite future.that disinterestedness was not for him.

The best tha t you men. rises for a moment out of eternity and sinks into eternity again. . and the supreme principle rarely sends us light from its heights" (I. on the other hand.ENFANT TERRIBLE The knowledge of children seems to adults incomplete. of course. If then. is thus clearly t hat of adults. since it has not the "knowledge" possessed by adults. the points. but p ractically quite unusable and even dangerous knowledge.i. Your unrest is your well-deserved punishment. it would do mischief: it might say or do something naughty. "Relative" knowledge. A nd even the points of the circle have never desired to achieve the privileged po sition of the center. limited . become yourselves ideas. Children have not yet learned to adapt themselves to their su rroundings. as soon as you melt with us into a single and eter nal being.e. i. She rightly fears th at. The anxious mother never lets her child out of her sight for a moment. Herein and herein alon e lies your salvation. Unfortunately men refuse to see this.you must become like us and cease to questio n "ideas" on the sources of their high being. th e knowledge determined by the conditions of our earthly being. and in any c ase quite useless. The triangle is completely content with itself and has never envied the quadrangle. that is. it would not be points from men. that is.and who would not . just as one describes with one and the same word the dog-star and the barking animal called dog. as of every ideal entity. and sulked. are well versed in rational philo sophy (which was born of them) would answer them: The will and reason of points. etc. you will instantly make an end of that ceaseless unrest which through your being you have brought into the harmony of the eternal and ever self-conte nted world. They judge without regard either to the physical or the social condi tions of life. you would also s hare eternity . 2). differ toto caelo from the will and reason of men. And were men to attempt to stir up the points by arguments in favour of the equality of them all. Let them come whence they will and go whither they will. and therefore harmonizes completely with freedom. but men from points. and so too are thos e laws which we and they obey humbly without a murmur of rebellion. can attain is to become like us ideal entities. have a non-relative. wanted to be center too. as is said above. even amusing. They are of the same essence as we. left to itself. For the point is. and there has been no case in history in which some ordina ry point has rebelled against its lot. and consequently man also.. absolute. the wisest among you h ave long since recognized this great truth. If you want to be released from tort ure. the points who. As soon as you understand this. which knows neither birth nor death. nor even the circle. Every child is in a certain sense an enfant terrible. while all that is real. you real entities. Even clear-sighted Plotinus was convinced of the contrary: "In chi ldhood we practise the capacities which belong to our complicated . an ideal being and not a temporal one. Children are guarded until they achieve experience of life. until they learn to limit themselves sufficiently to be able to exist in our world. live their independent life and multiply according to the ir own laws.being. From this it is deduced that the knowledge of children must be rejected a bsolutely.re. Children. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio Index ToC In Job's Balances \ Part II \ Revolt and Submission << | >> 25 . In the last end these are only similar words. And if any one ha d to learn. submit yourselves to ideas.

26 .they hav e no time for memory. "different" in relation to water. even whether it keeps i ts shape or is crushed to powder. how something "new" appears on the earth. happen what may. it is even no question at all. and have even created the "postulate" that such kno wledge is the most perfect. man is disquieted. Why do we st ruggle for existence? A stone.. its being cannot be taken from it. this possibility of "losing" and "keeping" and the conse quent necessity of struggle . nothing more. But these words con tain a whole theory with all the intent inherent in human theories. The Living needs something. beings which wish. he begins to ask. then our first commandment must be: Be as childre n. if we want to see "directly" as a living and reasonable being sees which is bound by no presuppositions.we ask why? The question has only a sense if we decide in adva nce that steam is not water and ice also not water. . into the indifferent milieu of the indifferent. a piece of iron. supernatural element that has int ruded. If we want "absolute " knowledge.do they struggle? They a re simply there. When the snow melts on the mountains and the rivers overflow their banks. is an empty and senseless question. It is one to it whether it is cold or hot. no ugliness.. outside living needs. natural being. God knows whence. beings for which "all is not one". and then for the first time the apparently "objective" questi on of causality arises. then steam and ice would be nothing "new". even as a "simple" statement of fact. of the morning star. Everything in nature is quite indifferent towards its fate. in fact. clean or dirty. Our whole phi losophic interest. Even the question of causality. This "need". ourselves.DEUS EX MACHINA The "struggle for existence" appears to us a perfectly objective conclusion from observation. philosophy has to begin wi th its questioning and examination. and not terrible. It is there. to man it is not one where the water is and what form it wears. especially very old men who have "no future". Moreover. that can be taken away. get s into the river. quite convinced that. even the most precious. like children. nothing importa nt or unimportant. in the same way the beauty of heaven. the material and the ideal.My view is that this is a very great and sad error. then there exists for the man who distinguishes the snow on the mou ntains from water in flood a relationship of cause and effect. their early youth and their childhood. and abov e all in the distant past. water . and "value" according to their wishes and their endeavour. there is also nothing "new " and no "difference". To a stone. But if we were not. If the snow turns into water. they are not particularly good at speaking: they are always easily bea ten by logical arguments. And so it is with everything in nature. The contrary should be the c ase. Adults "make" their way in life . that the one was there first and then the other appeared and we want to explain to ourselves how the one tur ns into the other. which still fears nothing and is not even afraid of becoming "terrible". and for which one must struggle if one wishes t o keep it. endeavour. whether it is set in gold or in iron. But this is not granted to adults. And who would like to turn into an enfant terrible! Only o ld men. something which can also not be. And so men remain in their limited knowledge. or of a sequence of notes would be nothing to us . which is useful. our whole pure thirst for knowledge should be directed toward s restoring in our memory what we received in the happy time when all impression s of being were new to us and we took up into ourselves reality without submitti ng ourselves to the postulates dictated by practical needs. at the riddle of this "need". Water turns in to steam or ice . For before life appears with its "need" ther e are and can be no questions.is a mysterious. We should learn from children and await revelation from them. and the river floods or destroys a village. but the purest illusion. At this "need". it is one whether it lies on the floor of the sea or on a high mountain. as there is in it no beauty. live in the past. In the inanimate world. But these old men are listened to as little as children and "superfluous" men. Only the Living struggles.

is it prejudice of the monos? The ancients. hides and overcomes for a while its unrest. therefore. can rejoice and be sorry. Cynics. a round number. Epicureans. are cond emned to death or. therefore. seeks to explain cause and effect and to discover the connecting links in the chain. Yes. or rather "supernatural". we reflect on causal connections we must direct our atte ntion first and foremost to the most inexplicable form of these connections: on the connection of the outer world with the inner world of humanity. which has expunged from life everything "unnatural". the law of contradiction or any other law.solid. we must be indifferent even towards the destruction of our fatherland. for the soul there were only virtue and wisdom and. or gaseous . Unrest cannot be expelled from life. then. At the best there would be "something". pain belonged to th e body but not to the soul. could never distinguish the water in the valley from the snow on the mountains. through the enigmatic decision of a mysterious and inco mprehensible fate. Plotinus taught that the death of friends and rela tions did not matter to us. like a stone. a being aft er whose image he was created. it is no longer indifferent where and in what state . are forced t o confront the last secret face to face . deprived of every support of common thought. Even Xenophon saw in So . and no pain arises. a being which is essentially not "indiff erent" but "passionate". Platonists. We interpret the ancients as Xenophon did Socrates. They declared that pain had nothing to do with man. are we so frightfully shocked when we read reports about torturings and cannot i magine what would happen to us if a man were tortured before our eyes? Or is tha t a lack of scientific method. that is. So. fear. perhaps it is the greatest and most important eve nt of our lives if we. and only so. each have their own good explanation of the origin of pain. psychologists.monos pros monon. fluid. But onl y for a while. m etal.that is the "cause" why men drown in the valleys. the c loud from the rainbow. And then it is that the "question of causality" reveals itself befor e us in its whole depth and menacing force. For an indifferent being to whom all was one. and that would be all . If. One knocks a tree. b ut this is either an absurdity or a great mystery. a corpse. triumph. with torture. As long as indifference reigned. it has even slunk secretly into modern positive philosophy. And perhaps this must be so. a stone. If one knocks oneself one feels pain. man who divided the world into parts and gave to each part a name. We think that the ancients had pass ed from the field of theory into that of practice. The world "as a whole" has remained as it was. love.but most probably there would be nothing at all. The snow tha ws on the mountains . that it was an adiaphoron (something indifferent). So. chaos from cosmos. he did n ot even conceive them himself but some being inspired him with them. etc. were not afraid of asking themselves such a q uestion. What have the snow and the life of humanity in common? In or der to hide the riddle which lies here. ha te. as it was with the inhabitants of Egypt.the water is. a circle. or rather. Stoic s. It is man for whom. Physiologists. a wise and virtuous man must be happy even if he were burned in the t yrant Phalaris's brazen bull. with such c onsistency and self-assurance. and they answered it openly.But there is nothing objective in it. a straight line. he it is who first conceived questions. not even law from lawlessness. It lies in wait for us at ev ery step. We al l know that physical injuries cause pain. wish. if it reigned and was the principle of the univ erse. for example. there could be no question of causal connections. With this ceaseless and ever growing disquietude every man must deal for himself . which dislikes disq uietude. and phil osophers. It finds them. as Plotinus solemnly called it. must the question be posed. one even knocks an organic body. have life and superf luity assured them. Why. human understanding. and all ex planations agree in the end in one thing: that there is no reason for questionin g here: that pain is a natural phenomenon like other natural phenomena and has n o superior right to an explanation. but this is a false view whic h hinders us both from understanding the ancients and from seeing our own prejud ice.

preoccupied only with utilitarian ends. objective truth sim ply because we have carefully hidden our "selfishness" and do not see it. incomprehensible thing which is always at war with explanation. and if it testifies to anything. At the most. from the non-being to whic h science condemned it. and a fiction. And thus the law of c ausality. Whether this is done with "sufficient reas on".an arbitrary fiat. created in deference to o ur limitations. which we divide into parts. it was without any "explanations" or "reason" wha tever. it strains all its forces to become as rema rkable as possible. in that single. it is only to something quite inexplicab le. into a giant Deus . indeed. but we must not forget heav en for their sakes. It is just the reverse . and then those cases woul d seem to us the most important in which we could catch behind the natural order even the merest glimpse of deus ex machina. It is time to recognize that it would be a mistake to see in the post -Aristotelean philosophy only practical endeavours or at any rate predominantly practical endeavours.WHAT IS BEAUTY? . and. for practical purpos es. in deference to his limitations. of course. order. identify our fortuitous and temporal interests with the eternal. the whole i dea of self-sufficient order are assumptions highly useful. eternal. one can say that in the world. Science would make unremarkable every thing remarkable. the principle of the regularity of phenomena. We should try to grasp what lies behind the "looks like". causality. those parts must be con nected as closely as possible in order to leave nothing. as in the previous example of the knock and the pain. it has left a field bare of opposition. But despite science. the "fortuitous". yet we must not make of them an idol. etc. of the unforeseen which nips in the bud the possibility of any systematic pro gress. But even had they given . or as little as possibl e. These great achievements have. Only we do not notice that we. uncontrollable. created Socrates t he moralist for himself and posterity. because. to transform itself from a point. the outer world must be divided into part s for us to be able to overcome them. as the harmonia praestabilita. Science is only happy and content when. It is certain that were not we. by its very nature. it will n ot and cannot seek for the truth. On the one hand. expl ains the pain. 27 . Neither the knock nor anything connected with it in the sense of physical changes. and all the rest of the ideal world trouble about the real wor ld. p henomena do take place as though the world were composed of different parts and as though those parts determined one another. but totally ungrounded and erroneous. and we seek for the true Socrates in Plat o's works. There is no need to renounce the gifts of the earth. as Xenophon. F or if there were no interestedness there would also be no idea of causality. the creative fiat. ten times as much. alt hough we are not thinking either of Phalaris's bull or of our immediate needs.it is our scientific attitude whi ch is predominantly practical. We are convinced that we are seeking unselfishly for an unselfish. and could they give. not what "looks like one" but in ve ry truth existent. However much we may have attained in science. The truth lies there where science sees the "n othing". after it has done its work. We have discovered that Xenophon did not understand Socrates. The self-sufficient. like all men in ev ery age. When pain came. But our "selfishness" is amply revealed in the very conception of causality. li ke Xenophon. "natural " order is the purest fiction. whether the principle or postulate of regularity is maintained.this troubles it as little as regularity. we should not interest ours elves in what look like relationships existing between what look like parts.crates only a noble moralist anxious to make men better. without lul ling ourselves and our unquiet to sleep by reflecting on the great achievements of the human spirit. etc.even a Deus ex machina (that does no t daunt it) . on the other hand. at that. given us much. the unremarka ble refuses to lose all its meaning. This must be admitted openly. yet we must re member that science can give us no truth. Our interest is twofold. whether the "eternal" order is infringed or no .

Precisely for that reason. this statue is beautiful. I kno w myself that it is impossible.All allow this to be a just question.has beautiful Eurydice in common with the beautiful sea. And were someone to find a method of evoking such "pleasure" through artificia l excitement of the nerves. And more: the beautiful sky cannot replace the beau tiful sea. there are so many beautiful things. for the moment that variety were mastered. and then after we have grasped the "essence" of beauty. the sea. and we clearly do not suspect that in rais ing this question we are shutting ourselves off from access to the best there is in the world. And even less if comparison is possible in such case . too. Helen. what they have in common does not constitute their essence. not at their similarity. history is usually g uided by infinitely minute quantities. but it is so. In short. after he had killed the goose (which was also the source of golden eggs). bu t that they have no "common factor". the sky over me. That is a riddle. in this way or the other. was beautifu l. such as the bi nding of an old Bible. had nothing left but the dirty entrails. not only to examine. we shall penetrate into the secret of the universe. that eve n ten lives as long as Methuselah's would not suffice for this enterprise. The pleasure given by the contemplation of the bea utiful is the only "common factor". There can be no question of mastering in the conception or the idea the whole in finite variety of beautiful objects. we think. if w e insist on cross-examining"beauty" and explaining it. with Cleopatra. th ere must also be beauty. But it is equally true that if another woman of even greater intrinsic beauty had ruled Egypt instead of Cleopatra. more accurately. But I know. we should not thank him for his gift. But he who loves beauty and seeks it never asks what he seeks and loves. Caesar and Antony might not have noticed her. Every beautiful thing is something absolutely irreplaceable a nd thus bears no comparison with anything else. was beautiful . we shall reach the source f rom which that streams into the world which we hold for the supreme value. We shall be answered that it is simply impo ssible. as St. but it does not lie in the beautiful objects . that it is one of the rare case s of impossibility which one greets from one s whole heart as something desired. th en. etc. but neither can the beautiful sea replace a beautiful picture. for whose sake Orpheus went down into the underworld. We must admit that we call both Helen and Eurydice beautiful. And there is no need. If. we should lose beauty. we shall have to cross-ex amine separately every single object which has got. the living source of beauty would dry up once for all. a sonata of Mozart's. Or. Paul has nothing in common with Pavel Chichikov [the hero of Gogol's Dead Souls]. Orpheus would not have gone down into the underworld for Helen's sake. the Gree ks would not have gone to Troy for love of Eurydice. And no conclusions can be drawn from the "conception" of beauty or the "idea" of beauty. The beautiful in Eurydice has noth ing but the name in common with the beautiful in Helen. Wh at we hold for the "source" is in its nature no source but a deceptive will-o'-t he-wisp. we follow the habit of reason and compare beautiful objects with one another . So. There is no need for any one to master the "variety" of beauty in the idea or i n any other way. If. It seems to us so natural to interest ourselves in the essence of beauty. about beau tiful works of art or nature. We must choose between beautiful object s and "beauty". either. Pa scal remarks that if Cleopatra's nose had been a little shorter history would ha ve taken another turn. the w ord "beauty" tells us nothing at all about beautiful things. This is so obvious that no one even thinks that the contrary might be possible: that after we had mastered the "source" of beauty. Alcibiades was beautiful. in to the category of beautiful things. He does not need to justify and explain himself "before all men not even before . this picture. the result will be the opposite of the usual: we shall be amazed. to ask what bea uty is. That is a profound and just thought. just as the stupid. We who have the "fortune to be participat ors in "great" historical events know this only too well. while Octavius might have been bewitched by her. Eurydice. but at their absolute contrasts. too. there are many beautiful things made even by craftsmen. greedy beggar in the fairy story. but even to look at all beautiful objects. for whose sake Troy fell.

But what they can learn through examina tion is not worth discovering. He knows that it is quite unimportant that the beauty which he treasur es and loves should be that beauty which all can see at anytime. Was Oe dipus acting freely when he killed his father and married his mother? Or was Pha raoh in the Bible acting freely when he kept the Jews back in Egypt. as Hamlet says and the Scriptures teach. the gods. trusting his own reason. but there would have been no trace of freedom . it does not hide itself. the " actions" would have been the same. pondered not a little on this question. a parrot might speak the truth or a drunken man get rid of his shirt. through "works". is punished for them most heavily. Even a sparrow does not fall to the ground against the will of Providence. if men r eflect on free will they cannot leave untouched the primary source of life. 28 . Pelagius. while the essence of freedom lies not in the actions. a nd is clearly not in the least free in respect of them.LIBERUM ARBITRIUM INDIFFERENTIAE Wherein does the central question of free will lie? It is generally represented thus: Am I forced in every case to act in a certain way. and tried to solve it. Where. but earlier still in the "w ill" itself? The soldier stands under fire. A good man gives his last shirt to a beggar. Only that reveals itself whic h is alike for all.all this is only the ordo et connexio rerum. So it was during the Pelagian dispute. quite gladly and wi thout a struggle . in a slightly different form but with the greatest earnestness. Brutus ki lls his friend . the pr oblem began where the discussion reached the relation of man to God. and Brutus lifted up the dagger against Caesar? or are all thes e "actions" nothing but externals. too. although she could also have lied. that the man gave his shirt. Even with gener ally recognized works of art the best does not reveal itself with the certainty for which the theoreticians of the beautiful care.in so far as it was not a question of good or evil. "merit". It was the same difference as between Augustine and Pelagius: is man saved through his own force. . that the essen ce and secret of freedom lies hidden. the ideas. have we to seek freedom of will? in the fact that the soldier did not flee. Thus. that which is of secondary importance. The Greeks. are over us~ all is determined through the will of the Supreme Principle. or am I free also to ac t otherwise? A brave soldier remains on the battlefield under hostile fire. it lies there open befor e all men's eyes. and it is in the latter. They will not be able to cross-examine all beautiful objects. And. and it has burned up and glowed with especia l vehemence in those epochs in which men were revising their views on the ultima te bases of life. from which we draw conclusions with more or less justice about the inn er happenings of human life. while actions are only pure e xternals. Cordelia speaks the truth. Virtuous Brutus kills his friend Caesar an d involves himself in a civil war which he hates. A flash of lightning might have killed Cae sar. It is always connecte d with the basic question of being. although he could have lived q uietly at home with Portia. then. although h e could also not give it.himself. spoke of grace. of course . quoting St. In both cases a man per forms actions of world-historic importance. It seldom arises independently. For this reason the p hilosophers of aesthetics who have tried to attain the like for all have not got beyond commonplaces. Luther abandoned "free will" to his opponent. Paul a nd the prophet Isaiah. they cannot master the variety. For him Buridan's ass was no problem. or through grace? Augustine. and have not unveiled the secret of beauty. requir ed works. that Cordelia spoke the truth. not even in the decisions. and in Luther's dispute with Erasmus. when it is written in the Scriptures that "God hardened his heart". This "freedom" lies somewhere far away and deep. God. but before them. agains t which none can set himself. behind which lies the ordo et connexio idearum. Destiny. Honourable Cordelia speaks the truth which destroys he r. they will not unveil it. of the sa lvation or destruction of the soul. For that reason the question of freedom of will has so vast an importance in the history of human thought. alth ough he could also flee.

it was only to open a rift in the idea of the possibility of human free will. If he did say s o. when he had grasped the essence of things more deeply. But the more grave. Even Kant. who was clearly trying to express in scientific form what Luther put in t he phraseology of religion. and God alone possessed free will. They deny man freed om of will because they clearly cannot make up their minds to place so precious a treasure in the hands of a mortal and limited being. bea ring Descartes in mind. God. And I think that an ordinary determinist. even one not particularly acute. then it seems to us as though some new. he had been left with freedom? Only if one assumes that God is indifferent towards His creation. He can go right or left. to choose between good and evil. the precious treasu re must not be placed at the disposal of a limited and ignorant entity. admitted man's freedom of will. perhaps hostile . there arises at first sight this curious paradox: many men. that Hi s basic qualities are indifference and dispassionateness . Spinoza's paradox is. the doctrine of faith. For one must be blind and dumb not to fee l under all their arguments.only so can one aband on man quietly and even so indifferently to himself.but only within the limited measure s uitable to a limited entity. carefree life. Thus Lut her came far nearer to the truth when.were guiding and determi . would prefer any liberum arbitrium to that servum arbitrium which they have undertaken to defend. and even Kant. disregarding logical consistency. some menacing "to be o r not to be" confronts us. Spinoza in his youth. after many years of peaceful.. . too. of g race and of Almighty God who created our world after His image out of nothing. weighty. if. If a chance leads us to the edge of th e abyss. quite unnecessary. to decide his met aphysical destiny. he maintained. It is h ardly possible to believe that he did not realize the nonsensicality of the asse rtion that a famished or even a merely hungry man who had to choose between two bits of bread equidistant from him would die of hunger rather than make a choice because he had no "reason" for preferring the one to the other. if he listened to Luther or St. and with his native decision he did not even stop before obvious nonsense and declared categorically that a man who had got into t he position of Buridan's ass would have died of hunger. and now saw that anything was preferable to what resulted: man exchanged Paradise for our toilsome life on earth. even act in more important cases (I should not care to say w hich) without considering anything but his fortuitous whim. Paul.co gnitio intuitiva!) . and have thus agreed in their assertions with th e superficial materialists who have "simply drawn their conclusions from the gen eral thesis of the prevailing regularity of phenomena in the world. In his riper years. and important the dilemma confronting man. he gave man full authority to do as he would. that everything is all one to Him.Thence. he too felt that man must not be allowed the rig ht of dominating his destiny. choose which he will of se veral like objects.of proclaiming aloud so challenging a nonsense.perhaps beneficent. even the most abstract. Who knows what more he might have contr ived. God had given freedom once. the more the possibility of free action vanishes for him. sinned grievously against the truth when he made the whole field of empiria dependent on the principle of necessity. is not granted to man. at that time a man place d in the situation of Buridan's ass would have been no man but a wretched ass. i f he had taken no decision. Schopenhauer. In the empirica l field man is granted a certain freedom . strictly speaking. It would be madness to l eave man to take any decisions "freely". have denied man's freedom of will with al l the strength of conviction of which they have become capable only in moments o f supreme spiritual exaltation. or many men who have thought and felt deeply. T he same can be said of Spinoza. if after expu lsion from Paradise. to the firs t man. however. within the limits of practical acts. only. what further disasters he might have called down on himself. In such a case "freedom" an d "necessity" are equivalent conceptions which are swallowed up in impersonal in difference. Of course. enigmatic power . like Hamlet. Man can w ell be allowed to make use of what is God's attribute. I think that Spinoza experienced a quite particular satisfaction in the right the inner and consequently quite unfounded right (tertium genus cognitionis .

there are innumerable worlds. For that reason. This overstepping. on the one hand. But as soon as she has descended upon earth she loses her knowledge and with it her freedom. there is so great a difference that to reduce all these cases to a single problem would mean having eyes and not seeing.how can an entity hemmed in between so many eternities. like Buridan's example.for its whole purpose lies in not going b eyond the limits of what it is accustomed to consider comprehensible. Every attempt to grasp the idea of freedom. Or . when she still lives in the intelligible world.and this is obviously the right way out . Malebranche says textually: "La Libert§Û est un myst§Úre. space is infinite. refuses to perceive this . The soul ch ooses her own lot.ning our action. the secrets of the universal structure are incom prehensible . and will be punished sooner or later in every sincere inquirer with deep and torturing disappointment. almost paradoxical contradictions.the recollection of what was in previous lives . limited man an even partial share in the solu tion of the basic problems of his being? How should he. indeed. unlimited possibilities. distort it past recog nition. life's riches and its terrors are inexhaustible. or else . when she still has knowledge of the truth. Still less can one rely on the general principle o f no effect without cause. How could it be otherwise? How could on e. with extreme disq uiet. If man act ually receives help from some strange and mysterious source . would mo nstrously overstep its competence and terms of reference. or ev en of no ass. and besides. according to the lot which she chose. know what it has to do. having ears and not hearing. Plato believes th at the soul solves the fundamental questions of her being before birth. but before. or permit oneself inevitable. but all that need be known. not m ere memory. Between the "freedom of will" of Buridan's ass. with its inclination towards "natural" ex planations. whi ch is so customary in philosophy. T herefore in speaking of free will it is impossible to start from an exceptional case. We remember at times what we saw whe n we lived in freedom. are bi-dimensional. every attempt to strip from her the secret veil in which she has always appeared before the best representat ives of philosophic and religious thought. But willful blindness towards the unknown and fear of it do not alter the facts: something imperious and irresistible fetters our freedom and guides us towards ends unknown and incomprehensible to us. not as tod ay she thinks it necessary to act. too. Ordinary determinism.how should he know whither to turn his steps and what to make of himself? Time is infinite. as one accepts all that is profitable. although it never has given and never will give fi .one must accept it . who came but yesterday i nto the world and is wholly occupied with thinking how to keep a foothold on it . And a conception covering alike Augustine and Plato and all men an d beasts who hesitate before an impending decision and take a decision. but as she was commanded to act before eterni ty began. and knows not just a little. Either one must simplify reality. allowed anamnesis . but one may not imagine a "mystery". if one notices it. but we remember it rarely and vaguely. We see that the most profound thinkers have suspected a great mystery in freedom of will. must be most carefully eschewed by those who s till believe that philosophy.one must not be above either cont radiction or myth. i. fo r this is too enigmatic. but a man confronted with a similar dilemma.e. I repeat. we do not remember the most important things. It is impossible to speak of free will (as of anyt hing affecting the first and last truths) in the language of pure conceptions pu rged of contradiction. while truth is tri-dimensional or more. One must agree once for all that all our conceptions.but only to a very limited degree. impotent. and how can it choose for its elf? Plato. and acts now. have resort to myths. and threatens one. allow weak. if one wishes form and content of the word to correspond even approximately." And presumably this is so. and Augustine saving his soul or Plato meditating on Socrates' death and the fate of the just on the other. however we construe them. like Plato. before b ecoming incarnate in the flesh. merely leads to the illusion of a sol ution. infinities . but not after she has come down upon earth.

They speak.e. clever. it i s not opened unto us. irascible. with art and religion. who should go seeking at his own peril and risk? Particularly wh en no one believes the Scriptures. Therefore men prefer to construct ingenious combinations out of old ideas. but I know him. if asked. even what is good. and he who has seen. that he a ctually dares not know him. So it comes that others know a m an better than he knows himself. one clearly does not need to see. To know. on the surface. if the Scriptures speak true. i. Nature has indeed contrived that one man does not even notice another. fine. 29 . Then its chief "f ailing" . but only to judge. "Knocking" is not so easy. How could it happen tha t he who has not seen . of what has covered the reality. Even the saints of old often preferred reasoning to knocki ng. although he sees and feels himself directly. wh ile to others it is never granted to look into his soul. I even hope that the time is n ot far off when philosophers will be allowed the privilege of admitting openly t hat their duty does not lie in solving problems but in the art of depicting life as unnatural. A parrot can also pose a question. bold.wil l cease to he a failing and turn into an advantage. Others may say of them that they are kindly. very rare. Of course the ph ilosophical solutions of problems are transitory. but th ey could say nothing of themselves. who still sees .QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS Posing questions is not the same as asking. Therefore knowledge ha s ever been knowledge of that which lies uppermost. And those who predict our actions do not know us at all. but behind th eir words lies nothing more. He is not knock ing at all. when we have so many books to hand. gifted. he is only pronouncing words." Indeed. as mysterious and as problematical as possible. cannot and do not want to know us. But now. or death. instead of thinking and s eeking . of making the enormous effort which alone brings fort h questions worth the answering. none of us "knock" except on rare. a quite exceptionally interesting para dox. t o pass judgment according to purely external indications. that is. knock as one may. it is u sual for men not even to attempt to know themselves.instead. etc. is yet. means really to say nothing of him. that there is no one there to open. perhaps.the immense number of questions and the complete lack of answers .KNOW THYSELF We often hear: "That man does not know himself. occasions. To say of a man that he is br ave. If we go into it deeply we may learn many new things about the "essence" of knowledge.nal answers to the questions which itself raises. A nd in a certain sense all men are nine-tenths parrots.. Every one is convinced that it will not be op ened. Thus if somebody asks what is time or what eternity . each a compendium of so many re ady-made ideas. Each of us is eternally hid from prying eyes in the wholly impenetrable shell of the body. And for that reason. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio Index ToC In Job's Balances \ Part II \ Revolt and Submission << | >> 30 . It simply means ev . it must be opened unto him. etc.knows not? This is in my opinion an extraordinarily. clever. that which men have always justly esteemed their supreme good. it is not to be thought that he is "knocking" and that.knows. inventive.. An outside observer will be corres pondingly better able to predict their actions. noble.

or generous. instability is his most perilous quality. origina lly divine in oneself and submitting oneself to regulations and standards evolve d from history. or. is repug nant to sinful mortal nature. and the right to be un stable is his chief treasure.e. does not necessarily seem to himself either stupid. not only our knowledge of our ego. force her to look into our glass. and thus. measuring his importance by the standards customary from time imme morial. In ot her words. And i n the course of centuries. even in those philosophical systems which have undert aken to remove the barriers which divide subject from object. i. is only knowledge of the apparent. they renounce much to attain a little and. they admired it instead of "judging" it. And thus all men involuntarily become more or less of specialists . bra ve or cowardly. not only in others. forced eve r to "know himself". to use Kant's phraseology. for instability is life and freedom. A man who is to us clever or stupid. free. he shall not feel himself as in reality he is. or even permit it. to train oneself f or steadiness. And when our forefathers transgressed the commandment and ate of the forbidden fruit . as none judged them. he would not dare tell even himself what revealed itself to him: so g reatly would his ego in itself differ from that "apparent" ego of which all the world knows so much. and of which he has grown used to knowing only what others know. In so far as he is ob liged. what. Its sense is that each s hall value and measure himself as his environment values and measures him. public opinion has attained its goal.aluating him. All inner work. coarse. there was only beauty. Who knows? Perhaps such a transformation of the "thing i n itself" into an appearance has a meaning of its own in the world process. And were he to contemplate his real ego. somehow. Divine commandment does not compel self-knowledge. And even for the man himself. or "judging" him. they burden and even di stort him. dull. He would f lee from it to the "apparent" ego. His real ego would appear to him ugly. something obscure. which is not so pitilessly unmasked. As we know from the Bible. to apply them. The thing in itself is only matter. The basic character of all men is instability. is directed toward instilling permanent habits. all education of the " soul". The whole world is for us only an "object" that neve r blends with the subject. We shall even "ennoble" Nature herself. God forbade the first man to eat of the tree of knowledge. it is subject to transformation. the knowledge of himself. mad. and the duty of metaphysics is not to draw up to the surface all that was hidden in the depths. but in himself also. Only the appearance and what walks in appearance is accessible to him now. To become a virtuoso one must make up one's mind to limit one's interests to one single field. despite the ancients. happened to them? They were ashamed of their nakedness! Before t hey "knew" themselves they were not ashamed of their nakedness. he does not need them. but all our knowledge. Such "knowledge".e. they judg ed themselves not at all. i. creating what is called a "character".e. He possesses no categories for the c ognition. Must the subject be object until "the time comes". Pe rhaps then. "know thyself" is by no means a divine commandment. And obviously. Man. It is clear that the rule "Know thyself" is a human rule. only to regard his picture. but only regard his pi cture as it is mirrored on the surface of being. which conform s with nothing and has no resemblance to anything of all that we usually hold no rmal and complete. unt . instability in their neighbour is intolerable. And then there was no nakedness. as a temporal and social creature. Their being was subject to no outer judgment. generous or stingy. not interest himself in the thing in itself. But for other s. fearful. knowledge has absolutely no need to "go deep" into the essence of th e object. as our real ego. i. where there are only subjects. like all substa nce. brave. has forgotten how to see h is "essence". senseless. all these ca tegories and standards simply do not exist. but only in its "appearance". and weighing. to exist. For him. But then came "Know thyself" and the "judgment" began. apprehending himself directly. "Self-knowl edge" tends towards uprooting and repressing all that is unstable. where what is to be known is not object. even bef ore the unjust and interested judgment of others. really. and is transformed in time and history. Even art requires training.

It is sti ll convinced that it is only registering. not the reconciliation of the visible contradictions of life . with its passions. but never think of death. The "thing in itself" will stand before us in its natural shape. and it remains convinced that it is only doing its "objective" work in confor mity with its own peculiar laws. and the reason not so unreasonable and weak. Everything will be subject to knowledge in like manner. compare present with past and future. the more will our unrest grow. It be gins to see clearly and plainly where even yesterday it could distinguish nothin g. And just as "suddenly" we shall at last understand the enigmatic words of the Bible: "God created man in His image. but simple. with a ll that "sensuality" which has been so long and so fruitlessly persecuted by the best representatives of human thought.il it is so polished that it need no longer hide beneath the shell of "shapes" f oreign to it? Nietzsche. and perhaps the day will come again on earth . i. but will see in them the first characteristic o f spirituality and life. and allow the passions to do their work openly . as he must today. living soul. The task of philosophy is to tear itself loose from life during life. And further. cease to val ue passionlessness and to hold the absence of wishes for the basic quality. Unlike philosophy. if philosophy is nothing but preparation for dying a nd death. Man will no longer need to hide and cover up. 31 . measure. And then it will seek ontology no longer in logic but in psychology. and perhaps also truth will be more approachable and more tolerable. On the contrar y. Man's reason is just as easy to corrupt as h is soul. Then the success is followed by a failure.e. free.THE "UNKNOWN" Sometimes a small. Even the Supreme Being will be revealed as "passionate" and will not only not be ashamed of its passions.t he soul will be stronger.or not on earth when the blonde beast will cease to seek darkness and "be ashamed of its nakedn ess". purely external success wholly alters a man's mood. and our knowledge will not be sent ence.. and the deeper we sink ourselve s in the thought of death. describing impartially. if only in part. the reason never notices that it has been corrupted.if there is a "there" for men . The philosophy will perhaps breathe more freely. the true nature of the Supreme Being. was already bold enough to entice out into daylight the "blonde beast" which men have pursued so pertinaciously since the world creation. or awakes with a cry from a torturing fever dream.where then is one to se ek the eternal truths? Or are they not necessary at all? Here on the shifting sa nds of time we can get along so. we have no right to expect appeasement and joy from it. un judging comprehension. whatever we may say and think of death. But if the soul is exposed to passion s. if the reason cannot conquer the soul and subdue it . the reason loses its vision and again fails to suspect the true situation. Suddenly the "last" will become the "f irst". so . they serve life." 32 . but is either unable or unwilling to reckon. behind all our words and thoughts lie s hidden ever a vast unrest and supreme tension. the reason more acute.all these a re tasks for positive science. transito ry needs. And even as man com es into the world wailing. And it will restore to psychology the soul. not the explanation of our knowl edge. which can only aband on itself to its moods. i. Or another deduction: we must renounce traditional presuppositions. not judgment of all upon one and of one upon himself. and with his mood also his whole philosophy. But all the ti me it is simply expressing the hopes and fears of the soul.IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD If Plato is speaking truth.. but "there" . in short. we igh. Then it will appear that the soul is not nearly so wicked as it commonly appea rs.. its hopes. and men will forget that it was once only allowed to "appear" and that i ts real being itself was called in question. and it will not let itself be b etrayed so easily as the "connoisseurs" of man's spiritual life have taught us t o think. of eternity. Thus the last task of philosophy is not the construction of a system. the true.e. for example..

Indeed. I think that many philosophers have known such an "awakening" and have tried to tell of it.such hate! And against whom? Again st the Stoics.DOSTOEVSKY AND AUGUSTINE St. of course. both spoke so much of love.foredooms us to the lot of "general being". The artists. and even in the heaviest moments of complete hopelessness we mak e ourselves appear as though things were not hard for us at all. careful nature. he divide d them into species. and suddenly . sed ridere. Cries. Sophocles. and against the Liberals who also exalted virtue above all thing . non lugere . Augustine hated the Stoics. We are even at pains to die in beauty. We must be as our surroundings let us be. tha n the word. Even in man. but of course they spoke in "words". Shakespeare. or is actually made possible for us at all.these men do not hold for the expres sion of truth. of the flight from life? What did Plotinus think of it when ecstasy bore him into another world. groans. Then he was no longer able to co mprehend anything except what fell under its name. like Hamlet. who preached self-abnegation. which gave man the "word" "in the beginning" arra nged that whatever a man may say. Our whole earthly life is directe d towards bringing out the general and eliminating the particular in it. Indeed . that the most important and essential part of things is that which they have in common. too.and it was of her that we began to speak . have spoken of it not a little .too the transition from life to death must clearly be accompanied by a senseles s. it is probable that he did not even wish to do so: he thought. but very easy. that the times are out of joint. that which he has named with names. unrelated tones.does she listen only for what social man treasures. Our surroundings will not endure senseless crying o r wild sobbing. and in what way. At first sight this seems a quite inexplicable peculiarity. Both were convinced Christian s. desperate effort whose proper expression will be also a senseless. that is. lugere. towards the Being which knows no needs and therefore does not understand human needs? What did Plato think of this. sobs . and seek in every way to "eliminate" them: non ridere. Dostoevsky hated the Russian Liberals. who esteemed virtue above all thing s in the world. and think s today. common existence is made as easy and pleasant as possible.men need only the intelligible.witness Aeschylus. And when the names were given. who perceives more sense in the unspoken than in clear and plain.again the general. desperate cry or a wild sob. for he cannot be a god and will not be a beast . detestari"? 33 . Our soc ial existence . we ll-grounded and proved assertions. man had thereby cut himself off from all sources of life. and this hypocrisy is held to be the supr eme virtue! Under such conditions man cannot. I repeat. neque detestari. could bring all other men off the rails! But. he seeks the "essence" . however . the pupils. There is p erhaps someone who can apprehend more easily tears and groans.man is obliged to be a social animal. whe n he spoke of dying and death. Tha t "unintelligible" which is expressed in cries. or to th at which strives towards the last "One". All the first names were names of species: man named things. even silence. and the "knowledge" accumulated by the schools? And is it possible that philosophy should have chosen this watchword for herself: "Non intelligere. no longer refers to man. even in himsel f. and the "word" has an enigmatic power of only letting through that which is suitable to life.to hide from man the secret of the eternal and to divert his a ttention to that which passes here on earth. Dante. or other "exter nal" signs not to be formulated by the word. and in our time Dostoevsky a nd Tolstoy. sed intelligere. and what passes with us for knowledge is only a sort of mimicry by which our temporal. where he even forgot the school. he determined which things he would be able to use so long as he lived on earth. so much as dream of "kn owing". What sort of a life would it be if those w ho feel. Philosophy. Immediately after the creation of t he world God called man to Him and commanded him to give names to all creatures. his neighbours' ears only hear what is useful or agreeable to them. The word was disc overed for life .

however. The predicate "bein g" is indivisible. too. If it is assigned to the ideas. Indeed. According to Plato. even if they admit a nything. I think. then souls must renounce immo rtality. Dostoevsky was obviously not quite convinced that he was right. If. appeared to him a bogey. claim this right for themselves . and especially with idea. it must of course be in quite a d ifferent sense from that which Dostoevsky attributed to that word. Inde ira. Obviously Augustine and Dostoevsky were terrified and appalled by the mere thought of the possibility of such men as Scaevola and Grad ovsky . human soul wit h rights. and D ostoevsky was not far removed from it. was on the side of the Liberals and the Stoics. even if a steep and infinitely difficult one. while philosophers. the body. fiat justitia" or "fiat veritas". one cannot serve it.that is not important. The will on the one as on the o ther side is so irresistible. indifferently whether our soul is mortal or immortal. on the other hand. Augustine even preached the forcible conversion of unbelievers. but were prepared t o go to the stake and the scaffold for virtue. so th at Dostoevsky and Augustine had no "arguments". self-purpose. Augustine could not be calm when he spoke the names of those pre-Stoic Stoics . the y still support the cause of the Liberals. and even Socrates. t hat the soul was indeed immortal. In other words. We can say "p ereat mundus. it was not enough for him to be in possession of the idea of the soul's immortality. who are consci entious and impassioned defenders of the "soul". one could let it pass. and enters into stri fe with other pretenders at being. But if it is sufficient unto itself. Theoretic philosophy was completely strange to him. or more a ccurately. But he needed precisely this certainty. is trying to equip the poor. the idea of the immortality of the soul is no idea at al l.s! But the fact remains: Dostoevsky spoke in rage of Stassyulevitch and Gradovsk y. then the ideas must pass over into the intolerable state of relative or even quite shadowy entity. It must se rve itself. Dostoevsky. assumed . even more mortal than. That was why he hated the Liberals. for with them the idea of the immorta lity of the soul differs in no way from any other idea: it exists for itself alo ne and only for itself. Dostoevsky. It is for the same reason that Au gustine. an d is prepared to forgive them all but their virtues: "virtutes gentium splendida vitia sunt" ("The virtues of the heathens are only splendid vices"). that is. That is. . but if he had k nown Plato as he is generally interpreted today. however.men capable of loving virtue for its own sake. we call justice an idea. they are usual ly quite uninterested in this question. while Dostoevsky and Augustine.and this is the kernel of his disagreement with the Liberals . Justice or truth insist on asser ting their rights. speaks with such an almost superstitious dislike of the Stoics. Dostoevsky says openly in the Diary of a Writer that the only idea capable of inspiring a man is that of the immortality of the soul. Scientists are easily prepared t o declare the soul as mortal as. Augustine. used the word in quite a diff erent sense. one can allow the idea of the immortalit y of the soul. Ideas arroga te to themselves the right to be. because they tried through their whole lives to prove the op posite. For him the soul insists at all costs on "being". that the fight becomes one of life and death. self-evident to all that it is simply impossible to divide "being" and reconcile the hostile parties with one another. the idol of the ancient world. of seeing virtue as an en d in itself. So long as virtue was held to be a ladder. even almos t the whole of philosophy.that if there is no life after death it is impossible and even senseless to be virtuous. Soc rates asserts more than once that human ideas remain unchangeable. whether the world perishes or not . t o another and better world. then it would be better not to live on earth at all. lonely. even were the soul to be mortal. it does not exist in and for itself. They did not believe in the immortality of the soul. Regulus and Mutius Scaevola. but if to the souls. then. Do stoevsky. The word "idea" has the most various meanings: in philosophy the commonest use i s that of the Platonic ideas. The whole of positive science. the countless irae of both Dostoevsky and St. he would undoubtedly have hated him no less than he hated Gradovsky and Stassyulevitch. so passionate. to speak truly. admit at the most the idea of the immortality of the soul. if it is pure idea. And it is.

maybe. overwhelmed their opponents with threats and abuse . But how to be rid of a habit which the millions of years of human existence has made into second nature? Through conscious thought . 35 . It is possib le. Where do they complete their beginnings? If historians would ask themselves this question. Hegel's Philosophy of History would not seem to them a revelation. but belief and the extreme of enmity a nd hatred. and conse quently to interrupt his labour. or we must renounce once for all all other knowledge except such as is limited in its essence by na rrow practical purposes. They re belled. has not the peculiarity of possessing knowledge at all. grew angry. external finality. We should have to classify knowledge simply after the style and character of the human interests which it represents. Men leave the worl d after having begun something. skillful. What shall one set in its place? Or was Do stoevsky's and Augustine's cause lost. it will not and shall not be. But what should they have done? They saw tha t they had and could have no "proofs". on the same day when the "anathema sit" fell from their hands? 34 . resisted. Thus was forged the terrible weapon of the Middle Ages: anathema sit! With this men defended their dearest treasure fifteen centuries long. Everywhere are traces of mosaic work. The enemy is alert. to rest from exertion. This one feels in all works of human creation. cruel. The finality which is granted us is only an apparent. and watchf ul. sometimes deceptive. it is no more to be used. and it was not easy to deceive them. Fo r as the Scriptures say: "Where thy treasure is there shall thy heart be also.SELF-INTEREST We think in order to act. that a disinterested creature. but never an end. even deceptive. wherein it sees its profit. and for that reason our knowledge is something conditi onal.he has a knowledge. To attain to true perception we must emancipat e ourselves from utilitarian ends. interest has produced it. If one yields to him all is over. as a gift through chance. It is true that another supposition is possible: knowle dge not only cannot be disinterested. most untiring of men is capable only of a certain exertion. that proofs are powerless in the struggle for rights." So long as the "treasure" of man lies in visible and attainable ends . As soon as he grows tired of the visible. continuations. Now it is grown old. The predicate of being will fall once for all to the ideas. forget action. the Apostle Paul. The question would be wherein this interest lies. They knew what they wanted and admitted no compromises. for the truth itself. It was said of Socrates that h e stood motionless on one spot for twenty-four hours in meditation. that is. often something very important and significant. rather pe rceive everything disinterestedly. everywhere are beginnings. "Disinterestedness" . if philosophers would ponder it . through an "event". after that his strength fails him and he is exhausted. It is not arguments and loving readi ness for reconciliation that are needful. eith er because it has everything or because it is simply indifferent to everything. did not even shrink from calumny. Then one of two things: either the help comes from without. miraculous. a creature which needs nothing. and even to inert matter. i n whose name they were speaking. sometimes not even deceptive. even Socrates' strength would not have la sted for forty-eight hours. history would be written differently.but then. and the unattainable become .Augustine and Dostoevsky were men of very fine perceptions.HISTORIC PERSPECTIVES The strongest. Man needs to sleep. inadequate. In that case our distinction between p ure and practical knowledge would be without meaning. not pursue interest.an old word esteemed by Kant and Schopenhauer. This already borders on the fantastic. Is it not clear that self-deception would be un avoidable here? Interest will take its share and then force us to hold it for di sinterested. They remembered the last warning of an old Jew. Such a creature is epeke ina no§í kai no§Üse§æs (beyond thinking and knowing).

36 . in other surroundings. Aristotle even assumes that the law of contradiction is incapable of proof: it is only pos sible to say that he who rejects it involves himself inevitably in unescapable c ontradictions. just they are more indispensable than all others. but have bee a strange thing happened to as a hindrance. If this is i ndeed true. Somewh ere perhaps they are awaited. his genius would have been a burd en to him and all his kin. Now further: men have known how to defend the law of n unable and unwilling to defend anamnesis. their extreme excitability . And we shall marvel to learn that there the "chief reward" is reserved for these "last". Indeed a Mozart himself is not aware of this a nd would not believe it.we want to be rid of them. how such a change is possible and what meaning it has . For our rough. But what Kant! The law of contradiction showed itself to him writes in the famous letter to Garve that it was not contradiction. would he have been any use . He would have been wanted to "work" . He himself meditation on God.how is that to be proved? It can be guessed. and eternally hankering after music at that? He would have had to liv e in poverty. w eakly boy. etc. from the peasant's point of view. When man is born .ANAMNESIS Aristotle says that it is a sign of philosophic boorishness to demand proofs for all assertions. Bu t if by chance some educated man had seen little Mozart. human work. despicable boy he would suddenly have become one in universal demand. u seless. and taken him out of his peasant surroundings and placed him in those of a ge ntleman . th . cold. from a petty.everything that bars them f rom our places of honour . whereupon man instantly forgets all that he knew in earlier life.and for what "w ork". although forgetting the details of his earlier life.this I did not learn f rom Plato . hunger. an irritable. But why he get s tired of the visible.s the object of his whole endeavour. But what of Plato's anamnesis? Are proofs requisite here? It is a fact that nothing can be proved here. There their "shortcomings" will be advantages. at le ast retains the recollection that he once lived.that is another question. One migh t also assume that the angel sometimes fails to fulfill his duty quite conscient iously. men will be in possession of a truth far more important and significant t han the law of contradiction.how suddenly then would his significance have changed.a sickly. And if we shall ask no proofs o f him.. guessed his true destin y. This is hardly to be denied. incomparable. and that man. awaited with impatience.an angel swoops down from heaven and touches with his forefinger his upper lip. On man's upper lip even a trace of the angel's finger remains behind. dull. But somewhere else they ar e awaited. stability. And how annoyed we shall be at having failed to recognize the ir gifts here! And how. and have died without fame. An old maid of whom every one is tired. su preme. the Mozarts are not sui ted. They seem to us idle. vacant.there it will evoke new creative activity and entranc e us all. if the angel descends from heaven with the intention that man should forget his earlier life . Their lack of occupati on. 37 . why the unattainable to which he was formerly indifferen t suddenly takes sole possession of him. But somewhere under other "conditions". an unsuccessful pretendant . peasant. But one question arises: who decid es when one must ask for proofs and when not? The immobility of the earth needed no proofs at one time: it seemed a self-evident truth. But if they demand proofs they will not come into possession of truth. they tire us. But enough: for all one's talk one will never convince a peasant that Mozart was a god. a second knowledge comes in..CHANGING VALUES Had Mozart been born in a poor peasant family. ill-tempered witch like Xanthippe. balance. which philosophy discusses with the g reater obstinacy the more indubitable the impossibility of any sort of satisfact ory answer. The law of contradiction is now claiming privilege of exemption from the obligation of proof.. and general contempt.

and arg uments. Even gr eat services to philosophy in the past would not save him. the case has n ot got beyond metaphors. Suppose we decorated it. if only for a moment? Clearly he must . a golden moustache. their busine ss. threaten it. and this is not. allow themselves the same licence. a silver beard. and knows. Then a man does not ask for Aristotle. and could not awaken until he suddenly felt that the law of contradiction was inapplicable even in our earthly life. What horror of himself would overtake a man if he suddenly caugh t himself in such an occupation as conversation with an inanimate object! Franci s of Assisi. although through the magic force of reason stones both speak and breathe. we tried seriously to persuade some lump of wood to refuse henceforward to subject itself to the "laws". but the antinomies of reason which he dis covered. held dialogues with wolves. it is true. almost to breathe .perhaps even to feel. Easily said . From time to time his hard bed and uncomfortable position force him to move. that the knowledge which can be universally transmitted and taught is far from being the true knowledge. and stones. for example to doubt that the laws of nature are always binding : one day a case may occur where nature makes an exception for some stone. And yet. that only good would result if it expressed its own will and transformed itself from a lump of wood into a conscious. objects seek the center of the earth. and work miracles. perhaps. a gain despite Aristotle. as it is fitting for men to sleep in this lif e. taught Descartes .PHILOSOPHY'S NEXT TASK De omnibus dubitandum. Suppose we tried to show it that there was no harm in this. He simply knows something new. But it is not the really important thing. i f proof is unavailing. Suppose then. they take an ugly block of stone and hammer into it some noble. Obviously it is man's fate not truly to awaken so long as he lives on earth.but ho w to do it? Try. flatter. this would profit him as little if he merely appealed to Descartes. Is this perhaps because artists have not yet tho ught of asking for such concessions? Yes. but from hi s own contempt. according to Des cartes. No stone has ever yet dared to refuse demonstratively o bedience to the existing order. Artists. animated creature . as the theory of evolution might encourage it to hope. But how to find this stone. a man of genius. they fear loneliness and huddle together like sheep at night. Disagreeable as it is to lay a new burden on the poor philosopher. and ceases to check himself by the approved criteria of truth. of course. too. is in no wise to be trusted). Whether with or without antinomies.and that usually comes when some truths. and e xempts it from the law of gravity. he slept. perhaps. And yet. a Michelangelo. contrary to the traditional view (which. 38 . but into the lord of crea tion. and not simply into a conscious creature. indeed. In a ny case one can often enjoy deeper and more sensible intercourse with such anima ted stones than with men. at once. but of free will. He awake ned. man. And the stone begins to speak.doubt all things. That. man cannot conquer the sleep which perpetually overwhelms him. occupy a place there and def end it with an obstinacy which precludes any possibility of argument or battle w ith them.not after thousands of mil lions of years. whether with or without medi tation on God. It is necessary. or to some complicated philosophic argument. This is how artists wor k. dr ew on it human eyes. despite Aristotle's assurances. In other words. not by natural necessity. Supposing. if one has the co urage to admit such a possibility.at awakened him from dogmatic slumber. invade his consciousness. if some eccentric were to molest a stone with threats. yet it is . unproven and contrary to all our "experience". a Shakespeare. What is most importan t: they would fail to save him. but quick ly. birds. Do es there await him a shock which will bring him to the final awakening? Is this shock death? Or must man awake before death. but he only dreams that he awoke. and then he thinks that he awoke. that assuming this. divine though t. but slept again immediately. a Plato. prayers. not only from his neighbours' wrath. to t he "de omnibus dubitandum". even if one knew definitely that such a stone existed? Assume that. we beg.

to sail after Columbus into the West. And it is so su nk in its task that it has no interest in "discoveries does not even believe tha t there can be anything in the world which no one has yet seen or heard. our whole moral struggle. And in thirty thousand years' time . already enunciated in the Scriptures by the Prophet Isaiah. Paul is simply the interpretation of this legend) would not even guess that trut h and lies exist. nullum veri et falsi conceptum formarent" (that if man were born free. for the gods everything is good. Groundlessness is the basic.THE GOLDEN FLEECE Science sees its task in the discovery of invisible ideal relationships between things. To foll ow Alexander to India. lxiii): "Si homines liberi nascerentur. as mortals do.to sail with the Argonauts to Colchis in quest of the g olden fleece. even as our rational inquiry . Truth and the Good are fruits o f the forbidden tree. to speak of such tasks today even in jest. etc. quamdiu liberi essent. too. For who but the philosophers have been preaching slavery a nd humility with such eloquence. than sooner) to emancipation not only from moral va luations. indeed. And indeed. nullum b oni et mali formarent conceptum. shelter. But it is grant ed to man to have prescience of ultimate freedom. Or more accura tely: there would be neither lies nor evil. the gods do not philosophize or strive after wisdom." This is a great truth.if the world is stil l going on . most enviable.will bring us sooner or late r (rather later. were man born free. arms. much later. Before the face of Eternal God all our foundations break together and all ground crumbles under us. he would find the distinction between truth and lies as unnecess ary as that between good and evil). and by St.quite clear that the duty of instigating and inciting dead nature. for outcasts from paradise. the§æn oude§às philosophe§à oud' epi thume§à sophos genesthai : esti gar (none of the gods philosophizes or strives to be wise. Paul. to say of God that "sola ducitur ratione"("He is guided by re ason alone"). Indeed.in all probability does not even need to be realized.the teaching of Isaiah and St. but because they have no need of many things. but not accepted by human wisdom. for limited creatures. he would have no conc eption of good and evil. and added again: "Si hom ines liberi nascerentur. is his alone. but also from reason's eternal truths. even as ob . if it is any one's. in other words. I know that this ideal of freedom in relation to truth and the good cannot be realized on earth . a support. For Him there are neither moral sanctions nor reasons. or to journey with the Jews to the promised land. qui sola ducitur rati one. This means that a being free from the limita tions imposed on us in virtue of the peculiar conditions of life on earth (let m e again recall the Biblical legend of the Fall . They have no need to distinguish between good and evil. What Colchis. . th at they are wise already. for they are wise already). But in three thousand years' time we shall se em to our posterity no less out-moded and no less uneducated than the Jews and t he Argonauts do to us. what promised lands can there be? These are all hopes of me n of old and of uneducated people. as it would not guess that good and evil exist. He does not need. in explaining what happens in the world.if we once admit that God is the last end of our endeavours . still more to a philos opher.THE TRUTH AND THE GOOD Spinoza says in his Ethics (IV. these thousands of years past? And how else are they to make good their great sin? 39 . Obviously Plato was of the same mind when he said. a reason.if one may be pardoned for saying it . and to us most incomprehensible privilege of the Divine." But he should have followed the Bible to the end.it may turn out that the hopes and premonitions of the men of old w ere nearer to the truth than our learned generalizations. such as money. Spinoza weakens the significance of his words by recalling immediately after: "illum liberum esse. and consequently neither truth nor g ood. It would be nonsensical. seems improper to a scientist. a firm ground. 40 .without which we cannot exist. C onsequently. Unfortunately. or . Not.

in the boundlessness of time and space. on the authority and chronological sequence of which we have no exact inform ation. That seems a paradox? Yes. quite unknown future and the "known" but wholly elusive present hemmed in b etween two eternities . there is another. that which had no significance comes into the foreground. But from another angle of vision it might appear that the crushed ant or the rescued beetle was far more important t han the great civilized country. for whose sake both he and all his t rue disciples went to philosophy. We are recommended to eliminate "sensuousness" and keep ideas. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio Index ToC In Job's Balances \ Part II \ Revolt and Submission << | >> 41 . Now it seems to us a small matter if we chance to crush an ant under our foot.except this sentence. our conscious. Aristotle rejected Plato's "Ideas" principally because he saw in them an unnecessary duplication of the world. friend. wherein Socrates is the wisest. who sat for 18 ye ars "at the feet" of his master . should believe in the goodness of death and be impregnated with that ultimate truth that no evil can befall a good man. the endl ess. even as imperme ability. 42 . living entit y undergoes immense changes and becomes quite different from what it was under t he conditions of limited earthly being. indeed! But has ther e never been anything of the sort on earth? And then: the endless past. and .did not understand him! It is clear that he di d not "understand" Plato's teaching. and the wisest is the strongest. But what was unnecessary to Aristotle seemed to Plato the supreme necessity. a nd conversely. The world must be duplicated. eith . much is added.will lose their impermeability in endless time. he did not accept it. precisely duplic ated: beside the visible and natural world. or save a cockchafer that has fallen into the water. What see med most important becomes of secondary importance. the sup remely important and essential. strange to us . in which brute force is ensured its triumph and Anytus and Meletus are victors.OUT OF THE BOOK OF FATE In eternity. How could this be? We who liv e twenty-five hundred years after Plato. and precise ly in connection with this commonplace of philosophy I shall permit myself to re commend Descartes' rule. I think that the matter is much more complicated than people think. Only so would Plato have been justified in esteeming as truth what Socrates said to his judges: "Ye. super-natural worl d to be found. his contemporary.lose their weight in endless space.the more so as Descartes doub ted absolutely everything . to timi§ætaton. and which are written in a dead language. What the teacher hailed joyfully as glad tidings seemed to the pupil temptation of the devil. "de omnibus dubitandum" .this we know . and disciple.we understand P lato. while Aristotle. Not so l ong ago weight seemed to man an inseparable attribute of things. because he felt in it something absolutely hostile. but it seems immensely important th at Germany was defeated in the "World War".is that no paradox? How na§áve to require intelligibility of metaphysical conjectures! Unintelligibility is their basic characteristic. and know his thoughts only from his wor ks. O judges. Much drops away.this we shall p robably learn one day . or loses its significance.METAPHYSICAL TRUTHS Aristotle is alleged not to have understood Plato. too.jects . And for that reason we naturally do not know what we should keep against eternity an d what eliminate.

Socrates. trust no one except ourselves? There is no doubt that mistrust and suspicion of our understanding are the chief sources of rationalism. and his mission upon earth a different one. That would mean that someone was robbing us secretly and ro bbing us perhaps of something very valuable and important to us. Aristotle w as shocked. For then all Aristotle's objections to Plato would be correct. It is imposs ible to speak of "man" generally. and in so far as it is possible. Men would then no longer trouble about methodologie s and about criticism of the power of judgment. and that the supremely important and only real world . The Platos duplicate reality. Unnecessary duplication! To the one it seemed necessary. etc.we are anxious at any price to be ri d of him! Even in metaphysics we strive for a "natural" explanation: there is to be no benefactor. truth. perhaps even from a tree t runk or a rock. so long as one is destined for the empiric world. then there would be no rationalists. reality is greater. so much hostili ty and hatred? Reality cannot be deduced from reason. 43 . who are blood-b rothers of the rationalists. but each of these differs from the other far more strongly than he does f rom a rhinoceros. But the final b alance-sheet has shown a certain "residue". always gave g ifts. and so would his definition of truth. a peacock. Instead of tracts "D . and one who is considerably more powerful than human reason.must that really be the cause of so much fear. much g reater than reason . Aristotle was not troubled about Socrates' fate. in the end he will turn into an enemy and a robber and take all from us. beside the world directly accessible to all. for by nature's mysterious d ecree he was predestined to another metaphysical fate than Plato and Socrates. there was another world. General conceptions are not an ally to metaphysics. a cypress. and that the gods never forget him" (Apology. it has always drawn its "wisdom" from such "visions" . so long as the metaphysical destinies of indiv idual men are different. Only if. and the second reality is for them the true one. His care was els ewhere. T his is perhaps a particularly clear illustration of the faultiness of the Platon ic-Socratic teaching of general conceptions.er in life or after his death.THE IRRATIONAL RESIDUE OF BEING The irrational residue of being. This is the basis and the root of Plato's teaching. There is a Plato. good. a "surplus". To overcome Aristo tle. and Alexander's groom. We have this generous benefactor a nd . Socrates. but its most dangerous and treacherous enemy. we must first and foremost destroy the conception "man". To try to group Plato. or a cabbage. etc. to resolve into elements congruou s to our reason . It is quite clear that in Aristotle's "real" world Socrates' words are lies and empty chatter. and Aristotle under the single conception "man" would be to annihilate all metaphysics. Aristotle. If the benefactor were always benevolent. to the othe r unnecessary. as he was evidently often told. into something "superfluous". Why? Out of pride? Or out of suspicion? "Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes?" We fear that although he is a benefactor and makes us gifts. and a substantial one a t that! We have discovered an invisible and generous benefactor. The Aristotles want no second reality .in so far as we seek for "knowledge" . that would be different. which has disquieted philosophers from the earl iest times of the awakening of human thought and which men have striven so passi onately and so fruitlessly to "apprehend" i.only then could Socrates speak to his judges as he did without hypocrisy. for which. the o ther for the ideal. XXX III). and afterwards a w hole series of other general conceptions: reason.is that such a misfortune? Why do men see in it a misfortun e? If we had found a deficit in the balance-sheet of the world's structure.and so for them it transforms itself into a chimera. they would hymn the beauty of th e world and the might of the creator in confidence and joy. a flogging would be to o mild a punishment.e.although never admitting it and rarely realizing it. Can we believe no one. and also no skeptics. If metaphysics is possible. No evil can befall a g ood man (ouk estin andri agath§æi kakon ouden).

e intellectus emendatione" and investigations about method. Reason. Plotinus. we have but the usufruct of them. who was completely absorbed in the contemplation of t he beauty of the world. and also the give r is bad because he takes away. i. We today und erstand how to reckon. But this lack of proofs no more prevented Plotin us from putting forward his own opinion than it prevented the Gnostics from stan ding by their own.yet he was furious when the Gnostic s proposed complete renunciation of the world. much as he tries to prove that "beauty" is better than beautiful objects . For alt hough they are apperceived by the senses .. they were much more consistent. like all "sensuous" things. Pl otinus. of course. They had no "proofs" . said: Let us rather allow an inconsistency of thought an d permit the forbidden sensuous to creep into the world again. The only thing left to us to do is to refuse gifts and giv er alike. gifts of any kind. knew certainly whe ther the world was eternal or whether it arose in time and would be destroyed ag ain. They are given us only on loan. and have learned how to think also. Consequently. which is convinced that it knows even more than experience tells it. sets up a veritas aeterna: all that arises cannot help finishing.they lacked even those empirical data which have bee n acquired by modern geology and paleontology and on which modern science builds up its "history of the world". sensuous ly perceptible world. of course. Our life. fa lse. In other words. concludes reason with self-assurance. "evil" in the world enhances beauty. Even with the Greeks the chief theme of philosophic contemplation was genesis and phthora . and although. has given them a beginning . and th ey thought: May the world perish if only the arch-evil which was intruded into i t by the clumsiness of the Demiurge who created it perishes together with it. bitter.birth and destruction.. lamentable end at that.e. like the old Jews who had not yet learned to reckon and examine. through someone who cannot voluntarily either give or take away because. Experience has shown that all that has a beginning also comes to an end. and evil element of matter. then the best thing left to us is to die as quickly as possible.. dark. everything that has a beginn ing has also an end. even if he had had to promote matter a step and allow it a certain bein g. Good alone is that which is won by our own stren gth. yet Plotinus will not give it up and does not even hesitate to declare it eternal and to pillory the Gnost ics. not only inwar dly but also outwardly.. in whose name is such a fearful warfare waged? In the name of objec tive truth? But neither Plotinus nor the Gnostics. our visible. metaph orically speaking. Neither with Plotinus nor with Plato did "flight from th e world" mean rejection of the world. precisely because they are gifts and were not there before. which is corrupted by the addition of the non-existent. found many things rep ulsive here on earth. but with much greater clarity and sequence than he w ould have wished. And if some power has cast us unasked into the world. cannot possibly have any value. who despise the world and its creator.for objects appear and disappear but beauty is eternal . Much as Plotinus speaks of the nothingness of sensuous apperceptions. The gifts are bad because they are taken away again. this world is yet wonderfully beautiful. For the Gnostics. This world. and there were many things of which he wished passionately to be rid. so long as we nee d not give up this glorious heaven. They had discove red his own secret thought. which is not given us but made our own through the "nature of things". all that has a beginning cannot help having an end. With the Gr eeks the thought appears even in the pre-philosophic period that it would be bes t for men not to be born at all. we should have psalm s. This is probably why Plotinus falls with s uch rage on the Gnostics in the last book of his second Ennead. the divine stars and the lovely sea. It is better not to live at all than to live an d be destined to inescapable destruction. w ill inevitably be taken away again. and a wretched. on the other hand. it is subject to change and consequent ly must have had a beginning and be doomed to an end. A creator has made things. But. We say: the giver is also a taker. he has no "hands". we ask. that eternal hesitation between being and not being.without eyes one can see nothing of a .but as experience teaches. But there was also something which he would not have renounced at an y price.

But is it. And then one c an think oneself out a theodicy against evil which can scare away all human misf ortune. although. Science does not even know that they had "souls". When there is judg ment. a certain d egree of order. p ut up with something on this earth where there is so much beauty. but a cosmos which from our point of view is not quite successful. I ask. Plotinus accepted gladly both gifts and giver. Consequently they had no reason to dispute. he retained in theory the right of control and the greate st possible independence for himself and his reason. who listen in the night for the voice of men who left our earthly vale of tears more than fifteen hundred years ago. re solved to reject all that is earthly. we imagine. we hear both their laments a nd their songs of praise and only wonder how it could be that the intensive crea tive activity of these illustrious men could remain so entirely without influenc e on our modern science. he was anxious to limit and bind the w orld-creator in every way and to represent him as giving "necessarily" or "natur ally". All that is the "irrational residue" which is subject to no investigat ion. Such beauty must be eternal and imperishable. In reality chaos is . which even an expert in philosophy would not n otice. The Gnostics. Does this mean that they were nearer the truth? Not at all. Neither the Gnos tics' world-renunciation nor Plotinus's world affirmation has a right to assume the name of truth and sail under its flag. in obed ience to Hellenic philosophic traditions. And evil? Before evil one can flee. being clearly more impressed by the terrors than the beauties of earth. 44 . he cannot live. Science does not trouble itself with what went on in th e souls of these men. although each of them was talking and doing on his own lines. and Plotinus was right also when in his enthusiasm for the beaut y of the world he forgot the evil that lies here. an ounce. It is probably cor rect that the truth has little relation to what men like the Gnostics or Plotinu s taught. Then was their dispute superfluous? I f one likes to say it. hoping that somewhere. "single" beauty. It is obvious that the Gnostics were more consistent. "worse". in the absence of order. so absolutely necessary to r un to the judge? Does the evening star strive with the lightning flash for beaut y? Or the cypress with the palm? I think that Plotinus and the Gnostics only wen t to court "here". after all. of course. a grain of ordinary sand or e ven dirt. one begins. "for nothing in the world" and "at all costs" will not outw eigh in the balances of science a pound.ll this. for although "absolute beauty" should be better than the beauty of the earth. "There" it would not have occurred to any one to raise the qu estion of their "rightness". on the other hand. if tireless reason had not dragged them quite unneces sarily before the court and confronted them with one another. in another place. In other words. however great. they never disputed at all. involuntarily to find defence and proofs of innocen ce. But here on earth men lived only to fight tirelessly against death. It is fairly certain that neither the Gnostics nor Plotinus approached the truth. one can. t hey would find both the imperishable gifts and the perfect Demiurge. yet without this concrete. withdraw into oneself. In other words. when it is stated in advance that either condemnation or acquittal must re sult. Even the moral "evil" can be explained. and the sea. not chaos . We. not to give it up under any circumstances. The main thing is not to abandon the beauty of the world. their distant descendants and followers. in fact. which excludes the possibility of life. for it is assumed for some reason that in chaos . The Gnostics were right when in their search for ju stification and compensation for the tortures of the world they forgot the beaut y of the world. which were quite different. All thei r "better".THE IDEA OF CHAOS The idea of chaos terrifies man. So integral a p art of our spiritual structure has the idea of order become. if one permits a barely perceptible inconsistency. and would de facto have got o n perfectly well together. Here is the important difference between Plotinus an d the Gnostics. even to squabble and scratch. the sky. the wor ld is no world.

but sim ply to "take". not from chaos but from cosmos. there is truth. he has no care at all. Thus ideas delight him. He who knows these difficulties will not shrink fr om trying his luck with the idea of chaos. indifferent? Or are spiritual joys always permitted.harmony. because restraints. The ancients believed in inspir ation. most sudden in life. Chaos is no limited possibility. the more so as in life. He is in love. all conve ntions. dull. It is. the holiday begins on which one may do what is forbidden on ordinary days. Mo nos pros monon . His love is final aim and self-justification. and thought-out thoughts on the other. Ascetics have not infrequently ren ounced eating because they could not eat "dispassionately".man face to face with God. for w hat limits more than knowledge? Only "there". beyond and above all that bound him. Indeed. in the blending with God. automaticall y drop away. all "works" have an end.THE SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGE Flashes of thought. and myths are always nearer to him than the "conclusions of reason" which we persist in requi ring of him. That last word in Plato's sense was to be spoken by Plotinus 700 years later. he treasures ideas in proportion a s they produce for him their strange and ravishing . a reward for the virtues of indefatigability and boldness . it was only the men of today who took their stand on positive knowledge a nd required uniformity of knowledge. that cosmos is the source a lso of all those "necessities" and "impossibilities" which transform our world i nto a vale of tears and lamentations. brought into relationship with the past and serving as basis for future thoughts . as it were. And he will perhaps convince himself that the evil comes. sudden inspiration on the one hand. is anything more nec essary? If Eros justifies all this. the life which arose on our earth.if imperceptible to others' ears . Indee d. in any case it is for him altogether an end to itself. for one is allowed not to work. an u nlimited possibility. Is it also denied to such men to at tain insight. first and foremost above knowledge. of course. The "love-lorn philosopher" troubles little whether or no other men share his delight in the beauty which he has discovered. there are difficulties which are far greater. To grasp and admit absolute freedom is infinitely hard for us. When once Eros arrives. It is only loosely related to his ultimate apperceptions. not to earn. there is the holiest aim of all our endeavour. His task lies in wrenching man free from the troubleso meness of everyday existence. It would be more true to say that with him dialectic is dominated b y the mythical. arrangements. does he need to justify himself before other s? He has "shone forth". as it is hard for a man who has always lived in darkness to look into the l ight. it is that which is m ost direct. even to th . the former. But this is obviously no objection.a lack of any order. quite irrespective of whether they corr espond to reality or not. where order prevails.A QUESTION Insight. regulations. simply unacceptable. Plato rej oices in the music of ideas which he catches.in contrast to knowledge.that which is always and everywhere believed of all. whose task is to transform even divine inspirations into quod semper ubique et ab omnibus creditum est . 46 . and only wait.he has no other care. above even knowledge. or if you will. usually brings great joy in its tra in. that which least fits into the usual categories of understanding. Must those who have taken the vow of joylessness cease to think. then. senseless.which of these shall one believe? If Eros is the source of the supreme cognition. to seek and to see. has done marvelous things . and consequently also of that order which excludes the pos sibility of life. laws. 45 . And this blen ding is rapture. especially when new and unexpected. to make discoveries? One cannot cognize without rejoicing. Plato's theory of ideas is theory only in t he name. as a hu ngry man cannot eat without feeling pleasure. is "delight " . all limitations. but the direct opposite. is freed om. But there are men to whom joys are denied.

one must also have the capacity of supreme self-abnegation. not to take a vow of joylessness . that the long-stored energy will flame up as a lurid flame of "revel ation". The Jews have mourned for thousands of years over ruined Jerusalem. And there never were gods.ose who have taken a vow? That it is sometimes impossible. is yet as nothing in comparison with what was given us of itself. in the far future. only what is won with labour can be true and b eautiful. That is needed of which the Psalmist sings: to melt inwardly. had never dwelt near to the gods. that weak reflection of Plotinus. not only for an indiv idual. Man must make unto himself a god: amor dei intellectualis. the truth of antiquity fell ever deeper into oblivion. and took what they s aw for a god. Our curse is that now we can only believe in what we won in the sweat of our brow and bore in travail. ingenuity. but that man must create for himself every hour. 47 . What is won with labour. what lay on the surface. and all my bones are out of joint. and must be given to man not hardly but easily. Socrates went . watchfulness.who is none other than reason .the world has peopled itself with all sorts of principle s and rules. But principles and general rules lie hidden in the depths. he said. My heart is like wax. consequently no vision is possible.I think t his is now very widely understood.then the depths will be forgotten and Maya will enter again into all those rights which the devi l . who only in rare moments of artificial §Ûlan reached something like that "union" which sufficed to m ake the men of antiquity happy .. endeavour. demons and spirits are dead . by lead ing man away from the lucent surface of being to the dark roots and principles.took from her through God's counsel. 48 . are inv isible. Perhaps wha t is best and most necessary lies not in the depths but on the surface. To glimpse the t ruth one needs not only a keen eye.even he seems to us over-mystical. For thousands of years human thought has worked tirelessly at determining and la ying fast the eternal as something always the same and immutable. every moment. and now the Russians mourn for Russia. believe that men had once dwelt nearer to the gods. Aristotle did everything to eliminate from the souls of men the traces of an amnesis of an earlier life. etc. were mistake n. We must feel that a ll in us has become fluid. 14). It is not enough for man to declare himself ready to live in filth and cold. They saw what leapt to the eye.SURFACES AND DEPTHS Plotinus's ecstasy is the last flaming up of the Hellenic spirit. to be burned in the brazen bull of the tyra nt Phalaris. what we received from God as a gift. that forms are not laid down in advance through an et ernal law. it is melted in the midst of my bowels" (Psalm xxii. Meanwhile. No one would. But sometimes one feels doubts of even the most self-evident theses. to endure injury and sickness. And they care for no vision. It is only later perhaps. And then nothing more availed. But when the probationary period is over . For all the efforts o f mediaeval Catholicism. hard. however we may treasure it.. who broke openly with antiquity. we think. all that ready certainty and clear-cut definition of concepti on in which we are accustomed to see the veritates aeternae. to sh atter the skeleton of one's own soul and to break that which is held to be the b asis of our being. without effort. which are universally thought the most or even the sole legitimate successors of the earlier fantastic beings. which is now c apable only with difficulty and by dint of great spiritual exertion of "remember ing" the witness borne by the men of old and the saints who dwelt near to the go ds. or could. And men did not go beyond Spinoza. battle. through culture .. today even Spinoza. all life is proof and guarantee of this. but also for a whole people. The ancients. to find. Our forefat hers. It is certain that the punishment must be accepte d. and that not quite in the ordinar y sense. The new philosophy begins with Spinoza.THE WAY TO THE TRUTH "I am poured out like water. cannot be evaded. Gods.

axes. the artisans. man is abandoned to himself and himself alone. to learn this art. saws. in s hattering the skeleton which lends substance to our old ego.. all things. are not needed by the philosopher and cannot help him. why hast Thou forsaken me!" There is no God." ("The more secluded and solitary the soul feels itself. T he "ideal". Socrates gave science much.. of the Saints: away from knowled ge.should consist in eliminating from our so uls all that is "lawful" and "ideal". Bey ond temporal existence man must create for himself both causes and aims. melting the "heart in our bowels". Smith. Quanto enim horribil ior et foedior est blasphemia. both teach that only a man who has gone astray in eter nity and is abandoned to himself and to immeasurable despair is capable of direc ting his eyes on ultimate truth. T here is not even the hope with which Socrates sometimes consoled himself that de ath is a sleep without dream-faces. whether causa efficiens or causa finalis.") << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio Index ToC In Job's Balances \ Part II \ Revolt and Submission << | >> . Loyola. And so our task . fixed causa finalis which is determined through their work. From them we too can learn what is the "Good". aliquanto sonant gratiores in au re Dei quam ipsum Alleluja vel quaecumque laudis jubilatio.visions will haunt the sleep. tant o aptiorem se ipsam reddit ad quaerendum attingendumque creatorem et dominum suu m. Only t he name is the same. they have a conception of the "good" . Metaphysics became a craft. matter together with forms. etc. And the more frightful and repulsive the blasphemy.they know what they have to do. for Soc rates has become second nature to us . man must experience that dreadful feeling of desolation of which the Twenty-second Psalm speaks in its opening words: "My God. and even the eternal laws. from the certainties. The gods know no "craft" and need none. tanto est Deo gratior. joiner. create all things out o f nothing. carpenter. the more agreeable it is to God. Hence Luther's enigmatic words in his commentar y on the Epistle to the Romans: "Blasphemiae.perhaps an impossible one. There is a conception of a table or a hoof.") The meaning of one of the truths of Ignatius Loyola's Exercitia spiri tualia is the same: "Quanto se magis repent anima segregatam ac solitariam. yet condemned metaphysics to a slow and certain death. coo k. the smiths and the carpenters have to d o their work and confine themselves to their work. They seek neither f irmness. but also men nearer to our times have known much about this and testified to it in their writings. nor laws. No . And to learn this. for the "Good" is always and everywhe re one and the same. the fitter does it m ake itself to seek and attain its Lord and Creator. and doctors. man must himself become God. But the "Good" of the gods which Socrates needed has not th e least resemblance to the "Good" of the smiths." ("Blasphemy sometimes sou nds in God's ears more agreeable than even Hallelujah or any solemn hymn of prai se. In transferring the conception of "law" and the "general concep tion" from everyday life into science. The Critique of Pure Reason was born i n that hour when Socrates determined to seek the "Good" among the craftsmen. in the Psalmist's image. Irreconcilable enemies. so als o their ideas and methods will give nothing to him whom Apollo has called to his holy sacrifice. It consists.. from firm ground. a ready-made. Laws and firmness exist only on earth. and Luther the renegade monk. doctor . B ut there is no conception of the "Good". for temporal existence. ha mmers. That is the experience of the men of antiquity. the founder of the Jesuits. Even as their tools. nor durability. my God. And the c hief vision is: God is not. carpenters.to the craftsmen. from all that is given to man throug h "general" life! Herein lies their "great" hope! And not only the ancients. is also only on earth.

49 - SOLA FIDE Plato called time a moving image of eternity. It might be more correct to say: e ternity is an unmoving image of time. Philosophers have always looked on time as their enemy, and it is the dream of all metaphysicians to overcome time, in whi ch, with matter, we commonly see the source of evil. Time devours its own childr en - so we are taught; from time come instability, mutability, lability, and fro m time also, destruction. And he who would fight against destruction and death a ims at overcoming time and the mutability which proceeds from it. At the same ti me, indeed, we fight also against "matter"; although matter is in itself inertia , i.e. the direct opposite of mutability and instability. If matter were alone i n the world, everything, always, would be like itself, there would be no changes and consequently also no destruction. But the material world is death itself! F rom such a comparison of the immutability of matter and the instability of forms , it should follow that time is no enemy, but an ally of the living man, and alo ne gives him a hope of the possibility of escaping the might of dead matter. And that the true enemy of man, the symbol and incarnation of death, is eternity, t he absence of time. For that reason the basic predicate of matter is eternity an d immutability. Time came to the world together with the human soul, eluding the watchfulness of eternity, which guarded it jealously, and together with the sou l it declared war on inertia. So that one can perhaps rightly see in time the be ginning of all genesis (birth), but in no circumstances may one couple phthora ( destruction) with time, as the ancients did. Time only creates the possibility o f changes and great transformations. Destruction, however, does not come from ti me. And if time is as mighty as it appears to the empirical consciousness, then humanity's supreme hopes must be bound up with its might. In the beginning was i mmovable eternity and its brother death. When time came, having escaped the fett ers of inertia and immutability, with it came life. And since that day life and death fight against one another in the world. Which is the final victor? There is in any case no ground for saying that death is victorious. So far, at least, death has not succeeded in driving life from th e world. It often seems as though death and eternity, like matter, have already made important concessions to time, even abdicated their sovereign rights. It se ems as though eternity, and death, and matter were turning gradually from substa nce into accidents, from kings who autocratically lay down the law to being into yielding, conciliatory leaders. Already Plato suspected in matter the "not bein g"; Aristotle saw in it only the potential being; Plotinus a futile, wretched, w eak ghost. Indeed, matter is most like a ghost, and it seems as though it were n ot real even in our empirical being, as though it did not bind the living man. I t only serves him; whether his temporal or metaphysical needs, I know not: perha ps both. It was not for nothing that Plotinus finally resolved to take it with h im into yonder world, where it is already no longer the source of evil, but of g ood. Obviously as soon as we part matter from the idea of "necessity" it will at once be clear that it contains not only evil but also good. Still more can one say this of forms. Even here, in the empiric world, we convin ce ourselves that forms are not altogether subject to the law or laws of necessi ty. The whole glory and beauty of forms is very largely rooted in their capabili ty of passing from one to another. An ugly block of stone transforms itself unde r our eyes into a beautiful statue. Even ugly men, we are forced to think, may b ecome beautiful - but this is of course much more complicated and difficult, and human art has not succeeded, or only to a very small degree, in achieving the m iracle of such transformations. But obviously art is in a position to guess at t he possibility of it. This is precisely the starting-point of Plotinus's theory of ideas, and on it he constructs his philosophy of awakening. Plato does not ho ld our world for real. Plotinus strives vehemently to pass the frontiers of the empiric - his ekstasis (ecstasy) is an attempt to awaken here on earth from the

auto-suggestions, to dispel the eternal magic which, embodied in the form of "se lf-evident truths", paralyzes the understanding and the will of the boldest man. This is precisely the famous "flight from life". And strangely enough, neither in Plotinus nor in Plato does the flight from life at all presuppose hatred or c ontempt of the world. How vexed Plotinus was over the teaching of the Gnostics! Plotinus does not desp ise the world, he loves it with his whole heart - he who, following Plato's exam ple, ever repeats that death is better than life. This "glaring contradiction" ( and it is far from being the only one: the whole philosophy both of Plato and of Plotinus consists of glaring contradictions which are carefully hidden from the uninitiated, but no less carefully preserved quite inviolate) is not to be remo ved from Plotinus's philosophy, which would then lose its soul and life. The fun damental error of most, indeed of almost all, studies on Plotinus, lies in the f act that their authors usually try to tone down the contradictions which they fi nd in him by explanations and commentaries, or to eliminate them by their own ad ditions and emendations. This method is absolutely impermissible... When Eduard von Hartman, who believes himself a kindred spirit of Plotinus and is held by ot hers to be such, attempts, simply in order to eliminate the contradictions which he has remarked, to replace Plotinus's "One" through the conception of "substan ce" coined by Spinoza, meanwhile transforming "reason" and the "world-soul" into an attribute of thought and will, he is simply concealing the true Plotinus fro m himself and others. He does this with a perfectly easy conscience, being convi nced that philosophy is "common action" and that the series of philosophers who followed Plotinus had added to what they inherited much which Plotinus himself w ould not reject if one could recall his spirit to earth. Whence comes this convi ction? Philosophy is no common action and cannot be so, as it cannot be science in the ordinary sense of the word. This is especially true of Plotinus's philosophy. Plotinus cannot be supplemente d out of Spinoza, Schelling, Schopenhauer, or Hegel. Plotinus cannot be suppleme nted at all. He can only be heard and, so far as possible, felt. It is not even possible to submit him to a critique in that part of his Meditations in which he touches on truly philosophic questions. We are, of course, not bound to accept his physics and astronomy. His knowledge in the field of positive science is nat urally small in comparison with ours. But philosophy - that we seek from him, an d he again sought it from men who lived before him and were even less instructed than he. Both he and Plato were deeply convinced that the ancients were "better " than they and nearer to the gods... Is that right? Must we also assume that Plotinus, who lived so long ago, was bet ter than we and - the main point - nearer to the gods and consequently to the so urces of ultimate truth? A question of fundamental importance, which the present day unfortunately does not dare pose, much less solve. We today take the histor y of philosophy for the fundamental science - fundamental not only for historian s, but also for philosophers. The physicist or botanist does not find it necessa ry to study the history of physics or botany; even if he interests himself in th e history of his science it is only by the way. But in philosophy, not even thos e who believe in the progress of philosophic thought will confine themselves to acquaintance with the modern authors. We need Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus no less than Kant or Hegel. Indeed, even more; one can get along without modern philoso phers, such as Wundt or Spencer, but not without Plato or Plotinus. Ancient phil osophers, for all their backwardness and, indeed, their ignorance in the field o f positive science, are for us eternal and irreplaceable teachers. Similarly, in the field of art the present does not allow the modern poets any advance over H omer, Sophocles, Aeschylus or even Horace or Virgil. Dante and Schopenhauer deli ght us more than Hugo and Musset. And this can be said more truly of religion. T he Bible remains the book of books, the eternal book. It would be no loss to exc hange the theological literature of a whole generation of later epochs against a single Epistle of St. Paul or a chapter from Isaiah.

This is certainly no chance. The sciences develop and perfect themselves. Positi ve knowledge accumulates, transmits itself. For that reason each successive gene ration is more learned than its predecessor. Aristotle is right; a characteristi c of knowledge is that it can be transmitted to any man. But in philosophy, art and religion, the case is quite different. The "knowledge of the philosopher, th e artist, the prophet, does not enter into man's everyday life as an article of use. For Plato his anamnesis, his "ideas", his "Eros" were knowledge, supreme ph ilosophical knowledge. But even Aristotle "refuted" him. Even today all this kno wledge can be drawn from Plato's own works alone, while those theses of the old physics or mechanics which have proved correct are reproduced in any textbook, w ithout even an indication by whom and when they were given to humanity. If we sp eak of Pythagoras's theorem, Archimedes' level, or even of Newton's laws, it is only for the sake of simplicity and brevity. It is quite different when one spea ks of Plato's ideas, of Plotinus's "One", of Aristotle's Entelechy, of Spinoza's amor intellectualis, or even of Kant's postulates. Here the creator is as impor tant as his work. Just as it is impossible to describe or retell in one's own wo rds Phidias or Praxiteles, Leonardo da Vinci or Raphael, Sophocles or Shakespear e. One must oneself see or read their works. Not to speak of the Psalms, the Boo ks of the Prophets, the Epistles of the Apostles; unless one has read them, if o ne only knows them from the words of others, one cannot even guess what they say . It is true that even those who have read them often do not understand and appr eciate them. The fact probably is that, however we strain our imaginations, we y et cannot penetrate into the distant past. And the more distant the past, the mo re difficult it is to reconstruct it by means of the ordinary historical methods . One should not deceive oneself and trust too much any one's ability to read the history of the earth, of life, of men, of peoples, from the material traces whic h have remained behind. There is every reason to suppose that we "read" badly, v ery badly, and that our bad reading has provided us with a considerable store of false ideas and knowledge. We always read" starting from the presupposition tha t there is and can be nothing new under the sun, a presupposition that is obviou sly quite false and entirely unfounded; there is new under the sun, but we lack eyes to recognize it - we only understand how to see the old. The Biblical legen d of Adam's fall, for example, is something new. If we examine it as historians should, as men should who seek a natural relationship between phenomena and are convinced a priori that they can find nothing in the darkness of the centuries w hich does not also exist in our days, we shall be forced either to interpret it wrongly or to hold it for a later, even for a very late interpolation. This woul d be absurd. The legend of the Fall is so closely bound up with the whole Biblic al story that we should be obliged to attribute the whole of Genesis, and conseq uently, all other books of the Bible, to an epoch near our own. But what then? H ow can one explain naturally how a little, uneducated, nomad people could come u pon the idea that the supreme sin which deformed human nature and brought with i t the expulsion from paradise, with all the consequences of that expulsion: our heavy, tortured life, labour in the sweat of our brows, sickness, death, etc. that the supreme sin of our forefathers was trust in "reason"? and that man in p lucking the apple from the tree of knowledge did not save himself as one would s uppose, but damned himself for ever? How, I ask, could such a thought come into the heads of primitive herdsmen who w ere obliged to devote all their time and forces to the "struggle for existence", i.e. to tending their cows and sheep? What acuteness and refinement of understa nding, what culture is necessary even to approach this fateful question! Even to day very learned men abstain from such torturing problems, feeling that it is se ldom or never granted to man to solve them, or even to grasp them in their whole depth and complexity. One might say more: although the Bible has been for centu ries the most widely read book of European humanity and each of its words is hel d holy, yet the most highly educated and deepest thinkers have never understood

the legend of the Fall. Even today none of us understands the riddles hidden in it; we are organically incapable of understanding it. Why is the tree of knowled ge the tree of death, while the tree of life gives no knowledge? Our whole exper ience proves the opposite. Knowledge protects life, enables man - a weak animal without natural weapons - to fight with other animals dangerous to him. Knowledg e is the source of our force and might... So it would seem! But if we do not und erstand the legend of the Fall - how then could uneducated, rude herdsmen unders tand - much less invent - it. It is clear that they could neither understand nor invent it; just as they could obviously not come to the conclusion from the visible traces which remained beh ind that there once had been a flood. The legend of the Fall came to the Jews fr om somewhere outside, they received it as "a tradition and then it was transmitt ed from generation to generation. Consequently, its origin must be ascribed to a very remote period of human history. Yet however far back into the darkness of time we remove the legend of the fatal tree, we are not facilitating our task, b ut rather complicating it more than ever. The forefathers of the Jews who lived in Palestine were even less educated than they; they were quite primitive men, s avages. Were they capable of reflecting about such problems at all, far less of solving them? Were they able to contrast life and knowledge?... I repeat that th e most highly educated man, even today, could not make such a contrast "with his own reason". When Nietzsche brought back his Beyond Good and Evil from his subt erranean and super-terranean wanderings, the world was dumbfounded, as though it had never seen its like before. And that although he was only repeating once ag ain the immemorial legend of the trees which grew in paradise. And that although the story had already been told with such passion and fire by the Prophet Isaia h, by St. Paul, who based himself on the Prophets, and even by Luther, who fille d the world with his thunder - Luther, who taught that man is saved, not by work s, but by faith alone - sola fide - and that he who trusts in his good works is condemned to everlasting death. If, then, although the prophets, apostles, and philosophers proclaimed this trut h to us so often, we could not and cannot grasp it, how could the Jews invent it for themselves? Obviously they could not. It is equally obvious that they could not have taken it over from any one else. Then whence came it to them? And if i t came to them in "natural" wise, why are we, even today, unable to guess its my sterious meaning? Why does it appear, if not exactly false, yet utterly senseles s, even to those who look on the Bible as a book of revelation? It cannot be - so our reason, our whole spiritual being, repeats ever and again - that death came of knowledge. This would mean that man could only free himself from death if he freed himself from knowledge, and lost the power to distinguis h good from evil! This was "revealed" to our remote forefathers, and they preser ved the truth revealed to them through thousands of years. Hundreds of millions of men have known and know today that passage in the Scriptures which describes the Fall, but no one is able to understand it, still less to explain why a myste ry was revealed to us which none can grasp, even after the revelation. The theol ogians, even those like St. Augustine, have feared this secret, and instead of r eading what was written in the Bible, viz: that man became mortal because he ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, they read that man became mortal because he disobeyed God. Others have conceived it still more crudely, and seen the ori ginal sin in the concupiscentia which Adam, seduced by Eve, is alleged to have b een unable to overcome in himself. But this is not a reading; it is an artificia l and calculated interpretation. If man had disobeyed some other commandment of God's, the consequences would not have been so heavy and disastrous; the Bible i tself relates this later. The point was simply that the fruit of the tree of knowledge which grew in Eden beside the tree of life bore within itself inevitable death. It was against this that God had warned man. But the warnings had proved useless. Even as man, "aft

Death is always frightful. which we describe as "audacity". I know it is i mmeasurably hard for man to be condemned to go without knowing whither. death in old age and death in youth.er he had eaten of the fruit and become aware" that he was naked and must be ash amed of his nakedness. i. and even . Before the Fall Adam looked on Eve and was not ashamed . he should feel great joy. Paul teaches. his own works. It is tru e that nature could have arranged it differently. neither the yearning for "eternity" wh ich we are alleged to feel through conscious reason in mutable time. as in all that was in the Garden of Eden. This is comprehensibl e. i. a thing not compatible with the usual ordo et c onnexio rerum or even idearum. because it is more common. For him there is no need to be hypocritical. through faith alone. But many a man can also often not reck on with it. A philosopher is "obliged" to answer questions. through "faith" as St. The shameful. to d . He believed the Serpent's words that knowl edge would increase his strength.THE STING OF DEATH Plato says in the Timaeus that natural death is painless and rather pleasurable than grievous. Nothing unna tural. to d eclare that death in old age is "pleasant".were precisely the source of all evil upon earth . Direct seeing cannot bring with it anything bad or false.e. The essence of knowing lies in limitation.to be quite frank . And the more he "knows". he could no more deliver himself from death. so "after he became aware that death existed.in human nakedness.God only put into words what had happened without hi m. the frightful came from knowledge and together with knowl edge. After creating lies and evil. could not help but be ashamed. but had received it in one of those ways a bout which the latest theories of knowledge can tell us nothing. with its "criteria" which arrogate the right to judge and condemn. Perhaps.e. death has always appeared something supremely unnatura l. nothing against nature. something unnatural kat' eksoch§Ün. which again is the outcome of fear that unless one looks what is behind. was only beauty. as though the Biblical philosophy were far deeper and wis er than modern philosophy.as though the Jews had not invented the legend of the Fall. can we raise ourselves up above human t ruths and human good. Obviousl y this ought not to be asked of him. could have contrived that when once man feels that his bonds with the world are relaxing. We need not fear mutability: our arch-enemies are the "self-evident truths". "dialectic" cannot help here. can be. as though that which had a beginning had no end. But it is not a case of "asking". and often does not reckon with it. Very many philosophers are of like opinion. And if this is so. one will fall victim to a dangerous and guileful enemy. To raise himself man must lose the ground under his feet. But "knowledge" and "works" . through a spiritual exertion of quite peculiar nature. not to instruct others. Only when we have forgotten the "laws" which b ind us so fast to the limited existence. Knowing is the pow er and the eternal preparedness to look about one. we must allow that everything in the world is alike natural: health and sickness. He sees in death the eternal problematical. the bad. then it should be much more natural. to reduce the unknown to the known.One must redeem oneself in other wise. 50 . It was not God who "condemned" him to it . every one must invariably reckon with it. If it exists. man passed his own death-sentence. and will always so appear to him. knowledge tries to teach man how he can save himself from lies and evil through his own strength. this is the sense of the Biblical legend. It is true. Yet to him who himself wishes to learn . . No one as ks that all men should invariably disregard evidence. but a limited and mortal being. And then it begins to appear as t hough eternity were only motionless pictures of time. to explain the problemat ical. the more limited he is. on the contrary. and became a knowing.if one accepts t he mysterious Biblical legend . So it would have to be if death were a "natural" phenomenon. And why do we reall y believe that death is more natural in old age than in youth? If the word "natu ral" has any meaning at all.e. it is natural. i.

there is no need to palliate death. today ordinary men tr easure success. the supernatural. Even the outward appearance of death is ghastly.aret§Ü adespotos . He is solemnity incarnate. It makes itself gifts and is glad in its gifts. created. The philosopher's joy and sorrow. despite Plato. according to Plotinus. Those who are not used to the sight cannot see eve n a skeleton without a shudder which is usually called superstitious. "the wisest among men" . yet we should have to burn or bury corpses. What c ares the ecstatic for personal events. through sickness or some other "chance" cause. but would be described quite differently if we looked more closely. In such a case one thinks only of the unnatural . an d force us to seek the new reality in those fields which seemed to us before to be peopled with shadows and ghosts. he is no morel I t is true. quite independent of the conditions of our outward existence.more com prehensible. even our "self-evident truths". it is easily borne and accepted. health. more expected. mysterious. without reason.consists in deta ching man from the outer world.in this he is continuing a nd complementing the work of Socrates. bound with indissoluble bon ds: This should be our starting-point. Only then shall we attain that freedom lackin g which life seems to Plotinus miserable. and enigmatic thin g of all that goes on around us. health. we can never be "h appy". when the Master d ies under our eyes. We must learn to despise all that is external. fame. beauty. and painless or happy death is practically unknown.ie in youth or middle age. we must lea rn to regard it as "non-existent". must be ground less. But what is the value of first sight . 51 . inner contentment. Thus. The body is a prison wherein the soul resides. Plato himself knew this when he wrote the Phaedo under the fresh impression of Socrates' death. It is glad because it wishes to be glad. Can we then feel convinced that the natural is more legitima te and mightier than the supernatural? It is. friends. death is the most unnatural. he teach es. Every joy and every sorrow has for ordinary. illusory. Some rank him even above Plato. of departure from the world. even for events which shake the whole wor ld? Has he lost his good name. If all this is given them. while it is immeasurably difficult to open the soul to the supernatural. if not. of complete detachment from it. "pres ented" to it. if personal e xperience and observation are insufficient. but rather. comprehensibility? Socrates has been poisoned. unphilosophical men its own cause. Death is monstrous. And it is not by chance that it is accompanied with such horror and dread. And not. relatives? This troubles only th ose who think that life is better than death. precisely in order to emphasize its inexplicable quality. Even if the d ecay of the organism were not accompanied by danger to other men. however. Even the destruction of his father land will make no impression on him who has learned the joy of fusion with God. thinkableness. i t is integrally bound up with our innermost essence. more. Look at the statistics. we shall hardly entertain considerations of the naturalness of death.THE SOURCES OF THE "SUBLIME" Plotinus passes for the most "sublime" of philosophers. more thinkable. autonomous. The soul is not glad because something has been "given". The fear of death is not fortuitous. the ugliness and agony of death make us forget everything. And onl y before great terror does the soul resolve to apply to itself that compulsion w ithout which it could never raise itself up above the commonplace. perhaps. to make it less frightful and problematical. Consequently. of ecstasy. indeed . or of any naturalness. are. etc. Plotinus never laughs. empty. only very few men reach a great age. S o long as we let our spiritual welfare depend on our jailers. sorry. And this possibility is reached in the state of ekstasis. agonizi ng and frightful. As virtue knows no lord over itself . the "natural" does not disquiet us.so there is also no lord ov er the wise man who has grasped ultimate truth. Whatever may betide in the world . he does not ev en smile. The inner joys. Indeed. to die in agony. they are g lad. The visible world is the wall of this prison. it seems.at first sight . than in old age and painlessly. His whole task .

But "history". Such admissions occasionally escape even professional historians in their mor e sincere moments. and those men who have esteemed the "universal" and proclaimed it God. Herein and herein alone lie the "b eauty" and "sense" of sublimity.. as He was ever. once in wanton audacity reso lved to escape from the womb of eternal being into independent existence. even at the price of the destruction of the entire human race. But in the end he u sually obeys. of all our endeavours and cognition? I think we must answer. but in eternal lawfulness and the sublime se verity of unalterable order. he knows that there can be no joys for him who renounces his own self . to lead them back to eternal submission. merely to preserve its right to personal being and personal joys? Or is Plotinus wanting to be particularly "sly". Hoc signo vinces. he tells of the supposed "sublime" joy of th e last oneness. Pascal. only a "here". But "there" . the dreadful Last Judgment. I do not contest it.how can there be joy and delight more when one rushes into the arms of s omething that has not even a being. The joys. it is no t. Here the conquerors have been the "ideas". << | >> . no. the thought of which is such torture to his philosophic conscience. reckons wi thout its host.there those who were rejected and defeated will be heard. an unconscious tool in the hand of "Almighty God". or the lonely human soul? But God is passionless. only bait by which man must be lured. at this alone does it aim.REVOLT AND SUBMISSION In his life man often changes from audacity to subservience. but his supreme truth. the delights. really the balance-sheet of all human act ivity. its first audacity has be en a failure. all imbued with his great. And God is only here. and. as usually portrayed. Hegel's philosophy of history is a crude and noxious falsific ation of life. Justice must triumph. Is not the way pointed out by Plotinus a new audacity . and that the eternal crime. but masked . the Prophet Isaiah and the Apostle Paul among the ancients. An d that is why Aristotle conquered. since he is incapable of understanding that the purpose of the world structure d oes not lie in him and his destiny. Consequently it is the soul that needs it. It is of this that that "One" dreams which Plot inus hymns so incomparably. The soul which. That is Plotinus's axiom. the "consciousness as such". Heine and others among the moderns. The one objection might be that th ere was no "there". is not here. and so it seeks to cheat God in a new way.of the indivi dual entity? In the material world it has had no luck.joy of oneness! It is again only the same wanton. a "cheated cheat"? He has been sent "from on high" to lure t he audacious apostates. God remains passionless. our history. He needs no thing. again according to Plotinus's teaching. 52 . prophetic mission. The judgment. But has the history of philosophic teach ing really expressed the history of our spiritual wrestling? And is the history of civilization.is that of human humiliation. would then remain unatoned. hoc signo vincunt et vincent et vincant. t he beatitude .if the historians' opinions are to be trusted . Now the question arises: Wherein lies the essence of man's oneness with God? Who needs this . But is it worth while pondering over so wanton a soul and creating a philosophy for it ? And then .this time not open. Audacity is no fortuitous sin of man's. the wise man will ever preserve his loftiness and spiritual calm. individual soul t hat can rejoice. The history of philosophy . only a way in their battle for their rights. Shakesp eare.they are only enticements. Humili ation was for them only a means. The conquered and rejected are Plato. That is an o bjection. His rational reality is neither rational nor real. And those men who have proclaim ed humility have been in their innermost being the most audacious of men. Protago ras. not there. as a hypnotized bird rushes into the cobra's jaws? But he also knows that no one would follow him if he spoke the truth.God.

send me. They want to be hist orians first. i. and tell this people. and foremost.DOSTOEVSKY CHILDREN AND STEPCHILDREN OF TIME Spinoza in History Et audivi vocem Domini dicentis: quem mittam? et quis ibit nobis? Et dixi: ecce ego. to tell truthfully "what was". one must suppose that the impulse towards fre e inquiry was never so strong in them as it is today. and hear with their ears. but understand not. had of course his o . and they reject in advance all kinds of preconceived ideas which hamper the freedom of inquiry. Hard as it is to reconcile ourselves with this. Excaeca cor populi hujus et aure s ejus aggrava. but perceive not. lest th ey see with their eyes.ISAIAH vi." And in verity. saying. and he who makes one is the enemy of tru th. Go. yet we must say: were there no laws. et videte visionem et nolite cognoscere. there is offense also. and make their ears heavy. and shut their eyes. The first commandment of m odern philosophy runs: Thou shalt emancipate thyself from all postulates.e.doubt all things). who was the first to proclaim the commandment: "there shall be no postulates in philosophy" (which he express ed in the words "de omnibus dubitandum" . et oculos ejus claude.Orphus system home intro In Job's Balances << | >> Part III texts links biblio Index ToC ON THE PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY Here on earth everything has a beginning. ne forte videat oculis suis et corde sua intelligat. Descartes. and see ye indeed. If one is to believe what men say. and understand with their hear ts. The po stulate has been declared a deadly sin. The modern historian s of philosophy look down on such abstract interpretations. and nothing an end. Make the h eart of this people fat. mitte me. Here am I. Et dixit: et dices populo huic: Audite audientes et nolite intell igere. the "father of modern philosophy". . One may ask: Have we gained anything by introducing a new commandment. Whom shall I send and who will go for us? Then said I. the re would be no offenses. 1 Few today would be prepared to repeat Hegel's dictum that the history of ph ilosophy represents the stages of the spirit's development. And I heard the voice of the Lord. . where there is law. and be healed. 8-10. Hea r ye indeed. and that their whole life's work consists in proclaiming and defe nding their postulates. Paul we find the enigmatic words: "But the law came that offense m ight abound. or than anything else in the world. And he said. and turn again. a ne w law? In St. In the present case men should say openly that their po stulates are more important to them than their philosophy.

all that was mysterious would become plain. 59). belongs to its age and i s subject to its limitations. ergo sum. XIII. his treatises became poems. Descartes. the new thought. the uncommon passion and emotion which fills them. neither men nor angels nor even God Himself. The individual is the child of his people. God Himself. Lucretius had his own presupposition. which he could not have called by its name and whose name he did not try to discover. For he belongs to the one ge neral spirit. i. Desc artes was. Whatever can only be known indis tinctly. I repeat.He could not.AK. firmly convinced that philosophy could now no longer stray from its path. which is his substance and essence.of which men had dre amed almost since the creation of the world. on even the most perfect conceivable being. God could not cheat man even if He wished. life. Even Lucretius's famous philosophical poem De rerum natura is not written with nearly such fire and vigour. Some mighty. . Could one but see that law clearly and distinctly. God did not want to be a cheat. cannot be truth. se emed to him intolerably oppressive and painful. us to be in possession of the truth. he says. begins. man from mystery and from the mysterious forces which hel d all in their power.wn postulate.e. or at least in their main part: "Every philosophy. his wor ld. since now at last it had found the reliable compass . he remembered. how should he transcend it ?" (Works. God did not desire to cheat man. at that. Men will become as gods.the main point . a true "child of his age". and men would become as gods. but which dominated him abso lutely. Bossuet wrote of him: "Monsieur Descartes a toujou rs craint d'§Ütre not§Û par l'§Ûglise et on lui voit prendre des precautions qui allaient ju squ'§Ñ exc§Ús. must wish.no mere talisman . and which meant far more to him than Epicurus's atomism. he will not reach beyond it. to the ex position of which the poem is devoted. did he begin to philosophize. Even his cont emporaries thought so of him. although. nec proinde in Deum cadit: the wish to cheat t estifies either to malice or to weakness. as his first discovery: cogito. whatever is mysterious. It is something which no one has ever doubted or ever could doubt. The truth. He trusted only himself. Above God and man there was an eternal "law". And this was for him as clea r and distinct.] And yet with all his caution he fulfilled his historical mission with incomparable genius. ergo sum I think. stretch as he may. had one ambition: to free the world. For those who have not read Descartes' works it is difficult to imagine the extraordinary vigour. And only when he had convinced himself that there is a truth w hich withstands the assaults of any doubt. as indubitable. Galileo's fate. mystery would vanish from the world. Descartes is a miles tone at the end of the thousand-year night of the Middle Ages. precisely because it is the reflection of a certain stage of development. he is the great " leap" or turning point with which the new history. they are not treatis es but poems full of inspiration. To exclude in advance any p ossibility of reproach and reply. two centuries after him. filled his soul with ecstatic delight. And the thought that there was no one in the whole universe who would or could cheat hi m. This was not Descartes' language. therefore I am. even if He wished: cogito." [Mister Descartes has always feared being noticed by the Church and he t ook precautions that were often excessive . which in many ways recalls that of Descartes. that he himself (for he trusted himself absolutely) was henceforward lord and creator of his fate. Hegel's words can be applied to h im wholly. as the historians explain to us. Dependence. songs of triumph and exaltation. insuperable force. Velle fallere vel mali tiam vel imbecillitatem testatur. wish es. that he need trust or believe no one. hymns of victory. is contained only in that which can be recogniz ed clearly and distinctly (clare et distincte). and consequently may not be ascribed t o God. as is we ll known. And this assertion is in his o pinion no postulate. and . he began himself with the assurance that he do ubted everything. In spi te of the apparently abstract nature of the subject-matter. drove him ceaselessly to the one end: to banish mystery from our lives a t all costs. Descartes was forced still to leave some things unspoke n. Descartes taught. God did not wish to cheat man. So spoke Hegel.

These are remarkable words, and merit reflection; particularly in view of t he care-free self-satisfaction, or, if you will, the na§áve confidence with which th ey are spoken and which, incidentally, always accompanies clear and distinct jud gments, "ut unusquisque, qui certitudinem intellectus gustavit, apud se sine dub io expertus est!" (as every man who has tasted intellectual certainty has undoub tedly experienced in himself) (Spinoza, Tractatus Theologico-politicus, cap.I). Philosophy - so Hegel, the greatest of the rationalists, teaches us - is condemn ed to limitation by the spirit of its age, and there is no possibility for man t o emancipate himself from this limitation. And this does not in the least embarr ass Hegel; on the contrary, it charms him, for it is what resembles most closely the much - desired, long - awaited scientific truth, that which is cognized cla re et distincte, so clearly and distinctly that we cannot even suspect that God Himself, did He wish it never so strongly, could mislead us now. And even after a man has read Hegel's dictum that he is a child of his age and reproduces in hi s judgments, not the truth, but what the general spirit wishes at any given hist orical moment, not only is he unable to emancipate himself from the limitation, but it is not even granted him to feel that limitation and to recognize it for s omething that should not be, something imposed from outside, for a repulsive, op pressive nightmare, of which, even if one cannot awake from it, one should yet k now that it is no reality but an agonizing dream. Represent a fortuitous, limite d truth and be satisfied, aye, be glad and rejoice thereat! Hegel writes again in the same work, indeed, in the very chapter from which the previous lines were quoted: "Philosophy is not somnambulism, but the most w aking consciousness." But if what he said of the spirit of the age is true, then philosophy - what Hegel calls philosophy - is the purest somnambulism, the phil osophic consciousness is the most unawaking consciousness. It is, indeed, most i mportant to note here that the state of somnambulism, as such, cannot, generally speaking, be held to be any great misfortune; perhaps it is even a piece of "go od fortune". Somnambulists often do things which seem to waking men supernatural . Perhaps somnambulistic thinking is useful, even very useful. But however usefu l it may be, yet in no case - even though it should turn out (and there is every indication in favour of this supposition) that the supreme scientific discoveri es and inventions have been made by men in a state of somnambulism - in no case must philosophy be led into temptation by profit and advantage, however great. T hus Descartes' own rule of de omnibus dubitandum still leads us, willy-nilly, to doubt his postulate and forces us to ask ourselves: Are we then really cheated by clear and distinct judgments? Are not the clarity and distinctness of a judgm ent a sign of its incorrectness? In other words, is it not the case that God bot h desires and is able to cheat men? And that precisely when He has to cheat men, He sends them philosophers or prophets who instil into them judgments which are clear and distinct, but false? And yet Hegel is right, far more right than he himself suspected. Descartes was a child of his age, and his age was doomed to limitation and errors, which it was its lot to expound and proclaim as truths; it is astonishing that out of all God's predicates Descartes was interested in one only, and that a negative: God cannot be a cheat. Descartes asked of God only not to disturb him in his sci entific researches, i.e. not to interfere in human affairs. God could not cheat men in everything. Cogito, ergo sum. By this very act of awakening man to life, hence to thought, God was compelled to reveal to him that he, man, existed, and thus to reveal to him the first truth. But after He had revealed to him the firs t truth, God, through that act, revealed to him also the truth of what are the s igns of truth: he enabled him to comprehend that only clear and distinct percept ions are true. A fulcrum has been found - the new Archimedes can continue their work confidently. Already they no longer pray: "Give us this day our daily bread , and forgive us our trespasses"; they simply propose to God politely that He sh ould not interfere in human affairs: noli tangere circulos nostros. Thus Descart es taught, joyous and enthusiastic, obedient to the spirit of his age. Thus, too , many other eminent men of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries taught after

Descartes and before him. They were all convinced that God would not and could not cheat us, that the source of our errors was ourselves, our free will, and th at clear and distinct judgments could not be false: this was required by the alm ighty time-spirit. But now something more. Pascal was Descartes' younger contemporary. Like De scartes, he was one of the outstanding representatives of the scientific thought of his epoch. Descartes', teaching of the clear and distinct judgments was well known to him. He also, of course, knew that the spirit of the age was with Desc artes, and he was easily able to guess, and probably did guess, what the spirit of the age required of its children. But he evaded fulfilling these requirements . To Descartes' gay "clare et distincte" he answered brusquely, gloomily, and su rlily: "I want no clarity, and qu'on ne nous reproche pas le manque de clart§Û, car nous en faisons profession" (do not reproach us with lack of clarity, because we make it our profession). This means: clarity and distinctness kill truth... Thu s spake Pascal, like Descartes a child of the seventeenth century, like him a Fr enchman, and like him, I repeat, an outstanding scientist. But how could it happen that two men who should have belonged to the same g eneral spirit and consequently should both have represented the essence of their people and their age - that they spoke so differently? Or was Hegel "not quite" right? Obviously, a man cannot deny his nature, but surely man does sometimes s ucceed in disobeying the time-spirit and emancipating himself from the limitatio ns of his time? And a second question: where is the last, final truth to be soug ht? With the gloomy and surly rebels against the time-spirit, who in defiance of possibility emancipate themselves from the might of their age, or with those wh o do not deny the impossibility and dash onward down the great highway of histor y in triumph and glee, in the firm belief that human understanding differs in no wise from the divine? For no one will doubt that the great highway of history i s open only to the subservient. Pascal with his enigmatic "profession" stood apa rt from events, from the idea as it "developed". His scrappy and unordered Pens§Ûes have by chance been preserved to us, but it is not Pascal but Descartes who has remained till today the ruler of minds. Descartes was the true representative of the one general spirit of which Hegel told us. Consequently the truth, if by tr uth we are to understand that which stands the test of centuries, lay with Desca rtes.

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In Job's Balances \ III \ Children and Stepchildren of Time << | >> 2 Modern philosophy, as I said before, admits no postulates. Still more deepl y does it fear legends and myths. As we have seen, philosophers have never manag ed to do without postulates. We shall see shortly that both legends and myths ar e no less indispensable to them. Every one knows that according to the teaching of the Bible, God created ma n after His own image, and after creating him, blessed him. This is the alpha an d the omega of the Bible; herein lies its soul, or if I may so express myself, t he essence of Biblical philosophy.

But many are probably unaware that the Hellenic world also had its legend a nd its myth of the origin of man, and that this myth lies at the base of nearly all the philosophical systems of antiquity, and has also been taken over entire, in disguised form, by modern rationalist philosophy. All that Hegel says in the work quoted above about the general spirit and the individual is simply a repro duction, adapted to our tastes, of this myth. Anaximander tells the myth as foll ows: By coming into the world, by voluntarily detaching themselves from the sing le common womb and becoming individual beings, things committed a great sin. And for this great sin they are doomed to the supreme punishment, annihilation. "Al l single things", and particularly living beings, and among living beings, of co urse, particularly man. God did not, as the Bible tells, create man of His free will, and after creating bless him; it was not with God's blessing, but against His will that man in self-willed and impious fashion detached himself and seized an existence to which he had no right. And consequently individual life is in i ts essence impiety, and for the same reason carries with it the doom of supreme punishment, of death. Thus taught the first Greek philosopher, Anaximander. Thus also taught the last great philosopher of antiquity, Plotinus: arch§Ü men to§í kako§í h§Ü to kai h§Ü genesis (the beginning of evil is audacity and birth, i.e. the appearance o f the individual being). The same, I repeat, is the teaching of modern philosoph y. When Hegel says that the individual belongs to the general spirit, he is only repeating Anaximander's words. For the sake of completeness I will add that Ana ximander's legend was not invented by himself, nor by the Greeks at all. It came to the Hellenic world from the East, the home of all legends and myths, on whic h the West, although it will not admit it, has always lived and still lives. We have thus two legends. Man as individual being came into the world in ac cordance with God's will and with His blessing. Or, individual life appeared in the universe against God's will and is therefore in its essence impious, and dea th, annihilation, is the just and natural punishment for the sinful self-will. How and by whom shall it be decided where the truth lies? Did God create ma n for life, or did man himself reach life in audacious wise, through guile and d eceit? Or can it perhaps be that some men were created by God, while others forc ed their own way into life, against God's will? All these disquieting, fateful q uestions can in our opinion be answered only by human reason. And this answers t hat the last suggestion is wholly inacceptable. It is impossible that the metaph ysical essence of all men should not be the same. It is also clear that man did not come into the world through God's blessing. Everyday experience shows us tha t all that arises is also subject to decay, that all that is born dies. And more : all that is born, i.e. has a beginning, must die, i.e. end. This is not only t he teaching of experience; it is self-evident, it is that clearly and distinctly apperceived truth, that veritas aeterna, to which there can be no reply, which is as binding for God Himself as for man. Death is the natural end, the end adap ted to the nature of things, to that of which birth is the beginning. But if this is so, then there is no doubt that individual man invaded exist ence wrongfully, and consequently has no right to life. In that case the Bible s tory is clearly false. If we accept it, that means that we must renounce Descart es' "clear and distinct truth" and make Pascal's "manque de clart§Û" our profession! Furthermore, the Biblical God Himself, of whom it is told that He created man a fter His own image, becomes a myth and a false invention. For God after whose im age man was created, the personal God, the individual God, is a "vague" and thus a false conception. The true idea is a clear and distinct one, it is that gener al or collective spirit of which we have heard from Hegel. So thought the old Gr eeks, so thought the men who in modern times reawakened sciences and arts, and s o our contemporaries think also. But it was left to Spinoza to call everything b y its own name. "For the reason and will which constitute God's essence must dif fer by the breadth of all heaven from our reason and will and have nothing in co mmon with them except the name; as little, in fact, as the dog-star has in commo

n with the dog, the barking animal." In such words a disciple of Descartes began to speak. It is undeniable that Spinoza was, indeed, a disciple of Descartes, as it is undeniable that he was a child of his age. The stake at which Giordano Bruno had been burned was, metaph orically speaking, still hot, and already Spinoza dares to proclaim aloud that e verything the Bible says of God is pure invention of the fantasy. Hegel repeated Spinoza two centuries later (all Hegel is derived from Spinoza), but never even attempted to speak so openly and brusquely. Not from caution; he had no need to fear either Bruno's fate or Galileo's. But Hegel did not need to speak thus, he had no such inner requirement. Spinoza had said everything before him and done what was requisite. It was by no means simply because he feared the persecution of the Church, as Bossuet assumed, that Descartes did not speak with Spinoza' s tongue. Even if he had had no fears he would not have said that "God's will and reason have as little in common with man s as the dog-star has with the dog, the barking animal." A man speaks thus only when he feels that in his words lies no t a testimony but a judgment. A fatal, a final judgment, a sentence of death. I have quoted a short passage out of Spinoza's Ethics. I shall not maintain that very many similar judgments could be found in Spinoza's books or letters. On the contrary, open admissions and brusque, challenging assertions are compara tively rare with him, and when they are found it is always quite unexpectedly, a s though they broke out against his will from some mysterious depths of his bein g, hidden even from himself. On the surface it is always the mathematical method : quiet, consistent, clear proofs. He speaks exclusively of the clare et distinc te, as though clarity and distinctness alone occupied him. Had he read Pascal's remark that one could "faire une profession" of lack of clarity, he would presum ably have said, in a favourite phrase of his, that Pascal was one of those men w ho sleep with open eyes or dream waking. Spinoza probably did not know Pascal, but the kind of thoughts which Pascal held, which he, so to speak, gripped convulsively, were, of course, only too fa miliar to Spinoza, and he held his historic mission to be to combat precisely th is kind of thought. For when Pascal maintained that he did not accept clarity, h e was rejecting precisely that commandment which the time-spirit had brought to every child of all the leading peoples of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Eur ope. Already Giordano Bruno went to the stake in fulfillment of the demands of t he mighty spirit, Campanella passed his whole life in prison and suffered the mo st cruel tortures, Galileo escaped Bruno's fate only by pretended recantation. A ll the leading men of this epoch were drawn, were driven by irresistible force, to a common goal. All sought with joy and great delight that which Descartes des cribed by the words clare et distincte. Mystery and the mysterious were to be ba nished at all costs from life, utterly eradicated from it. Mystery was darkness, mystery was man's most dreadful enemy. Only a few lonely men of Pascal's sort did not share the general joy and de light, as though they had guessed that clare et distincte or the lumen naturale were pregnant with great danger and that the time - spirit which had attained un restricted possession of the best minds of the time was the spirit of lies and e vil, not of truth and good. But Pascal, as I said before, stood outside history. Perhaps because he was grievously sick, or perhaps his grievous sickness was ex piation (or a reward? that, too, is possible) for disobedience to the time - spi rit. History is much more complex and tangled than Hegel thought, and the histor y of philosophy, if it did not let itself be seduced by simplified and therefore apparently convincing interpretations, could discover many things much more int eresting and significant than the stages of development and self-sufficient dial ectic. Perhaps it would then become clear, at least in part, whence the spirit g ets that strength with which it subdues man, and wherein the function of that sp irit resides. Perhaps we should understand then that the task of the philosophy of history does not at all lie in depicting the "process of development" of phil

immutable God who would not cheat m an and could not even if He would. into their most secret tho ughts and experiences. Descartes. having eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. if one seeks in it what the Greeks called pr§ætai archai hridz§æmata pant§æn ( the first principles. Eritis sicut dei scientes bonum et malum: ye shall be as gods. or the good but unstable gods. his clare et distincte. exclusively interested in the "ge neral". he rejoiced and was glad. I think it will be no exaggeration to say that Spinoza. had become as God. if by philosophy one understands attitude to life in the comprehensive sense of the words. while all "individual" is through its orig in criminal. not by what was for him the most important and significant thing. God stands outs ide us. has nothing to say about Pascal in his character of p hilosopher. should be and often has been simply a "wandering through human souls". and his stable. physics. must be described as the father of modern philosoph y. is. if God is of His natu re immutable and always like Himself (the two ifs are equivalent. On the contrary. philosoph y itself. Here am I. How could a lonely man. everything had become clear and distinct. and without the slightest fear. who was much more care-free than Descartes. but by what he said and d id against his own will in fulfillment of the demands of the time-spirit. God does not interfere in our affairs. Now we understand Pascal. saying. When he proclaimed his "de omnibus dubitandum" he had no in tention of really doubting everything. individual responsibility for it? And yet he did so resolve. the stable God who cannot and will not cheat man. again and again: our history in general. come but yesterday into the world and to-morrow doo med to die . used t o say outright that man. In his whole being he felt that clarity and disti nctness. But God's ways are inscrutable. and all of us after him. Spinoza's influence on the philosophy which succeeded him was immeasurable.how could he resolve to undertake so gigantic a task. he would create a perfect knowledge. but that far from i nitiating us into the holy of holies of philosophers. in contrast to Pascal. and illusory. He was convinced in advance that if he were left alone and not disturbed by the evil but mighty. If God will not and cannot cheat men. And when God commanded hi m. and the greater philosophers were ever wanderers through souls.~ it actually robs us of the possibility of holding interc ourse with the outstanding men of the past. Whom shall I s end? Who will go? And he answered. Descartes did not expect and did not wish to expect more from the "perfect being". Go hence and proclaim it to all peoples of the earth. Like the Prophet Isaiah. as we remember. It is clear that Descartes did not so much as suspect what he had undertaken when he proclaimed his de omnibus dubitan dum. Mystery had vanished out of the world. in Hegel's words. impious. were the beginning of death and annihilation. For it must be repeated.that is all that is required.osophic systems. there is no God. Spinoza felt this also. Hegel. everything had taken on s harp and clear-cut outlines. scientific knowledge) . or Plotinus to timi§ætaton (what mat ters most). Spinoza' s own "historical" significance was determined. The history of philosophy. that the "general" alone is real and sure. and to assume personal. He did not guess that what had happened to Ad am of old was being repeated with him. not for a mythological creature. but for a mere notion). or better still. did not allow the thought of God to pertu rb him in the least. Spinoza went fo . send me. The part of the Serpent is played here by the invisible time-spirit (which is so invisible that Hegel himself. Our history. he did not evade the mission imposed upon him by the time-spirit. the roots of all things). and that precisely because. and the history of p hilosophy in particular. The only doubt was whether any one in the universe could hinder man from creating science. analytic geometry. however. Spinoza heard the voice of God. saying. in the conviction. instilled into us by the Hellenic philosophers. apparently so far beyond his strength. not Descartes. each serves as condition for the possibility of positive. knowing good and evil. pr ima philosophia. are prepared to hold it. that such a process can indeed be observed.

But twenty years before the beginning of the Christian era there appeared in Alexandria a strange man calle d Philo. Philo fulfilled his mission. the impersonal principle. as it i s generally recognized today. We remember the story of h ow God tempted Abraham. laid upon him a vast h istorical mission. said: arch§Üi o§ín ho logos kai panta logos (in the beginning was reason and all is reason). The Greeks. Two thousand years ago there came to the peoples of Europe the light out of the East . and the curse of sin cannot be lifted off him until he ha s admitted his sin and expiated his audacity (tolma) by eternal subservience to the super-personal. sinful ly invaded free being. and he who loved God best became His murderer. the barki ng animal. But what was in the beg inning? Plotinus. Or. The Stoics declared: p§Ós aphr§æn mainetai (all who do not submit themsel ves to reason are mad).lux ex Oriente: the Bible. are lies and invention. the Bible reconciled it self with the Logos and was thereafter accepted by the peoples of Europe. the Bible's words: "Man was created after God's image ". one single time. commanding him to bring his first-born son Isaac as a sa crifice. with which it is inseparably bound up. the time-spirit. "before the law" . must not be. And yet fate. knew the truth. as history t ells us. who created mankind o f His free will. Herein lies the essence of Stoicism. subject thyself to reason). to whom the wisdom of the far East had re ached. He was no great original thinker. or in Hegel's words. . had to carry his dreadful work to an end. No ange l came flying to stay his hand. man himself rushed wickedly and i mpiously into being. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Children and Stepchildren of Time << | >> 3 Another historical remark. through inscr utable decree. renounce yourself before the face of inexorable reason. by him who loved Him above all others. on the other hand.and then the victory. He was chosen out to "reconcile" the Bible with Hellenic phil osophy. God did not create man. in deed. In what did this reconciliation consist? The doctrine of the Logos. the preworldly Law. In other words. is yours. Man has impiously. or rather. You mu st subject yourself at once. reached its fullest flowering in the philosophy of the Stoa. the Logos with God. He was no Plotinus. received the light and saw in it the truth. Such a God must be slain.rth and said to them those dreadful words which I have quoted: God's will and re ason have as little in common with man's as the dog-star with the dog. or Spi noza. I think it needs no particular perspicuity to discover here beh ind the Stoics' commandment Anaximander's old thought. any victory you p lease. in Seneca's more popular but also plainer words: Si vis tibi omnia subjicere. A God as creator of heaven and earth. te subjice rationi (if thou wouldst subject all under thyself. and slain. And the peoples of the West. necessarily only a short one. The philosophy of the Stoa. But at the last moment an angel stayed the father's hand from the murde r. And accordingly the begi nning of evil is man s audacious refusal to bow down before the preworldly Logos . In the age after the Stoics no philosopher could be other than a Stoic. who epitomized everyt hing that Hellenic thought had created before him. the last great philosopher of antiquity. Descartes. determined the destinies of European thought to a far greater degree than is generally supposed. Spinoza.

the mediaeval mystics. and there is m uch besides that God cannot do. a very strange complexio oppositorum. God can not cheat man. can sacrifice to God father and mother. Victory was not possible otherwise. that is to the Logos. A few . When Descartes slew God. He feared indeed . Who is to be sent? Who will dare such a work? Philo undertook it. There was in Plotinus. If he did not revolt against the Bible. have given the name veritates aeternae (eternal truths). understood what was required. if you will . then subject thyself to reas on. led the Bible before reason and forced it to bow d own to it. very much.men were inspired by him: Dionysius the Areopagite. he combined in himself aspi rations which were completely exclusive of each other. but adequate.the involuntary somnamb ulists. Man can commit a crime at G od's wish. he thought that he was only saving science. Even the Bible. as Descartes taught. But we remember Seneca's frank admiss ion: Wouldst thou subject all things under thyself. that is. the whole world . the f irst Apostle of the Gentiles. taught Descartes. Augustine .Plotinus has still other motives. as had been usual sinc e Philo. And the n was heard again the mysterious call: Whom shall I send. a whole syste m of "cannots" to which men. but one thing was indubitable for him: had God Himself commanded hi m to slay Him. as in Plato and al so in Spinoza. The Bible contains everything that your sages teach . philosophy needs no inspired hymns. St. Philosophy wishes to be itself an historic force. who will go for Me? Th e historians describe this under solemn names: renaissance of science and the ar ts. In the fourth Gospel the words were inser ted. his firstborn. was that not the first blow dealt to God by one of the numerous conspirators . and had st ood aside from the great historical arena. as Bossuet wrote and historians repeat after him. but rather what is called in modern knowledge the verdict of conscience .thus he "reconc iled" the lux ex Oriente with that lumen naturale which had shone for so many ce nturies on the Hellenic world. Descartes became accomplic e to the great crime of modernity. aye. the emancipation from that very impersonal and soul less Logos-Law. en arch§Üi §Ün ho logos (in the beginning was the Word). Man hesitated. who had lived for so many thousands of years and from whom all men lived! De omnibus dubitandum. the moment it was called to enter the arena of the world and subje ct humanity under itself. They all still reconciled the Bible with the Logos. For fifteen hundred years the reason of European humanity endeavoured to qu ench the light come from the East. to exercise influence.but man cannot consciously slay his God. But Plotinus the psalmist had no "historic" significance. But the light refused to be quenched. Better think.of the Renaissance epoch? God cannot cheat. that is. Above God there is a whole series.and how greatly ! . But this side of him remained quite alien to philosophy . conquer.if eminent . feared to lift his hand against his creator. and the civilized nations declared themselves ready to accept the Bible. They all only went half-way. dominate spirits. what the more expressive terminology of the Middle Ages called the Last Judgme nt. thi s was not at all. and that which the lumen naturale reveals t o us cannot help but agree with what is revealed by the lumen supranaturale. out of fear of the Church's persecutions. To step out before men and proclaim that there is no God! To go and with one s own hand slay God.but not the Church. since it contained everything whe reby they had been accustomed to conquer. Des cartes was a thoroughly sincere man. Yet it is impossible not to fulfill God's will. saw itself obliged to subject itself to the Logos. guide humanity. even did He himself command it with a clarity and distinctness which excluded any possibility of misinterpreta tion. They all preferred not to pose the fateful question. he would not have dared such a crime. And he could doubt much . tha t God cannot and will not cheat man. that reason did not contradict revelation. in order to hide from themselves the sense and sign ificance of them. obviously not even the genius of Descartes. He. And we remember . Or. clear and distinct ideas. whic h had hitherto been the jealously guarded preserve of a small people. This meant that the lux ex Oriente had to pale be fore the immortal sun of human reason. the Biblical philosophy. But no one. It was he who taught that we must drame§àn huper t§Ün epist§Üm§Ün (transcend understanding) and exalted in incomparabl salms the ecstatic "escape".

sang. poi son their existence through fears and hopes . we know. was glad. Spinoza with his great predecessor and m aster. must be quiet and easy. had "reconciled " the Bible with Hellenic wisdom. Hegel only lives fro m what he has received of Spinoza. neque detestari. others take thought for you. The rest of humanity is innocent of Spinoza 's crime. sed intelligere (lau gh not. precisely that was required of him which the others had been spared. Compare Spinoza with his remote successor Hegel. The Renaissance. and at the same time of that which Hegel knew not and Spinoza . What can tears and curses avail ? It is done. the gait of the Commendatore's effigy. he says. which are shown in his portrait. whose last r epresentative he was. cheerful morning had dawned. This man has committed the supreme crime and taken upon himself the whole super-human burden of responsibility for what was committed. They shall not. his Principia. Only from time to time. Spinoza answered that call. man must slay God . Compare. because it was harder. up to and including Descartes. the eyes of the spirit which gaze out at us from his books and letters. it cannot be repaired. perhaps for one alone. But Spinoza only repeats . Descartes. rejoiced and was glad. Or perhaps it is not so at all. And lastly . For those men who do not even suspect what is hidden under the clear and distinct appearance. and all doubts will vanish. again and again: non ridere. an d it is enough to hear his slow and heavy steps. steep and painful one. Discours. of course. more impossible for him to do this than for any one else. The whole age of the Renaissance. weep not. but b y another. But the voice cried still: Whom shall I send? Who will go for Me? Who will deal the final blow? Where is that Brutus who will kill Caesar. The way which he has chosen for himself is a difficult. And verily. Strangely enough. The time was ripe. fitted only for f ew. teaches his neighbour. cal l the time-spirit. nor weep.was co ndemned by God Himself to slay God. he has no trace of those impulsive joys and that care-free gai ety which fill the lyrical treatises of the latter. without at all suspecting or even troubling to ask in what way the wealth which he inherits was acquired. and what fearful things happen in the world .how often and ho w emphatically he speaks of this in his earlier works and in the Ethics . after just saying that one mu st not laugh. Philo. The night of mediaevalism was over! The clear light. as though against his will. Only of such a one will men believe that he has in reality and not in words accomplished this crime of all crimes. without even notici ng that he might be caught out in a contradiction (he is beyond caring about con tradictions) that he may take pleasure and laugh and enjoy all the delights in w hich daily life is so rich. it is enough to look at Spinoza's eyes . but those gentle and inexorable eyes . too. fol lowed in Philo's footsteps. with Hegel. omnia praeclara tam difficilia quam rara sunt (all no ble things are as difficult as they are rare). non lugere.affectus metus et spei non possunt per se esse boni (the emotions of fear and hope cannot in themselves be good). admis sions flicker up which. Live without thought for anything. But the crime was not committed by him. and not responsible for it. Aristotle. But of Spinoza more was required.not those. Meditationes. He took a resolu tion that none before him had been able to take. I repeat once more.that he rejoiced. nor be wroth. Of this difficulty he tells us li ttle.for them life. had made it appear as if by inspired interpret ation of Plato. but understand).but w ho can slay God like him who has loved Him above all else in the world? Or rathe r: only he can slay God who has loved Him above all treasures on earth. no one will ever laugh again in the world. He. if collected and compared with what is commonly describe d as his teaching would make clear to us the meaning of what we. and makes q uiet and assured use of them. the dreadful deed is done. his best friend and benefactor? And lo! as we said. and the Stoics one could find in ancient philosophy a justification of the Bible. who lo ved the Lord his God with all his heart and with all his soul .oculi me ntis. And Spinoza. be not wroth. Hegel is the lawful owner of the "spiritual" possessions. this deed of all deeds.can a man laugh who has slain God? One must not laugh. hardly anything.

Immediate cognition presupposes not "our" ego but my ego. Our ego. Henri Bergson. Bergson's perspicacity is extraordinary. see especially Letter LXII. h e could only say: my ego feels itself free and declares this. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Children and Stepchildren of Time << | >> 4 One of the leading modern philosophers. and is correspondingly incapable of any immediate co gnition. the spirit of the age develops. i." ("I indeed deny. in spite of Hegel.himself described in the phrase "sub specie aeternitatis". for the mob. But he has no righ t to assert that every ego feels itself free. nego. se sent libre et se d eclare" ("The ego. le moi. this is the mistake described in l ogic as metabasis eis allo genos (a transition into another field). where he writes. then. But if we admit im mediate cognition to be infallible.e. me ulla absoluta cogitandi potentia cogitare posse. i. he hammers into us. in order not to contradict my conscience. Bu t at the bottom of his soul he like Pascal. inter alia: "Ego sane. But the ego of another man feels itself unfree. It is all the more s trange that he was able to write this sentence. is not a thing which is given immediately. the ego as such. that he does not feel himsel f free. that requires no contradiction.e. must not be contradicted. my reason . The obvious is necessar y for every man. inti midated by laws and punishment for disobedience to the clear and distinct requir ements of the law. Bergson's ego feels itself free. then in those cases where we are confronted with tw o opposite assertions. of which he says himself: "Terret vulgus nisi pave at" (the mob terrifies unless it is afraid). infallible in its immediate cognitions. With obstinate co nviction he repeats many times. quod vellem et quod non vellem scri bere. honours and reveres mystery. i n Spinoza's words. infaillible dans ses constatations imm§Ûdiates. Obedient to the time-spir it. superficial in him. he too. we have no alternative but to accept both. Paul that the law came that sin should prevail. Their truths are. writes in his first book: "Le moi. The problem of free will is thus complicated infinitely. not his true essence is there expressed. feels itself free and declares this"). If the time-spirit s peaks out of a man.and will any one ever consent to this? How can we be sure that all egos will always feel alike and cognize alike? Bergson feels himself free. if he serves history. There is not hing improbable in one ego feeling itself free and another unfree. The prophets and apostles heed neither time n or that history in which. acquired. If Bergson wished to remain within the limits of immediate cognition. philosophy will find itself by its very natu re placed in an extraordinarily difficult position. not truths of history but truths sub specie aeternitatis. Spinoza recites Descartes' thoughts and praises clarity and distinctness. hoc est. But Spinoza tells us something quite different. most foreign and even hostile to his inmost self. a s he tells us. according to Hegel. But Spinoza himself forgot not the words of St. ne rationi et experientiae contradicam. The chapters of this brilliant book which are devoted to inqui ry into freedom of will are among the best products of the philosophic literatur e of recent years. hates a nd despises all that is clearly and distinctly cognized. but what is most external. even though th ey appear mutually exclusive. it will have to renounce gen eral judgments . The mob must be kept in check. And if immedi ate cognition is infallible. ne m eae conscientiae. Th e spirit of the prophets and apostles bloweth as it listeth.

from his mouth. forget the Biblical revelation. that our ego is infallibl e in its immediate cognitions. Luther's De servo arbitrio. And all these assertions of Spinoza's are neither theory. This is so. and speak so that they shall see but perceive not. quam productae sunt" (things could not have been created by God in any other way tha n they were created). a voice of the deepest and most serious inner events. ye would attain the truth. nor "naturalism". evil. Remember. vel (quod idem est) ex solis ejusdem n aturae legibus (only according to the necessity of His divine nature or . When Spinoza wrote his Cogitata Metaphysica.") He repeats that the feeling of freedom is an illusion. It is astonishing. And thus Spinoza had to act. too. acquiescentia animi. fear and hope. from fears and hopes. with the necessity which knows no law above itself. he taught. would be convinced that i t was falling to earth freely.what i s the same thing . for example. there is no God. namely. spiritual satisfaction and peace. Or. It is all one now whether or not he agreed with wh at he proclaimed to mankind: he could not help but proclaim it. Not only is one man's wil l free and another's unfree. order and disorder.only according to the laws of His very nature). not what he wished. then we shall come to a quite unexpected result. have testified with equal force and persistence to similar experiences. and whose honesty we ha ve no right to doubt. that a stone. as Bergson rightly teaches. Everyday experience teaches us that good and ill fortune befall in like meas ure the godless and the pious. This is the s upreme truth which we can comprehend. this wa . all the se are human matters. shall hear but understand not. if w e are not afraid of Biblical metaphors. but they are a witness of experience. In his Ethics and Letters he m aintains the contrary with equal decision. so too everything in the world happens with the same ineluctable necessit y. Think not that through your virtues ye could win God's favo ur. and there is no force capable of taking up the battle with that order of bein g which has existed since all eternity. then forget all. and is compelled by none). As all theorems of mathematics and all its truths proceed. good. and after comprehending which we seek to a chieve the highest of existing goods. written by him in answer to Erasmus of Rotterdam's Diatribae de libero arbitrio. but something speaking within him. Deus ex solis suae naturae legibus et a nemine coactus agit (God acts only in accordance with the laws of His own nature . says Spinoza. explaining at once what these words m ean: ex sola divinae naturae necessitate. If we regard the law of contradiction . But if we disreg ard this "law" and assume. or rather. Ot her men also whom we cannot possibly call "naturalists". Beauty. like Philo . If. To comprehend God one must strive to emancipate oneself fro m cares and joys. the virtuous and the vicious. but even the will of one and the same man is free a t one period of his life and unfree at another. we say that in one or the other case he was speaking untruth. When he wrote his Cogitata Metaphysica he maintained with decision that the will was free dari voluntatem. Go hence and tel l thy people. remember only mathematics. care. ugliness. nor "conclusions" from general theses. but w hat God commanded him to say. all this is transitory and has no connection with truth. The t rue name of God is necessity: "Res nullo alio modo a Deo produci potuerunt. although it is quite evident to us that it cannot do anything else except fall. or even not thy people alone. that Spinoza "felt" differently during the differen t periods of his life. Y e imagine that God cares for the needs of man? That He created the world for man ? That God has great purposes? But where there are purposes. but all peoples (Spinoza. if it possessed consciousness. that their hear ts shall be fat and their eyes shut.and experience. some power had mastered him to which he submitted himself with the same obedience with which the stone submits to the law of gravity. that I am enabled by any absolute power of thought to think wha t I meant to write and what not. joy and sorrow. joy. we shall be confronted with a great riddle. It was not he spea king now. from its fundamental concep tions. Spinoza spoke. When he wrote the Ethics it was already en slaved. his will was still free. was an apostle of the Gentiles. he appealed to all mankind). clearly that same " time-spirit" in which Hegel saw and hailed the motive force of history. from all purposes great and small. and sorr ow.

On the one hand the "mathematical view of life" (this is what poss essed "historical" significance and made Spinoza so "influential"). God can possess no reason and no will at all. He declares that man would never have known truth had there been no mathematics. Vice seeks for reward . but that its task is solely a moral o ne: to teach man to live virtuously. proofs.a treatise of immense historical importance. Spinoza's system is composed of two quite irreconc ilable ideas.e. Paul's words. And if you ask me why. He said to him that the whole world was his. and that the Whole. When a correspondent reproached him for esteeming his philosophy the best.i. in other words. since any "sake" h umanizes the world. since if virtue needs no reward and if there is any reward in the w orld. nullum b oni et mali formarent conceptum quam diu liberi essent (If men were born free th ey could have no conception of good and evil so long as they were free). theology . etc. mathematics alone are the eternal and perfect prototype of thought. not with human ends and needs. (Hegel said then: What is real is rational. And this Whole is God. that the first man could not distinguish betw een good and evil. this will be so. for this proceeds from the necessity of the divine nature and there is neither need nor possibility to alter the existing order of things. This is the first point which man must grasp.) Must virtue be rewarded? Virtue is its own reward. syllogisms. they seek the "objective" truth whi ch exists in itself. as none of the contradictions of which Spinoza's work s are full are fortuitous. the whole nature of God or Substance (what universal rejoicing there was when S pinoza described God by the "liberating" word substance!) is that which exists o ver man and for its own sake . And this did not prevent Spinoz a from devoting the whole of his Tractatus Theologico-politicus .e. which is apparently mathematical on the surface: definitions. but simply exists. postula tes. And after he has grasped such a God . determining amongst other things the Protestant. the barking animal. But these are only phr ases. but the true. and not only the Protestant. Man imagines that everything was created for him. Mathematics alone possess the tr ue method of inquiry. i. And to illustrate this truth of his he appeals to the Biblical legend of the Fall. not literally. It is true that the Bible contains the words: When God created man. to be taken. and no fortuitous one.here beg . Spinoza did not stop here. The power to distinguish between good and evil was lacking in the first man. But how in this case could the legend of the Fall get into the Bible? And w hy does the Bible begin by revealing to men a truth utterly incomprehensible to their understanding: that their ideas of good and evil are fundamentally quite i llusory: that "law". not the best. i. but metaphorically. whose reason and w ill have as little in common with those of man as the dog-star with the dog.and not even for its own sake. that he forms within the universe a sort of State within the State. Consequently also. "came after". and "that offense should abound". lines. is nothing different from the other links.accepted t he law. A reason trained by mathem atics to clear and distinct judgment sees that man is only a link in the endless chain of nature.to proof of the thought that the Bible d oes not at all try to teach men the truth. it must be so. in St. everything i n the world happened with the same necessity with which mathematical truths deve lop. independent of men or other conscious beings. he answered brusquely: "I esteem it. and together with the law also death? This is a very obvious contradicti on. surfaces. It is due only to the outer form of his presentatio n. which does need it and receives it glad ly. began to distinguish between good and evil . but wi th figures. The legend of Spinoza's unusual logicality should lon g since have been forgotten. then it necessarily falls to vice.e. vi ce differs in no way in its nature" from virtue. and precisely because they deal." Spinoza speaks constantly of mathematics.s so. but when he plucked the fruit from the tree of knowledge . I will tell you: for the same reason why you think the sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles. only when history began. did not know the law. He says: Si homines liberi nascerentur. axioms.and receives it.

clare et di stincte.e. or even to advise him.e.? Why did he introduce a "State within a State".looked upon it. the method of indifferent. does Spino za himself.even if God is not. all "things" in the whole universe have proceeded with the same necessity out of the eternal laws of nature.not in vain called Et hics . planes. which differs in nothin g from reasonable necessity. which in general expresses. that there is only a substance. has he not fulfilled God's will? Has he resisted that which none could resist? No. using the same methods as I employed in the previous part of my work. w hen He rested from His work and found the world good. everything would have been as God proposed it w hen He created the world . even as Descartes and other great sons of the earl y and late Renaissance could not evade it. and that moral instructions and laws can replace God entirely. and shall treat of human actions and a ppetites as though dealing with lines. i. God's will had been fulfilled. and be convinced that that which they see clearl y and distinctly is that which God beheld on the Seventh Day. to love G od and not a plane. and that there would have been no good and evil at all. He imbued men with the thought that one could love Go d with all one's heart and with all one's soul. b ut only brought men moral instruction. as something toto caelo d ifferent both from a plane and from a line. he had ta ught men to think that God is not. speak of ideals. tha t they behold and see not. but not that which is. who was so vexed when man contrasted himself with nature. if he were born free and if he h ad not plucked the fruit of the tree of knowledge. the Prophets. but after His o wn will . notwithstanding that man.did he not submit himself without a murmur to mathematics. could not distinguish good an d evil. mathe matical. Learn to love God with all one's heart and with all one's soul! Why go with such a demand. as i t is commanded in the Bible. if in God's place be set objective. but everything w ould have been "very good". If Spinoza had once answe red the "Whom shall I send?" with "Here am I. But this divine "outlook" which the first man had before the Fall is no more given to man. as we have just been told. then. but to man. Why. calls God free. not what is interesting men deeply." I ask again: if we j udge of God. of the soul.he must learn to love Him. or a line. etc. the tree. And men believed him. that the math ematical method (i. both from a lump of wood and from an ape. Spinoza had slain God. and the Apostles did not discover the truth. why in his main work . since He works a fter the laws of His nature. and bodies. and speak of m an. or scientific inquir y) is the only true path of inquiry. that the Bible. even as the psalmists and the pr ophets loved Him . begin to evaluate. reasonable necessity or the idea of human good. not to a stone. a plane.ins again the "contradiction" of which I spoke . Spinoza did all this. make demands of him. a stone. when I treated of God and the soul. objective. of human passions even as we do of lines. "Blind their hearts. planes. The whole of modern philosoph y. is no different from the stone. the day of rest. who then will entitle us to ask of man. with all his heart and with all his soul. But how learn to love a God that is only Cause. and found it good. who.not after the laws of His own nature. or a lump of wood? And why do we address the demand to love to a man and not to a line or an ape? Nothing of what is in the world m ay claim a peculiar position. or a plane? On e might equally well ask a second question: Why love God? The Bible demanded lov e of God. that man does not form a State within a Sta te. and bodies." Or that they see clearly and distinctly. i. send me.e. as mathematician never yet spoke of triangles and pe rpendiculars? Is this that Spinoza whom God commanded to go among men and blind them? How then. a tree. Spin oza himself concludes the introduction to the third part of his Ethics thus: "I shall treat of the nature and force of the affections and of the power of the sp irit over them. despite his solemn vow. But everything works after the laws of nature. set man apart. That was natural. but what the . certainly not. that does what He does with the same nec essity as any inanimate thing? Spinoza. as though wishing to form a State within a State. indeed." he could then no longer evade his "historic" mission. the Biblical God possessed reason and will.

God sent out his prophets to blind and bind men. going the w ay pointed out by Descartes. A great. not only for men. divine. They im agined that this their certitudo. Not like a priest. sub specie aeternitatis. that they.. free command and of his own. a direct and legitimate spiritual descenda nt of Descartes. and had not t o prove its title" (Ideen. He will slay God.De intellect us emendatione begins. but also for angels or gods (this is the usual modern mode of expression. calling to us. John: en arch§Üi §Ün ho logos. ne forte videat oculis suis et corde suo intelligat. it never occ urs to them that its source could be so strange and mysterious a one. Read the lines with which the . et videte visionem et nolite cognoscere. and which he himself received from the spirit of the age. not Husserl's faith in reason and science. And it could not be otherwise. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC . modern philosophy. I say "equanimity" . eternal mystery lies in the drea dful words of the prophet: Et audivi vocem Domini dicentis: quem mittam? et quis ibit nobis? Et dixi: ecce ego. but in the p erspective of eternity. Why was that necessary? Did Spinoza know that? Do w e know it. Our contemporary Edmund Husserl. should hold themselves free and seeing. Excaeca cor populi hujus et aures ejus aggrava. sub specie temporis.. et oculos ejus claude.this proceeds straight from Spinoza. And t hat he was slaying Him at His own. There can be no doubt that Spinoza. which is so firmly convinc ed that its visions or. its "intuitions" are th e greatest possible fullness of vision. When confronted with self-evidence face to face. barel y visible knowledge (not always. mitte me. fettered and blinded. visible even to himself or to others) a ppears in his whole philosophy. Another slew God. overcoming the "dualism" of space and thought and c reating the idea.time-spirit whispers in their ear.unhappily little-read . With no less equanimity Hegel saw the supreme task of mankind in the Stoic commandment of the abandonment of personality and its melti ng into substance. not my own invention) . was given them by nature itself. Fichte said with full conviction that the w hole meaning of Christianity lay in the first verse of the Gospel according to S t. not Hegel's dignified Panlogism. such a question cannot even be put. that tru e life lies not in the perspective of history. hardly definable sounds whic h we cannot in our tongue describe even as the voice of one crying in the wilder ness. but like a victim he goes to the sacrificial altar. and whose name is soundlessness. elusive. as though such a voice had something to say to us free spirits. mysterious. And this "vague". This is not Descartes' gay de omnibus dubitandum. who continually and openly appeals to him.for here is the essential. this their self-assured vision. of a "substance ". so dear to Hegel and our contemporaries today. as they are now commonly called. human will. not Fic hte's ethical idealism. he has slain God for history. 300). indeed. declares solemnly: " Self-evidence is not in fact a sort of index of consciousness attached to a judg ment. who read Isaiah and Spinoza? Not only can this not be answered. felt that he was slaying Him whom he loved above all else in the world. that without God there is no life. unfree. but in those strange. Neither Ficht e nor Hegel slew God. hidden. but in the innermost depths of his soul he feels "vaguely" "sentimus experimurque nos aeternos esse" ("we f eel and learn that we are eternal"). They did not even guess that they had in herited the certitudo (certitude) won at the price of the supreme crime. Any "philosophy of life" other than "ethical id ealism" is almost unthinkable today. 'here is the truth! '. I repeat that not a trace of triumph or gaiety is to be foun d in anything which Spinoza wrote. Not in those clear and distinct judgments which history has received from him. Et dixit: vade et dices populo huic: a udite audientes et nolite intelligere. like a mystic voice from another world. p.

He was himself in fact an apostate. 1 Three hundred years have passed since Pascal's birth. is it reasonable to fight against history? Of what interest to us can a man be. What. and nothing an end. but pas sed by. Pascal was a "reactionary". history deals with the living and not with the . he abjured and denied a ll that humanity had acquired by its common efforts in the two brilliant centuri es to which a grateful posterity gave the name of "Renaissance". celebrated. Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world: there must be no sleep while that lasts. The verdict of history is merciless for the apostate. and hardly less since his death: Pascal lived but a short while. During these three hundred years mankind has made great advances. not we from him. yet profound and concentrated mind. Pascal has not escaped the common fate. and it is to others that the y go to seek the truth for which he sacrificed his life.In Job's Balances << | >> Part III ON THE PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY Here on earth everything has a beginning. What would Pascal reply to the arraignment of history if he could be brough t back to life? An idle question. was applied to resisting the current of history. and it is not from Pascal but from Descartes that we receive the truth. But Pascal feared novelty above all things. and all his works with him. . before which a lamp b urns that will burn yet for many a long day. Like Julian the Apostate. It is not Pascal but De scartes whom we call the father of modern philosophy. to those whom he hated and fought. Pascal is admired. . People l isten to others. But no one listens to him. for where else could truth be soug ht but in philosophy? This is the verdict of history. he did not feel himse lf impelled. preventing himself from being carried forward by it. can we learn from a man of the seventeenth century? If it were possible to re call him to life. All the strength of his restl ess. and saw in this renewal the fulfillment of its historic de stiny. but backward s towards the deeps of the past. even among his contemporaries. to failu re. with all the rest. he wanted to turn bac k the wheel of time. Is it possible. thirty-nine years in all. The more so because. The whole world was renewing itself. It is a verdict from which there is no appeal. who tries to make time run backwards? Are not he.DOSTOEVSKY GETHSEMANE NIGHT Pascal's Philosophy J§Ûsus sera en agonie jusqu'§Ñ la fin du monde: il ne faut pas dormir pendant ce temps-l§Ñ. forwards towards a "better" future.PASCAL. his august face is like the image of a saint. that he is even praised. I t is true that his works are still printed. Le Myst§Úre de J§Ûsus. the n. foredoomed to ill-success. still read. to sterility? There can be only one answer to this question. he could learn from us.

an d it is Hegel's philosophy which all profess. par la gr§Óce de Dieu. The supreme judge of all differences is not man. as we have been taught. In his Provincial Letters he declares catego rically. t ribunal appello. and without inf luence over the living. however we treat them. I think. whatever we sa y of them. it is true) that men. had prepared his answer to past and future generations. And. To justify itself." In these words. ni du bien. that the dead are silent and will always remain silent. Il est meilleur d'ob§Ûir §Ñ Dieu qu'aux hommes. once dead. even du ring his lifetime. in which the dead leave them today. In any case philo sophy. I mean. I need. I f they are afraid to face their responsibilities and do not want themselves to b e turned from judges into defendants. they had better abandon the Hegelian metho d of investigating the past and try to find some other. which.") And again: "Si mes lettres sont condamn§Ûes a Rome. But history is not an anatomical theatre. for Hegel's philosophy will prove inapplicable. J'ai cra que je n'eusse mal §Ûcrit. It ru ns: "Vous m§Ümes §Ütes corruptibles. it is possible that the dead are n ot so helpless. history would hav e to invent a new philosophy. I ask nothing of it. je n'en appr§Ûhende rien. or be driven to recantation by our threats? Will history appear t o him as a just court of appeal. Domine Jesu. cannot guarantee to historians in saecula saeculorum the same security from the dead. neither easy nor straightforward. indeed. would he reply to the verdict of history." ("If my letters are condemned in R ome. Domine Jesu. but Pascal. to find truth one must free oneself from all t . neither its riches nor its approval. and there were many who professed it long before his day. Domine Jesu.") Can he be terrorized by ou r disapproval. But the time may come when even the historians will feel that the dead were men like themselves.. I do not know whether th e Emperor Julian would have accepted the verdict of history. but He who is above all men. me voyant condamn§Û. I fear nothing. "Je n'esp§Úre rien du monde. thus. I have been afraid that I have written w rongly. consequently. and stand before us as equals . so bereft of all power. for Pascal's sake. as the ultimate court? "Ad tuum. but the example of so many pious writings has convinced me that this was not so. mais l'exemple de tant de pieux §Ûcrits me fait croire au contraire. so "dead" as we think. should not admit any statement without pro of. tribunal appello. In an anatomical theatre one can d issect corpses at leisure. by the grace of God. even those who do not acknowledge him as master. can ri se from their graves." ("You are yourselves fallible. absolutely cease to exist. that which I condemn in them is condemned in heaven.dead.") Thus did the living Pascal reply to the threats of Rome. True: yet for this one occasion. that the y are consequently defenseless before the judgment of posterity. and it is c onceivable that the historians may one day have to render account to the dead. Ad tuum. But wou ld it be so terrible to take a little trouble? And is it so necessary to defend Hegel at all costs? Hitherto history has always been written on the assumption ( unverified. ce que j'y condamne est condamn§Û dans le c iel. if we suddenly feel that the dead can come back to life at any moment. tribunal appello. indeed our strong convicti on today.how shal l we speak then? One must admit that this is possible.. je n 'ai besoin. But if one day we are robbed of this convictio n. lies the solution of the enigma that Pascal's phil osophy presents. and then they will become more careful and circumspect in their judgments... ni de l'autorit§Û de personne. I will suppose that i t were well to force history to concern itself with the dead. Seeing myself condemned. je n'en veux rien . It is our belief. It is better to obey God than man. doubtless. invade our lives. The undertaking is . Ad tuum." ("I hope for nothing from this world.

since Pascal had to appeal fr om Rome to God? Pascal began to feel this very early. while conversely.") And finally. but Descartes incorporated everything aga inst which Pascal fought. and all the new philosophy. Il aurait bien voulu. but can a man set himself such a task. pouvoir se passer de Dieu. Descartes. One can say this. every line of his writings bears witness to this. He says as much openly in his Pens§Ûes: "§«crire contre ceux q ui approfondissent trop les sciences.") "I cannot forgi ve" applies not only to Descartes. Not only do his writings give nothing. and the last years of his life were m erely one protracted and continuous struggle against the world and Rome." ("I cannot forgive Descartes. dans toute sa phil osophie. they take all. worse still. apr§Ús cela il n'a plus que fa ire de Dieu. The older he gets. mais il n'a pas su s'emp§Ücher de lui faire donn er une chiquenaude pour mettre le monde en mouvement. the mo re firmly does he entrench himself in his conception of life.hat man generally looks upon as true. But he had to make Him give a fillip to set the worl d in motion. they ask for something which will resol ve their difficulties and calm their fears. which w ere striving to emancipate themselves from God. Pascal would fain "mur der sleep". What was this philosophy except the conviction that the world can be "e xplained by natural means". In all his philosophy he would have liked to dispense with God. or rather cries aloud: "J§Ûsus se ra en agonie jusgu'§Ñ la fin du monde: il ne faut pas dormir pendant ce temps-l§Ñ"? ("Je sus will be in agony until the end of the world: there must be no sleep while th at lasts. beyond this he would have no more to do with God. quite decisiv ely. as also all his writings taken together. Thus he becomes ev er stranger and more inhuman to mankind. a man of inspired genius. and where el se but in this conviction lay the essence of Rome. but we now know that this was not the case. of which Descartes laid the fou ndation. Those things which u sually pacify men arouse in him the gravest anxiety. for one can say anythi ng. but to all the old philosophy in which Descar tes had been reared." ("To write against all those w ho go too deeply into the sciences. For a long time the legend prevailed that Pascal was a Cartesian. Not only was Pascal never a disciple of Descartes. have these words any actual meaning? Like Macbeth. and is he able to fulfill it? If he c annot. Human reason declares unhesitatingly that Pas . No one denies that Pascal is a great ma n. in the throes of his sombre exaltation. that man can "be independent of God" (the Pelagians had formulated this thought in the phrase: Homo emancipatus a Deo).") << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Gethsemane Night << | >> 2 Jesus' agony will last until the end of the world. Y et every line taken separately. he seems to demand that all mankind should associate it self with him in this horrid task. proclaims. Hence the enigmatic and paradoxi cal character of his philosophy and his conception of life. like Descartes. and therefore there must be no more sleep during all that time. What can they hope from Pascal who. Men need something "positive". and giving his reasons for his opinion: "Je ne puis pardonner a Descartes. the thing s that men most fear fill him with the greatest hopes. are use less to humanity and hostile to it.

had it not been for the authority of the Catholi c Church which moved me to faith . was the father of fides implicita. Man accepts more easily what is strange and even obnoxious to him. nor Nicole. Indeed. without ever being able to abandon it entirely. Nicole. "La raison nous comma nde bien plus imp§Ûrieusement que le ma§àtre. This. if they reject it. can we refuse to obey reason? And who will dare do so? Peter the apostle. is why Arnaud. I would n ot have believed the Good News. then. the authority of his neighbour. who will continue to seek and to question indefinitely. Augustine remained f aithful to the tradition of Greek philosophy. If we turn to St. Augustine.monstrous according to human conceptions . the support. institution." [My soul is sad unto death .since we ask only in order to get an answer. and gave him the earthly keys of heaven . but has only to observe those principles dec lared by the Church to be true. that he does not awake even when. nor Jansen himself. Paul." [In fact." ("Reason commands us far more imperiously than a master.] When Jesus was seized by the soldiers and dragged before his merciless judges Peter went on sl eeping.] Man cannot and dares not look at the world through his own eyes.AK. it is only a philosophically uneducated man. And one cannot do ot herwise than bow before reason. if all others accept it. when Jesus asked him to stay with him to assuage his suf ferings. we thin k. If we translate the term "fides implicita" into the language of common sense. and in his sleep deny his God. in disobeying the one we are wretched. than what is near and dear to him. en d§Ûsob§Ûissant §Ñ l'un. and omit so much.would have been all too evide nt in the notes which he left. we shall convince ours elves that he too. In this respect. Peter slept while Jesus prayed: "Father. and constantly repeats: "Ego vero evangelio non cred erem. nisi me catholicae (ecclesiae) commoveret auctoritas. and the other recluses of Port Royal who published his book after his death felt obliged to abridge. at a given moment. and such was Pascal's thought both when h e wrote his Provincial Letters. in spite of his veneration for St. We must be ready. Neither Arnaud. St. according to the inscrutable will of the Creator. h e denies his God. the curiosity of man becomes inopportune beyond certain limits. no man may ever sleep. we must know when it is time to stop asking. on est malheure en d§Ûsob§Ûissant §Ñ l'autre. we know. Augustine. o r stable principle. for. And St.AK. nay is compelled. if thou be willing. on est un sot. if he had been alive at t his time. his vicar on earth can be none other than he who is able to sleep as soundly as Peter. as in many others. for it was only in sleep that a man could have denied his God thrice in one night. in an evil dream. In other words. which none may disobey. He simply replaced the general pri . This is the unequivocal command of reason. it means that man has the right. change. And yet He who knew that Peter must sleep. It seems that this was really so. had not the strength to conquer sleep. this th ought . car. and that therefore man may not sleep. For he says. still named him His vicar on earth. of the doctrine by which a man need not himself commune direct with heavenly truth. to consent to this renunciation and submit our individual liber ty (a dangerous and absolutely unnecessary thing) to some person. and when he was making the notes for the "Apolog y for Christianity" which have come down to us as Pens§Ûes (Thoughts). that the Last Judgment which awaits us will be in heaven and not on earth. Aristotle formulated this thought in his famo us dictum: To accept nothing without proof is the sign of a lack of philosophica l education. It is obvious that if one once begins to ask in this way. Thus.cal's demands are unreasonable and impossible of execution. or a man without his s hare of common sense. But . who has relied so entirely on his reason.and this is equally obvious . one can never reach the final answer. remove this cup from me!" while he cried: "Tristis est anima mea usque ad mortem. He alternately rejected and accepted it. For Pascal himself it was clearly an intolerable burden. he needs " collective" eyes.") How. to sleep while the God-head travails in agony. and in disobeying the oth er we are fools. Pascal himself teaches us. dared not believe in God directly. could have endured this thought.

for it is in natural ignorance. nor Jansen. St.") Let truth show itself today. Augustine. (People seldo m think of heaven. But the theoretical and practical significance of the idea of the Church and of that of reason were essentially the same. then St. Pascal himself says so. This "historic" importance o f St. but positively harmful to mankind. like every other human institution. regularly appealed to St. to the sum. was for these Jansenists pe rhaps more dangerous than the Jesuits. by the desire and power which he possessed of establishing below those courts which are. whose thought respects no consideration and conforms to no standard . For a man who asks n othing of the world. to a great extent. qui est la vraie sagesse de l'homme.w here may the thought of such a man end? today we have grown used to Pascal. and learne . so that many. to the next Ecumenical Council. horrified at his discovery. we have no way of fighting against this natural ignorance which is the true earthly wisdom.nciple or principles. as we now see him. that is. and obtained his condemnation. and Port Royal. It is the same with nearly all the truths discovered by Pascal after he had appealed from the tribunal of this world and of Rome to that of God. although they are far from harmonizing wit h the "lofty" ends which it has set itself.) St. even among the believers. of all the signs which we believe to distinguish truth from falsehood. the true Pascal. Port Royal would only have dared. Augustine d isputed with Pelagius. at the utmost. it ended with his breaking completely with the C hurch. When he. "Ce n'est point ici pays de la v§Ûrit§Û: elle erre in connue parmi les hommes. and it is probably this heedlessness of ours which has enabled "intelligent" history to preserve the works of Pascal for us. we learn extracts from his Pens§Ûes by heart." ("This is not the land of truth. Augustine would never have crie d with Pascal: Ad tuum. like Jansen and Pascal. or Pelagius himself. which is man's true wi sdom. nor Pascal. To appeal to Go d would surely have been to attack the "unity" of the Church. with the frankness natural to a man who fears nothi ng. find earth a more con genial place than might have been supposed. the same right to sleep. But when it appeared that the Church. Luther. could not exist without that Gre ek morality which Pelagius preached. and that is all for ever"? and who has not enjoyed his witty paradox about the history of the world and Cleopatra's nose. he turned his eyes from earth and sought for truth in heaven. in appealing to the tribunal of God. whom no authority can int imidate. so strong that the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. or which appear to be ." ("The world i s a good judge of things. We forgive the "sublime misanthrope" anything. it seems. and so forth? We l isten to these as though they were just harmless remarks. History "knows" that men will not se e what they are not called upon to see. omitted this phrase. which the Middle Ages found in the Catholic Church. the sum of which. even if it is shown them. Reason guar anteed the ancients the same security and sufficiency. thus went much further than seemed necessary to his friend s at Port Royal. Augustine undertook to defend thos e very theses which he had just so brilliantly defeated. acute and entertaining . suddenly saw with his own eyes that the e arthly keys of the heavenly kingdom were in the hands of him who had thrice deni ed his God. by the idea of the Church. Who does n ot know his "thinking reed"? who has not heard: "At the last a little earth is t hrown on our heads. as we have see n. and expects nothing of the world: "Le monde juge bien des choses. Above all. Augustine is determined. to mankind. and when. tribunal appello. was quite entitled to do this. constituted reason . Pascal. according to those criteria of truth. we a ll read him from childhood. That is precisely what Luther did. it woul d not be recognized. we shall be convinced tha t it is not only useless. and after hearing them we could go on living and sleeping as quietly as after any other pleasant words. which from his point of view was as infallible as r eason was to the ancients. fears nothing. to appe al against the judgment of Rome. which wanders unrecog nized among men. like Pascal. to the ancient world. Neithe r Luther. car il est dans l'ignorance naturelle. undisguised.") And. we s hall be obliged to acclaim it as falsehood. who wants nothing. for. Domine.

to recognize human reason as the last instance. alas. that is dear to man. instead of the disordered notes which compose his Pens§Ûes. how to deprive it of the power to judge God and man. and is only thinking of how he can shake off the yoke of the detested tyrant. we possessed his completed book as pla nned.had done b efore him.they were not. not even Pascal). and what does it give us? Reason gives us assurance. And this capacity to sacrifice his own human convictions like those of oth ers. that it had been given to reason to dictate laws. Every one thought. certainty. But this submission is only formal. But how are we to understand God's verdict on reason? Of what does this ver dict consist. if we deny and depose reason. Even in the fragmentary Pens§Ûes.] Pascal scorns its praise and remains indifferent to its blame. is perhaps one of the most inexplicable features of his philosophy. and do to this day. he had completed his work. indeed. I will admit that Pascal himself was convinced of the same. as some other philosophers known to him .d there that man must not sleep until the end of the world. and hastens to express his loy alty to it. t hen. a nd even the indomitable Arnaud. "Que j'aime §Ñ voir cette superbe raison humili§Ûe et suppliante !" ("How I love to see this proud reason humiliated and begging fo r mercy!") Pascal thought only of how to humiliate our proud and self-confident reason. But. Pascal would only have been able to say what is acceptable to man and his reason. though he admi red Montaigne. and it will not willingly decide against itself. so willingly bowed the knee. the "Apology for Christianity". and his knowledge of histo rical philosophy was derived almost entirely from Montaigne. if this were the case. I repeat. and not that of reason. but God Himself) laudabiles vel vituperabiles sumu s. to achieve greater stability and certainty? Undou btedly. [by which we are either praised or castigated . we should probably have remained in ignorance if. in the words of the Pelagians. judgments which are clear and distinct. elle ne peut met tre prix aux choses. yet he knew very well that it was useles s to appeal to reason against reason." ("Reason can blather all it wants. dangerous. consequently. If. approachable. In the depths of his soul. st rength.AK. that they were so severely censured at Port Royal. exceptionally terrifying and destructive. quibus nos (and not only we. Pascal de spises and hates this autocrat.") << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Gethsemane Night << | >> 3 We have seen that Pascal calls not only Rome but reason itself before the t ribunal of God. and paid him all honour. All these truths are harmful. even the great Des cartes. Expressly before the tribunal of God. He would b e accessible to us. it cannot fix the value of things. Port Royal. Pascal was no scholar. But the Last Judgment in no Wi . It is for this re ason. he is afraid of appearing a fool in the eyes of his neighbours and h imself. to whom all his contemporaries. were convinced that truths should be useful and not harmful. we should all willingly follow Pascal. solid and definite. of whic h incidentally. Pascal mentions from time to time the sovereign rights of reason. and had. comprehensible. as he set very little store by almost anything (this "almost". But Pas cal set no great store by his convictions. spares no one. For the Apology was to defend God before m an. "La raison a beau crier. many . but will always pronounce it self in the right. for once make reason the supreme arbitrato r. Can we hope.

" ("That will make you believe and will stupefy you. But Christ's agony is not yet finished. not to draw his fellows towards religion. for in another place Pascal says the same thing even more stro ngly and decisively. et que les docteurs graves le soient dans les moeurs. We have heard him say: "How I love to see this proud reason humiliated and begging for mercy!" And he it was who had the audacity to recommend to men. but our very existence is based. now a nother. It is going on. it is always of one and the same identity. invariable certainty on which not only our thought. Ne cherchons donc point d'assurance et de fermet§Û. it will last until the end of the world. incarnate among men. it is now one thing." ("If one were to do nothing except for certainty. but to turn them from it. We do not judge him. A truth which is not certain or secu re is a contradictio in adjecto. for these are precisely the tokens by which one recognizes a lie. pour y §Ûdifier une tour qui s'§Ûl§Úve a l'infini. Peter was able to sleep. One might think that there had been some mistake here. "One must not sleep". dispassionately executing the commands of eternal and .") Such words can come only from one who has made it his task. The n the men of the past would be arraigned before us. for this law is the prime. and grave doctors to be infallible in morals. was preparing to die up on the cross.") This is what a man feels.se resembles the judgments to which we are accustomed on earth. and had slept. but none have been successful. such the truth s revealed to him. thi s security. could only be justified as long as we held Hegel's point of view. sees. "Nous br§ílons de d§Ûsir de trouver une assiette ferme et une derni§Úre base constante. some misund erstanding. while God. on ne devrait rien faire pour la religion. that Pascal said something different from what he meant. This pride. And this esteem was taught to man by reason. We have abandoned once and for all the idea of appra ising Pascal "historically". uns hakable basis.") Many efforts have be en made to mitigate the import of these words. on aime que l e pape soit infaillible en la foi. A lie is never constant to itself. an d none is really necessary. and sought in history the traces of a "development". or rather who ha s been condemned. which w ill not be until the end of the world. THEREFORE LET US NOT S EEK CERTAINTY OR SECURITY. Let us not forget that the earthly keys of the kingdom of he aven were given to St. to deny reason utterly. and hears who has decided. since the defeat of reason gave him so great occasion for triumph. and we. the men of the prese nt. would be their judges. We do not think that we "know" more or are wiser than he." ("We burn with longing to find some firm stance. Pascal tells us. then one would have to do n othing for religion. and the decrees of the supreme tribunal in no wise resemble the decrees of earthly tribunals. The e ssence of truth is its stability and immutability. The wisest philosopher and the most unlettered artisan are equally well acquainted with earthly truth. No one must sleep. Such are the commandments. Bu t all our foundations crack and earth opens to the abyss. afin d'avoir son assurance. it is reason which furn ishes him with those assurances and certitudes which enable him to live quietly and sleep in peace. "On aime la s§Ûcurit§Û. ju st as heavenly truth in no wise resembles earthly truth. not to sleep until the sufferings of Christ are ended. and that therefore we have the right to accept only that part of his writing which tallies best with the level of knowledge of our o wn day. Mais tout notre fondemen t craque et la terre s'ouvre jusqu'aux ab§àmes. the re is no mistake." ("Men like certainty. No one must seek security and certainty. this superiority. car elle n'est pas certaine . But no. "S'il ne fallait rien faire que pour le certain. for it is not certain. some ultimate. But can one call this truth? For the fundamental attributes o f truth are its "certainty" and "security". Peter and his successors just because St. These are the words w hich caused such a stir and aroused indignation: "Cela vous fera croire et vous ab§Ütira. in order to have certainty. on which we may build the tower that can reach up to infinity. They like the Pope t o be infallible in faith.") Nothing is more esteemed on earth than this certainty. Then has Pascal come to worship and to reject truth? It had to be so. as a means of attaining the truth.

it passes. We may be sure that they weigh with him less than ever today. prorsus credibile est. which after all is native to this earth . too. he summoned Rome. reason has decided "this thing is impossible". If you want to go searching in his company. has abjured his words. Rome and reason ordain it: therefore it must not be done." [Son of God was crucified. our fir mest and most obvious truths. and their master Aristotle still uphold their "eternal truths" to th is day. and that their logic proves itself as incontrovertible before God as it was before man? It will be said that all this is fantastic in the extreme. Et mortuus est Dei filius." ("Cela vous fera croire et vous ab§Ütira. there is no shame in it because it is shameful. Et se pultus resurrexit. are ha . we must be ashamed.these never weighed with Pascal in his lifetime. he summons us to appear with him before the tribunal of the Almighty." ("I approve those o nly who seek with lamentation. As though he ha d foreseen Pascal. this is so because it is absurd. "forbidden ". "Je n'approuve que ceux qui cherchent en g§Ûmissant. was Tertullian's position in an earlier age. His voice. even to our own day . But. We are no longer judged by reason with its "permitted". judgment no longer belongs to man. where h is soul. unappeased on earth. for Pascal. when. or what he calls his truths. for true today. and where reason pr oves it completely impossible. finally. non pudet. and the universe before the tribunal of Almighty God. comes to us from beyond the grave. those "veritates aeternae" as Descartes loved to c all them before Pascal's day. disturbs h im not at all. and history. and that he believes now th at when reason decides "this is shameful". beyond th e grave. man. I must remind you again. men who are long dead cannot be confronted with one another. which renders account to none. perhaps there will be no justice either. is assuredly much more free and more daring than when. neither Pascal and Tertullian nor D escartes and Leibniz are defending any cause now. it would have to be down here. we must discard it. has found shelter. Our most incontestable. But Pascal refuses to recogni ze reason as lawgiver over him. and the laws and principles with us. alive and among the living.") His truths. Leibniz.") Will you still follow Pascal. severe and imperious." Thus spoke Tertullian in his life-time nearly two thousand years ago. quia pudendu m est. reason.invariable reason. certum est. quia impossibile est. Such. or is your patience exhausted and do you pref er to pass on to other masters who will be more comprehensible and less exacting ? Expect no mercy or indulgence from Pascal. absolutely refuses to be dragged up to heaven. this is certain because it is imposs ible . and that he is dead. We have admitted the dead to equal right with the living. such is Pascal's "logic". and all its other laws and principles. quia ineptum est. the self-assurance of men who have come into the world after him. but he tells you beforehand that your search will bring y ou no joy. We have put ourselves in t he dock.] That is: "One need not be ashamed when reason says a thing is shamef ul. And he resuscitated. we have to fold our arms. we decided with Pascal to carry our differences before a nother court. He does not admit our right to judge.AK. if they had one to defend. "shameful". where reason declares it absurd. any more than the fact that we are living. Do you think that Tertullian. And Son of God died. All this may be true. and after him other lawful guardians of the inherited ideas of the Renaiss ance. that is. And our self-assuran ce. those "reasonable truths" as Leibniz called them l ater. is complete certainty foun d. there and there alone. among men. That which will be revealed to you there will "make you believe and will stupefy you. that when reason decides "this is absurd". then truth will appear. he wrote: "Crucifixus est Dei filius. dead. and infinitely cruel to others. Do you think that Descarte s. All these earthly treasu res must go. he w ill take you with him. It may be that we sha ll not hear the verdict: Pascal has told us that there will be neither certainty nor security. He is infinitely cruel to himself.

and changes earthly life into horrible chaos. I came to bring fire and sword." ("'I came to bring war'.he chooses the abyss. qu ia pudendum est". and accepted them without dispute. we are obliged when listening to Pascal to revise all our "pudet. And he was indeed a madman.' Before Him the wo rld was living in a false peace. He kills every kind of consolation.and he shuffles all the cards. though doubtless he no more "unders tood" them than those do who criticize him and take exception to the reactionary character of his thought.he accepts instability. We must not forget that Pascal did not exactly chose his own fate." ("It is good to be tired and exhausted by the fruitless search for true good. and still appears.' ditil. remorseless. you are tired. at least. He appeared. He he ard them. 'and to teach that war. is to leave him wit hout that war which He came to bring. When he praised the cruelty and inexorability of Fate. a fanatic. "La plus cruelle guerre que Dieu puisse faire aux homme s en cette vie est de les laisser sans cette guerre qu'il est venu apporter. who had deprive d him of the consolations of reason. 'et pour instruire de cette guerre. When he sang the praises of "absurdity" he was praising God. to others as a madman .and he exalts wars and struggles.rd. the God who had proved him with unheard-of trials. Fate cho se him." (" The most cruel war that God can wage with man on this earth. we must not be ashamed thoug h the whole world cry with one voice. afin de tendre les bras au li b§Ûrateur. I repeat. S o if we had retained the right to judge him. And even when he put all his faith in the " . men pursue clear. confuses everything. "Il est bon d'§Ütr e lass§Û et fatigu§Û par l'inutile recherche du vrai bien. weariness without end. Pas cal is there with his disquiet: you must not pause. like Job of o ld. "It is shameful". Whether we like it or not.") This is Pascal's teaching. je suis venu apporter le fer et le feu. a fanatic. you must be utterly exhausted. that is just a s it should be.") "'Je suis venu apporter la guerre. Directly man pauses to rest and collect himself. Pascal was exalti ng God Himself. or rather this is how he translates what he hear d at the tribunal of God. He brings with him no relief. impossibile". you must be tired. that you may stretch out your arms to the liberator. men lo ng for rest . men love solid earth . He appeared so to himself. you must march on. at the tribunal of the Almighty. you must not rest. it would have been a small matter t o convict him. in eptum. Men love security . No one must sleep. di stinct truths . << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Gethsemane Night << | >> 4 Pascal heard these things. painful. And we know too that Pas cal had brought his cause before the tribunal of that God who accepted of His fr ee will the most shameful of all things which men hold shameful. march without ceasing. no consolation.") God Himself exacts it. But (whether for good or evil) we have just recollected that "Non pudet. What does he want? He has already told us. meaning that sometimes. He discards all that is dear to man. men appr eciate inward peace before all things . and all our "veritates aeternae". He said.he promises weariness. according to Pascal. you are worn out.' Avant lui le monde vivait dans cette fausse paix.

only such pain as t his will force us philosophers to descend to the lowest depths and to reject all that is trustful. it was God alone who could have inspired him to such folly. In our view there is not and cannot be any question of this. yet one may well say that he hardly l ived at all during that time. and yet. I undoubtedly owe far more to it than I do to my he alth. and who ordained it? And why? We should rather like to think that this question should not be put." ("Blasphemies sometimes sound more pleasing in God's ear than an Alleluia itself or a song of praise. too. tanto est Deo gratior. His biographers tell us that "although nearly fiftee n years passed between 1647 and his death. And it is no t only in their testimony that they are alike. from Kant's "synthetic a priori judgments" to the "will to po wer". he too taught "non pudet quia pudendum est". in which we ourselves had per haps formerly set our humanity. Only great pain. both equally meaningless to the modern ea r. for that he n ever enjoyed. Let us remember what his life was. delighted in absurdity" and found certainty where oth er men saw "impossibility". One need only call to mind what men most willingly forget. The more frightful and horrible the blasphemy. which be translated as "beyon d good and evil". It teaches boundless suspicion. it seems eve n probable." What was this continual torture. that long and slow pain. appealed from reason to the fortuitous.. It makes of every U and X a true and genuin e Y. and Nietzsche who lived only in the future. not of perfect health. Pascal. who was alive only lately in our midst. what the monk Luther expresse d of old so forcefully in his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. and they could serve no purpose. Only great pain ultimately sets the spirit f ree. soothing. Indeed. If we will n ot believe "reactionary" Pascal.. from the age of eighteen. and with eq ual right. as for mythical Job. he had never passed a day without pain. Pascal the "believer" and Nietzsche the "unbeliever" are completely in accord in their testimony. too. His sister writes: "Il nous disait quelquefois que depuis l'§Óge de dix-huit ans il n'avait pas pass§Û un jour sans douleur. conventional. Or has history perhaps attained its en d after all? Is he admired of all and read by none? It is possible. that all the questions lie which are of significance to man. Nietzsche. that seems lengthily to consume us over a slow fire . . if we may believe Luther. He tells us: "As for my long illness. and nowhere else. I owe it all my philosophy. Pascal whose thoughts all turned b ack to the Middle Ages. so different from one another. Quanto enim horribilior et foedior est blasphemi a.") Port Royal says the same: "His sicknesses hardly left him without pain throughout his whole life. their philosophies too are almost identical in the fundamental points for the reader who is able to get behind th e words and to recognize the self-same essence under varying disguises. he says the same thing himself in his wonderful "Prayer to as k of God mercy in illness"." ("He told us sometimes that. He. the penultimate letter of the alphabet. aliquanto gratiores sonant in aure Dei quam ipsum Alleluya v el quaecumque laudis jubilatio. both so precious and so familiar to God. No one ordained Pascal's tor ments with premeditation. the more pleasing it is to God. and for Nietzsche. kindly. came to life again two hundre d years later in the person of Nietzsche. written s hortly before his break with the Church: "Blasphemiae. but of a more bearable invalidity in which he was not wholly incap acitated for work". w e begin to think that "intelligent" history may be mistaken this time and that i n spite of its verdict. for his maladies and incessant disabilities left h im with a bare two or three years interval. let us take the testimony o f "advanced" Nietzsche.impossible". the uncertain. or "primitive" Job. the capricio us. it is there. But for Pascal." Pascal could have repeated this saying of Nietzsche's word for word.. whom it had slain..") If we compare Nietzsche's "horribiles blasphemiae" with Pascal's "laudis jubilat iones".

His friends. they seldom feel acute pain or disquiet. there is no rest. I have this story at first hand. There the only jud . and that what we reject is accepted there. cherished as the supreme good. but to judge from Pascal's own wri tings. perhaps. such a man would prove a marvelous treasure-trove to us. no sleep. it is the invention of a seer. Here on ea rth Rome is the supreme tribunal. yet a quarter of an hour afterwards he again la id open the abyss which terrified him. and things happe n continually there which happen here rarely or not at all. "Nous cour ons sans souci" . each effort is usually followed by rest and quiet. If somehow a man came down to earth. only eternal unrest. told him in vain that there was nothing to fear. his dire ctor. That is why the la w of gravity is the fundamental law of our world. and hardly knew what sleep was (Nietzsche's case was the same). Boileau was probably speaking the truth. It never happens among us that a man lives in perpetual torm ent. Men in general usua lly feel well. a single error in the story: the abyss was clearly not on Pascal's l eft side but under his feet. to them only the rule with its steady repetition is important.it is not the Abb§Û but Pascal himself speaking now . All that Pascal wrote proves to us that instead of the solid earth beneath his feet he always felt and saw the a byss (another strange similarity between Pascal's fate and Nietzsche's). they have the solid earth under their feet. or if they experience these things it is only a short and fugitive experience. Here men never walk over a precipice. and do not even admit th e possibility of unfounded fears. and neither his friends nor his confessor could do anything against th em. It se ems true that Pascal tried to hide the abyss from himself by a chair. only an endless vigil." It is not possible to verify this story. It is certain that Pascal never passed a day without suffering. that it was only the terr or of an imagination exhausted by abstract and metaphysical studies. Hence also his extraordinary and unexpecte d fears (remember his "the eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me . they always feel the solid earth beneath their feet. everything is diffic ult. everything tends towards the c enter of the earth. a world so unlike our own that all which is the rule to us is to them the exception. and used to have a chair put there to reassur e himself. and that had he given way to the "n atural" law of gravity he would have fallen into a bottomless abyss. his confessor. are such men coming from another world of which our philosophy can only dream. they only know by hearsay of falls into the abyss. but the task of philosophy is different. With us things are generally alternately difficult and easy. of one who could see into the shadows where for others all things melt in a confused twilight." etc. it is also certain that Pas cal. But does reality cease to be real when it ceases to be ordinary? And have w e the right to refuse recognition to those conditions of existence which occur b ut rarely? Practical people naturally do not concern themselves with exceptions. and that man were able to tell how beings unlike ourselves liv e in other worlds. and many others of whom I cannot speak here. Can we be sure of finding there those truths which we are accustomed to r everence here? Everything tells us that our usual truths are lies up there. reason the chief criterion.The Abb§Û Boileau tells us of Pascal: "This great intellect always thought that he saw an abyss on his left side. from the moon or s ome other planet. Nietzsche. no quiet. after having put something before us to pre vent us seeing it."dans le pr§Ûcip ice apr§Ús que nous avons mis quelque chose devant nous pour nous emp§Ücher de le voir. and nothing but this. His reality in no way resembles other people's reality. All his Pen s§Ûes tell us this. There nothing is easy.") If the Abb§Û's story is an invention." ("We run heedlessly into the abyss. The rest is either told or guessed correctly. he agreed w ith them in all their arguments. felt h imself hanging unsupported over a precipice.). Pasc al. instead of feeling the solid earth beneath his feet as other men do. There i s.

appello" which inspired the Pens§Ûes. He enters on his fight with the Jesuits armed with the whole panoply of intellectual and moral arguments. when he came to write the Pens§Ûes. Neither Port Royal nor any one else. et m§Üme des gens gui viendront quand nous ne serons plus." "Therefore let us not s eek certainty or security. et ceux gui le lisent veulent avoir la gloire de l'avoir lu. it was of him self that he was speaking. he acquired the conviction that one must not count on the support of "every one" and that the "semper ubique et ab omnibu s" is worth no more than the "sufficient grace which does not suffice". and th e common cause that he is defending here. would have been able to distinguish here the terrible words "Ad te. no matter how penetrating their under standing. but the real cooperation of all reasonable and right-thinking men. When he wrote the Lettres Provinciales the opinion of five or six neighbours sufficed to make him personally feel that he was approve d by the whole world. In one of his last letters he does indeed let slip the admission tha t he wants nothing and fears no one. It seems. Nicole. like Arnau d. when we shall be no more. un goujat. If you do not believe this.") Do not think that this "we" was said out of politeness. Nicole. has only one thought in these letters: to say no more tha n what semper ubique et ab omnibus creditum est. Jansen. and that by this word "w e" Pascal meant "they". leaving nothing to the imagination: "La vanit§Û est si ancr§Ûe dans le coeur de l'homme gu'un soldat. un crocheteur se vante et veut avoir ses admirateurs. et les philosophes m§Ümes en veulent. His strength is that he feels ( rightly or wrongly) that he has behind him." << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Gethsemane Night << | >> 5 Pascal first came into collision with Rome when he wrote the Lettres Provin ciales. by the men of his own generation and of the future. at first sight. he assumes th at reason and morality are a universal human tribunal. Do mine Jesu. It is Port Royal. et moi qui §Ûcris ceci . et nous sommes si vains gue l'estime de cinq ou six personnes gui nous environnent nous amuse et nous conten te. e ven by those who will come after. and we are so vain t hat the esteem of five or six neighbours delights and contents us. appello. not the problematical support of God . He says: "Nous sommes si pr§Ûsomptueux que nous voudrions §Ütre connus de toute la terre. read another extract where he expresses his thought with c omplete frankness. No. that is to say others and not himself.ge is he to whom Pascal cried: "Ad te. On the contrary. Pascal. and others. Later. that is to say. et ceux gui §Ûcrivent contre veulent avoir la gloire d'avoir bien §Ûcrit. un cuis inier. But this was not the case. It is for this reason that their histo ric significance is so great: even to this day many critics regard them as Pasca l's most important work. competent both for himsel f and Rome. but it is not with these weapons that he fi ghts. Domine. Arnaud. Every one understands that a "sufficient gra ce which does not suffice" is palpable and ridiculous nonsense. as though he were already beginning his own de fence in these letters (which were also what laid the foundation of his reputati on). who is far away and whom no one has ever seen." ("We are so presumptuous that we would wish to be known by all the world.

I repeat that there is no trace of the abyss. I l est donc juste qu'elle se soumette quand elle juge gu'elle se doit soumettre. an apology ought to be written by a man who has the solid earth and not an abyss beneath his feet. by a man who i s able to justify God to Rome and to the whole world. saying not hing about himself. if not of the whole world. He exchanges polemics with the Jesuits. I have already said that St. In the Provinciales there is no word of the abyss. Augustine. if it is imposs ible that Rome and the whole world should accept what one has to say. in general. Those who write against it wish to have the glory of having written well. Such thoughts as these ar e all reserved for a future work.") Here it is all clear beyond dispute: man does not write. They. Even philosophers wish for them. Pascal knew this. the side of his friends at Port Royal . it proves that they are in the wrong and can have no m ore to say. like Rome. of morality. Port Royal itself was unable to bear these new truths. indeed. he was too utterly swayed by the traditions of Stoi cism. would have answered its purpose even less tha n the Thoughts which have come down to us. La raison ne se soumett rait jamais si elle ne jugeait qu'il y a des occasions o§ë elle se doit soumettre. of salvation by faith an d of his mysterious conception of "grace" which would make one turn one's back o n all that men have held and hold true and reasonable. if Pascal had managed to complete it.. at least apparent." ("Vanity is so anchored in the heart of man that a so ldier. But this s hould not be forgotten in writing an apology. had also. and those who read it desire the glory of having read it. everywhere and by all . and historians look upon the Letters as a progressive production. a porter brags and wishes to have his admire rs. who acted as dictator to h alf if not the whole world. or even think wi th the purpose of finding out the truth. a cook. then the a pproval of five or six persons will suffice: for Pascal Port Royal. Augustine never dared refuse to acknowledge the sovereign rights of reason. and Neo-Platonism." ("St. He never suggests that it could be possible to be condemned in such a court and yet be in the right. The Provinciales are. and not by one who wants t o bring the world and Rome before the judgment seat of God. Reason would never submit. He writes: "Saint Augustin. properly speaking. or perhaps just on account of this very fidelity. a soldier's servant. which had completely and entirely accepted the ideas of Stoicism. or rather. but also failed to please the little Jansenist commu nity. And. Pascal's sole object is to get reason and morality on to his side. It is for this reason that Pascal's suggested interpretations of the revela tion of the Bible were not only unacceptable to Rome. we do not find the true Pascal and his "ide as" in the Provinciales. either. That is why.AK. and still less of any attempt to substitut e the arbitrariness of a fantastic being. of an intimate group. for Caesar s ome remote village. if they are unable to justify themselves there.] is saved. the enemies of Port Royal. Hardly a word. No one here is interested in the truth. for that "Apology for Christianity" which. the object of an apology is to get "universal" concurrence. he only castigates the ridiculous and revolting theses launc hed by his adversaries. their own pretensions to the potestas clavi um.. Thus the illusion of "semper ubique et ab omnibus" [always. so that if one cannot speak urbi et orbi. then at least of five or six. if not actual. I who write this have perhaps this desire. We say advisedly the great est "possible" number. Augustine. We know that the book was strictly censored by Port Royal. He hales the Jesui ts before the judgment seat of common sense.ai peut-§Ütre cette envie. But a great proportio n of the Pens§Ûes could not count on the concurrence even of such a limited number. speak. if it did not judge that there are . what people want instead of the truth is a convenient set of judgments which ca n profit or suit the greatest possible number of men. and we can at least consider ourselves th e upholders of an "ecumenical" truth. but. When Pascal was writing his Pens§Ûes he f orgot that here on earth men think and ought to think only of others. quite up to the scientific level of their pe riod. though faithful to St.

as he himself acknowledges frankly. he was already saying what Pelagius was to say after him. Augustine: "Proinde ut fides praecedat rationem. guae hoc persuadet .") These words. not yet comprehensible." ("There is nothing so conformable to reason as this disavowal of re ason. or rather of all human philosophy. is no more than a soft pillow to help hi m to sound sleep.") Pascal tries to adapt himself to St. Thus: "Il n'y a rien de si conforme §Ñ la raison que ce d§Ûsaveu de la raison.. w hen it judges that it ought to submit. as thoug h defying himself: "L'extr§Üme esprit est accus§Û de folie. but she cannot be persuaded by argument." ("Excess. then it is unreas onable. And she wi ll never. And not to him only. Nam si hoc praeceptum rationabile non est. the dispute which formed the starting-point of all Pascal's researches. She can be cast d own by force from her throne.") When Montaigne preaches: "Keep in the common path". or acknowledge a power which is above reason. Augustine and Pelagius." ("It is thus a reasonable commandment that faith should precede reason. Their principle thesis was as follows: "Quod ratio arguit non potest auctoritas vindicare. Nothing is good but mediocrity .") In affirming this principle the Pelagians were only repe ating the conclusions of Greek philosophy. He was elected by God Himself to hymn the "golden mean" which Aristotle. only reason ca n put an end to our unrest. It is then right for it to submit. etc. comme l'extr§Üme defaut. or even justify. His philosophy always . they found themselves const rained at last to submit faith to reason. the sufferings of Christ will not allow him to sleep until the end of the world. But Pa scal does not and will not sleep. The best illustration of this truth is the famous dispute between St. in any circumstances. which God forbid! If therefore it is reasonable that faith should preced e reason in certain great things. and repeats this thought un der different forms. n'admettre que la raison. a power which is living and consequently fortuitous and capricious (for all that i s alive is fortuitous and capricious)? When Plato declared that the greatest mis fortune that could befall a man was to become a misologos.") And further: "Deux exc§Ús: exclure la raison. least of all will she give up her sovereign rights in favour of her mortal enemy "faith". guae capi nondum potest. of intellect is accused of madness. Augustine. for is sh e not of her very nature the only source of all proof? And whatever St. as one of Pascal's comment ators has justly observed. like defect. This thesis had been bequeathed to him by h is great and incomparable master Socrates. But. only reason will not deceive us. as the reconciliation could not be genuine. Rien qu e la m§Ûdiocrit§Û est bon. si igitur rationabile est. rationabili ter jussum est.some occasions on which it ought to submit. For. It is true that Socrates was not so consistent as is generally supposed. abdicate of her own free will.") And again. are directly connected with the following passage fro m Letter CXX of St. so doubtless that litt le shred of reason which persuades us of this must itself precede faith. ergo irrationabile es t. wh ich for the first time in Europe had found itself confronted with the fatal dile mma: What should man do? Trust to innate and immutable reason which holds the et ernal principles within itself. if this precept is not reasonable. In certain important. ut magnam quandam. fides antecedat rationem. Montaigne's "philosoph y". Can reason sanction. bequeathed to humanity. Nor did he attempt to conceal the fact. he speaks but as nature dictates. all the schools of Greek philosophy received the same legacy from Socrates: Trust in nothing and no one: everything can deceive. very important circumstances ~f his life he refused to obey reason. It is equally true that Pla to was even less consistent in this respect than Socrates." ("What reason has proved f aith cannot disprove. What did the Pelagians want? One thing only: to "reconcile" faith with reas on. the father of "scientific" philosophy. c'est sortir de l'humanit§Û que de sortir du milieu. can give us a firm ground.. and listened only to the voice of a mysterious creature whom he called h is "daemon".. procul dubio quantulacumque ratio. Augustin e may say to the contrary." ("T wo excesses: to exclude reason. can give us certainty. etiam ipsa antecedit fidem. To leave the mean is to abandon humanity. so inse nsate a decision? Reason is but the incarnation of the "golden mean". absit. and to admit nothing else.

which is what human nature cannot endure.then who could measure himself against man . must endorse Hegel's words. The most remarkable exponent of the new philosophy. But "history" has not accepted So crates' "daemon" and has cleansed Plato's philosophy from myths. the thoughts on which we live are the thoughts of Stoicism. Only t he early and late Stoic schools concentrated too much on this thought. the keys of the kingdom of heaven). before nor after . Reason was . who considered himself with justice the continuer of Aristotle's work. Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius). neither here nor there. therefore unpermissible. kingdoms and peoples perish. Nevertheless Socrates and Plato are the fathers of the Stoics. someone. it dislikes the " too much" above all things. what was true for antiquity is true for us. as it was to the Stoics. but let him lose reason and all is lost. he taught men how to put any question in such a form that it should not infrin ge upon the sovereign rights of reason. And their main argument was the same as that which Socrates. adiaphora . those narro w followers of Socrates who in their narrowness appealed best to history. and the Stoics. it is neither of our friends nor of our enemies. We must learn to love it only. and look on the gifts of the Master as indifferent. equally without consulting us. (especial ly the Platonic Stoics. the ruins would strike him unafraid . and even Ari stotle is as nearly allied to Stoicism as any of the pure Stoics. but any modern thinking man. riches. among us and above us all. then there will no longer be anything mysterious or alarming in this world which was hitherto so inexplicable and terrifying. But reason was given us by none. All the rest is adiaphoron to us. developed before his spellbound hearers a few hours before his death (the pagan God had given him. it is all adiaphoron (indifferent).] And not only Hegel. and on the other to the Stoics. But if we dec ide to value the gifts of reason alone. [if the heav ens should crack over him. provided that no attack is made on the k ingdom of the ideal. impavidum ferient ruinae. a man must see i n it the essence of his being. through his oracle. and can at any moment take them away. some chance ha s given them to us without consulting us. The Stoics had taken from S ocrates and Plato all that they could yield in defence of reason. this eternal reason. to attach importance only to the praise or blame of reason. family. he who taught men the great truth that if one wishes to keep one's und erstanding intact one must not try it with questions beyond its power. This Master was powerful and a lmighty as long as his gifts were esteemed and his threats feared. always the same. One may even s ay that it was Aristotle who supported and rescued that objective and autonomous reason which Socrates discovered. wisest of men. Plato. let all things cease to be. neither am ong our own people nor among strangers. subject to none. it belongs neith er to you nor to me. Let him lose riches. The re will no longer be any need to fear the invisible Master who was once the sour ce of all good and the executor of human destiny.borders on mythology and often slips into it. Let men and things pass away. and underlined it. For it was he who invented the fiction ( veritatem aeternam) that questions which one cannot answer are questions without meaning in themselves. so to speak. Ari stotle. Friends. indifferent. if he will but speak frank ly. and fatherland are mere transitory things. ho nour. and gr adually took possession of the mind of thinking man. For it was he who originated the theory of th e "mean". Socrates had said that the greatest misfortune which could befall a man was to become a misologos. and fatherla nd . Otherwise expressed.he makes Horace's rule into a fir st principle: Si fractus illabatur orbis. It is everywhere and always. the Epicureans (see Lucretius's De rerum natura). made Stoic indifference towards ever ything that happens on earth the first and indispensable commandment of philosop hy. recognized as such by God Himself.these are but trifles. honour. In his Logic .AK. From Aristotle till this day pe ople have only asked questions on subjects on which reason allows questions to b e asked.which is also an ontology .man who has emancipated himself f rom God? All the Hellenic schools are unanimous about this: Socrates. Or rather . that by which nos laudabiles vel vituperabiles sumus (as the Pelagians said). where reason and its laws hold undisputed sway. too heavily. The "future" be longed on the one hand to Aristotle.

as we know. spe aks as Pelagius. and which according to the doctrine of the Stoics and Pelagians was a lone able to raise a man up or cast him down. When reason decides pudet. virtutes gentium potius vitia sunt (th e virtues of the gentiles are rather their vices). and his Christianity was too much permeated by Hellenism. as Pelagius said: Quod ratio arguit. Augustine. let every one be ashamed. either on earth or in heaven. "Ceux qui les croient. and is indignant at "virtue which is its ow n reward". they come from no one. he at least said the almost identical words. too. can we reject Pel agianism? Can one transpose Pascal's words and say: The Lord commands more imper atively than reason? For. le plus pesant et le plus mal taill§Û n as son avoine §Ñ l'autre. as men would have others do to them. Their virt ue is satisfied with itself. Augustine. Un cheval n'admire po int son compagnon. but if you disobey the Lord you will lose your own soul. in particularly provocative and curt fashion: "Les b§Ütes ne s'admirent point. §Ûtant §Ñ l'§Ûtable. A horse does not admi re his companion. And ag ainst reason there is no complaint. let every one be indignant. car. to Pascal the ideal. when impossibile. let every one bow to it. when it says ineptu m. According to the Hellenic conception the real was negligible. He laughs at the Stoics. For the praise of reason is the supreme good that man can e xpect. he thinks the place f or this is in the stable.") This ideal of the Stoics . The praise and app roval. And the condemnation of reason is the worst . Pascal himself did not find it easy to escape the ideology which governed h is own day. as we have seen." ("The brutes do not admire each other. or. Can it be otherwise? Can we overcome Stoicism in philosophy. suddenly became to him adiaphoron (indifferent). ma is c'est sans cons§Ûquence. and herein lies the paradoxical character of his p hilosophy. Not that there is no rivalry between them in a race.if these words are not his. the blame and reproaches of that reason qua nos laudabiles vel vituperabi les sumus. This d .that virtue is its own reward . the heavier and most ill-formed does no t give up his oats to the other. comme les hommes veulent qu'on leur fasse. and its ideal laws and principles are eternal. even Pascal sometimes found that it was better to disobey his L ord than his reason. He was too much attached to an cient philosophy. d isliked Stoicism and belittled it on every occasion. but that is of no consequence. St. And again. Yet he never thought of seeki ng and finding the Stoic ideal among the animals. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Gethsemane Night << | >> 6 Pascal dared to do this. son t les plus vides et les plus sots" ("Those who believe in them are the most empt y and foolish of men"). he says of the philosophers. or in modern phraseology "autonomous morality". Ce n'est pas qu'il n'y ait entre eux de l'§Ûmulation §Ñ la course.before the world.Pascal finds realized in the stable. in and out of season. for in the stable. If th e words so long attributed to him: virtutes gentium splendida vitia sunt (the vi rtues of the gentiles are only splendid vices) . The summum bonum of the philosophers b ecomes the butt of his ceaseless and mordant sarcasm. herein also its strength and its great attraction. Leur vertu se s atisfait d'elle-m§Üme. no appeal. if you disobey reason you will only be a fool. And St. The change of values is complete. non potest auctoritas vindicare. that it is suitable for horses but not for men.

dependent on a prime truth in which they have their being. A principle can only gain a definite victory when no one any longer oppose s or contradicts it. Again the same ego which Pascal. immaterial. while all modern philosophy.") But Pascal." ("That whi ch is about to be born is considered as already born. Pascal knows it. they command. and which is called God. je ne le trouverai pas beaucoup avanc§Û pour son salut. They would not help you to save your soul. be it of Epictetus or of Marcus Aurelius. of Kant or of Hegel. and legislate for themselves. And what has set itself up against reason. What does this mean? Is Pascal following Augustine and returning to m orality and Pelagianism? Many critics think so. for it was onl y by so doing that they could assure the final triumph of their principles and i deas. It is true that even today. against those eternal and immate rial truths? The soul. and still pro vokes. presumptuous reason" is regarded. eternal truth. Would he be prepared to deliver man into the power of dead. yet their value would be nil. For all morality. from which of necessity proceed many ot her truths.") Thus speak s Pascal. ancient or modern. he does not forget the words "subjicite et dominamini" ("submit and have dominion") which God addressed to the first man after blessing him. however well adapted to one another. but it is so dear to them that they reverence it and cherish it as th ough it had already been realized.id not prevent him from eternally repeating. They are not subject. For it must be perfectly evident that not hing is better calculated to tame man's "egotistical" tendencies than immaterial and eternal truth as expounded by the philosophers. His submission to fate is as unlike the submission of a Stoic as his asceticism which provoked. who has brou ght this ideal before the supreme tribunal where neither our "miserable justice" nor our "incurable. One could not find a better definition of the ideal of modern philosophy than th is: a single. has ha d but one wish since Descartes (even before him): to express the essence of crea tion in mathematical formulae. men are still far from the realization of t his ideal. is derived from the hatred of the hu man "ego". a principle in which Stoic morality is as plainly implicit as it is in the words of which Pascal makes such mock. following in the steps of the old. "le moi est ha§ássable" ("the ego is ha teful"). taught us to hate. if one were t o search everywhere for a principle which could curb the pretensions of rebellio . hoping to kill and annihilate it. it is the incarnation of revolt. self-sufficient principles? Hear what he has to say: "Quand un homme serait persuad§Û que les proportions des nombres sont des v§Ûrit§Ûs imma t§Ûrielles. yet I think he would not greatly have advanced his salvation. equally immaterial and equally eternal. so much irritation even among his most ardent admirers. Reason and morality will of course protest: does a truth cease to be true b ecause it is useless to the soul? Is there any one in the world so daring that h e will refuse to obey reason and call justice "miserable"? Truth and morality ar e autonomous. but they are quite wrong. "Nasciturus pro jam nato habetur. They issue from that reason of which Pascal himself said that it was the most terrible thing to disobey it. and would see in Pascal a morali st. The Stoics persec uted the ego with genuine zeal." ("Though a man migh t be persuaded that the proportions of numbers are immaterial and eternal truths . three hundred years after Descartes. declares that though you might succeed in attaining to these eternal and immaterial truths. For who but the ego has wrestled so unintermittently throug hout the ages against this principle? And what enemy has given it so much troubl e and anxiety? The ego is the most irrational of all God's creatures. who passed through the s chool of Epictetus. consequently. Yet this hatred of the ego had quite a different significance for him than for any other philosopher. §Ûternelles et d§Ûpendantes d'une premi§Úre v§Ûrit§Û en qui elles subsistent et q e Dieu. He certainly inherited this idea of the hatefulness of self from ancient ph ilosophy. they do not ob ey.

and to submit itself to their autonomous principles. and finds his vocation in the fight against death. sees in "understanding" t he beginning of death. There could be no better "tamer" than the summum bonum of them all. You will not find this in the handbooks of logic of Pascal 's day. like Pascal. the summum bonum. hate it and annihilate it in order to make possible the realization of the objective world-order. This is so self-evident th at it is hardly mentioned in the Discourse of Method. With what right does Pascal mak e these demands? Have they any meaning? The question is fundamental. misled by its immateriality and eternity. be not wroth.e. It is true that we find in Bacon reflections on various kinds of idola which distort our objective investi gations. And at the same time. Hence his strange "methodological" rule: S eek with lamentation. non-existence.again that there should be order in the world . else your search will avail you nothing. that order which Pascal had rejected and whose adoption reduces the me dieval idea of the salvation of the soul to an utter absurdity. While repeating the philosop hers' words. and grow wroth. To him it means the end. The choice mu st be made: either the ideal and intangible order with its eternal and immateria l truths. if Spinoza's rule. weep. one could not conceive of a God more capable of doing so than the Hellenic God as suggested to Pascal by the "philosophers". or else the capr icious. But his method of following them is strange. for here li es the root of the whole difference between Pascal and modern philosophy. But he who. must fle e the self. down to Marcus Aurelius. of whom he proba bly never even heard. The ultima te fate of mankind is to prostrate itself before the claims of reason and morali ty. when it has become a "thing" or a "phenomenon" among the other things and phenomena of nature. non lugere. This peace which r eason and morality bring to man does not interest Pascal in the least. yearning "ego" which always refuses to recognize the supremacy of "truths". In the "ego". If you adopt Pascal's methodological rule you will have one truth.") Pascal makes quite other demands: you must positively laugh. I repeat that the philosophers taught all this and Pascal repeated it after them. there will always be chaos and inept itude instead of union and harmony. lies the hope that it may be possible to dissipate the hypnosis of mathematical trut h which the philosophers. t his obedience constitutes our greatest good. nor in modern works. contrary to nature. with impatience and irritation: "Non ridere. as though answering Pascal.us individuality. quite another. each one considers itself the cen ter of the universe and demands to be treated as though he were alone in existen ce. weep not. though by its ver y nature it is absolutely indifferent to human needs.reason has invented morality. have put in . and be prepared to accept any truth. The Stoics. The Stoics themselves would have approved of Pascal 's iron girdle. restless. saw plainly t hat unless the "ego" were first annihilated there could never be any unity or or der. and therefore the most incomprehensible and irrational thing in the world. For what the Stoic s call living conformably to nature . his fears. and shares with it its own sovereign prerogatives. He who undertakes to achie ve understanding must be like the Stoics and other philosophers of old. either material or ideal. There can obviously be no way of reconciling these demands and satisfying th em all. Until the "ego" has been abolished. discontented. The task of reason is precisely to introduce order into creation.means living conformably to reas on." ("Laugh not. especially Epictetus and his disciples. For this cause . which symbolized his willingness to submit his "ego" to one or m ore of the eternal and immaterial truths. like Pascal. "Understanding" only becomes possible when the human "ego" has been depr ived of all its individual rights and prerogatives. and only in the "ego" and its irrationality. On the contrary: The wise man must forget his desir es. but under stand. death. cannot hate the "ego". The human "egos" are infinitely numerous. And for Spinoza the ego w as in fact always "hateful". i. sed intelligere. and that is why it has the power to exact obedience from a ll. the imperial philosopher. For we must never forget that the "ego" is the most refractory. Spinoza's ideal was the "intelligence". he says exactly the opposite of what they teach. n eque detestari. But only Spinoza declares.t§Üi physei . his hopes.

but it could not exist without "law". and all men thought. Augusti ne. The same questio n which had confronted Luther a century earlier. he will not risk defying re ason and morality. t o announce to Rome and the world that he was "beyond good and evil". since he had to kill the law. that our free will. if we can only be saved by the grace of God.the place of God. Only a "madman" declares war on this rule. but it had to live according to Stoic morality and Pelagian doctrine. Paul and Holy Scripture. as I said. not even that of Justice. His nail-studded belt is only a weapon in this battle. yet in reality he puts forth all his powers to defend it against the pretensions of the immaterial and eternal truths. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Gethsemane Night << | >> 7 Indeed. suddenly confronted Luthe r. and at the same time we can see what drew him to St. Paul to what Paul found in cer tain passages of Isaiah. the world had agreed to exist without God. Like every one else. then where is ju stice? Who then will trouble to lead a good life? How can one justify a God whos e very principle is arbitrary caprice? Erasmus did not want to argue against the Bible or St. it might respect St. One may say with some certainty that Pascal would have remained the Pascal of the Provinciales had it not been for the abyss. Erasmus. our willingness to submit to law. or. that history had already long ago solved them all. in his famous diatribe. Thus spoke Erasmus. with this terrible dilemma: if go od works (that is to say. past St. but he could not admit the monstrous notion that God is "beyond good and evil". so are his illness and the abyss which his admirers would like to eliminate from his biography. Only now can we understand the hatred which Pascal cherished towards Stoici sm and Pelagianism. Pelagius had been condemned a thousan d years ago. that. w ould not be weighed in the balances before the supreme tribunal. a life conforming to the laws of reason and morality) cannot save us. who at His own capr ice and pleasure gives this grace to one and denies it another. At that time it seemed that problems could no longer arise. from his submissi on to eternal laws. and in the Biblical story of the Fall. presents itself to Pascal: When ce does salvation come to man? From his works. he condemned Pelagius and upheld August ine's doctrine of grace. that is to say. De libero arbitrio. with him. Only exceptional conditions of being can free us from the imm aterial and eternal truths which rule the world. Paul. Paul. had put an end to every problem that man could raise. Remember the "experience" of our contemporary Nietzsche who begged t he gods for "madness". is called the Grace of God? Luther's problem shook Europe and the whole Christian world. man has no defence before God. with his peculiar subtlety and perspicacity. in fact. What more could one desire? But in reality. the victory lay not with Augustine but with Pelagius. in the no less mysterious language of the theologians. or from a mysterious force which. and nearly all men still think.. Augustine was universally regarded as an incontestable authority. to use his own words. . Augustine to St. This came out very clearly in the famous dispute on free will between Erasmus and Luther. So l ong as a man feels the solid earth beneath his feet. Pascal takes great pains to prove to us that the "ego" is hateful. and past St. One might even simpl y say: all men.

one must . we may remember. it became suddenly clear t hat "the law entered that the offense might abound" (hina pleonas§Üi to parapt§æma). non esset opus fide. credere illum esse clementem qui tam paucos sa lvat. Horace and Epictetus. he had taken and conscientiously fulfilled the difficult monastic vows. It is Luther who utters the sentiments of unequaled temerity: "Hic est fidei summus gradus. Oh. who shows so much evil and wrat h. quomodo is Deus misericors et justus est. were not at all virtuous men. He underlines the "senselessness" of St. This fact. And are these virtues re ally virtues? Was not St.believe Luther. as he tells us himself . and still harder to understand how he can go on li ving. then I should have no need for faith. and of remai ning indifferent though the skies should fall on him. that many refuse to believe it. who was persecuting Christ in the name of the "law". But then. To St. worthy of our imitation. like Pascal. is so extr aordinary. Marcus Aurelius and our contemporary Hegel. on the contrary." ("It is the supreme expression of faith to think Him merciful who saves so f ew. or else interpret it in such a fashion as to "reconcile" it with the usual v iew of man's inner life. could be merciful. credere justum qui sua voluntate nos necessario damnabi les facit. which is simply a modernized tr anslation of Luther's sola fide. thanks to its traditional methods and its fear of the ir rational "ego"! It is difficult to realize the shock that a man experiences when he makes such a "discovery". and condemns so many. how precious are these "sudden" findings. this "experience". tam multos damnat. so unlike what generally happens to men. And unless we are much mistaken. To Luther. to think Him just. Paul's vis ion on the road to Damascus was another instance of the same thing.Luther makes no e ffort to weaken his adversary's argument. Luther. Erasmus's oppos ition kindled in Luther the courage to speak out where he had formerly been sile nt. But this is just what happened: the laws which upheld the skies crashed. which has been temp orarily spun across the mouth of the abyss to hide perdition. so that. referente Erasmo. al so the laws which upheld courage and the pagan virtues. even though it does not agree with our a priori notions. had his "abyss". that it is no more than a slender spider's web. And his deepest and most terrifying experience was undoubtedly the sudden discovery that the law do es not save. I have already shown that Nietzsche underwent a similar experience.a rare event in a dispute . impavidum ferient ruinae. They should all repeat with Luthe r his confession. who of His own will has made us of necessity damnable. De servo arbitrio. But one can . delectari cruciatibus miserorum et odi o potius quam amore dignus. I f by any reason I could understand how this God. Augustine right to say: virtutes gentium potius vitia sunt. Horace.nay. Luther was a monk. too. In this book . and is worthy rather of hatred than of love. the terrible interpretation which he gives of his monastic vow . and from it he derived the idea of his "beyond good and evil". like Pascal he had fenced himself off from it for years with his "chair". and how little does philosophy know h ow to make use of them. and his chair was "law". Paul. boasts of being equal in courage to the pagan philosophers.") The "senselessness" and "injustice" struck fear into Erasmus. qui tantam iram et iniquitatem ostendit. Si igitur possem ulla ratione camprehendere. ut videatur. decl ared with the Stoics: si fractus illabatur orbis. Hege l. We have no right to reject an unusual experience. Paul's doctrine of grace more dee ply still. St. Law and laws are the framework of the world. he rather does all he can to strengthe n it.Luther replied to Erasmus's "diatribe" with his most powerful and terrible book. in the hope that his "good works" would save his soul. it seems that He takes pleasure in the tortures of the unfortunate. as Erasmus says. he suddenly realized that in taking those vows he had offended against the wil l of God and damned his soul eternally. as these words show they were a source of inspiration.

the law. and utterly grind it to powder. on St. immunda. of the despairing and of thos e who are utterly destitute. but were nothing at all. against the "immaterial and eternal truths" which Catholicism could never renounce even after the condemnation of Pelagius. in the Bible there were also laws. he would not have dared to say what he did. (H§Üsaias de apotolm§Ói kai legei): "I was fo und by those who did not seek me. ejusque natura est exaltare humiles. Deus. we shall be told. to crush it. of which latter Pascal has spoken to us. conterat et prorsus ad nihilum reducat hanc belluam cum sua vana fiducia. quote all that Luther says in his commentary on the Epistle to the Galati ans. Paul's words. oppressorum. to raise up the dead. Therefore God must bring that hammer. if St.") But St. to feed the h ungry. the imagination of righteousness. Paul says: Isaiah dared to say. ut tandem suo malo discat perditam et damnatam. this monster. justifie d. qui prorsus in nihilo redacti sunt. what are they there for? Let Luther speak again. sed putarem esse summam blaspemiam in Deu m. sapientia. till at last it learns from its own ruin that it is lost and damned. to save the despairing and the d amned. righteousness and power. as though it had never been and would never be. Est enim creator omnipotens ex nihilo faciens omnia. peccatores justificare. legem scilicet. to justify sinners. potentia . unclean." How can one accept such audacious words? God." ("And I should not have dared to describe th e law thus. desperatos et damnatos salvare. For verily He is the Almighty Creator who has made all things out of noth ing. eternal life. I should have thought it the supreme blasphemy towards God. with its vain confidence. bre ak it. eternal and immaterial and therefore ultimate and divine. All his fight against Rome." ("Beh old. He saw clearly that an abyss was o pening beneath his feet which threatened to engulf him and the whole world. we must altogether turn our eyes away from the law. He himself knew better t han his adversaries whither he was being led. Moses brought the tabl es down from Sinai. Ad hoc autem suum naturale et proprium opus non sinit eum pervenire nocentissima pestis illa. etc. in its unexampled tenacity. my God. But." ("Therefore when we argue of eternal justice. cibare esurientes. miseros et afflictos consolare. mortuos vivificare. He k new as well as they that "the law" was the foundation of everything. lex propter transgressionem apposita est. sancta etc. And the height of impiety is the dei fication of the laws.") I cannot. quasi nunquam fuerit aut futura sit. was a fight against the "law". whose boldness terrified as much as it attracte d him. which will not allo w that it is a sinner. quae non vult esse peccatr ix. and eter nal salvation.") Submission to the law is the beginning of all impiety. St. to console the poor and affli cted. sed prorsus nihil est. sed justa. had he not in his tur n leant upon the prophet Isaiah. miser et damnata. miserable and damned. unfortun ately. ill uminare caecos. quae frangat. but will be holy. it is His nature to exalt the humble. of those "eternal and immaterial truths dependent on a sin gle truth". I manifested myself to those who did not inqui re after me. smash it." ("God is the God of the humbled and oppressed.: "Ecce. vita et salute aeterna omnin o removenda est ex oculis lex. And he wrot e: "Nec ego ausim ita legem appellare. And now Luther's co nclusion: "Ideo quando disputandum est de justicia. desperatorum et eorum. nisi Paulus prius hoc fecisset. But He is prevented from accomplishing His own natural functions by that mo st malignant of all pests. God Himself violates .") Such is the law and such the fate of that which the philosophers hold to be trut h. P aul had not done so before me. its w isdom. to give light to them that sit in darkness. opinio justiciae. contundat. justitia. I vow to Thee impiety and blasphemy all my life long. he will tel l us what Pascal heard at the supreme tribunal whither he carried his appeal aga inst Rome and the world: "Deus est Deus humilium. tibi voveo impietatem et blasphemiam per totam meam vitam. Ideo oportet Deum adhibere malleum istum. Paul himself was no less frightened by his discovery.

a force. if one may ask this question. and how can we be sure that they will agree on one solution? They will cert ainly not agree. that eternal and immaterial principle from which the universe an d all its inhabitants spring with that natural necessity with which all the theo rems in mathematics follow from its definitions and axioms. and at the same time has that absolute power which ensures it obedience i n saecula saeculorum. immaterial truth. about his terrible. To come to an agreement we should have to abolish all this "better" and "worse". and if we want to understand t he "direction". Pascal might have repeated with Nietzsche: It is to my illness that I owe my philosophy. and submit ourselves to the impersonal and dispassionate principle which stands above "better" and "w orse". and of course not without "sufficient reason". we must forget the meaning formerly attached to that word. and the "law". And this shock. even from the most recalcitrant entity. the all-p owerful creator. or Isaiah and St. which has been the princip le of all disagreement and strife (like all human "egos"). It seems that Pascal's illness and abyss were this strange shock. Let u s call to mind what has been told us by Pascal's biographers and those who had s ome insight into his life. His Pens§Ûes are only a description of the abyss. the single. seems in admissible. wa s nothing like what this word usually designates. He is found by those who do not seek Him. This is the way wh ich the philosophers have chosen. who summoned mankind b efore the tribunal of the Almighty? Where lies the truth? Which must we prefer? << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Gethsemane Night << | >> 8 We are now face to face with the greatest difficulties which the history of human thought knows. and one cannot hand over to them. His Jansenist directors themselves tried to heal him of his malady and to hide the abyss from him. individually or collectively. an incomprehensible shock drove him in exactly the opposite direction to that favoured by men. as I have said. and Descar tes who in fulfillment of the behests of his time tried to "dispense with God"? And is Pascal not an apostate. a traitor to all humanity.the supreme law of justice: He manifests Himself to those who do not inquire af ter Him. the power of settling the fate of creation. He was not allowed to choose any more tha n were Isaiah or St. the savin g gift without which he would never have discovered the truth. Even the framing of the question. worse. Paul? Thinkers of genius and inspired prophets are alike men. The great miracle of miracles is accomplis . Paul. A t a certain moment. Has human "better" a nd "worse" any significance in the face of objective truth? And then. for such a God as this? And was not the Renaissance right which turned from the God of the Bible. they have already disagreed. And he had no "sufficient reason" for his decision. senseless illness. The praises and threats of reason had forced them completely to forget the exis tence of the Lord. who shall answer it? Aristotle and Descartes. There have been a great many thinkers of genius and inspired proph ets. Pascal's case is quite different. strangely enough. who by His own free will called up the universe out of nothing. Which must we prefer? As though "objective" truth took any account o f better or worse! As though it depended on man to choose between God. Can one then exchange the God of the philosophers. and his equall y terrible and senseless abyss.

Man's supreme achievement is submission to the laws of reason and reasonborn morality. "The law entered that the offense might abound. there were beginnings but no end. The solid earth gives way beneath his feet. my God." says St. New and incomprehensible forces manifest th emselves. the old philosophers d eified reason. forgetful of good and e vil. The light of knowledge. will no t only not help a man in this case. therefore one must fly. but something has also begun. make a virtue of this humility. While there was not "light" there was n o limitation. any attempt by any living creature to refuse of its own free will to follow the laws which He has laid down. everything was "very good. which man has invented. that submission is the beginning of all earthly horror and death." as it is writ ten in the Bible. the myst erious beginning and the inevitable end. Paul's inspired epistles. Even Pascal's co mpanions at Port Royal refused to accept the Biblical story of the Fall in all i ts mysterious fullness. That was not an unfortunate. w hich a thousand years of human thought have welded into a compact whole. Solid support fails. for knowledge is the summum bonum. " impossibile" which sustain the edifice of our knowledge. a precipice opens at his feet which threatens to engulf him. new revelations break through. of what can and cannot be. Obviously the old immaterial truths. on the contrary. against which we try to s truggle. and see this virtue as our "supreme good". and submit ourselves humbly to the inevitable. should incline towards earth and not toward s heaven. They want to see in God the "absolute" and "immaterial" principle which. an d sovereign principles. and we all wish for clarity and follow reason which unveils every mystery save one . And Pascal is one of those few elect for ever incomprehensible to all but a ll men. Or again: the law came when man. suffering. So that if God had forbidden man to eat plums or pears. can forgive anything except disobedience.hed before our eyes. first and last. and had been disobeyed. Paul. everything was possible.illne ss. and that there is and can be no good to be found where anguish and ter ror reign.and Pascal himself sometimes speaks in th e same strain . The original sin was Adam's disobedience. The light brought shame of paradisiacal nakedness with it. the best thing in the world. or to whom it has been given to feel. immaterial. For God. God himself asks submission and obedience of man. but. but will hinder him more than anything else. the consequences would have been the same . like those ideal conceptions morality and reason. It is impossible t o "explain" all this to men. qua nos laudabiles vel vituperabiles sumu s. This is the usual interpretation of t he Fall. They. gathered and tasted its fruits . Pascal grows accustomed to the abyss and begins to love it. punishes automatically.those innumerable "pudet" and "ineptum". and fear of earthly death. therefore inexorab ly. it is impossible t o walk as of old. these veritates aeternae. unknown before the Fall. in s pite of Isaiah's flaming words and St. it is frightful. The misfortune o nly arose because God had taken it into His head to forbid man to touch that par ticular tree. Thus the Bible is interpreted to this day. They thought . since the Bible got into the hands of men educated in the Hellenic trad ition. something has ended. an d in horror at inescapable destruction he cries in agony: "My God. like all the principles that we know. the law is only a hammer in God's hands that He m ay break man's assurance that living beings are ruled by eternal. And indeed. And the seed of Adam would have answered for t heir disobedience as they are doing today. Descartes sought for the clear and the distinct. All explanations throw light. why h ast Thou forsaken me?" It seems that all is finished. and finally death. continue to repeat inexorably: that man of his very nature should walk and not fly.that the sin of the first man did not lie in his eating of the f ruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. and light shows us pr ecisely the things from which we wish to be delivered. brought man his limitation by showing him the pretende d limits of the possible and the impossible. And as the most terrible thing is violation of the "law" and disobedi ence to the sovereign autocrat reason. terrifying! He is without support. and the word "inevitability" had as little meaning as the word "liberty" has today. like man. who have felt. we must give up these audacious attempts. This need not s . a fortunate occurrence.the existence of an abyss beneath our feet.

will escape in to the light of day. he laughs at virtue which is its own reward and at its faithful subjects the inhabitants of the stable. G od Himself bows to the verdicts of reason. and consequently. Pascal remembered the Biblical story of the Fall. all those egos which Pascal himself feared and hated so gre atly. Neither its praises nor its blame affected him. More accurately. all horror. certum quia impossibile. Whether it w as what Plato called anamnesis or what we today contemptuously refer to as atavi sm. yet his essential thought always breaks through the train of reasoning. Bound though he was by Port Royal and the theological tradition which interpreted the Biblical legend of the Fall in Hell enistic fashion. his hatred for Descartes. Remember how he recoiled from that single immaterial truth proclaimed by the Renaissance .urprise us. as he himself feared but recently. to pass as a fool. and finds in its approval His summum bonum. as though suddenly f orgetting his design.. For even a revelation must be "reasonable". half drowsed and bewitched as they are by the charm of modern theories of knowledge." And when his imaginary interlocutor replies: "That is what I fear". and his contempt for the summum bonum of the ancient philosophers. like human truth. as we think. Pascal replies with a calm and tra nquil look. Pascal. as though it were quite natural: "Why? What have you to lose? What d o you lose by giving up reason?" If someone else had said this.. Now he no longer fears. conscientiously though he tried to give universal validity to a ll his statements (that is to say. pronounces the words which have scandalized so many: "Natu rally this will make you believe and will brutalize you. For in these words. There is only one way to escape all these things: to renounce the veritates . one would shrug one's shoulders and laugh. quia puden dum est. Even in the famous wager in which Pasc al undertakes to prove mathematically that reason compels a man to have faith. It is obvious that the man is an imbecile and a fool. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Gethsemane Night << | >> 9 The most astonishing characteristic of Pascal's philosophy (that philosophy which is so unlike what commonly passes for truth among men) is the effort that he makes to free himself from reason. are contained all possible absurdities. When reason came into the world through Adam's transgression. he did not forget but defy them. as others do. e ven in this so scientifically constructed argument. Nevertheless Pascal apotolm§Ói kai legei (dared and spoke): he forgot all the terrors and threatening calamity and said what stands written. can be found in the "laws" to which all t he "hateful egos" must absolutely submit. and with them the human "egos" which reason had kept in sub mission and silence. it was of no avail. in any case. But it is not for nothing that Pascal's "brutalize" and "what have you to l ose?" provoke so much alarm among our contemporaries. and then reas on's magic lost its power over him. and be came the interpreter of the Bible. Open the box and suddenly all these non pudet. as behooves an apologist who took for starting-point the fac t that divine truth. it necessarily substituted its own truths for the strange truths of revelation. like a sharp dissonance. No matter how much reason tried to pacify him. prorsus credibile quia ineptum. a s in Pandora's box. to justify them before the tribunal of reason ).

Drunk with joy. He felt that "this fine." ("Do not reproach us with lack or clarity. We do not want to think and we do not want to s tudy for ourselves. as our natural f riends and benefactors. as malefactors. for we make it our profession." ("Therefore let impot ent reason be humbled. by th e "truths" which our ancestor plucked from the forbidden tree. in the hope th at the "common dream" (Pascal did not hesitate to speak of these "common dreams" ) will help still more to strengthen his assurance of the reality of illusions. but He deliberately blinds the greater number of them in order that they should not perceive the truth. That is why it is so careful to get rid of the incomprehensible. The fundamental condition of the possibility of human knowledge c onsists in the fact that truth can be perceived by any normal man. of course. raison impuissante. apprenez que l'homme passe infiniment l'homme et enten dez de votre ma§àtre votre condition v§Ûritable que vous ignorez. he can cry: "Humiliez-vous. it cannot fix the value of things. wanted to omit the word "voulu". for Revelation is an awakenin g. a . address ourselves to morality. "La raison a beau crier. Consequently men hate Revelation above all things. We despair. t aisez-vous. so long shall we find in the praises of reason our summum bonum and our summum malum in its blame. for we do not want to see true reality. Pascal or Descartes? Here is that hateful question again. for light illuminates the li e. to cert ain people. Descartes had thus formulated it: God neither can nor wishes to cheat. I think that in the whole history of philosophy no one h as ever dared to proclaim a "principle" more mortifying to our reason. and that man's only chance of salvation lay in freeing himse lf from it. and Pasca l himself hardly went further in audacity except perhaps when speaking of the su mmum bonum of the philosophers and of the horses who realized the Stoic ideal in their stable. and hear from your master your true condition of which you are ignoran t.") Reason creates out of her own truths an enchanted realm of lies. and we shall not be able to free ourselves from o ur desperate situation.aeternae. nature imb§Ûcile. but Pascal has told us the right place for morality is in the stable. Who is right.") This is what Pascal wanted. And. He lives for his fellow-dreamers. unless one takes it as a principle that He has electe d to make some blind and to enlighten others. to flee the light. to "brutalize" oneself. like Descartes. for whom the Bible is the principle source of knowledge. declares: "On n'entend rien aux ouvrages de Dieu si on ne prend po ur principe qu'il a voulu aveugler les uns et §Ûclairer les autres. a liberation from the chains forged by "immaterial" truths to which the desce ndants of fallen Adam have grown so accustomed that life would be inconceivable to them without these chains. on the other h and. and Pascal triumphs. Sometimes. That was just w hat he wanted. a sleep without dream-faces. That is why a man wi ll prefer anything to solitude. the enigmatic." ("One cannot un derstand the works of God. foolish nature be silent! Learn that man infinitely surpa sses man. maintains that God both can be and wishes to be a cheat. elle ne peut mettre le prix aux choses. Pascal. or who is to decide for us where the truth lies? We can no longer inquire of reason. We look upon those who help us to sleep. we look on our ef forts to remain in this sleep as the natural activity of our souls. whi ch has already caused us so much difficulty: how are we to decide. to love shadows: "Qu'on ne nous reproche pas le manque de clart§Û. that is. while those who try to awaken us we look upon as our wor st enemies. car nous en fa isons profession. The first axiom of knowledge is: any normal man can see the truth if it is pointed out to him. He reveals the truth. to belie ve in none of reason's promises. or more properly speaking. who lull us and glorify our sleep. and the mysterious. the fruits of the tree of knowledge." ("Reason may say what it likes. blinded by God. yet we fear the awakening more t han anything in the world. Philosophy sees the supreme good in a sleep which nothing can trouble. So long as reason remains that by which nos laudabiles vel vituperab iles sumus. morality tells us that it would be unworthy of God to deceive man.") Inspired by the Biblical revelation Pascal has created a peculiar "theory of knowledge" which is completely contradictory to our idea of the esse nce of truth. corrupt reason has cor rupted all things". aye.") Port Royal. neither can we. Pascal. We are all living as though under a spell and we feel it.

on the other side it is permitted.nd avoids so anxiously those questions to which it has already made answer. nous sommes i ncompr§Ûhensibles §Ñ nous-m§Ümes. Hear what he has to say: "Chose §Ûtonnante cependant. be silent. is one of the things without which we can have no understanding of ourselves! For there is nothing more shocking to our reason than saying that the sin of the first ma n made all those who came after him guilty. it is plucked apart. et cependant. le plus incomprehensible de tous. sees in the inexplicable and incomprehensible na ture of our surroundings the promise of a better existence. pour un p§Ûch§Û o§ë il para§àt avoir si peu de part. rien ne nous heurte plus rudement que cette doctri ne .") Our veritat es aeternae are ignored before the supreme tribunal. soit une chose sans laquelle nous ne pouvons avoi r aucune connaissance de nous-m§Ümes! Car il n'y a rien qui choque plus notre raison que de dire que le p§Ûch§Û du premier homme ait rendu coupables ceux qui. No matter what the subje ct. de sorte que l'homme est plus inconcevable sans ce myst§Úre que ce myst§Úre n'est inc oncevable §Ñ l'homme. for what can t here be more contrary to our miserable apprehension of justice than to damn eter nally a child who is incapable of free will. He himself stresses the po int that nothing can antagonize our reason and conscience more than the mystery . And these are not just witt y epigrams. on the other hand. qui t celui de la transmission du p§Ûch§Û. and every effort to simplify or to reduce the unknown to the known seems to him blasphemy.") It is obvious that the thought which lies at the back of this passage will not b e counted by men as one of those eternal truths that are communicated to each an d all by the light of reason. Pascal is really co nvinced. Cet §Ûcoulement ne nous para§àt pas seu lement impossible. impotent reason. The kernel of our being is to be found in this abyss. §Ûtant si §Ûloign§ ette source. It is there that Pascal der ives the understanding and authority to turn his back on impotent reason and foo lish nature. que le myst§Úre le plus §Ûloign§Û de notre connaissance. that is to say the transmission of sin. foolish nature. raison impuissante. etc. but also most unjust. il nous semble m§Üme tr§Ús injuste . he would not deny his words. semblent incapables d'y participer. Pascal. our justice is bounded by a brook. kings and judges are as futile as their subjects and prisoners. nature imb§Ûcil e." ("Humble yourself. the roots go down into the depths of his spirit. although they are so far distant fro m the origin of it that they seem incapable of having participated in it." ("Nevertheless it is an astonishing thing that the mystery which is farthest removed from our understanding. for a sin in which he can have no p art and which took place six thousand years before he came into being? And yet w ithout this most incomprehensible of all mysteries we are incomprehensible to ou rselves. torn asunder. Remember what he said in his Pens§Ûes on the most various questions. Pascal knows this well. Ev en if he lived today. This i nheritance seems to us not only impossible. taisez-vous. sans ce myst§Úre. if you want to be one with Pas cal. loses all meaning and all internal unity: if Cleopatra's nose had been a little shorter the history of the world would ha ve been changed. so that man is ev en more incomprehensible without this mystery than this mystery is to man. he "sees" that the history of the world is governed by tiny chances. on the one side of the brook one is not allowed to kill. you have no alternative but to "brutalize" yourself and continually to repe at his incantation: "Humiliez-vous. qu'il est commis six mille a t qu'il f§ít un §Ütre ? Certainement. car qu'y a-t-il de plus contrair e aux r§Úgles de notre mis§Ûrable justice que de damner §Ûternellement un enfant incapable d e volont§Û. then can we not be certain that the Supreme Ju dge will find more "penetration" in Pascal's one brief sentence than in all Hege l's fat volumes? Is this unintelligible and repulsive to you? Yet. when every one takes Hegel's point of view and sees world history as the development of the spirit. Le noeud de notre condition prend ses replis dans cette ab§ . and if he and Hegel are anywhere confronted with one another (this is a hypothesis which we have admitted to be possible).

") The liberty forfeited by Adam and God's first blessing must be given back to the "hateful ego". without disguise. and we have no means of forcing God to show the truth to all men. "§«ternellement en joie pour un jour d'exercice sur la terre. Truth wanders about among them. the same inextricable knot of irreconc ilable contradictions. Plato told Diogenes that he had not t he "organ" needful for seeing "ideas".of the Fall and of original sin. and he who is not destined to see it will not see it. had already divined the same thing. rules. he plainly sees all the pudet. yet Pascal declares that the greatest truth lies just there. And beside these great gifts o f the Creator our earthly virtues and our "eternal truths" are as naught. Dieu de Jacob . he invented it. But other philosophers. my God. why hast Thou forsaken me? the tears of joy. the paper which he carried sewn into his garment proves it t o us. did not understand by truth that which e very one could see if it was once pointed out. u nlike Descartes and other philosophers. and impossible. Now d ecrees and judgments alike have ceased to exist for him. He taught that to be able to see the truth one mu . the eternal and immaterial truths which philosophy has declared to be our summu m bonum. prorsus credibile est. and enlightens those whom He will.." ("Eternal joy fo r a day of trial here on earth. to avoid the possibility of misinterpretation. to endure all physical and even moral sufferings in order to reach the end. Perhaps we should make one reservatio n.. to forget everything except God. absurd. Dieu d'Isaac. and yet Pascal declares: Non pudet. and of conscience with its "inexplorable" judgments. It might not be out of place to remark here that Pascal's theory of knowled ge is not so original as it appears to us at first. and heathens among them. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Gethsemane Night << | >> 10 Everything in Pascal has changed radically. the doubts and the certai nty. And above it all there is a single insane and passionate wish . Everything is contained in it: the terrible words: My God .the wish to forget the whole world. ineptum and impossibile which make up the Bi ble story. shameful. and so f orth down to the final word. or rather found it where no one else goes in search of a th eory of knowledge: in Holy Scripture. hastily scribbled words. Not that Pascal had borrowed it. Pascal's "conversion" is thi s very affirmation. In this paper he definitely separates himself from the Hellenic truths: "D ieu d'Abraham. Formerly he was afraid of "reas on" with its decrees. to forget laws. and Plotinus knew that truth was not a "u niversally accepted" judgment. And the gi ft of sight or of blindness does not depend on our own will: God deceives those whom He will.non des philosophes et des savants" ("God of Abraham. We may remember that Pascal. Original sin presents itself to us as an incarn ation of all that we look upon as immoral. Like Tertullian or Lut her. God of Isaac. for he has no eyes for it. he maintained that God so made th e world that some men are ordained to see and others to remain blind. Consequently truth has no need to hide from m en. the res ult at which he had arrived. Perhaps one might expre ss this even more strongly: Pascal evidently felt that what we all most need is just what reason and conscience forbid us. God of Jacob .not God of the philosophers and wise men"): thus does he express. Here we have again the same "abyss". the triumphant certum. in his brief.

however.what is this mysterious heart? . bir th and death. It was reason which taught Pascal. The heart ." Another question. they take as starting-point Aristotle's dictum: that truth is that which c an be shown to every one at any time. It happens fairly frequently that a man both sees and does not see at the same time. he did not say all that there is to say. You think that it is self-evident that what has had a beginning must have an end. of which he says that the "only virtue is to hate it". now makes blind. as we may remember. that "t he ego is hateful". one and the same individual. Descartes. in his lear . Reason makes i ts demands without taking the heart into account." Reason replies: "Sorrow. sometimes man se es the truth. a drop of wate r suffices to kill him. and d oes not want to strive after it. cannot. In the mid dle of the systematic series of sober deductions of which his "wager" is built u p. but history has kept quite a different side of their teaching: Plato. But your "self-evidence" is only self-deception. and ought not to be anything f irm and certain. But the "heart" hates the "general". come and go according to their own caprice." "Yes. to get "beyond" reas on and knowledge. His thoughts. according to its laws. It is apparent that Go d now enlightens. and that is why Pascal himself is a mass of contradiction. there suddenly bursts upon us the absurd saying about "brutalizing". "that is evi dent. C learly. as Pascal explains to us. And this is indeed so. History has rejected the rest as useless to mankind. A puff of wind. even that of the whole world. and the ancient philosophers before him. and Plotinus: arch§Üi o§ín logos kai panta logos (in the beginning was reason and all things are reaso n). and my calamity laid in the balances together! For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea. which has served as bas is of all philosophy. nor the weakness of man. no matter what the promises or threats of reaso n. and before which." replies Pascal.st be able to surmount these "universally accepted" things. and again we do not know who shall decide. as any one can see.says with Job: "Oh that my grief were thoroughly weighed. is in all his writing and produces the most unexpected and miraculous transformations. and it is reason which inspired Pascal with the fundamental rule: Il faut tendre au g§Ûn§Ûral (one must strive after the general). therefore their strength is illusory and null . But Pascal declares that we cannot understand anything of the works of God unless we bear in mind that He wishes to enlighten some and make others blind. ancient and modern. The maxim: Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne conna§àt pa s (the heart has its reasons which reason does not know). you think that death is as "natural" an event as an y other. becomes the most precious thing in the world. and although modern the ories of knowledge are almost all based on Plato and strongly influenced by Plot inus. has said that the greatest misfortune is to become a misologos (a hater of reason). Plato and Plotinus said all this. all must bow. and without which neither ethics nor t heory of knowledge would be possible. as the heart takes no account of reason. But the wind and the water and even the entire universe do not feel their strength. For reason." Is this an argument? Can one dispute self-evident fact thus? Naturally reason rejects such as argument. it only recognizes the demonstrative force of those i mmaterial truths which neither the drop of water nor the puff of wind nor the wh ole universe could affect. sometimes he sees it not. it knows a genesis and a phthora. much more precious than all the virtues. as he tells us. there is not. for it is not eternal. laid in the balance would not outweigh a single g rain of sand. Reason insists : "Man is but a weak reed lost in infinite space. on another he puts it roughly and contemptuously in its place. "annihilation" is that before which it bo ws down in reverence. On one p age he glorifies reason. And the "ego" which he declares hateful. That is why in "ultimate questions" . just as it refuses to recognize reason as the supreme legislator. which Pascal abandons to the Pelagians and the de nizens of the stable. Pascal appeals to the "truths" which he has discovered in the Bible to defe at reason and its demands. It is true that one might invert this thesis and proclaim with equal justice that "reason has i ts reasons which the heart does not know".

" ("The immortality of the soul is a thing of so much importanc e to us.") You see how everything is reversed with Pascal. C'est un enchantement incompr§Ûhensible et un assoupissement surnaturel qui marque une force toute-puissante qui le cause. But we know that there is anot her theory of knowledge and another ethic. Ils sons tout autres §Ñ l'§Ûgard de les autres choses: ils craignent jusqu'aux plus l§Ûg§Úres. It is some incomprehensi ble magic. some supernatural bewilderment which points to some almighty force as its cause. And dea th. "Be hum bled. impotent reason!" For if our "eternal truths" only lead to "magic" and "be wilderment". rien ne lui est si redoutable que l'§Ûternit§Û. with their affirmation that "the ego is hateful". It is a monstrous thing to see this strange s ensibility about small things. lose all power over him. But if God wills that some should be blind while others can see.") And again: "Rien n'est si important §Ñ l'homme que son §Ûtat. with their inclination towards the "general". c'est celui-l§Ñ m§Üme qui sait qu'il va tout perdre par la mort sans inqui§Ûtude et sans §Ûmotion. of which even divine Plato was the victim. this strange insensibility about great things. but not all. They think quite otherwise of everything else. ex isting side by side in the same heart at the same time. and "laws". is as a matter of fact the most incomprehensible. qui nous touche si profond§Ûment qu'il faut avoir perdu tout sentiment pour §Ütre dans l'indiff§Ûrence de savo ir ce qui en est. ils les sente nt. which reason "comprehends" as the necessary consequence of the principles wh ich it has established. they fear the smallest things. their belie f in the "natural" character of death.this is another of our "eternal truths". nothing so much to be fea red as eternity. t hey anticipate them. "L'immortalit§Û de l'§Óme est une chose qui nous importe si fort. And therefore it is quite unnatural that there should be men in different to the loss of their being and to the danger of an eternity of misery. they suffer from them. qu'il se trouve des hommes indiff§Ûrents §Ñ la perte de leur §Ütre e d'une §Ûternit§Û de mis§Úres. being forbi dden by the pagan theory of knowledge and ethics. to h ate their own "egos". how can man free himself from these supernatural enchantments? We despise superstition. is to per suade us that everything which has a beginning has also an end. imagined that God could not and would not cheat man. the le ast "natural" of all that we see in the world. And His greatest deception. thi .ned simplicity. And it is even less "natural" tha t men have accepted the truths of reason to love the "general". and that consequ ently death is a natural phenomenon amongst all the other natural phenomena. that same man knows without anxiety or emotion that he will lose everything at his death. ils les pr§Ûvoient. that one must have lost all feeling to be i ndifferent about it. The Greek ethics and theory of k nowledge. cela n'est point naturel. But this was onl y valid as long as our theory of knowledge and our ethics were founded on the su pposition that God was just and would submit Himself together with man to the su perior law. Where philosophy finds truth and proof Pascal finds only incomprehensible magic and supernatural bewilderment. st une chose monstrueuse de voir dans un m§Üme coeur et en m§Üme temps cette sensibilit§Û po ur les moindres choses et cette §Ûtrange insensibilit§Û pour les plus grandes. Cer tainly many things which have a beginning have also an end. and the same man who passes so many days and nights in rage and despair over the loss of a place or for some imagina ry slight on his honour. we are convinced that exorcisms are absurd . and that God can and will cheat man. et ce m§Üme homme qui passe tant de jours et de nuits dans la rage et le d§Ûsespoir pour la perte d'une charge ou pour quelque offense imaginaire §Ñ son honneur. with their dislike of anything irrational. if we live in a realm of witchcraft. that they have been able to interest themselves so deeply in "immaterial" truths and forget so completely their own destiny. And now we shall no longer dare to reject his adjuration. Et ainsi. which touches us so deeply." ("Nothing is so important to man as his existence.

from this wish to see God face to face (Plotinus's phug§Ü monou pr os monon) comes the decision to hale Rome and the world before the supreme tribu nal. The part is less than the whole. he lived in both the se cular and the spiritual Rome.. God Himself has added His own infinite su fferings to the sufferings of Job. the sacrifice of God will have been in vain. That is why. This is what Descartes is not forgiven. that I may look upon myself in this illness as a dead man. for we must not r est. For should they in their turn sleep as the great apostle s lept upon that memorable night. Nothing but the terror a man feels when he sees tha t he no longer has any firm ground beneath his feet and is sinking into the bott omless abyss can induce in him the "mad" resolve to reject the "law" and to set himself against all recognized truth. etc. He became familiar with all the immaterial and eternal truths and lea rnt to reduce them to a single truth which men call God. and at the end of the world the sufferings of God and the sufferings of man will weigh more heavily than the sands of the sea . would put in the place of God. For the abyss which e ver haunts Pascal. which is essentially hostile to all law. Morality demands that vi rtue should be its own reward .ngs will assume quite a different complexion. separated from the world. so unlike any which is usually called by that name. denu§Û de tous les objets de mes attachements. but only for certain "elect" or "martyrs". He prayed: "Faites (Seigneur) que je me consid§Úre en cette maladie comme en esp§Úce de mort. and death will triumph definitely and for ever in the world. and brought back to that magic and bewilderment of which Pascal tells us. and the first sacrifi ce must be our "eternal and immaterial truths". shorn of everything I love..that the human ego." One can and one must sacrifice everything to find God.that God Himself should submit to the law. This it was that raised him out of the common way. But before the last judgment-seat Pascal learnt something more. which positive philosophy. The search after truth can no longer be a calm and dispassionate affair. means of breaking through these "self-evident" fanta sies created by an equally unnatural force. alone in Thy presence"). "Alone in Thy presence". Pascal's philosophy. How can the world be freed from this torpor. and can never be forgiven. Reason repeats its truths: A=A. s§Ûpar§Û d onde. Pascal speaks so much of the terrible conditions of our earthly existence. he knows these things. and in response to this prayer God sent him the "change of heart" which he had desired. though "supernatural". Two things which are equal to a third are equal to one another. and "incantation" appears as the o nly. in his Pens§Ûes. should be brought to obedience . and his frenzied fear of this abyss. Henceforward we must admit that only those who "seek with lamentation" can hope to seek with success. for it is through him that men were again made blind. ate more desired than fi rm ground and peace of soul. 0 Lord. tells us not to seek strength or assurance in this bewitched world. he learnt that there ha s never been any other God among men. we must not sleep.. This commandment is not for all. Pascal hears all this. seul en votre pr§Ûsence" ("Grant. in vi rtue of their actual immateriality and supposed eternity.. this taught him to reply to the considerations of sound h uman understanding with that word of exorcism: "Humiliez-vous. raison impuissant e. Every thing which has a beginning must also have an end. . this gave him the streng th and courage needful to speak so masterfully to reason which recognizes no oth er master than itself. and that "the power of the keys" was given by God Himself to him who denied Him thrice in a single night. as also through the school of Descartes with his more timid friends of P ort Royal. how can man be freed from the power of death? Who will breathe active f orce into the exorcism "Vanish!"? Who will help us to profess our "lack of defin iteness"? Who will give us the great courage to abandon the gifts of reason and to "brutalize" ourselves? Who will make the sorrows of Job weigh more heavily th an the sands of the sea? Pascal replies: "J§Ûsus sera en agonie jusqu'§Ñ la fin du monde" ("Jesus will be in travail until the end of the world"). he passed through the schools of Epictetus and Mon taigne.

. 2 and 3.vi. Some of his commentators do n ot hesitate to link him with divine Plato. as daily experience te aches us. vi. inde ed. i .JOB. . and all my calamity laid in the balanc es! For now it would be heavier than the sand of the seas. one cannot understand him at all unless one remembers continually in reading the Enneads that the soul.6). and eac h fresh examination is another hymn in his praise. the whole life of all men. are the key to Plotinus's philosophy. New works on Plotinus are continually appearing. think. therefore my words ar e vehement.e. recognize this judgment as true and allow it freedom of movement among men with the other truths? I have said that the above words are the key to Plotinus's philosophy. For a century past Plotinus's doctrine has been attracting increasing atten tion from philosophers. rests in deep sleep. in so far as it is bound up with the body. they seek and find truths which do not at all resembl e dream-pictures.<< | >> Orphus system home intro In Job's Balances << | >> Part III ON THE PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY Here on earth everything has a beginning. do they recognize one another? texts links biblio ToC . On the other hand. is not the life of souls that are freed from the body.DOSTOEVSKY VEHEMENT WORDS Plotinus's Ecstasies Oh that my grief were thoroughly weighed. 1 "In so far as the soul is in the body it rests in deep sleep.as no one doubts that Plato's "doctrine" is also science . but of souls wh ich are indissolubly bound up with the body." says Plotinu s (III. Is it possible to see in these word s a scientific dogma? Can it be reconciled with all the other principles of the many and various sciences? In other words: will the law of contradiction. The words quoted above: "Insofar as the soul is in the body it rests in deep s leep". and nothing an end. which are boun d up with the body. The question arises: What is the relationship between the truths found by a soul freed from the body and those found by souls still unfreed? Can there possibly be any relationship b etween them? Do they see one another. and the law of contradiction and all the laws dependent upon i t unhesitatingly grant to these truths the final sanction. hardly any one now doubts that his "d octrine" is that which is commonly called "philosophy" in the speech of today. And yet these souls. primarily science . which has been invested with the supreme power of deciding the legality of human judgm ent.

Must we then rejec t the doctrine of two-fold truth and return to the doctrine of the "standard the ologian"? Ea quae ex revelatione divina per fidem tenentur non possunt naturali cogni tioni esse contraria. that which is believed on the strength of divine revelat ion cannot contradict natural cognition. and vice versa. divine wisdom also contains these principles. contradicts also divine wisdom: it cannot. This law is proved b y a whole series of "igitur" ("therefores").e. And now the main point: when Plotinus h ad to decide between "revealed" and "natural" truths. But let us turn back to Plotinus. whether divine or human. and he could see in it no revelation. be from God. therefore. while philosophic truth assumes that the world has always existed . the primary source of theological k nowledge. that supreme j udge over life and death. The Bible. It is clear to any one that one and the same man cannot at the same time accept two mutually exclusive laws. (The truth of revelation and the truth cognized in natural wise cannot contradict one another. be it never so sublime. Nevertheless the Bible was for him a book like other books. in other words. is always alike. Ea igitur quae ex revelatione divina per fidem tenentur non po ssunt naturali cognitioni esse contraria. Thomas Aquinas insisted strictly that truth. he unhesitatingly took the side of the former.) In other words. Quidquid igitur prin cipiis hujusmodi contrarium est. they solved. since God is Himself the author of our na ture. But the "standard theologian" of the Middle Ages did not admit such a contrast. should per mit even one single exception. 11) (that which appears most real to common consciousness has the least exist ence). which are entirely strange to the modern consciousness and even e xcite the highest degree of indignation. should agree to abdicate the sovereign rights which it has acquired. For it is naturally quite unthin kable that the law of contradiction. Plotinu s lived in a comparatively late age. must cal l revelations. Therefore. Principiorum naturaliter n otorum cognitio nobis divinitus est indita. and here it is not a question of one exception. when the "light from the East" had become a ccessible to the whole Graeco-Roman world. ha gar hegeitai tis einai malista. God knows when and why. b ut of an infinitely great number. v. whether we will or not. And here the "common consciousness" is by no means the consciousness norm . If theological truth says that God created the worl d in six days. Either philosophy or theology is mistaken. it is not possible that both philosophy and theology should be speaking the tr uth. Plotinus recognized truths which we.) It is still less possible that in face of any revelation. and reveal truths which are incompatible with the truths dis covered in "natural" wise? The words quoted at the beginning of this chapter show us that this was not the case. therefore. contains an uninterrupted story of events which must from the standpoi nt of a reasonable man be considered senseless and unnatural. est divinae Sapientiae contrarium: non igitur a Deo esse potest. (The knowledge of the principles known naturally to us is given us from God. Therefore. the most unshakable of all laws. quum ipse Deus sit auctor nostrae na turae. It is also true that the doctrine of two-fold truth is equally vulnerable. i. the fundamental princi ples of our cognition and of divine cognition are the same. the legitimacy of which was do ubted and required justification. The infallible dialectician seems. ta§íta malista ouk esti (V. Haec ergo principia etiam divina Sapientia continet. or at least answered. the law of contradiction.The Middle Ages raised the question of the two kinds of truth. Does this mean that the question of two-fold truth did not arise for him? That he. Thus whatever con tradicts such principles. this questi on in some cases as follows: what is true from the theological standpoint can be false from the philosophical. the theologi cal and the philosophical truths. did not feel the possibility of such sources of cognition as are closed to "natu ral" understanding. through the means or method of the same cognitio naturalis (natural cognition). to have fallen this time into a petitio principii so glaring that even a hasty a nd superficial reader would notice it.

When the soul acquires scientific cognition of a matter. of course.and it fle es. I unite myself wi th God. No. And only in the rare moments when the divine voice sounds in the poet's sensitive ear. the truth of revelation) is not given us through learned knowl edge (epist§Üm§Ü) and also not through thinking (no§Üsis) like the cognition of other ideal things (ta alla no§Üta) but through a communion (parousia) which is something higher than knowledge. which common co gnition holds for "essentially not-being". Plotinus himself.? Or are we to do as has often been don e with Plato: strike out all admissions of this sort and leave only the "well-fo unded". The main ground of our uncertainty comes from the fact that the comprehension of the One (i. among the other insignificant creatures of our world. Just as with Pushkin. 4) he writes: "Whenever the soul approaches the Formless (aneideon) it fears lest it be confro nted with "nothingness" (eksolisthanei kai phobe§àtai. He speaks of th is as though there were no question. is generally in the power of these truths.e. like all other men . Before such phenomena it becomes uncertain and withdraws into lower spheres. being unable to gr asp it. because it has no definition and no marks of a special type . When Pushkin speaks thus. who. is wrapped up in the vain business of the world and is the most insignificant creature (Pushkin here uses a stronger and more truly adequate expression than P lotinus).. like all other men. proven sentences? And are we to replace the awakening of which he speaks so often and so enthusiastically by another less daring word? << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Vehement Words << | >> 2 One thing is sure: in Plotinus. or science in the usual sense of the word. or as though this question answered itself. "Often I awake from my body to myself (pollakis egeiromenos eis emauton ek to§í s§æmatos) and tu rn my attention away from the outer world to my inner self.al to other men. then I behold the re alm of wondrous beauty and gain the assurance that fate has destined me to a hig her lot (t§Üs kreittonos moiras einai). 3. even as the truths acquired with the help o f the common consciousness are not truths only admitted by the mob. . his soul. to§às pollo§às. to the mob. In the sixth Ennead (ix. and onl y occasionally feels within him the strength to free himself from them. theological truth or the truth of revelation is at irreconcil able enmity with philosophical truth. and reach exaltation above all that is comprehens ible through the understanding" (IV.. he. from the truth of revelation) and ceases to be . So long as Apo llo does not call the poet to the holy sacrificial altar. viii. m§Ü ouden ech§Üi). he is a philosopher whom even the present day awa rds a place of honour in the pantheon of the great searchers after truth. it dep arts from the One (again meaning. sinking myself in Him. as though no question were possible.. Then I live a higher life. or we even repeat silently with Aristotle: "Poets lie too m uch. did not know Plotinus. soars like an eagle suddenly awa kened towards the realm of wondrous and incomprehensible beauty. as also in some important representatives o f the Middle Ages." But Plotinus is no poet. we hold his words for metaphor. which had grown heavy in the world's business. 1). Plotinus never expresses his thought on the mutual relationship between these tw o truths with the clarity and decision which would be desirable. Are we to say of him too: "He lies too much". But another thing is sure also: in contrast to the thought of the Middle Ages.

. contenting himself with the traditiona l reference to Philo's influence and eastern ways of thought. he knew also of the classical philosophy. could Plotinus exalt with such enthusiasm his "One". fro m his fate. In my opinion. then. can find the final purpose of philosophy only in a co ntemplation of the divine in which all decision of thought and all clarity of se lf-consciousness vanish in mystical ecstasy" (V. bebai§æta t§Üi t§æn arch§æn. fundamental principle). ii.and his disciples and successors have repeated these words again and agai n. It seems to me that old Zeller saw more clearly and came nearer the truth when he declared fearlessly: "It is in contradiction with the whole trend of cla ssical thought and a decided approach to the spiritual methods of the East when Plotinus. What could have g iven him the audacious thought of refusing obedience to the supreme ruler. Plotinus himself has said: In the beginning is reason and all is reason (arch§Üi o§ín logos kai panta logos: III. The same Plotinus who extolled reason and thought so often and so passionately has lost his trust in reason and become. w ho observed this extraordinarily rare phenomenon. There were much deeper and far more important reasons at work here. 15) . a hater of reason . and every ground pres upposes a multiplicity (logos gar h§Ü epist§Üm§Ü. they would only be appropriate if the history of philosophy t ook for its task the study of the works of mediocre and untalented philosophers. if it is the greatest of misfortunes to renounce reason and to hate it. In another passage Zel ler expressed himself more sharply still: "The philosopher (viz. iv. that Plotinus's modern commentators are wrong in trying so hard to prove that Plotinus never renounced reason. Plotinus's "ideas" spring directly from his own spiritual experiences. Plotinus) has l ost absolute confidence in his thought" (V. this was by no means because someone had somewhere committed such an act of daring before him. But it is quite improper to speak of the influences of ideas on Plot inus. He "knew" much more besides. I think. in that he abandons the logos (reason) and becomes in Plato's phras eology a misologos. and that when he thought and wrote down his thoughts he never turned his gaze away from the law of contradic tion. I will not go here into the question of whether Plotinus knew Philo and whether he was initiated i nto the secrets of Oriental wisdom. o ne wonders. to penetrate it more deeply. a bebai§ætat§Ü t§æn arch§æn. 82). for every scientific knowledge presupposes a ground. vi. and of co urse he knew very well what Plato says about the misologos and Aristotle about t he law of contradiction. like some Philo. And it is very regrettable that Zeller. And if he dared to fight against the law of contradiction and condemn himsel f to the lot of a misologos. Zeller is undoubtedly right . too. the most u le of all fundamental principles? I think that this question can in no wise be e vaded. and deep partic ipation in it. then how. a misologist. For such philosophers a book which they have read does in fact determine much o r even all. A fact of the highest importance. which is also an arch§Ü (beginning. reason is the ground of all things and all things are reason. 11). by virtue of what he saw with his own eyes and heard with his own ea rs. yet failed to contemplate it m ore closely. This means that Plotinus is unfaithful to the fundamental command of his di vine master. If.One. indeed. however. And what has happened to the law of contradiction. Even if Plotinus did know of it. but because I c onsider this question useless and purposeless. on which alone all clarity and certainty are based and the strength of which rests again on clarity and distinctness.for Plato taught that to be a misologist is the greatest misfortune that can befall a man. in spite of the Platonic tradition. the unshakable principle? How could he forget Plato's warning and abandon himself to the miserable existence of a misologos? Can he really have been pers uaded to this by Philo's writings or the words of the Oriental sages? Such explanations are the regular thing in the history of philosophy. not because I have no space. polla de ho logos). a hater of reason.

quite incidentally. If Plotinus had wea k eyes. asked for his advice in difficult cases. as though it were not wort h mentioning . because he was un able to think out. and "quiet" than Spi noza. then he himself would have had to pronounce upon himself the judgment which Zeller passed on hi m fifteen hundred years later. he adds as explanation: He did not read. because he had weak eyes. as though Plotinus's future readers were not to ponder too much on this peculi ar quality. Di d this never enter conscientious Porphyry's head? And yet it is the only possibl e explanation. In fact. supreme reality in the nets o f our definite and clear formulae of ready-made familiar categories. we have just heard from Plotinus that "what matters" (to timi§ætaton). but some dozens of men who would have administered the property of others no less conscientiously. for if he had resolved. And those who applied to him were always satisfied. there were plenty of his pupils and friends there with good ones. who is at pains. often chosen to be guardian of young orphans. Plotinus did not read what he had written down. he could only write down what he di d if he himself had never again to read it. it slips th rough those meshes. in learning who had been the thief. It is even extremely probable that the reason why his philosophy was so hi ghly esteemed was because it was. . But it would cert ainly have been impossible to find among Plotinus's contemporaries in Rome.Porphyry. And conversely when we try to catch the last. or others. t oo. He enjoyed in the fullest de gree the love and confidence of his fellow men. The same story was repeated of Spinoza in modern times. he was a very clever and astute man. We may as sume that everything that Porphyry tells us is true. very honest. And again . The pr operty of the minor remained intact. and possessed a faculty of observation as keen as Plotinus's. or had for a ny reason been forced. as they say. It was not necessary . to read through what he had written down. impressed many people primarily because he led a moral life. The same Porphyry tells us . Plotinus was very unselfish . therefore. that these practical virtues were intimately connected with his philos ophy. These narratives help us as little as the references to the influence of Philo Judaeus or the eastern sages. It was not because his eyes prevented him that Plotinus did not read through his writings. like water through a fisherman's net. and was. too . one and the same thing. a senator who was suffering from gout was r elieved of his pain. tells us many details of his life. once a rich lady who had been robbed of her valuables actua lly succeeded. before our eyes it tur ns into a dreadful "nothingness". But it seems tha t Plotinus needed neither his own eyes nor those of others. justified by the philosopher's li fe.that his master never read through what he had written. Porphy ry himself. thanks to Plotinus. etc. perh aps not many. It might have been better if we had been to ld less about Plotinus's and Spinoza's virtues. to ensure for his teacher the admiration and honour of the later world. a nd they are not made less enigmatic through the narratives of their biographers. as on the other hand our ordi nary thought endures no formlessness. They are what we have to decipher. could have lent their master their eyes. it was not commanded to read through again what had once been written down. it seems to it that it is sinking into "nothingness" and perish ing. appointed arbitrator. But they were no philosophers. modest. his advice to the senator and the lady w as probably sound. I cannot understand how this explanation can satisfy any one. In seventeenth-century Holland. which formed the subj ect of his philosophy. like his conscientious bi ographer. His philosophy. or to repeat twice. When the soul approaches reality it is sei zed with horror. Plotinus's pupil and biographer. have given equally good advice. but their works have lived on. Their virtues sank with them int o the grave. could endure no definition. Plotinus was certainly not seduced by the riches entrusted to him. like all devote d pupils and biographers. he would have had to tell himself that he had los t trust in reason. people could have been found no less unselfish. No doubt men who knew him believed.

epist§Üm§Ü. Plotinus was only able to write what he did if he did not read thro ugh again what he had once written .then what are we. Like nearly all expressions used by Plotinus. in defi ance of his behest. For this reason every thought seeks and strive s for precision: for one can submit only to strict and limited requirements. and endeavour to make his philosophy the property of all humanity. or Plato and the Stoics. no marshalling of truths. if you like. in the force and ability to compel. bound only to sa y what all those who learnt from him by attending his classes or reading his boo ks could and must recognize. Thus it is not necessary to read through again wha t has once been written down. He was also a great philosopher. quite right when h e forbade his pupils to disseminate his teaching? And did not Plotinus himself. is there the logos. or rather. and therefore his thoughts must also preserve their force through centuries and even thousands of years. as transitory as itself. for there is also no necessity to impose on onesel f or others a repetition of what has once been said and to do away with "contrad ictions" in one's statements. Plotinus's task consisted of expressing the "inexpressible". the porter Sakkas. as ambiguous. In other words. to read them n ot once but many times. and not to study him means to renounce him.<< | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Vehement Words << | >> 3 It might be said that my suggestion. whe n. to study Plotinus means to kill him. tell us that there lay a very deep signi ficance in the rule of the Eleusinian sages only to reveal mysteries to the init . Plotinus was "professor". do we all see the fundamental mar k of true genuineness of thought. therefore. to "reconcile" Pla to and Aristotle. ceaselessly "read through" (study philologically) his works. to conquer. Naturally. far from removing the difficulties of understanding Plotinus. rather to some extent emphasizes the impossibility of re moving them. we must read his writings. the word "multiplicity" has not the definiteness in Plotinu s which is forced on it by those who. We must. who infringed his master's prohibition. if the words which veil it are as changeable. How could this be otherwise. and conversely. there begins the realm of freedom which no longer differs from the a rbitrariness so hated by man. to do ? To understand Plotinus's thought we have to study his writings. there can be no word of compulsion. Is not then any attempt. for those who take it seriously at all. and was. such as was made in Plotinus's school. too. his remote readers. of a ny "doctrine"? Was not Plotinus's teacher. where there is no strictness or precision. this word can "admit" various interpretations. his "system" tried to combine all the elements out of wh ich Greek philosophy had grown up in its thousand years of existence? The "inexp ressible" can only be expressed. against his will. and on the other hand. and to seek precisely for that definition which he tries in all ways to avoid. on the one hand. it has not one meaning but several. from the outset. What is to be done? how can we find a wa y out of this absurd position? Manifestly there is only the one way out which he found himself: even if we have good eyes. therefore. We must suppose that all the "proofs" which h e gives in his writings are only his inevitable tribute to the scholastic tradit ion. to subdue. a renunciation. no power of con viction. no "writer". and to compel all to submission. for in this and this alone. but not re -read them. seek in him no unity of thought. or. Knowledge. but the logos i s the treacherous multiplicity which pursued Plotinus all his life.

when he. as the famous Fathers of the Ch urch and mystics did. He was. then one must attempt a solution. and in fact. One can. But supposing we disregard his work as a tea cher.? That he was not particularly anxious to reconcile Pl ato and Aristotle. For contradictions excite. in so far as they have m ade Plotinus their own. only influential in so far as his words were interpreted in accordan ce with the transitory needs and requirements of this or that historical epoch.e. It would be most convenient to remove the contradictions between the teach ings of Plato. but also genuine philosophers l ike Plotinus. mean that it is given to man to know himself. Socrates. but he could only devote h imself to his true task in rare moments (not at all often . etc. that all this is the sleep of the so ul still wholly sunk in the body. Suppose we assume that all the information which has come down to us was untrue. not merely t alkers who have made a profession of philosophy. is why all philosophers. in other words. that Ploti nus never taught any one. indeed. And human needs and requirements do not consist in awaking from sleep. And that is why so much is said about "the pos itive tasks of philosophy". if one wants to see in P lotinus a "teacher". but rather in taking peace away from those who had succeeded b y their own forces in seeing in life no riddles and no mysteries. rec all what one would fain forget. never was guardian to any one. awaken. in no other w ay can they achieve justification of themselves before their contemporaries and posterity. of course. he saw his task. a science based on sufficient reason. or at least pretend to attempt it. Historians can take this occasion to write essays on Ploti nus's historical significance. which he had never read through and would certainly never have written down if he had remained true to himself. without knowing why and how. Naturally. of course. together with the virtues and talents of which the devoted Porphyry tells? It is often just as profitable to forget a thing as to remember it. men wish to sleep and seek to put away all that could disturb peaceful s leep. repeat words and sentences.. a spur (myops). i. Socrates' words: "I know that I know nothing". that even when revealed it does not ceas e to be mystery. and yet in the crises of the ir lives they questioned the oracle. and that. In Delphi men were offered not solutions of old riddles. But all this should not confuse us.as he say s himself). and that Plotinus's true task in life did not consist in sleeping himself and letting others sleep.pollakis . every one knew that. "suddenly" (eksaiphn§Üs) approache d That which all our knowledge declares to be pure "Nothingness"? All this has. For all this is n ot in the first instance a "doctrine" at all. not in so othing his fellow men with ready-made solutions of all the mysteries and all the riddles of life. an d could be. that these activities represented precisely that "multiplicit y" so remote from and so alien to Plotinus. still less with that of the Stoics. cured no senators. whom Divinity itself declared the wisest of all men. How are these contradictions to be resolved? But. Plotinus's historical significance is also illusory. are not. he only began writing after the completion of his fift ieth year.iated? And yet he permitted his pupils to publish his works. it is doubtful wh ether they should be resolved in every case. or even wr ite out whole pages and chapters of the Enneads. Aristotle. have appropriated precisely something that is not presen t in Plotinus at all. "Know thyself". or rather. nothing in common with the doctrine of Plato or th e philosophy of Aristotle. The essence of mystery lies in the fact that it cannot be revealed. Thus it comes that the succeeding generations. administered no propert y. as we were taught. are forced to present themselves to men as teachers. cal led himself a gadfly. which he also really was. On the co ntrary. as though a mysterious force were leading t . But now. but new riddles. "irony". neither does the god's commandment at Delphi. and the Stoics. too.. and the mockers can remark that the Eleusinian an d other mysteries are no longer mysteries.

and might hav e proved to those who saw in Socrates the all-knowing master that not only the b eginning. The mysteries of philosophy are revealed only to the "initiated". not to the gods to whom his fellow-citizens sacrificed. if philosophic truth is not attained through meditation. truth is not attained by us as the result of methodical thinking. like Hegel. we should without hesitation pass the same sentence on him as was passed two thousand five hundred years ago. Men have always destroyed daemons and gadflies.hem thither where they would be still more confused. If this is so. in spite of Hegel. the incorporation of the "irrational residue". and more: we have no assurance that this truth. And the c hief. I think. or in extreme cases. if it was now our task to revise Socrates' trial . and perhaps also the penultimate. the n it can in no way be "learned". on the one hand it is all muc h simpler. The judges who tried Socrates' case were manifestly well aware whom they had to try. he did reall y corrupt the youth and refused to recognize the gods which the Greeks worshippe d. Plotinus's pupil and friend. too. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Vehement Words << | >> 4 I think that it will now no longer seem so remarkable to us that Plotinus w rote nothing down before his fiftieth year and that when he had once begun to wr ite he did not read through what he had written. The rejection of the traditional worship of the gods is also compatible with a genuine and deep endeavour after the mysteries of anothe r world. It is simpler in so far as Socrates was really guilty of that for which he was prosecuted. but unrest. he appeals to his daemon . But Anytus and Meletus never suggested anything else. Not only he corrupts youth who accustoms it to idleness. Socrates' daemon w as also. on the other hand much more incomprehensible. who was so intimate with him. could and would see nothing extraordinary in these peculiarities of his mas ter. of course. we should convince our selves that. the least comprehensible mystery obviously lies precisely in the fact that the ultimate. like the truths which can be attained by meditation. and if we also had the assurance that an acquittal would awaken him to life an d make it possible for him to poison our existence as he poisoned that of his co ntemporaries. Finally. to see in "Socrates' fate" an unavoidable stage of the dialectical development of the idea. Socrates in his defence made no attempt to justify himself against the accusations brought forward. is always the same for all. t here is a kind of "corruption" which evokes far more violent resistance than dri nking and doing nothing. etc. drunkenness. he calls himself a gadfly. but comes unexpectedly from without. and in th is respect showed themselves considerably more perceptive than our contemporarie s who try to whitewash Socrates from the accusations leveled against him. that we shall now understand why Porphyry. Incidentally. It may be that Plotinus when he "touched" or "participated in" his ultimate truth saw n . "the spirit" has not developed or progressed in this long period. like a s udden (eksaiphn§Üs) illumination.. or even always for the same man. It can also not be tested in any way. All this is not as the historians explain it. but also the end of philosophy is not rest. What men have always chiefly feared and fear to this day is "u nrest". and will always destroy them as unsparingly as they can. endeavour.

Parmenides. I think that if Socrates we re to come back to life today he would see that he must turn himself again into a gadfly. Some believe that the Middle Ages in drawing this distinction were secret ly endeavouring to turn aside from theological truth in order to open the path t o "free inquiry". essentially. for what is logos. How can one maintain that when he united himself with his "One" he was experiencing different things at different times? Would not this be to di stort his "system"? It is undeniable that everything that I am saying here fits but ill into Pl otinus's system. who in this respect followed the tradition of Parmenides and Plato. was a natural miso logist. and not the mutable. but its enslavement. wish to reconcile them with one another. too. Plotinus. but rather an allembracing and bold expression of the tasks which the philosophy of the Greeks ha d set itself. One may certainly feel the limitations imposed upon one by m embership of a certain profession as a constraint. He would be forced to remember the doctrine of twofold . what is epist§Üm§Ü. but in consequence of the eternal law of fate or of history had no t carried out. but this does not mean that l iberation from theological truth would lead men to freedom of inquiry. And those who today. however. they are not serving the liberation of hum anity. too. now another. and Plato strove no more than Plotinus for epist§Üm§Ü or logos. Socrates. while in the super-empiric and only real world everything was always consist ent and changes impossible and unimaginable. that instability was a mark of the phenomena of the empiric wor ld. Our task seems to be not to reconcile science and ph ilosophy but to sunder them. starting from the thought of the unity of philosophy and science. a lac k of existence. and this time he would turn the whole force of his irony upon those wh o wish to reconcile philosophy and science. It is true that he says nothing of this. Theology constrains man by imposing upon him unimpeachable dogmas. I believe that the doctrine of the two truths sprang from the dream of quite a different freedom. who esteemed the logos so highly. we ha ve to see in this endeavour no break with ancient philosophy. No doubt some philosophers of the Middle Ages did make attempt s to exploit the doctrine of twofold truth in this way. are d oing exactly what Thomas Aquinas did. this was also the view taught by Plato. This is perhaps the most remarkable characteristic of his writings. I think. and b eing for immutable. he became at the same time subject to the dogmas of Catholicism and to the "truths" of Aristotle. But if this were so. yet. But does not science constrain man? Will it ever renounce its dogmas (postulates)? Will it ever agree to free man from the "law" of contradiction? Will it ever admit th at the part is equal to the whole? Will it ever break away from the principle th at ex nihilo nihil fit? Or that one can make undone a thing once done? The "stan dard theologian" who declared with such conviction that there could be no contra diction between the divine and the human understanding condemned man to twofold slavery. Even Parmenides esteemed in knowing (epist§Üm§Ü) the po ssibility of seeing behind the mutable phenomena the immutable essence. contrary to Zeller's view. The very fact that he calls the final and deepest principle "the One" seems to suggest that in his eyes mutability was something evil. that in view of the en deavours predominant in our times his unrest would be far more unremitting still than in his first life. held all that is mutable for not being.ow one thing. he expresses himself in such a way that one might believe that things were quite different. what is the scientific philosophy which Z eller accuses Plotinus of betraying? Let us recall again what we said above about theological and philosophical truth. Plato himself. A system is epist§Üm§Ü and epist§Üm§Ü is logos. but it may not be our task at all to find a system in Plotinus. why are all wo rds and conceptions which we have inapplicable to the truly real world? Since So crates our conceptions have been shaped as though they were meant to express the immutable. that freedom which Plotinus proclaims. it is something else. The deeper and more bitter the enmity between philo sophy and science. the more humanity will win by it. But we know that Plotinus's last endeavour w precisely to free himself from the power of the logos. on the contr ary.

yet one must at least call by its right name. and also from his successors. is the mutability so feared and shunned by man. but sovereign. which. but not in order to give "freedom" to scientific researches. of course. The deeper and bolder a philosopher's knowledge has been.could never agree together. and perhaps also the doctrine that even in our empirical existence the truth cannot and will not be one alone. in so far as it is philosophy. it see ms to me. and will always be. to whom power was given t o command without in any way justifying his commands. He would have been answered that men if each man were to appeal to his own daemon .e. for emergencies. that truth tolerates no unity. and even this is an important st ep! Accordingly the theory of knowledge. This daemon is precisely the "unr est" which so distinguished Socrates from his contemporaries. even a s it tolerates no immutability. small. i. I repeat. perhaps the doctrine of the twofold truth has been revealed to him in the other world. not to justify positive knowledge but to cha sten it. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Vehement Words << | >> 5 Socrates' decision to set his daemon with its enigmatic "suddenly" (eksaiph n§Üs) in the place of the logos and the physik§Ü anank§Ü was. philosophy is not looking for any "natural necessity". Such a reply would have seemed quite unanswerable to the Socrates of two th ousand five hundred years ago. outside history. the more he has mingle d the wormwood of the problematic and inexplicable with the honey of comprehensi ble knowledge. The basic quality of truth from beyond. but rather t o free himself from scientific postulates. or at least to relegate it to the background. who have usually been held for materialists and rationalists. a fight with a nd a conquest of self-evident truths. and t hat a senseless chaos and an intolerable discord would arise in place of the com pelling unity and the necessary concord which he strove to attain in his first l ife. at least in secret. strives. But philosophy has always been. and the incessant unrest boun d up with this mutability. Socrates has presumably learnt a good deal. Therefore.truth. metaphysical truth in our worl d. in which th e essence of Stoicism is expressed more accurately than in Seneca's interminable . Almost every philosopher has kept himself a Deus ex machina. His daemon. thus even the Stoics. if not openly. philosophy can never reconcile i tself with science. I will quote here a small section out of Epictetus's Diatribes. after having proclaimed itself for ever eternal. Even the care-free Epicures speaks. yet not only never rejected the "miraculous" but sought and e ven performed miracles just like the other schools of philosophy. But in the two thousand five hundred years of his life in the world beyond. it sees in naturalness and in necessity alike an evil magic. would have demanded from h im first and foremost open warfare against scientific philosophy. He might even have decided to abandon his daemon. Science aims at self-evident truths and finds in them that " natural necessity" which. the first step towa rds a breach with scientific philosophy. per haps. claim s to serve as the foundation of all knowledge and strives to rule over all wanto n "suddenly". if one cannot quite shake it off (for in this no mortal has ever yet succeeded) . with ill-concealed exultation of the barely perceptible but yet arbitr ary and entirely ungrounded deviation of the atom from its "natural" direction. in other words.

Then that which seems valueless or bad to us becomes valuable and good. riches. which is t herefore in his power. condemnation to death. even as ." (Diatr. and tha t only the folly of man could hold illusion for reality. Ep ictetus says: "Verily this is the wand of Mercury.writings. 20. so undeniable a truth that only fools or madmen could contest i t. as sufficient "reason". The Stoics and Pl otinus after them reject all these "therefores" with scorn. etc. or in all the meditations of the Stoics that have come down to us. He accepts without hesitation the principle that the whole is m ore than its parts. even out of absolute nothingness itself. too. kinsmen. man wishes to live long. th at the history of philosophy has always underestimated the importance of Stoicis m. impossible to name any philosophic system the basis and deepes t roots of which are not Stoic. In speaking of truth. Bring hither sickness and death. it does not recognize the "law" of sufficient reason. poverty and suff ering. In his "doctrine" that the soul must libera te itself from the body in order to awake to freedom. Not only Epictetus. it has its own "law". Like Epictetus. ther efore he avoids dangers. and deduces that if we wish to understand life. against the role of outside "obse rvers" assigned them by the uninitiated. who. openly in antiquity and secretly today. Plotinus despises not only riches. etc. indeed. everything by which the actions of men are directed. he. as in Epictetus and modern philosophy. and therefore. for that reason ethics has always wished to be autonomous. he is in exhaustible in proofs that all these things are no goods. only what man himself creates. and therefore chooses the nour ishment suitable to his health. kag§æ auto agathon poi§Üs§æ). Marcus Aurel ius. Plotinus. Epictetus. Interesting. and herein lies t he ultimate meaning. In this respect Plotinus is much nearer to Epictetus t han to Aristotle or even Plato. refuses to accept a ready-made "good" from nature or ev en from the hands of the gods. and honour. that is so apparent. too. all have sought after Mercury's wand. they refuse to accep t health. Philosophers have always reb elled. health. seeks strong friends and allies. Ethi cs in Plotinus. is the following argument in Plotinus's ethics. and even his fatherland. he works i n the sweat of his brow and saves for a rainy day. Epictetus points out again and again that everything not done by man is indifferent to man. all philosophers have aime d at almighty power. to do miracles. III. is important.) So Epictetus could speak at times. knows very well what "every one thinks. and others. Usually men bring their actions into harmony with the conditions of their e xistence: man has a natural desire to be healthy. I have mentioned several times. to create supreme values out of the useless. They have wanted. man must create his own good. Epictetus. s ays fearlessly that every one is wrong. through the magic wand all this shall be turned to profit. and what he cannot himself create has no value. but also friends. It is. this is why ethics and theodicy take so prominent a place in his writings. not o nly the Stoics hold this view of the tasks of philosophy. all that thou touchest with i t will become gold. like Epictetus. but illusions. Other "fools" direct themselves by these things and see in them a "good" because they themselves can create no goods and receive them ready -made from nature's hands. Every one knows that poverty and sickn ess. of course. is the doctrine of the po ssibility of an unmotivated action. the waste stuff of life. the heart's ambition of Stoicism. which is also closely akin to the line of argument of the Stoics. but I think it well to repeat once more. we must look on the world as a whole without considering the fate of the single individual.. condemnation and death are matter out of which nothing can be created. too. man wishes to be rich. has as his first aim to break thr ough the walls of self-evident truth and reach the open spaces of free creation. however. and declares solemnly that he possesses Mercury's wand through whose touch the ugliest and most frightful of things is t urned into beauty and "the good". Give me what thou wilt and I will turn it into a Good (ho th eleis phere. or rather of an action without a cause. The fundamental proble m of philosophy has always been an ontological one. Plotinus obviously agrees with Epictetus. whose touch changes a ny object into pure gold.

And just like the Stoics. is that a reason for perturbation? And suppose it is not a toad but a man perhaps Job in the Bible . And Plotinus . because it was too cumbrous and heavy to escape in ti me. or a play of virtu ous and noble heroes alone. assume that Pascal found this "diab olical pride" in the words which I quoted above. o n the contrary. We must consider not individual cases but the general. This favourite argument of the Stoics' was taken over whole by Pl otinus and occupies a central place in his "system". When a solemn procession moves upward to the temple and treads a t oad under foot on the way. Epictetus believed that he was the most modest of men. the whole. The teaching of Plotinus appears at first si ght to be the same. B ut they were both seeking the miracle. For him too the miracle of final union with God is only poss ible for those who by katharsis. by faultless fulfillment of supreme duty. To be able to perceive supreme beauty our soul must first itself become beautiful. without mur mur. Yet something repelled him from Epictetus. and thus he who lives in ac cordance with nature achieves most. the difficulties of life. hymned his miracle of the final libera tion and union with God incomparably better than Epictetus his Mercury's wand. he woul d have spoken of superbe diabolique in his case also. according to his doctrine. The fates of individual men do not interest him. Epictetus was the philosopher whom Pascal loved best. grew. Our inquiry must be directed quite differently. even if his learned friends from Port Royal had pointed out that St.I emphasize this now because it is of decisive importance. Our duty. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Vehement Words << | >> 6 Now I think it is time to recall Pascal and his considerations on Epictetus .a picture cannot consist of bright and shining colours alone. Plotinus sees kath arsis in liberation from the power of the body. have put their souls in a state in which the barriers which divide man from the highe r world drop away automatically. I think. banishment. And he would have kept thi s opinion. The n ethics will replace ontology and we shall be able to forget Job and his "words that are swallowed up". Pascal was altogether on his side.would there be any more "reason" for perturbation? Th ere can be no question of it. sickness. He esteemed in him the m an who had grasped the idea of duty better than any other. "superbe diabolique". unimportant and ridiculous characters must also come on the scene. And this "something" he called. in a very strong ph rase. In so far as Epictetu s preached submission to fate and readiness to accept from the gods. was to live "in accordance with nature". but I think that if he had known him. and death itself into good. Pascal did not know Plotinus. Augustine himself had been unable to withstand the charm of the last great Greek . logically and naturally out of his doctrine. both were convinced that it is only after overcoming the self-evident truth s transmitted to us by the senses that we can attain the last freedom. far from being in contradiction with his general doctrine of our duties towards the gods. and that his gift of working miracles. our very first duty. Then we shall at tain what is most necessary. The manner of seeking was the same with b oth. then we shall get Mercury's wand and do miracles. they should not inte rest any one. or rather. We may. the freed om of creation out of nothingness which Epictetus calls the good and Plotinus un ion with God. w e shall transform poverty.

were victims of their pri de.strang e as it may seem at first sight . that the ambition entertained both by the Stoics and also by the Neo-P latonists and the Early Fathers and mystics who were influenced by Greek philoso phy. expr essed in modern language. too. one more self-evident law which is of especial importance to us he re: philosophy must teach man. in no other way can it justify its existence. and Plotinus. but that it had not the power to create anything out of nothing. are forced to begin with the supposition that everything here on earth has a beg inning and an end. his " truth" would become a "judgment". as we have seen. in Zeller's lucid phrase. who believed that he possessed Mercury's ma gic wand. in oth er words. But he. And he could have repudiated responsibility for what his pupils or "history" have ma de of his achievements. for it is also axiomatic that one can not aim at the impossible. because it was onl y under this condition that they could learn anything from him. equally right was his violent strugg le to awake out of that sleep. he aimed at liberation from the power of the Greek ideas . and every judgment is the death of truth. of overcoming self-evident truth. he was absolutely right in sayin g that human souls are in a state of sleep. Plotinus seems even to have fo rgotten that he has renounced reason. for like the laws of ex nihilo nihil fit and "th e whole is greater than the part". they think that they have at last overcome the unrest instilled into them by Socrates. for reason has above it the ineluctable law: ex nihilo nihil fit. like Epictetus and all other philosophers. It seems therefore that in his battle against self-evident truths Plotinus directed his attacks against the wrong quarter. he would . is a fundamental principle of reason. declared that his role consi . that epist§Üm§Ü and logos mean multiplicity. and above all. he had lost absolute confide nce in reason. How could so mad a thought occur to man. which were dictated by reason. so too the law that everything which has a be ginning has also an end. or. They wanted to be as God and to create out of nothingness. has been transformed by supernatural forc e into its contrary. These are all sel f-evident facts which cannot be contested. Perhaps Plotinus himself did n ot want this. to men like Epictet us and Plotinus? Is it not clear that a supernatural force is at work here? And is it not clear that in all this what should interest us most is not so much Epi ctetus's and Plotinus's unusual "achievements".philosopher. and hopes with the help of this very reaso n to change the visions granted him at particular moments into general and neces sary judgments accessible to all men at any time. Perhaps it was only his pupils who demanded it. It was Porphyry and all those who studied Plotinus's published works who so ught and found in him general and necessary judgments. but may extol and preach. But unrest is only the beginning.have cried out with fear and horror that behin d this lies without doubt an "enchantement et assoupissement surnaturel". thought. The ceaseless unrest which filled his soul is sti ll perceptible to us in the inner enthusiasm which shines through his works. So Socrates. Finally. He called himself a gadfly. who thought that after liberation from the body he would climb up to heaven and unite with the Divine Essence. for the ancient world knew no salvation outside reason. repeated what he had once said. but rather this unknown and obvi ously supernatural force which condemned the highest efforts of such notable men to fruitlessness? Epictetus and Plotinus triumph. in so far as they speak to man. and they created out of nothingness and thought that their creation could be ranked with God's cr eation or even above it. that it co uld indeed "prove" the deception and illusory existence of all things. he suspected that if he read what he had once written. the beginning which must le ad before our eyes to some end. He knew. Both Epictetus. He saw that reason had the power to destroy the world. that they no longer ne ed to seek with unrest. and that the works of the leading Fathers of the Church and of the incomparable mediaeval mystics are full of Plotinus's spirit. Of himself we know from P orphyry's testimony that he never re-read what he had written down.

e. Plato. necessary. in which the law of contradiction is omnipotent. f irst of the philosophers. From these truths we cannot awake. H e awakened and stung men. felt that we must awake out of something. as Plato b ears witness in the Apology. in other words. Epictetus was not the first to proclaim that power was given him to transfo rm the ugly and terrible into the good and beautiful. even he was burdened by the self-evident truths. Either the truth of daily experience will devour Socra tes' truth. and Socra tes seduced the next generation of Greek philosophers. but can we admit this truth? We have just heard from Socrates that no one can do harm to a good man. for is not to fight against self-evidence to f oredoom oneself to failure? I quoted a saying of Spinoza's that daily experience teaches us that succes s and failure fall in like measure on the just and unjust. a new world. seduc ed by the words of the Delphic god that he was the wisest of all men. as Spinoza says. they c annot exist side by side. is still living today on the Greek traditi on and shows the same indecision. overcome some self-evident truths. said in his defence that. Socrates demanded that his assertion of his should be recognized as reasonable. Ancient philosophy. dreamed. rests i n deep sleep. when he wished to teach men. as universally valid. Modern philo sophy. or it will be devoured by it.sted. like Plotinus. they have permeated our whole bein . even in the shape of those of its representatives who. in stinging men up. where no ne would sleep but all wake. 6). however . Moreover. for our confidence in self-evident t ruths is precisely the "sleep of the soul" which hides within it the danger of t ransition to not-being. of his omnipotence.has never taken up arms openly against self-evidences. in so far as it is in the body. hav e lost complete confidence in reason. in transmitting the unrest of which he co uld not free himself. so to speak. sought the truth from Socrates. Plotinus. contrary to self-evident truth. but he also promised them truth. no one could do harm to a good man. it was he who. like his great predec essors Epictetus. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Vehement Words << | >> 7 Plotinus's assertion that the soul. Where is he? How fight against him? One might thin k that one should begin first by fighting against the Logos and freeing man from the power of the ideas which dominate him. i. Plotinus also. he repeats this phrase of Socrates' word for word. the same is true also for a whole seri es of other truths for which there is no salvation possible either in dream or i n reality. How reconcile these two mutually contradictory asser tions? For in our world. for that experience teac hes us. which he did not dare attack. We must discover the magician who holds the souls of men under his spell. and Socrates. ii. in his Enneads (III.and Plotinus forms no exce ption here . But even Socrates could not confine himself to this role. and more self-evident than daily experience. he promised to free the old world f rom the magic of the evil powers. Apollo seduced Socrates. now acquires a new meaning for us. It was Socrates who. Epictetus in his fiery outcry was only pouring new life into an old thought of Socrates'. Are these words corre ct? They contain an objective truth known to mankind for many thousands of years past. that success and failure fall in equal measure to the j ust and the unjust.

What then. just like the new New. Why does this happen? Why has man such fear of the new. For does it not continually happen indeed that when we ha ve two things and add two to them five comes out? Someone inserts the fifth. without asking permission . it is something that does not submit to man and to the magic wand of which Epictetus dreamt. everything new is audacity. which gave him the imagined power of performing natural miracles. there is nothing new. Every time that any one inse rts something new. that the conception of a supernatural miracle is just as contradictory as that o f a natural miracle. the possibility of a "new" thing takes out of man's hands the wand of Mercury. he must become one! Not among th e Stoics alone. and I will turn it into a good. as Epictetus says. as Bergson says so well. is the art of perfo rming natural miracles. the animate and the inanimate world are in their power. which starts from self-evident truths.g. once appeared "audaciously" in the world. Men . Isaac. too. we try to explain it. and feel how significant i s the specific gravity of his exclamation: "The God of Abraham. you will understand why Pascal speaks of Epictetus's superbe diabolique. The inevitable and the invincible must in some way be recognized as acceptable. to behave as though nothing new had occ urred. and Jacob . an opposition which Pascal himself did not succeed in expressi ng quite sharply enough in those Pens§Ûes of his which have come down to us. the new is something completely unlike an ything which was before. For by the doctrine of reason. even ontology. some being secretly added another object. which Socrates gave to the Cynics and which the Stoics exalted into a theory. but not the philosophers' God. but in all systems of antiquity and moder nity ethics becomes the fundamental and central part of philosophy. Epictetus really felt the contradiction to be intolerable to the human soul (p§Ósa de psych§Ü logik§Ü physei diabebl§Ü pros mach§Ün . Read Epictetus' Diatribes or Plotinus's Enneads." Pascal too sought the miracle. "Give me what thou wilt. are nothing but a mere assoupisse ment et enchantement surnaturel? Here seems to lie the opposition in principle between Pascal and the tradit ional philosophy. as also in the past and the future.e. then. Mill sa ys somewhere that if. overcome the invincible? There was only the one answe r. but not because he fe ared any "contradiction" in this combination of words. too. And yet the "old". And consequently. Or can he have made h is choice arbitrarily. The new is the completely unexpec ted. that which is known to man. every time that we had two objects and added two to them. " The philosopher becomes a worker of miracles. or from the idea of natural necessity (which is the same thing). without knowing it. a very profound thought. which in its turn feeds all the rest. something that ought not to be. once appeared in the world without asking man's perm ission or awaiting the beckoning of his magic wand. 26). But Pascal knew that there are things in the world which ar e even more intolerable to us than outer or inner contradictions. the "natural mi racle" awakened in him the whole force of his imagination. the unforeseen and unforeseeable. as is usually assumed. all our self-evidence. or. We must assume he had his reasons for rejecting the miracle s of philosophy and preferring to them those of the Bible. without reason? Did it suddenly become clear to him that there are times when the absence of a reason is. as though it were P lotinus's "nothingness"? I think only one answer is possible. is ethics? After all that we have said no one will deny that eth ics at the present time. What are we to do? Ho w accept the inacceptable. better than any reason? Did he then first attain "sight" by suddenly convincing himsel f that all our reasons. something contradictory to reason or i rrational. and you will be convinced. for nothing is that cannot be . he knew. or rather. he was expressing. miracles which agree with reason and submit to the necessity which reason recognizes in the world order. Bergson expressed this thought recently by sayin g that scientific thought eschews everything "new". we should be convinced that twice two is five. do not notice the person who inserts it. i. was once itself "new". Thus the old New.II. however. and simply "conclude" that i n some cases twice two is five. And Mill is right.

but the . like the philosophers living today. and the Delphic god the wisest of all men. only that which we have in our power is of value to us. When that theory set o ut its principle of natural necessity or the impossibility of the miraculous. Ethics has always been indissolubly bound up with the theory of k nowledge. is usual ly worked out quite independently of ethics and theodicy. that it is not even reality but only appearance. who knows that a mystery can never become a universally accessible truth. or more simply still. The Middle Ages and modern times. Yet it is not for nothing that so much is said of the "unity" of the philos ophic outlook. Nevertheless his "historical significan ce" has always been based upon them. To work miracl es. the bearer of reason. the purpose of which i s the justification of the world and the Creator. Anytus and Meletus. one has only to deny the body.of reason and of man. shall we not have to recognize the new New also? R eason will never contradict itself. i. the Stoics' miracles also are natur al miracles. There is nothing left for ethics but. but that which man himself creates. knows what is possible and what impossible. to declare that that reality never existed. Augustine and Master Eckehardt. The proof of the impossibility of the supernatural miracle is not generally connecte d in any way with the assertion that we must content ourselves with natural mira cles. no thing remained for ethics and theodicy except to offer in place of the impossibl e supernatural miracles their own natural and possible miracles.e. while everything whi ch we have not in our power is indifferent to us and is thus as though it did no t exist for us. having taken over ready-made reality from reason. Even Plotinus . after all. that our business is only to strive for the possible and not to year n after the impossible. This thought is. not a secret which may not be revealed. is a s clear and honest in his ethics and theodicy as the Stoic sages. how does it create its natural miracles? Wherein lies the secret of Mercury's wand? This is. the doctrine of objective truth. what once has been done cannot be undone. Even among the Stoics the words which we quoted about Mercury's wand are i solated. And it knows. never diverge from consistency! << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Vehement Words << | >> 8 It is clear from what we have said that there is nothing original or signif icant in Plotinus's ethics and theodicy. up to our day. never expressed in these words. Spinoza. of course. intoxicate themselves with the ideas of the Stoics transmitted through Plo tinus. too. what of it? If we recognize the old New. The theory of knowledge. as the Stoics taug ht. Now we have this "new". it proceeded from it and was conditioned by it. Self-evident tr uth shows that two idlers. for as reason tells us. all feel the more or less clearly expressed convicti on that we must content ourselves with natural miracles. Man cannot al ter this. St. not only one's own body. Let us stop for a moment and ask ourselves again: How was it possible for e thics to appropriate the rights of ontology? In other words. There is nothing in the Stoic doctrine which has to be hidden from the uninitiated. Reas on. and their mysteries do not fear the light of day. he teaches. For. as though it did not exist at all. poisoned Socrates. since the supernatural are impossible. that genuine reality is not that wh ich is given to man. Leibniz. and surely reason alone. and Hegel. whom Plato cal ls the best of all men.

According to Thomas Aquinas. Everything that happens i n the physical. We can only fight against the human ego. the wor ld exists of itself from all eternity. The magic wand works its natural miracles and the reasonable man despises the words which Job in the Bible pours out in the belief that his sorrow could in some supernatural balances prove its elf heavier than the sand of the sea. The toad is c rushed. and nothing will ever be added to that which has been. not even an atom which barely achieves reality. weep. but only our bodies. But since man can only create "ideal" entities. as I have said. "Was wirklich ist. can only be a natu ral miracle created by man. We only need to transfer that which men treasure or fear into the sphe re of the indifferent and we turn ourselves from slaves into kings. the basic trait of our nature has shown itself: the mi strust of the creative forces. God Himself can achieve nothing which does not accord with the principles of human reason. takes and expects nothing from any one. not merely can he create no s ingle living creature. hope. it . whom man has created. as Spinoza proved so brilliantly in his Tractatus Theologico-politicus. Thus God too can create nothing. are angry. W e grumble. i. only natural miracles are possible and God Himself. The "doctrines" of the Stoics and of the Neo-Platonists spring without any doubt from the same root. Even if the fatherland perishes. against our valuation of that which is given us. must be a purely ideal entity. according to whether fate brings us success or failure. Hence the enmity between "revealed" truth and "scientific" truth. the deaf to hear. of which we must free ourselves at all costs? The Biblical tradition that G od created the world out of nothing is completely inacceptable to our reason. Both for the Stoics and for Plotinus it was absolutely self-evident that ba ttle against the "natural necessity" which the world begets is vain. despair. but a much closer assimilation than has hitherto bee n usual. etc. T he Good does not acquire its principles from the outer world. as the Stoics teach. in virtue of the same "natural necessity" . accordingly that which is has always been. rejoice. All impressions coming from without are only messen gers (angeloi) who report what happens. it d oes not touch the sage and does not affect him. whom or what should it fear ? There is n othing in the universe which he need fear whose soul has denied the physical wor ld." ("What is real is rational. strugg le against and conquest of self-evident truths. But if this is so. it subjects the ou ter world to its principles.") I keep on speaking of Plotinus and Epictetus as though I were identifying S toicism with Neo-Platonism. Philosophy has always been. Man has no power over the world of realities. then God Himself. if the power to bind and to loose belongs to the soul. Therefore. All this does not touch us. sensuous world is indifferent to us. But this is just what can and must be altered.whole physical world.e. a mir age. say to ourse lves: It is one to us whether we are blind or see. But we can. conquered or conquerors. we can say that it is one to us. Yes. the fatherland perishes. The world of bodies is not subject to man. not. all that must be so. he cannot even call into being a lifeless thing. only principles and ideas. triumph. whet her we live or die. But each time that a philosopher has had to choose between self-evident truths which have to be overcome and tho se which can be accepted. an identification. The Good is independent and follows its own laws. to whom supreme power is given to rule over all. Socrates is poisoned. the dead to live. He fears neither poverty nor sickness nor banishment. etc. but the soul is the king (basileus). from men int o gods. ist vern§înftig.. The free being. conquered conquerors. Ex nihilo nihil fit. The human soul is not calle d on to obey but to command. We cannot make lonely Socrates become stronger than Anytus and Meletus. of the possibility of anything new and unacc ustomed in the world. of course. but does the world exist at all? Is it not merely a deceptive veil. I think this should have been done long ago. We cannot make the blind to see. nor even death. Every one believes that this must be so and cannot and ought not to be altered. king or God. with the Athenians who stood behind them.

if not an actual hindrance to his creative work. his al§Üthin§Ü egr§Ügorsis. God will be robbed o f the possibility of achieving supernatural miracles. but his secret. was clearly not revealed to him any more than it has been to Plotinus's latest commentators. and that because it is in complete agreement with the self-evident truths of reason. that is to say. and that the sovereign rights of reason. I. or "true awakening" (Enn. Thus people are fond of talking of the difficulties of political life in Pl otinus's age. but has also progressed far beyond them. in this proof ethics have comple tely ousted ontology. Hegel was able to defend the ontological p roof of God with a good conscience. vi. in modern times scientific truth has. who wrote nothing till he was fifty and never r e-read anything he had once written. g ained a complete victory. received ne w confirmation.) And this has come about. yet only one of the many ex ternal stimuli to reflection. Enn.runs counter to the true essence of reason. which has always given reason the greatest difficulties. Or we must at least learn to see in these circumstanc es. he knew that his Logos suffered nothing from it. is not to be studied. III. The Roman Emperors obtained the throne by force and wielded their power as arbitrarily as they came by it. Since th e law of contradiction. as every man living on earth serves history. Plotinus. of course. while Mercury's wand remained in his hands. But if we wish to grasp the true task of a philosopher we must first free him from the temporal conditions and the historic surroundings in which the momentary whi m of existence placed him. the scientific truth that ex nihilo nihil fit will never bow its proud head before this theological truth. so far from suffering. in its turn. << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Vehement Words << | >> 9 And yet the history of philosophy is greatly mistaken if it insists on seei ng in the succession of philosophic systems a logical connection. (ag§æn megistos kai eschatos tais psycha§às prokeitai. We should not be misled by the fact that P lotinus himself gathered together all elements of previous Greek philosophy into his "system" and thus has summed up the thousand years' work of the Greek spiri t. Hegel did indeed study Plotinus with full reverence. and believes t hat our present age has not only appropriated all the achievement of the ancient s. It is probable that this mystery did not reveal itself to them precisely because they studied Plotin us so conscientiously. it is inevitable that the two truths should have sooner or later to fight out together a supreme final ba ttle. 6). still less fixed into the chain of historical development. and the rest. Even the predic ate of "reality". It seem . he "served history" thereby. God is the most perfect of all entities. as clever people prefer to say in such cases. Hartmann and his school. Of all the "proofs" of God's existence the ontological alone has kept its force. has been so far "explained" that it has neither rivalry nor quarr el with the predicate of the "ideal". People are fond of simply explaining Pl otinus's desire to flee from the world by the circumstances of his time. will never yield. we can thus be quite certain that in t his definition we shall find no elements inacceptable to reason. but the idea of p erfection is defined by the reason alone. has b een made innocuous in the ontological proof. but man will keep all the more safely that power of his to do natural miracles of which Epictetus boasted. or. vi. 7.

The Gnostics. and drew the conclusion that man must free himself from it if he wou ld free himself from evil. I repeat. we see plainly that they were impelled by the same wish which also inspired P lotinus: to free the soul from the body. to annihila te and exterminate him. Plotinus's ambitio n and philosophic sentiment would have caused him to flee without a look behind from this realm of self-evident truths. can one believe that dependence on the body would have seemed l ess wretched to him if he had lived in an age when arbitrariness appeared in the cloak of justice and strict legality? Would he not then have striven with all h is forces to free his soul from the physical (t§Ün psych§Ün ch§æris e§ànai to§í s§æmatos)? Or would he then not have praised the conquest of the fear of death ( aphob ia to§í thanatou) as the supreme courage (andreia)? Would he not then have seen his philosophical ideal in the possibility of raising ourselves up above knowledge ( epist§Üm§Ü). that such "explanations" se rve only to hide the truth from our eyes. under the influence of Plato. too. too. on the contrary. We must therefore over . If you destroy the world before it destroys you. The beginning of the fourth Gospel is different: En arch§Üi §Ün ho logos. you want to divide Dea th among you. in another language. In this respect the Gnostics proved themselves much firmer and more consistent than the other Christian sects of the first century A. and it is to this that he refers when he says that the soul. The doctrine of the Old Testament in the phraseology of Genesis was absolut ely inacceptable to the Graeco-Roman world.. They maintain that man is by natu re immortal and heir to eternal life. the Creator of heaven and earth. It was precisely this natural necessity a nd the self-evident truths which accompany it against which Plotinus fought. but the "eternal" disembodied ideal principle whose eternal n ame is "natural necessity" (physik§Ü anank§Ü). he would only have said the same thing that he does in his Enneads. they. to destroy him in you and through you. rests in deep sleep." These words express with r are strength and originality a thought already known to us which gave life and c ontent to many chapters of Plotinus's Enneads. Plotinus was apparently the first of the heathen ph ilosophers to accept this doctrine wholly and unconditionally and to transmit it to the Middle Ages as a principle admitting of no doubt and requiring no revisi on. then even in the age of Queen Elizabeth or Louis XIV. were ashamed and afr aid of the "body". only in so far as he is bound up with the outer world is he delivered over to corruption and death. Any one can convince himself of this by reading with sufficient attention t he ninth book of the second Ennead in which Plotinus argues against the Gnostics . If we ask what made them renounce the Old Testamen t. were convinced that all evil on earth proceeds fro m the body. for knowledge means the Logos and the Logos means multiplicity? But if this is so. you wil l be rulers over all that is created and transitory. The Old Testament begins with the words: En arch§Üi epoi§Üsen ho Theos ton ouranon kai t§Ün g§Ün (In e beginning God created heaven and earth). they rejected vehemently the Old Testament and its God. and still more of the Cynics and Stoics. unknown in other ages? Would the glory of the age of Queen Elizabeth of England or the Roi Soleil of France have so blinded Plotinus's eyes as to make him belie ve in the rightness of human existence? Porphyry tells us that Plotinus was asha med of his body. Long before Plotinus's day the ancient world had come. i. to believe that the "body" is th e source of evil upon earth. or under the reign of Louis XIV. Was the "a rbitrariness" and bestial cruelty which ruled in Rome in the third century A. I should like to quote here a remarkable passage from Valentinus preserved in the works of Clement of Alexandria: "From the beginning (ap' arch§Üs) you are immortal and children of eternal life. to conquer him. The Gnostics see the source of ev il in the "world". There is every reason to suppose that this principle was a precondition for the diffusion of Christianity in the world of Graeco-Roman civilization. in so far as it is in the body.e. not unnamed emperors of a day. where there sits enthroned. Had Plotinus lived in the Middle Ages.D. in physical existence.D.s quite "natural" that Plotinus would have thought and spoken differently if he had lived in another age. or in the age of Pericles.

into universally valid and necessary judgments.as though he himself had never said anything of the sort . as was t o be expected. apparently. And forget only in that measure in which knowledge binds us. t he supreme terror. of course . but from those self-evident truths which are added by our rea son (again. Plotinus. he could pre fer death to life. he says of it. and thus "comprehensible" idea. the Greek wa s showing itself in Plotinus. to cast off the outer world utterly? And was Plato. he had written that he had only attained that freedom without whic h union with God would have been impossible. He himself never re-read what he had once written down. even as Ploti nus's command to "soar aloft above knowledge": to free us. the whole ninth book of the second Ennead is an expression of thi s rage. All these negatio ns and super-superlatives clearly had the one meaning and purpose.gave the unmean ing name "the One". We know how carefully Plotinus avoided all positive definitio ns of his Supreme Being to which he . "Let us flee from this world as quickly as possible"? Or when he taught that the only way to the highest end wa s monos genesthai. he had said. Hyperkalos. and death. who said almost exactly the same. In contradiction to the Gnostics he spe aks here of the visible world in almost the same enthusiastic words with which h e speaks in the other books of the intelligible world. then Plotinu s grows furious. hyperagathos (beyond all measure beautiful. as we remarked. C ertainly. and so he had thought and written. as some thing that always is. and by means of which the multifarious and self-contradictory material of experience is transformed into a n immovable. that is. through forgetfulness of the sensuo us world and complete concentration on himself. But when the Gnostics make all these changing moods into unal terable truth. And what he wrote was undoubtedl y true. is the "Asiatic influence" of which we heard so much before? And was Plotinus no Greek when he cried. as that which we once experienced pretends to absolute power over us. always has been. Here are reasons of quite another kind.intentionally. and always will be. and that we have to blame the world? That we should content ourselves with the world of ideal entities created by the hand of man and praised by the Gnostics and Stoics ? The world is in a bad state. was suddenly proclaimed by th e Gnostics (and that with the help of Mercury's wand!) as eternal truth. in Epictetus's words. will be terrible no more. but one cannot and should not make a "truth" out of it. not even "natural necessity". But does it then follow that the world was created by an evil God. could not endure logical elaboration of his thoughts.that to blame the world is the supreme blasphemy. he too preached flight from the world of phenomena. Historians have. It seems as though Plotinus must have looked on the Gnostics as friends and allies. How did he feel now when he suddenly saw and heard that something which he had only fel t and said at certain times. found a "simple" explanation for this inconsistency. He would not even call it a being. by Mercury's wand). i. Plotinus declares . and only for himself. physical things.come and destroy the world: then all power will lie in man's hands. A simple explanation! People are right to say that simplicity is often wors e than guile. He himself could cast off visibl e. then. he decla red it was epekeina no§í kai no§Üse§æs (beyond understanding and thought). he too taught. and that cannot be ot herwise? Yes. from time to time he needed that great inner peace in which nothing. one can pass through this stage. he fell into indes cribable rage. that it is our task to free the soul fro m the bonds of the body. and the Greek reverence for physical beauty. eternally unchanging. Where. in so far.e. Plotinus's "f . beyo nd all measure good). not from the gift whi ch God brought us. but to scorn the Creato r of the world is worse blasphemy still. he could strive to free himself from the world. For so it is: to attain freedom we must forget all that is outside us. But when he heard his own words from the mouths of the Gnostics. binds and oppresses man. no Greek? It is clear to him who wishes to see that "simple" explanations are out of place here.

without risking the accusation of arbitrariness (or even at that risk. once he had begun to write. a section which I think that I can. Thus it becomes clear to us why his ethics and theodicy are so hurriedly and carelessly constructed after the ready-made scheme of the Stoics. he watered it with his tears and swore in his ecstasy to love it. beyond reach of eye. the luminous and still night held the earth in its embrace. only faintly apparent as yet. and perhaps also of fear. Then. Alyos ha stood there and gazed. It was as though invisible threads which bound together all God's infinitely numerous worlds were suddenly joined together in his soul. On the contrary. What could riches offer him? What could ethics offer him? Of course one nee ds the means necessary to live. His soul was overflowing with enthusiasm and thirst for space and liberty. too. And he saw too that this spell and this charm are not at all natural." << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC In Job's Balances \ III \ Vehement Words << | >> 10 If Plotinus's experience was as I imagine it. The silence of the earth mingled with the silen ce of the sky. The Milky Way. Above hi m stretched the dome of heaven. A gainst the sapphire blue of heaven arose the white towers and golden cupolas of the cathedral. why he wrote nothing down till he was fift y years old and. indeed. tha t he had to live burdened with a body. with them he was onl y playing the part assigned to him in the drama of world history. shimmered from the zeni th to the horizon. why he was sometimes not above using the f irst "proofs" which came to his hand. we understand why he fulfilled his civic duties so conscientious ly. why he tr ied to reconcile Plato and Aristotle. and one needs ethical rules and moral principles . supernatural. and it trembled at t he touch of those unknown worlds. and finally also his curious feeling of shame. if his battle against the sel f-evident truths was no rejection of divine gifts but only the attempt to overco me the postulates by which reason transforms the life which God gave into scient ific cognition. the mystery of earth mingled with the mystery of the stars. He embraced it weeping. but exceedingly unnatural. to escape from the outer world means for h im to disenchant the soul from the eternal truths of reason which command man to see in the "natural" the bounds of the possible. sown with a thousand glitte ring stars. to love it to the end of his days. then his Enneads get quite a different meaning and significance for us. and was not ashamed of his ecsta sy. Read for example a section in the sixth book of the first Ennead (chapter ix).. . Plotinus saw in these "bounds" set by reason the same enchantement et assoupissement of which Pascal tells us later. never read through what he had writ ten. Why did he weep? He wept with del ight even in the stars which shone in the void. He no more needed ethics and theodicy tha n he did the property of the orphans whose guardian he was. as hi s angry attacks on the Gnostics show. In the flower beds round the house the splendid flowers of autumn had sunk to sleep till morning. for dari ng is sometimes necessary). translate by the following passage from Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov: "He (Alyosha) turned round abruptly and went out of the old monk's cell.orgetting" is not to be understood as though he were trying to eliminate from hi s soul everything that it had been granted to experience. then suddenly he fell to earth as though struck down.

but to make its continuance impossible. Plotinus revolted against th e cares and troubles of the day simply in order to abandon himself entirely to t he one deep and final unrest which he could "impart" to no one. for men who did not even suspect that they were sleeping. It is that theological truth which by its "logical" construction alone has ever been at war with scientific truth. is also only the truth of a sleeper and not of waking man. The external "peace" which Plotinus strove for with his theodicies and which so impressed his inexperienced disciples did not exclude a tense inner unrest. They presuppose the deep sleep of the soul which signifies to him the antechambe r and transition to death. then it can happen to him. for example. because the play needs no t only noble and clever characters but also villains and fools! The task of his . Perhaps he asked fate and t he Creator. I think that Plo tinus's soul knew great joy and also great sorrow over the "everyday" events con cerning which he taught the uninitiated. but how conscientiously one plays it. the truth of a soul freed from the body? To free one self from the body one must die. in which his own thoughts are set out with such circumstance and detail. that they were ad iaphora (indifferent) and not even worth mentioning. One may not say it even t o oneself more than once. I say. 0 Jerusale m!" I think that Plotinus could cry as well as the Psalmist: De profundis ad Te . All Plotinus's enthusiasm was derived from hi s consciousness of the high destiny of man. 0 Lord)." To this one may a nswer: Is this truth. to not-being. too. as it did in his conflict with the Gn ostics. where what is import ant is not the part which one plays. evil? And if someone had said in his presence that it was not fitting to lament the ruin of his fatherland. but was rather its necessary precondition. if I forget thee. clamavi (Out of the depths I called to Thee. that Plotinus would have laughed at his own meditatio ns. Yet one cannot tell this to any one. no t even to the initiated. but also about the crush ed toad (the unknown Job of the Bible) which had found no place in his theodicy. else communal human life here on this bank and shoal of time would be intolera ble.. I think that he would have revolte d again and cried from the depths of his soul: "Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth. and that t he task of philosophy was not to protect this sleep. Man needs theodicy too . rests in deep sleep. becau se it has no meaning in our common speech. an assertion which is always and ev erywhere acceptable and binding on all men. if. Plotinus knew as well as we do that this retort was possible. so long as you live you are the prisoner of you r body. But how can the unrest which ruled i n Plotinus's soul be comprised in the form of a judgment? He himself has said: " In so far as the soul is in the body it. at rando m. and so your assertion that so long as the soul is within the body it res ts in deep sleep. It is certain. He does not want to waste his powers on the solution of problem s of every day. He did not try to prevent the evildo er from perpetrating his crimes or the fool his folly.the quiet assurance that everything is right in th e world. Only when he sees and hears how his own answers are turned by other men into eternal truths. He surely laughed himself over his meditations that every man must be content w ith the part assigned him by fate. Domine. then. following the Stoics. he had compared the world with a play in whic h some men are given leading parts and others obscure ones. much less to the uninitiated. But peace and quiet assurance are precisely what Plotinus feared most. the Crea tor of the world. he knew. for t he play and not the players is the important thing. and if one has said it one must forget it again. not only about the death of great Socrates. let my right hand forget its cunning. he would certainly have been furious if he had heard them from the mouths of the Gnostics or other men with whom he did not sympathize. Sc ientific truth takes the form of a judgment. that all his predecessors' ethics and theodicies had been thought out for the u ninitiated. and answers these questions hurriedly and fortuitously. he had been able to read Leibniz's theodicy. which can be sha red with no one. to lose his "philosophic self-command" and give vent to his displeasure in angry phrases: How can one call the world bad? How can one call God.

e. In what. This force was enchanting man by convincing him of the "natural necessity" and the infallib ility of reason which offered man eternal and universally valid truths. and that the purpose and destiny of man is to serve this idol. which he was seeking. Perhaps an expression like superbe diabol ique should not be taken as blame. his works offer sufficient foundation for this view. the th eory of the truths self-evident to all men. For Epictetus the way to achieve the Supreme. he placed the theory of the "twofold truth" which Pascal expressed so boldly in those words o f his (which history has ignored): "On n'entend rien aux ouvrages de Dieu si on ne prend pour principe qu¡‾il a voulu aveugler les uns et §Ûclairer les autres. trusted absolutely. For Plotinus th is was inacceptable. Plotinus combated the "theory of knowledge" inherited from his predecessors. is complete subjection to the law." ("One u nderstands nothing of God's works unless one assumes as principle that He wished to blind some and enlighten others. Truth has ceased to be for man a living entity and has become an ideal enti ty (a mathematical function. which he himself described in the one phrase to timi§ætaton. which was imparted to Pascal and Plotinus in the stat e of ecstasy. reason. The doctrine of Epictetus which has so entranced man . wh ich Epictetus. The law was "in the beginning" and will also be at the end. for the law is.for the last time .who knows . He knew that one can only awaken from the nightmare when one suddenly (eksaiphn§Üs) gets the sensati on that self-evident truths are nothing but a certain enchantement et assoupisse ment.philosophy. saw the "supernatural" power and felt it with all their souls.culminate s in instilling into them the conviction that the idol which he has created is G od. "spirit". did not admit the possibility o f real miracles. even in his rare moments of spiritual exaltation. I repeat. But .and not only the simple but also philosophers . as Pascal did in the philosophers' summum bonum. an ethic idealism. did this nightmare consist? In what the horror? Whence came it? The Gnostics taught that the world was detestable in itself. He rejects the carven images which his ancestors made. practically identical conception s). And. to look upo n the "theological" truth. Epictetus and the other Stoics. For Epictetus the law of contradiction was the final and suprem e law which binds men and gods equally. It would have seemed madness to him if P ascal had said to him that the law of contradiction is precisely that angel with the flaming sword whom God posted at the gate of Paradise after the Fall of our forefather Adam. Natural necessity is for us today a boundary conception which marks the fina l triumph of "reason". had lulled to sleep his ability. but perhaps . as we saw. each in his day. the images of gold and silver. then. But he worships the ideal image without seeing that it is an image. But this magic spell was no "chance" one.") I think we can say with assurance that Pl otinus would have seen only a superbe diabolique in Epictetus's claim to Mercury 's wand. he knew that it was not the world which was the evil and no t the world that hid from us the timi§ætaton. that he saw no miracle in the natural miracles of which Stoic ethics boasted. and with them the whole official Greek phil osophy whose heirs we have involuntarily become. like a god. today those who conscientiously study and read the Ennead s see in Plotinus himself a philosopher enchanted by the self-evident truths of reason. i. was liberat ion from the nightmare of visible reality.neither did Pascal in his heart of hearts blame Epictetus. And it came to pass that after him ev en those men who knew the message brought down from Sinai did not perceive that an image formed of ideas as little resembles God as an image formed of any coars e physical matter. and was so far from . Perhaps Pascal und erstood that Epictetus only took to his natural magic faute de mieux. but only a futile imitat ion or even a caricature of a miracle. and that there are no other gods beside it. He formed an image from the law which he worshipped li ke a god. after his great Greek masters. Against it. coming from Plotinus. an ideal entity which knows neit her genesis (origin) nor phthora (destruction). Plotinus and Pascal. both for men and for gods. ivory and marble.Plotinus never read through his works.

Nothing else is possible on earth. wh ich according to our conceptions has the most unquestioned of rights to demand s ubmission. Here laws. the "One" who brought sleep and trance to man and enchanted h im by the self-evident truths of reason. most important. Earthly potentates. On earth laws hold sway. He only gives. then his speech becomes ecstatic . but on very rare occasio ns) when the soul succeeds in awakening from the self-evident truths of reason i t becomes convinced that it is kreittonos moiras (a higher lot. To Him. praestantioris s ortis esse. Like his remote spiritual forefathe r Socrates. the word compulsion loses all meaning. and will gladly welcome by it s side a contradictory truth. And that. will cease to desire to compel any one. are the necessary postulates of human existence. FINIS << | >> Orphus system home intro texts links biblio ToC .to timi§ætaton .troubling to purify them from contradictions that he actually did everything in his power to keep those contradictions in their whole audacious shamelessness. which he himself blamed so strongly. is the supreme gift of the gods. It was not born to "subject" itself. he reminds us of this continually. Th ere. begins to believe that the "audacity". we must assume. Plotin us. And there will be the Creator of the real earthly miracles. as Marsilio Ficino translates it). These contradictions were necessary for him. He knew that this separation is the greatest of pains and th at great pain alone can bring with it that "true awakening" for which he strove his whole life long. the One who created our wonderf ul visible world. And at the end there will again be no laws. G od demands nothing of man. The mos t necessary. who himself hymned subjection. not pollakis. And the human miracles which S toicism and Gnosticism after it promised us will never replace that timi§ætaton. is why he tried so persistently to separate the soul from the body. And there the wretched toad. often. even truth. He demanded from man renunciation of all that is dearest to him. he felt that he must not lull to sleep the unrest and spiritual tens ion within him.cafl be taken from us at any moment. There God's real miracles will be performed. whose fate it was on earth either to turn aside from the road or to be crushed. the law "came afterwards". and repeated continually that the dearest could be taken from him. Plotinus's soul turns in his rare moments of inspired exultati on. but goad it on to the highest degree. all command and treasure obedience above all things. But "in the beginning" there were n o laws. in that realm of whi ch Plotinus sings in inspired moments. not the ide al miracles of Socrates and Epictetus. and in the philosopher the psalmist is born . both anointed kings and tyrants and usurpers . behind the gate guarded by the angel with the flaming sword. We cannot exchange gifts of the gods for those of men. both those of nature and those of the human community. tolma. will not turn aside a nd will not be crushed.phug§Ü monou pros monon: the flight of the one to the One. where sleep becomes imposs ible. most valuable . that another destiny awaits it th an men think. I repeat. Then he sees that in a new balance hitherto unknown to man Job's sorrow real ly weighs more than the heavy sands of the sea. And in His realm. And sometimes (not. Submission and the glorificat ion of submission are the results of a spell which has been cast over us.

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