Essays of Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer

Part 2 out of 4

* * * * *

It would be a good thing to buy books if one could also buy the time to
read them; but one usually confuses the purchase of books with the
acquisition of their contents. To desire that a man should retain
everything he has ever read, is the same as wishing him to retain in his
stomach all that he has ever eaten. He has been bodily nourished on what
he has eaten, and mentally on what he has read, and through them become
what he is. As the body assimilates what is homogeneous to it, so will a
man _retain_ what _interests_ him; in other words, what coincides with
his system of thought or suits his ends. Every one has aims, but very
few have anything approaching a system of thought. This is why such
people do not take an objective interest in anything, and why they learn
nothing from what they read: they remember nothing about it.

_Repetitio est mater studiorum_. Any kind of important book should
immediately be read twice, partly because one grasps the matter in its
entirety the second time, and only really understands the beginning when
the end is known; and partly because in reading it the second time one's
temper and mood are different, so that one gets another impression; it
may be that one sees the matter in another light.

Works are the quintessence of a mind, and are therefore always of by far
greater value than conversation, even if it be the conversation of the
greatest mind. In every essential a man's works surpass his conversation
and leave it far behind. Even the writings of an ordinary man may be
instructive, worth reading, and entertaining, for the simple reason that
they are the quintessence of that man's mind--that is to say, the
writings are the result and fruit of his whole thought and study; while
we should be dissatisfied with his conversation. Accordingly, it is
possible to read books written by people whose conversation would give
us no satisfaction; so that the mind will only by degrees attain high
culture by finding entertainment almost entirely in books, and not in

There is nothing that so greatly recreates the mind as the works of the
old classic writers. Directly one has been taken up, even if it is only
for half-an-hour, one feels as quickly refreshed, relieved, purified,
elevated, and strengthened as if one had refreshed oneself at a mountain
stream. Is this due to the perfections of the old languages, or to the
greatness of the minds whose works have remained unharmed and untouched
for centuries? Perhaps to both combined. This I know, directly we stop
learning the old languages (as is at present threatening) a new class of
literature will spring up, consisting of writing that is more barbaric,
stupid, and worthless than has ever yet existed; that, in particular,
the German language, which possesses some of the beauties of the old
languages, will be systematically spoilt and stripped by these worthless
contemporary scribblers, until, little by little, it becomes
impoverished, crippled, and reduced to a miserable jargon.

Half a century is always a considerable time in the history of the
universe, for the matter which forms it is always shifting; something is
always taking place. But the same length of time in literature often
goes for nothing, because nothing has happened; unskilful attempts don't
count; so that we are exactly where we were fifty years previously.

To illustrate this: imagine the progress of knowledge among mankind in
the form of a planet's course. The false paths the human race soon
follows after any important progress has been made represent the
epicycles in the Ptolemaic system; after passing through any one of them
the planet is just where it was before it entered it. The great minds,
however, which really bring the race further on its course, do not
accompany it on the epicycles which it makes every time. This explains
why posthumous fame is got at the expense of contemporary fame, and
_vice versa_. We have an instance of such an epicycle in the philosophy
of Fichte and Schelling, crowned by Hegel's caricature of it. This
epicycle issued from the limit to which philosophy had been finally
brought by Kant, where I myself took it up again later to carry it
further. In the interim the false philosophers I have mentioned, and
some others, passed through their epicycle, which has just been
terminated; hence the people who accompanied them are conscious of being
exactly at the point from which they started.

This condition of things shows why the scientific, literary, and
artistic spirit of the age is declared bankrupt about every thirty
years. During that period the errors have increased to such an extent
that they fall under the weight of their absurdity; while at the same
time the opposition to them has become stronger. At this point there is
a crash, which is followed by an error in the opposite direction. To
show the course that is taken in its periodical return would be the true
practical subject of the history of literature; little notice is taken
of it, however. Moreover, through the comparative shortness of such
periods, the data of remote times are with difficulty collected; hence
the matter can be most conveniently observed in one's own age. An
example of this taken from physical science is found in Werter's
Neptunian geology. But let me keep to the example already quoted above,
for it is nearest to us. In German philosophy Kant's brilliant period
was immediately followed by another period, which aimed at being
imposing rather than convincing. Instead of being solid and clear, it
aimed at being brilliant and hyperbolical, and, in particular,
unintelligible; instead of seeking truth, it intrigued. Under these
circumstances philosophy could make no progress. Ultimately the whole
school and its method became bankrupt. For the audacious, sophisticated
nonsense on the one hand, and the unconscionable praise on the other of
Hegel and his fellows, as well as the apparent object of the whole
affair, rose to such a pitch that in the end the charlatanry of the
thing was obvious to everybody; and when, in consequence of certain
revelations, the protection that had been given it by the upper classes
was withdrawn, it was talked about by everybody. This most miserable of
all the philosophies that have ever existed dragged down with it into
the abyss of discredit the systems of Fichte and Schelling, which had
preceded it. So that the absolute philosophical futility of the first
half of the century following upon Kant in Germany is obvious; and yet
the Germans boast of their gift for philosophy compared with foreigners,
especially since an English writer, with malicious irony, called them _a
nation of thinkers_.

Those who want an example of the general scheme of epicycles taken from
the history of art need only look at the School of Sculpture which
flourished in the last century under Bernini, and especially at its
further cultivation in France. This school represented commonplace
nature instead of antique beauty, and the manners of a French minuet
instead of antique simplicity and grace. It became bankrupt when, under
Winckelmann's direction, a return was made to the antique school.
Another example is supplied in the painting belonging to the first
quarter of this century. Art was regarded merely as a means and
instrument of mediaeval religious feeling, and consequently
ecclesiastical subjects alone were chosen for its themes. These,
however, were treated by painters who were wanting in earnestness of
faith, and in their delusion they took for examples Francesco Francia,
Pietro Perugino, Angelico da Fiesole, and others like them, even holding
them in greater esteem than the truly great masters who followed. In
view of this error, and because in poetry an analogous effort had at the
same time met with favour, Goethe wrote his parable _Pfaffenspiel_. This
school, reputedly capricious, became bankrupt, and was followed by a
return to nature, which made itself known in _genre_ pictures and scenes
of life of every description, even though it strayed sometimes into

It is the same with the progress of the human mind in the _history of
literature_, which is for the most part like the catalogue of a cabinet
of deformities; the spirit in which they keep the longest is pigskin. We
do not need to look there for the few who have been born shapely; they
are still alive, and we come across them in every part of the world,
like immortals whose youth is ever fresh. They alone form what I have
distinguished as _real_ literature, the history of which, although poor
in persons, we learn from our youth up out of the mouths of educated
people, and not first of all from compilations. As a specific against
the present prevailing monomania for reading literary histories, so that
one may be able to chatter about everything without really knowing
anything, let me refer you to a passage from Lichtenberg which is well
worth reading (vol. ii. p. 302 of the old edition).

But I wish some one would attempt a _tragical history of literature_,
showing how the greatest writers and artists have been treated during
their lives by the various nations which have produced them and whose
proudest possessions they are. It would show us the endless fight which
the good and genuine works of all periods and countries have had to
carry on against the perverse and bad. It would depict the martyrdom of
almost all those who truly enlightened humanity, of almost all the great
masters in every kind of art; it would show us how they, with few
exceptions, were tormented without recognition, without any to share
their misery, without followers; how they existed in poverty and misery
whilst fame, honour, and riches fell to the lot of the worthless; it
would reveal that what happened to them happened to Esau, who, while
hunting the deer for his father, was robbed of the blessing by Jacob
disguised in his brother's coat; and how through it all the love of
their subject kept them up, until at last the trying fight of such a
teacher of the human race is ended, the immortal laurel offered to him,
and the time come when it can be said of him

"Der schwere Panzer wird zum Fluegelkleide
Kurz ist der Schmerz, unendlich ist die Freude."


This emptiness finds its expression in the whole form of existence, in
the infiniteness of Time and Space as opposed to the finiteness of the
individual in both; in the flitting present as the only manner of real
existence; in the dependence and relativity of all things; in constantly
Becoming without Being; in continually wishing without being satisfied;
in an incessant thwarting of one's efforts, which go to make up life,
until victory is won. _Time_, and the _transitoriness_ of all things,
are merely the form under which the will to live, which as the
thing-in-itself is imperishable, has revealed to Time the futility of
its efforts. Time is that by which at every moment all things become as
nothing in our hands, and thereby lose all their true value.

* * * * *

What _has been_ exists no more; and exists just as little as that which
has _never_ been. But everything that exists _has been_ in the next
moment. Hence something belonging to the present, however unimportant it
may be, is superior to something important belonging to the past; this
is because the former is a _reality_ and related to the latter as
something is to nothing.

A man to his astonishment all at once becomes conscious of existing
after having been in a state of non-existence for many thousands of
years, when, presently again, he returns to a state of non-existence for
an equally long time. This cannot possibly be true, says the heart; and
even the crude mind, after giving the matter its consideration, must
have some sort of presentiment of the ideality of time. This ideality of
time, together with that of space, is the key to every true system of
metaphysics, because it finds room for quite another order of things
than is to be found in nature. This is why Kant is so great.

Of every event in our life it is only for a moment that we can say that
it _is_; after that we must say for ever that it _was_. Every evening
makes us poorer by a day. It would probably make us angry to see this
short space of time slipping away, if we were not secretly conscious in
the furthest depths of our being that the spring of eternity belongs to
us, and that in it we are always able to have life renewed.

Reflections of the nature of those above may, indeed, establish the
belief that to enjoy the present, and to make this the purpose of one's
life, is the greatest _wisdom_; since it is the present alone that is
real, everything else being only the play of thought. But such a purpose
might just as well be called the greatest _folly_, for that which in the
next moment exists no more, and vanishes as completely as a dream, can
never be worth a serious effort.

* * * * *

Our existence is based solely on the ever-fleeting present. Essentially,
therefore, it has to take the form of continual motion without there
ever being any possibility of our finding the rest after which we are
always striving. It is the same as a man running downhill, who falls if
he tries to stop, and it is only by his continuing to run on that he
keeps on his legs; it is like a pole balanced on one's finger-tips, or
like a planet that would fall into its sun as soon as it stopped
hurrying onwards. Hence unrest is the type of existence.

In a world like this, where there is no kind of stability, no
possibility of anything lasting, but where everything is thrown into a
restless whirlpool of change, where everything hurries on, flies, and is
maintained in the balance by a continual advancing and moving, it is
impossible to imagine happiness. It cannot dwell where, as Plato says,
_continual Becoming and never Being_ is all that takes place. First of
all, no man is happy; he strives his whole life long after imaginary
happiness, which he seldom attains, and if he does, then it is only to
be disillusioned; and as a rule he is shipwrecked in the end and enters
the harbour dismasted. Then it is all the same whether he has been happy
or unhappy in a life which was made up of a merely ever-changing present
and is now at an end.

Meanwhile it surprises one to find, both in the world of human beings
and in that of animals, that this great, manifold, and restless motion
is sustained and kept going by the medium of two simple impulses--hunger
and the instinct of sex, helped perhaps a little by boredom--and that
these have the power to form the _primum mobile_ of so complex a
machinery, setting in motion the variegated show!

Looking at the matter a little closer, we see at the very outset that
the existence of inorganic matter is being constantly attacked by
chemical forces which eventually annihilates it. While organic existence
is only made possible by continual change of matter, to keep up a
perpetual supply of which it must consequently have help from without.
Therefore organic life is like balancing a pole on one's hand; it must
be kept in continual motion, and have a constant supply of matter of
which it is continually and endlessly in need. Nevertheless it is only
by means of this organic life that consciousness is possible.

Accordingly this is a _finite existence_, and its antithesis would be an
_infinite_, neither exposed to any attack from without nor in want of
help from without, and hence [Greek: aei hosautos on], in eternal rest;
[Greek: oute gignomenon, oute apollymenon], without change, without
time, and without diversity; the negative knowledge of which is the
fundamental note of Plato's philosophy. The denial of the will to live
reveals the way to such a state as this.

* * * * *

The scenes of our life are like pictures in rough mosaic, which have no
effect at close quarters, but must be looked at from a distance in order
to discern their beauty. So that to obtain something we have desired is
to find out that it is worthless; we are always living in expectation of
better things, while, at the same time, we often repent and long for
things that belong to the past. We accept the present as something that
is only temporary, and regard it only as a means to accomplish our aim.
So that most people will find if they look back when their life is at an
end, that they have lived their lifelong _ad interim_, and they will be
surprised to find that something they allowed to pass by unnoticed and
unenjoyed was just their life--that is to say, it was the very thing in
the expectation of which they lived. And so it may be said of man in
general that, befooled by hope, he dances into the arms of death.

Then again, there is the insatiability of each individual will; every
time it is satisfied a new wish is engendered, and there is no end to
its eternally insatiable desires.

This is because the Will, taken in itself, is the lord of worlds; since
everything belongs to it, it is not satisfied with a portion of
anything, but only with the whole, which, however, is endless. Meanwhile
it must excite our pity when we consider how extremely little this lord
of the world receives, when it makes its appearance as an individual;
for the most part only just enough to maintain the body. This is why man
is so very unhappy.

In the present age, which is intellectually impotent and remarkable for
its veneration of what is bad in every form--a condition of things which
is quite in keeping with the coined word "Jetztzeit" (present time), as
pretentious as it is cacophonic--the pantheists make bold to say that
life is, as they call it, "an end-in itself." If our existence in this
world were an end-in-itself, it would be the most absurd end that was
ever determined; even we ourselves or any one else might have imagined

Life presents itself next as a task, the task, that is, of subsisting
_de gagner sa vie_. If this is solved, then that which has been won
becomes a burden, and involves the second task of its being got rid of
in order to ward off boredom, which, like a bird of prey, is ready to
fall upon any life that is secure from want.

So that the first task is to win something, and the second, after the
something has been won, to forget about it, otherwise it becomes a

That human life must be a kind of mistake is sufficiently clear from the
fact that man is a compound of needs, which are difficult to satisfy;
moreover, if they are satisfied, all he is granted is a state of
painlessness, in which he can only give himself up to boredom. This is a
precise proof that existence in itself has no value, since boredom is
merely the feeling of the emptiness of life. If, for instance, life, the
longing for which constitutes our very being, had in itself any positive
and real value, boredom could not exist; mere existence in itself would
supply us with everything, and therefore satisfy us. But our existence
would not be a joyous thing unless we were striving after something;
distance and obstacles to be overcome then represent our aim as
something that would satisfy us--an illusion which vanishes when our aim
has been attained; or when we are engaged in something that is of a
purely intellectual nature, when, in reality, we have retired from the
world, so that we may observe it from the outside, like spectators at a
theatre. Even sensual pleasure itself is nothing but a continual
striving, which ceases directly its aim is attained. As soon as we are
not engaged in one of these two ways, but thrown back on existence
itself, we are convinced of the emptiness and worthlessness of it; and
this it is we call boredom. That innate and ineradicable craving for
what is out of the common proves how glad we are to have the natural and
tedious course of things interrupted. Even the pomp and splendour of the
rich in their stately castles is at bottom nothing but a futile attempt
to escape the very essence of existence, _misery_.

* * * * *

That the most perfect manifestation of the _will to live_, which
presents itself in the extremely subtle and complicated machinery of the
human organism, must fall to dust and finally deliver up its whole being
to dissolution, is the naive way in which Nature, invariably true and
genuine, declares the whole striving of the will in its very essence to
be of no avail. If it were of any value in itself, something
unconditioned, its end would not be non-existence. This is the dominant
note of Goethe's beautiful song:

"Hoch auf dem alten Thurme steht
Des Helden edler Geist."

That man is nothing but a phenomenon, that he is
not-the-thing-in-itself--I mean that he is not [Greek: ontos on]--is
proved by the fact that _death is a necessity_.

And how different the beginning of our life is to the end! The former is
made up of deluded hopes, sensual enjoyment, while the latter is pursued
by bodily decay and the odour of death.

The road dividing the two, as far as our well-being and enjoyment of
life are concerned, is downhill; the dreaminess of childhood, the
joyousness of youth, the troubles of middle age, the infirmity and
frequent misery of old age, the agonies of our last illness, and finally
the struggle with death--do all these not make one feel that existence
is nothing but a mistake, the consequences of which are becoming
gradually more and more obvious?

It would be wisest to regard life as a _desengano_, a delusion; that
everything is intended to be so is sufficiently clear.

Our life is of a microscopical nature; it is an indivisible point which,
drawn out by the powerful lenses of Time and Space, becomes considerably

Time is an element in our brain which by the means of duration gives a
semblance of reality to the _absolutely empty existence_ of things and

How foolish it is for a man to regret and deplore his having made no use
of past opportunities, which might have secured him this or that
happiness or enjoyment! What is there left of them now? Only the ghost
of a remembrance! And it is the same with everything that really falls
to our lot. So that the _form of time_ itself, and how much is reckoned
on it, is a definite way of proving to us the vanity of all earthly

Our existence, as well as that of all animals, is not one that lasts, it
is only temporary, merely an _existentia fluxa_, which may be compared
to a water-mill in that it is constantly changing.

It is true that the _form_ of the body lasts for a time, but only on
condition that the matter is constantly changing, that the old matter is
thrown off and new added. And it is the chief work of all living
creatures to secure a constant supply of suitable matter. At the same
time, they are conscious that their existence is so fashioned as to last
only for a certain time, as has been said. This is why they attempt,
when they are taking leave of life, to hand it over to some one else who
will take their place. This attempt takes the form of the sexual
instinct in self-consciousness, and in the consciousness of other things
presents itself objectively--that is, in the form of genital instinct.
This instinct may be compared to the threading of a string of pearls;
one individual succeeding another as rapidly as the pearls on the
thread. If we, in imagination, hasten on this succession, we shall see
that the matter is constantly changing in the whole row just as it is
changing in each pearl, while it retains the same form: we will then
realise that we have only a quasi-existence. That it is only Ideas which
exist, and the shadow-like nature of the thing corresponding to them, is
the basis of Plato's teachings.

That we are nothing but _phenomena_ as opposed to the thing-in-itself is
confirmed, exemplified, and made clear by the fact that the _conditio
sine qua non_ of our existence is a continual flowing off and flowing to
of matter which, as nourishment, is a constant need. So that we resemble
such phenomena as smoke, fire, or a jet of water, all of which die out
or stop directly there is no supply of matter. It may be said then that
the _will to live_ presents itself in the form of _pure phenomena_ which
end _in nothing_. This nothingness, however, together with the
phenomena, remain within the boundary of the _will to live_ and are
based on it. I admit that this is somewhat obscure.

If we try to get a general view of humanity at a glance, we shall see
everywhere a constant fighting and mighty struggling for life and
existence; that mental and bodily strength is taxed to the utmost, and
opposed by threatening and actual dangers and woes of every kind.

And if we consider the price that is paid for all this, existence, and
life itself, it will be found that there has been an interval when
existence was free from pain, an interval, however, which was
immediately followed by boredom, and which in its turn was quickly
terminated by fresh cravings.

That boredom is immediately followed by fresh needs is a fact which is
also true of the cleverer order of animals, because life has _no true
and genuine value_ in itself, but is kept _in motion_ merely through the
medium of needs and illusion. As soon as there are no needs and illusion
we become conscious of the absolute barrenness and emptiness of

If one turns from contemplating the course of the world at large, and in
particular from the ephemeral and mock existence of men as they follow
each other in rapid succession, to the _detail_ of _life_, how like a
comedy it seems!

It impresses us in the same way as a drop of water, crowded with
_infusoria_, seen through a microscope, or a little heap of cheese-mites
that would otherwise be invisible. Their activity and struggling with
each other in such little space amuse us greatly. And it is the same in
the little span of life--great and earnest activity produces a comic

No man has ever felt perfectly happy in the present; if he had it would
have intoxicated him.


These few words of Jouy, _Sans les femmes le commencement de notre vie
seroit prive de secours, le milieu de plaisirs et la fin de
consolation_, more exactly express, in my opinion, the true praise of
woman than Schiller's poem, _Wuerde der Frauen_, which is the fruit of
much careful thought and impressive because of its antithesis and use of
contrast. The same thing is more pathetically expressed by Byron in
_Sardanapalus_, Act i, Sc. 2:--

"The very first
Of human life must spring from woman's breast,
Your first small words are taught you from her lips,
Your first tears quench'd by her, and your last sighs
Too often breathed out in a woman's hearing,
When men have shrunk from the ignoble care
Of watching the last hour of him who led them."

Both passages show the right point of view for the appreciation of

One need only look at a woman's shape to discover that she is not
intended for either too much mental or too much physical work. She pays
the debt of life not by what she does but by what she suffers--by the
pains of child-bearing, care for the child, and by subjection to man, to
whom she should be a patient and cheerful companion. The greatest
sorrows and joys or great exhibition of strength are not assigned to
her; her life should flow more quietly, more gently, and less
obtrusively than man's, without her being essentially happier or

* * * * *

Women are directly adapted to act as the nurses and educators of our
early childhood, for the simple reason that they themselves are
childish, foolish, and short-sighted--in a word, are big children all
their lives, something intermediate between the child and the man, who
is a man in the strict sense of the word. Consider how a young girl will
toy day after day with a child, dance with it and sing to it; and then
consider what a man, with the very best intentions in the world, could
do in her place.

* * * * *

With girls, Nature has had in view what is called in a dramatic sense a
"striking effect," for she endows them for a few years with a richness
of beauty and a, fulness of charm at the expense of the rest of their
lives; so that they may during these years ensnare the fantasy of a man
to such a degree as to make him rush into taking the honourable care of
them, in some kind of form, for a lifetime--a step which would not
seem sufficiently justified if he only considered the matter.
Accordingly, Nature has furnished woman, as she has the rest of her
creatures, with the weapons and implements necessary for the protection
of her existence and for just the length of time that they will be of
service to her; so that Nature has proceeded here with her usual
economy. Just as the female ant after coition loses her wings, which
then become superfluous, nay, dangerous for breeding purposes, so for
the most part does a woman lose her beauty after giving birth to one or
two children; and probably for the same reasons.

Then again we find that young girls in their hearts regard their
domestic or other affairs as secondary things, if not as a mere jest.
Love, conquests, and all that these include, such as dressing, dancing,
and so on, they give their serious attention.

* * * * *

The nobler and more perfect a thing is, the later and slower is it in
reaching maturity. Man reaches the maturity of his reasoning and mental
faculties scarcely before he is eight-and-twenty; woman when she is
eighteen; but hers is reason of very narrow limitations. This is why
women remain children all their lives, for they always see only what is
near at hand, cling to the present, take the appearance of a thing for
reality, and prefer trifling matters to the most important. It is by
virtue of man's reasoning powers that he does not live in the present
only, like the brute, but observes and ponders over the past and future;
and from this spring discretion, care, and that anxiety which we so
frequently notice in people. The advantages, as well as the
disadvantages, that this entails, make woman, in consequence of her
weaker reasoning powers, less of a partaker in them. Moreover, she is
intellectually short-sighted, for although her intuitive understanding
quickly perceives what is near to her, on the other hand her circle of
vision is limited and does not embrace anything that is remote; hence
everything that is absent or past, or in the future, affects women in a
less degree than men. This is why they have greater inclination for
extravagance, which sometimes borders on madness. Women in their hearts
think that men are intended to earn money so that they may spend it, if
possible during their husband's lifetime, but at any rate after his

As soon as he has given them his earnings on which to keep house they
are strengthened in this belief. Although all this entails many
disadvantages, yet it has this advantage--that a woman lives more in the
present than a man, and that she enjoys it more keenly if it is at all
bearable. This is the origin of that cheerfulness which is peculiar to
woman and makes her fit to divert man, and in case of need, to console
him when he is weighed down by cares. To consult women in matters of
difficulty, as the Germans used to do in old times, is by no means a
matter to be overlooked; for their way of grasping a thing is quite
different from ours, chiefly because they like the shortest way to the
point, and usually keep their attention fixed upon what lies nearest;
while we, as a rule, see beyond it, for the simple reason that it lies
under our nose; it then becomes necessary for us to be brought back to
the thing in order to obtain a near and simple view. This is why women
are more sober in their judgment than we, and why they see nothing more
in things than is really there; while we, if our passions are roused,
slightly exaggerate or add to our imagination.

It is because women's reasoning powers are weaker that they show more
sympathy for the unfortunate than men, and consequently take a kindlier
interest in them. On the other hand, women are inferior to men in
matters of justice, honesty, and conscientiousness. Again, because their
reasoning faculty is weak, things clearly visible and real, and
belonging to the present, exercise a power over them which is rarely
counteracted by abstract thoughts, fixed maxims, or firm resolutions, in
general, by regard for the past and future or by consideration for what
is absent and remote. Accordingly they have the first and principal
qualities of virtue, but they lack the secondary qualities which are
often a necessary instrument in developing it. Women may be compared in
this respect to an organism that has a liver but no gall-bladder.[9] So
that it will be found that the fundamental fault in the character of
women is that they have no "_sense of justice_." This arises from their
deficiency in the power of reasoning already referred to, and
reflection, but is also partly due to the fact that Nature has not
destined them, as the weaker sex, to be dependent on strength but on
cunning; this is why they are instinctively crafty, and have an
ineradicable tendency to lie. For as lions are furnished with claws and
teeth, elephants with tusks, boars with fangs, bulls with horns, and the
cuttlefish with its dark, inky fluid, so Nature has provided woman for
her protection and defence with the faculty of dissimulation, and all
the power which Nature has given to man in the form of bodily strength
and reason has been conferred on woman in this form. Hence,
dissimulation is innate in woman and almost as characteristic of the
very stupid as of the clever. Accordingly, it is as natural for women to
dissemble at every opportunity as it is for those animals to turn to
their weapons when they are attacked; and they feel in doing so that in
a certain measure they are only making use of their rights. Therefore a
woman who is perfectly truthful and does not dissemble is perhaps an
impossibility. This is why they see through dissimulation in others so
easily; therefore it is not advisable to attempt it with them. From the
fundamental defect that has been stated, and all that it involves,
spring falseness, faithlessness, treachery, ungratefulness, and so on.
In a court of justice women are more often found guilty of perjury than
men. It is indeed to be generally questioned whether they should be
allowed to take an oath at all. From time to time there are repeated
cases everywhere of ladies, who want for nothing, secretly pocketing and
taking away things from shop counters.

* * * * *

Nature has made it the calling of the young, strong, and handsome men to
look after the propagation of the human race; so that the species may
not degenerate. This is the firm will of Nature, and it finds its
expression in the passions of women. This law surpasses all others in
both age and power. Woe then to the man who sets up rights and interests
in such a way as to make them stand in the way of it; for whatever he
may do or say, they will, at the first significant onset, be
unmercifully annihilated. For the secret, unformulated, nay, unconscious
but innate moral of woman is: _We are justified in deceiving those who,
because they care a little for us_,--_that is to say for the
individual_,--_imagine they have obtained rights over the species. The
constitution, and consequently the welfare of the species, have been put
into our hands and entrusted to our care through the medium of the next
generation which proceeds from us; let us fulfil our duties

But women are by no means conscious of this leading principle _in
abstracto_, they are only conscious of it _in concreto_, and have no
other way of expressing it than in the manner in which they act when the
opportunity arrives. So that their conscience does not trouble them so
much as we imagine, for in the darkest depths of their hearts they are
conscious that in violating their duty towards the individual they have
all the better fulfilled it towards the species, whose claim upon them
is infinitely greater. (A fuller explanation of this matter may be found
in vol. ii., ch. 44, in my chief work, _Die Welt als Wille und

Because women in truth exist entirely for the propagation of the race,
and their destiny ends here, they live more for the species than for the
individual, and in their hearts take the affairs of the species more
seriously than those of the individual. This gives to their whole being
and character a certain frivolousness, and altogether a certain tendency
which is fundamentally different from that of man; and this it is which
develops that discord in married life which is so prevalent and almost
the normal state.

It is natural for a feeling of mere indifference to exist between men,
but between women it is actual enmity. This is due perhaps to the fact
that _odium figulinum_ in the case of men, is limited to their everyday
affairs, but with women embraces the whole sex; since they have only one
kind of business. Even when they meet in the street, they look at each
other like Guelphs and Ghibellines. And it is quite evident when two
women first make each other's acquaintance that they exhibit more
constraint and dissimulation than two men placed in similar
circumstances. This is why an exchange of compliments between two women
is much more ridiculous than between two men. Further, while a man will,
as a rule, address others, even those inferior to himself, with a
certain feeling of consideration and humanity, it is unbearable to see
how proudly and disdainfully a lady of rank will, for the most part,
behave towards one who is in a lower rank (not employed in her service)
when she speaks to her. This may be because differences of rank are much
more precarious with women than with us, and consequently more quickly
change their line of conduct and elevate them, or because while a
hundred things must be weighed in our case, there is only one to be
weighed in theirs, namely, with which man they have found favour; and
again, because of the one-sided nature of their vocation they stand in
closer relationship to each other than men do; and so it is they try to
render prominent the differences of rank.

* * * * *

It is only the man whose intellect is clouded by his sexual instinct
that could give that stunted, narrow-shouldered, broad-hipped, and
short-legged race the name of _the fair sex_; for the entire beauty of
the sex is based on this instinct. One would be more justified in
calling them the _unaesthetic sex_ than the beautiful. Neither for
music, nor for poetry, nor for fine art have they any real or true sense
and susceptibility, and it is mere mockery on their part, in their
desire to please, if they affect any such thing.

This makes them incapable of taking a purely objective interest in
anything, and the reason for it is, I fancy, as follows. A man strives
to get _direct_ mastery over things either by understanding them or by
compulsion. But a woman is always and everywhere driven to _indirect_
mastery, namely through a man; all her _direct_ mastery being limited to
him alone. Therefore it lies in woman's nature to look upon everything
only as a means for winning man, and her interest in anything else is
always a simulated one, a mere roundabout way to gain her ends,
consisting of coquetry and pretence. Hence Rousseau said, _Les femmes,
en general, n'aiment aucun art, ne se connoissent a aucun et n'ont aucun
genie_ (Lettre a d'Alembert, note xx.). Every one who can see through a
sham must have found this to be the case. One need only watch the way
they behave at a concert, the opera, or the play; the childish
simplicity, for instance, with which they keep on chattering during the
finest passages in the greatest masterpieces. If it is true that the
Greeks forbade women to go to the play, they acted in a right way; for
they would at any rate be able to hear something. In our day it would be
more appropriate to substitute _taceat mulier in theatro_ for _taceat
mulier in ecclesia_; and this might perhaps be put up in big letters on
the curtain.

Nothing different can be expected of women if it is borne in mind that
the most eminent of the whole sex have never accomplished anything in
the fine arts that is really great, genuine, and original, or given to
the world any kind of work of permanent value. This is most striking in
regard to painting, the technique of which is as much within their reach
as within ours; this is why they pursue it so industriously. Still, they
have not a single great painting to show, for the simple reason that
they lack that objectivity of mind which is precisely what is so
directly necessary in painting. They always stick to what is subjective.
For this reason, ordinary women have no susceptibility for painting at
all: for _natura non facet saltum_. And Huarte, in his book which has
been famous for three hundred years, _Examen de ingenios para las
scienzias_, contends that women do not possess the higher capacities.
Individual and partial exceptions do not alter the matter; women are and
remain, taken altogether, the most thorough and incurable philistines;
and because of the extremely absurd arrangement which allows them to
share the position and title of their husbands they are a constant
stimulus to his _ignoble_ ambitions. And further, it is because they are
philistines that modern society, to which they give the tone and where
they have sway, has become corrupted. As regards their position, one
should be guided by Napoleon's maxim, _Les femmes n'ont pas de rang_;
and regarding them in other things, Chamfort says very truly: _Elles
sont faites pour commercer avec nos faiblesses avec notre folie, mais
non avec notre raison. Il existe entre elles et les hommes des
sympathies d'epiderme et tres-peu de sympathies d'esprit d'ame et de
caractere_. They are the _sexus sequior_, the second sex in every
respect, therefore their weaknesses should be spared, but to treat women
with extreme reverence is ridiculous, and lowers us in their own eyes.
When nature divided the human race into two parts, she did not cut it
exactly through the middle! The difference between the positive and
negative poles, according to polarity, is not merely qualitative but
also quantitative. And it was in this light that the ancients and people
of the East regarded woman; they recognised her true position better
than we, with our old French ideas of gallantry and absurd veneration,
that highest product of Christian-Teutonic stupidity. These ideas have
only served to make them arrogant and imperious, to such an extent as to
remind one at times of the holy apes in Benares, who, in the
consciousness of their holiness and inviolability, think they can do
anything and everything they please.

In the West, the woman, that is to say the "lady," finds herself in a
_fausse position_; for woman, rightly named by the ancients _sexus
sequior_, is by no means fit to be the object of our honour and
veneration, or to hold her head higher than man and to have the same
rights as he. The consequences of this _fausse position_ are
sufficiently clear. Accordingly, it would be a very desirable thing if
this Number Two of the human race in Europe were assigned her natural
position, and the lady-grievance got rid of, which is not only ridiculed
by the whole of Asia, but would have been equally ridiculed by Greece
and Rome. The result of this would be that the condition of our social,
civil, and political affairs would be incalculably improved. The Salic
law would be unnecessary; it would be a superfluous truism. The European
lady, strictly speaking, is a creature who should not exist at all; but
there ought to be housekeepers, and young girls who hope to become such;
and they should be brought up not to be arrogant, but to be domesticated
and submissive. It is exactly because there are _ladies_ in Europe that
women of a lower standing, that is to say, the greater majority of the
sex, are much more unhappy than they are in the East. Even Lord Byron
says (_Letters and Papers_, by Thomas Moore, vol. ii. p. 399), _Thought
of the state of women under the ancient Greeks--convenient enough.
Present state, a remnant of the barbarism of the chivalric and feudal
ages--artificial and unnatural. They ought to mind home--and be well fed
and clothed--but not mixed in society. Well educated, too, in
religion--but to read neither poetry nor politics--nothing but books of
piety and cookery. Music--drawing--dancing--also a little gardening and
ploughing now and then. I have seen them mending the roads in Epirus
with good success. Why not, as well as hay-making and milking_?

* * * * *

In our part of the world, where monogamy is in force, to marry means to
halve one's rights and to double one's duties. When the laws granted
woman the same rights as man, they should also have given her a
masculine power of reason. On the contrary, just as the privileges and
honours which the laws decree to women surpass what Nature has meted out
to them, so is there a proportional decrease in the number of women who
really share these privileges; therefore the remainder are deprived of
their natural rights in so far as the others have been given more than
Nature accords.

For the unnatural position of privilege which the institution of
monogamy, and the laws of marriage which accompany it, assign to the
woman, whereby she is regarded throughout as a full equivalent of the
man, which she is not by any means, cause intelligent and prudent men to
reflect a great deal before they make so great a sacrifice and consent
to so unfair an arrangement. Therefore, whilst among polygamous nations
every woman finds maintenance, where monogamy exists the number of
married women is limited, and a countless number of women who are
without support remain over; those in the upper classes vegetate as
useless old maids, those in the lower are reduced to very hard work of a
distasteful nature, or become prostitutes, and lead a life which is as
joyless as it is void of honour. But under such circumstances they
become a necessity to the masculine sex; so that their position is
openly recognised as a special means for protecting from seduction those
other women favoured by fate either to have found husbands, or who hope
to find them. In London alone there are 80,000 prostitutes. Then what
are these women who have come too quickly to this most terrible end but
human sacrifices on the altar of monogamy? The women here referred to
and who are placed in this wretched position are the inevitable
counterbalance to the European lady, with her pretensions and arrogance.
Hence polygamy is a real benefit to the female sex, taking it _as a
whole_. And, on the other hand, there is no reason why a man whose wife
suffers from chronic illness, or remains barren, or has gradually become
too old for him, should not take a second. Many people become converts
to Mormonism for the precise reasons that they condemn the unnatural
institution of monogamy. The conferring of unnatural rights upon women
has imposed unnatural duties upon them, the violation of which, however,
makes them unhappy. For example, many a man thinks marriage unadvisable
as far as his social standing and monetary position are concerned,
unless he contracts a brilliant match. He will then wish to win a woman
of his own choice under different conditions, namely, under those which
will render safe her future and that of her children. Be the conditions
ever so just, reasonable, and adequate, and she consents by giving up
those undue privileges which marriage, as the basis of civil society,
alone can bestow, she must to a certain extent lose her honour and lead
a life of loneliness; since human nature makes us dependent on the
opinion of others in a way that is completely out of proportion to its
value. While, if the woman does not consent, she runs the risk of being
compelled to marry a man she dislikes, or of shrivelling up into an old
maid; for the time allotted to her to find a home is very short. In view
of this side of the institution of monogamy, Thomasius's profoundly
learned treatise, _de Concubinatu_, is well worth reading, for it shows
that, among all nations, and in all ages, down to the Lutheran
Reformation, concubinage was allowed, nay, that it was an institution,
in a certain measure even recognised by law and associated with no
dishonour. And it held this position until the Lutheran Reformation,
when it was recognised as another means for justifying the marriage of
the clergy; whereupon the Catholic party did not dare to remain
behindhand in the matter.

It is useless to argue about polygamy, it must be taken as a fact
existing everywhere, the _mere regulation_ of which is the problem to be
solved. Where are there, then, any real monogamists? We all live, at any
rate for a time, and the majority of us always, in polygamy.
Consequently, as each man needs many women, nothing is more just than to
let him, nay, make it incumbent upon him to provide for many women. By
this means woman will be brought back to her proper and natural place as
a subordinate being, and _the lady_, that monster of European
civilisation and Christian-Teutonic stupidity, with her ridiculous claim
to respect and veneration, will no longer exist; there will still be
_women_, but no _unhappy women_, of whom Europe is at present full. The
Mormons' standpoint is right.

* * * * *

In India no woman is ever independent, but each one stands under the
control of her father or her husband, or brother or son, in accordance
with the law of Manu.

It is certainly a revolting idea that widows should sacrifice themselves
on their husband's dead body; but it is also revolting that the money
which the husband has earned by working diligently for all his life, in
the hope that he was working for his children, should be wasted on her
paramours. _Medium tenuere beati_. The first love of a mother, as that
of animals and men, is purely _instinctive_, and consequently ceases
when the child is no longer physically helpless. After that, the first
love should be reinstated by a love based on habit and reason; but this
often does not appear, especially where the mother has not loved the
father. The love of a father for his children is of a different nature
and more sincere; it is founded on a recognition of his own inner self
in the child, and is therefore metaphysical in its origin.

In almost every nation, both of the new and old world, and even among
the Hottentots, property is inherited by the male descendants alone; it
is only in Europe that one has departed from this. That the property
which men have with difficulty acquired by long-continued struggling and
hard work should afterwards come into the hands of women, who, in their
want of reason, either squander it within a short time or otherwise
waste it, is an injustice as great as it is common, and it should be
prevented by limiting the right of women to inherit. It seems to me that
it would be a better arrangement if women, be they widows or daughters,
only inherited the money for life secured by mortgage, but not the
property itself or the capital, unless there lacked male descendants. It
is men who make the money, and not women; therefore women are neither
justified in having unconditional possession of it nor capable of
administrating it. Women should never have the free disposition of
wealth, strictly so-called, which they may inherit, such as capital,
houses, and estates. They need a guardian always; therefore they should
not have the guardianship of their children under any circumstances
whatever. The vanity of women, even if it should not be greater than
that of men, has this evil in it, that it is directed on material
things--that is to say, on their personal beauty and then on tinsel,
pomp, and show. This is why they are in their right element in society.
This it is which makes them inclined to be _extravagant_, especially
since they possess little reasoning power. Accordingly, an ancient
writer says, [Greek: Gunae to synolon esti dapanaeron physei].[10] Men's
vanity, on the other hand, is often directed on non-material advantages,
such as intellect, learning, courage, and the like. Aristotle explains
in the _Politics_[11] the great disadvantages which the Spartans brought
upon themselves by granting too much to their women, by allowing them
the right of inheritance and dowry, and a great amount of freedom; and
how this contributed greatly to the fall of Sparta. May it not be that
the influence of women in France, which has been increasing since Louis
XIII.'s time, was to blame for that gradual corruption of the court and
government which led to the first Revolution, of which all subsequent
disturbances have been the result? In any case, the false position of
the female sex, so conspicuously exposed by the existence of the "lady,"
is a fundamental defect in our social condition, and this defect,
proceeding from the very heart of it, must extend its harmful influence
in every direction. That woman is by nature intended to obey is shown by
the fact that every woman who is placed in the unnatural position of
absolute independence at once attaches herself to some kind of man, by
whom she is controlled and governed; this is because she requires a
master. If she, is young, the man is a lover; if she is old, a priest.


[9] Let me refer to what I have said in my treatise on _The Foundation
of Morals_, Sec.71.

[10] Brunck's _Gnomici poetae graeci_ v. 115.

[11] Bk. I., ch. 9.


The largest library in disorder is not so useful as a smaller but
orderly one; in the same way the greatest amount of knowledge, if it has
not been worked out in one's own mind, is of less value than a much
smaller amount that has been fully considered. For it is only when a man
combines what he knows from all sides, and compares one truth with
another, that he completely realises his own knowledge and gets it into
his power. A man can only think over what he knows, therefore he should
learn something; but a man only knows what he has pondered.

A man can apply himself of his own free will to reading and learning,
while he cannot to thinking. Thinking must be kindled like a fire by a
draught and sustained by some kind of interest in the subject. This
interest may be either of a purely objective nature or it may be merely
subjective. The latter exists in matters concerning us personally, but
objective interest is only to be found in heads that think by nature,
and to whom thinking is as natural as breathing; but they are very rare.
This is why there is so little of it in most men of learning.

The difference between the effect that thinking for oneself and that
reading has on the mind is incredibly great; hence it is continually
developing that original difference in minds which induces one man to
think and another to read. Reading forces thoughts upon the mind which
are as foreign and heterogeneous to the bent and mood in which it may be
for the moment, as the seal is to the wax on which it stamps its
imprint. The mind thus suffers total compulsion from without; it has
first this and first that to think about, for which it has at the time
neither instinct nor liking.

On the other hand, when a man thinks for himself he follows his own
impulse, which either his external surroundings or some kind of
recollection has determined at the moment. His visible surroundings do
not leave upon his mind _one_ single definite thought as reading does,
but merely supply him with material and occasion to think over what is
in keeping with his nature and present mood. This is why _much_ reading
robs the mind of all elasticity; it is like keeping a spring under a
continuous, heavy weight. If a man does not want to think, the safest
plan is to take up a book directly he has a spare moment.

This practice accounts for the fact that learning makes most men more
stupid and foolish than they are by nature, and prevents their writings
from being a success; they remain, as Pope has said,

"For ever reading, never to be read."--_Dunciad_ iii. 194.

Men of learning are those who have read the contents of books. Thinkers,
geniuses, and those who have enlightened the world and furthered the
race of men, are those who have made direct use of the book of the

* * * * *

Indeed, it is only a man's own fundamental thoughts that have truth and
life in them. For it is these that he really and completely understands.
To read the thoughts of others is like taking the remains of some one
else's meal, like putting on the discarded clothes of a stranger.

The thought we read is related to the thought which rises in us, as the
fossilised impress of a prehistoric plant is to a plant budding out in

* * * * *

Reading is merely a substitute for one's own thoughts. A man allows his
thoughts to be put into leading-strings.

Further, many books serve only to show how many wrong paths there are,
and how widely a man may stray if he allows himself to be led by them.
But he who is guided by his genius, that is to say, he who thinks for
himself, who thinks voluntarily and rightly, possesses the compass
wherewith to find the right course. A man, therefore, should only read
when the source of his own thoughts stagnates; which is often the case
with the best of minds.

It is sin against the Holy Spirit to frighten away one's own original
thoughts by taking up a book. It is the same as a man flying from Nature
to look at a museum of dried plants, or to study a beautiful landscape
in copperplate. A man at times arrives at a truth or an idea after
spending much time in thinking it out for himself, linking together his
various thoughts, when he might have found the same thing in a book; it
is a hundred times more valuable if he has acquired it by thinking it
out for himself. For it is only by his thinking it out for himself that
it enters as an integral part, as a living member into the whole system
of his thought, and stands in complete and firm relation with it; that
it is fundamentally understood with all its consequences, and carries
the colour, the shade, the impress of his own way of thinking; and comes
at the very moment, just as the necessity for it is felt, and stands
fast and cannot be forgotten. This is the perfect application, nay,
interpretation of Goethe's

"Was du ererbt von deinen Vaetern hast
Erwirb es um es zu besitzen."

The man who thinks for himself learns the authorities for his opinions
only later on, when they serve merely to strengthen both them and
himself; while the book-philosopher starts from the authorities and
other people's opinions, therefrom constructing a whole for himself; so
that he resembles an automaton, whose composition we do not understand.
The other man, the man who thinks for himself, on the other hand, is
like a living man as made by nature. His mind is impregnated from
without, which then bears and brings forth its child. Truth that has
been merely learned adheres to us like an artificial limb, a false
tooth, a waxen nose, or at best like one made out of another's flesh;
truth which is acquired by thinking for oneself is like a natural
member: it alone really belongs to us. Here we touch upon the difference
between the thinking man and the mere man of learning. Therefore the
intellectual acquirements of the man who thinks for himself are like a
fine painting that stands out full of life, that has its light and shade
correct, the tone sustained, and perfect harmony of colour. The
intellectual attainments of the merely learned man, on the contrary,
resemble a big palette covered with every colour, at most systematically
arranged, but without harmony, relation, and meaning.

* * * * *

_Reading_ is thinking with some one else's head instead of one's own.
But to think for oneself is to endeavour to develop a coherent whole, a
system, even if it is not a strictly complete one. Nothing is more
harmful than, by dint of continual reading, to strengthen the current of
other people's thoughts. These thoughts, springing from different minds,
belonging to different systems, bearing different colours, never flow
together of themselves into a unity of thought, knowledge, insight, or
conviction, but rather cram the head with a Babylonian confusion of
tongues; consequently the mind becomes overcharged with them and is
deprived of all clear insight and almost disorganised. This condition of
things may often be discerned in many men of learning, and it makes them
inferior in sound understanding, correct judgment, and practical tact to
many illiterate men, who, by the aid of experience, conversation, and a
little reading, have acquired a little knowledge from without, and made
it always subordinate to and incorporated it with their own thoughts.

The scientific _thinker_ also does this to a much greater extent.
Although he requires much knowledge and must read a great deal, his mind
is nevertheless strong enough to overcome it all, to assimilate it, to
incorporate it with the system of his thoughts, and to subordinate it to
the organic relative unity of his insight, which is vast and
ever-growing. By this means his own thought, like the bass in an organ,
always takes the lead in everything, and is never deadened by other
sounds, as is the case with purely antiquarian minds; where all sorts of
musical passages, as it were, run into each other, and the fundamental
tone is entirely lost.

* * * * *

The people who have spent their lives in reading and acquired their
wisdom out of books resemble those who have acquired exact information
of a country from the descriptions of many travellers. These people can
relate a great deal about many things; but at heart they have no
connected, clear, sound knowledge of the condition of the country. While
those who have spent their life in thinking are like the people who have
been to that country themselves; they alone really know what it is they
are saying, know the subject in its entirety, and are quite at home in

* * * * *

The ordinary book-philosopher stands in the same relation to a man who
thinks for himself as an eye-witness does to the historian; he speaks
from his own direct comprehension of the subject.

Therefore all who think for themselves hold at bottom much the same
views; when they differ it is because they hold different points of
view, but when these do not alter the matter they all say the same
thing. They merely express what they have grasped from an objective
point of view. I have frequently hesitated to give passages to the
public because of their paradoxical nature, and afterwards to my joyful
surprise have found the same thoughts expressed in the works of great
men of long ago.

The book-philosopher, on the other hand, relates what one man has said
and another man meant, and what a third has objected to, and so on. He
compares, weighs, criticises, and endeavours to get at the truth of the
thing, and in this way resembles the critical historian. For instance,
he will try to find out whether Leibnitz was not for some time in his
life a follower of Spinoza, etc. The curious student will find striking
examples of what I mean in Herbart's _Analytical Elucidation of Morality
and Natural Right_, and in his _Letters on Freedom_. It surprises us
that such a man should give himself so much trouble; for it is evident
that if he had fixed his attention on the matter he would soon have
attained his object by thinking a little for himself.

But there is a small difficulty to overcome; a thing of this kind does
not depend upon our own will. One can sit down at any time and read, but
not--think. It is with thoughts as with men: we cannot always summon
them at pleasure, but must wait until they come. Thought about a subject
must come of its own accord by a happy and harmonious union of external
motive with mental temper and application; and it is precisely that
which never seems to come to these people.

One has an illustration of this in matters that concern our personal
interest. If we have to come to a decision on a thing of this kind we
cannot sit down at any particular moment and thrash out the reasons and
arrive at a decision; for often at such a time our thoughts cannot be
fixed, but will wander off to other things; a dislike to the subject is
sometimes responsible for this. We should not use force, but wait until
the mood appears of itself; it frequently comes unexpectedly and even
repeats itself; the different moods which possess us at the different
times throwing another light on the matter. It is this long process
which is understood by _a ripe resolution_. For the task of making up
our mind must be distributed; much that has been previously overlooked
occurs to us; the aversion also disappears, for, after examining the
matter closer, it seems much more tolerable than it was at first sight.

And in theory it is just the same: a man must wait for the right moment;
even the greatest mind is not always able to think for itself at all
times. Therefore it is advisable for it to use its spare moments in
reading, which, as has been said, is a substitute for one's own thought;
in this way material is imported to the mind by letting another think
for us, although it is always in a way which is different from our own.
For this reason a man should not read too much, in order that his mind
does not become accustomed to the substitute, and consequently even
forget the matter in question; that it may not get used to walking in
paths that have already been trodden, and by following a foreign course
of thought forget its own. Least of all should a man for the sake of
reading entirely withdraw his attention from the real world: as the
impulse and temper which lead one to think for oneself proceed oftener
from it than from reading; for it is the visible and real world in its
primitiveness and strength that is the natural subject of the thinking
mind, and is able more easily than anything else to rouse it. After
these considerations it will not surprise us to find that the thinking
man can easily be distinguished from the book-philosopher by his marked
earnestness, directness, and originality, the personal conviction of all
his thoughts and expressions: the book-philosopher, on the other hand,
has everything second-hand; his ideas are like a collection of old rags
obtained anyhow; he is dull and pointless, resembling a copy of a copy.
His style, which is full of conventional, nay, vulgar phrases and
current terms, resembles a small state where there is a circulation of
foreign money because it coins none of its own.

* * * * *

Mere experience can as little as reading take the place of thought. Mere
empiricism bears the same relation to thinking as eating to digestion
and assimilation. When experience boasts that it alone, by its
discoveries, has advanced human knowledge, it is as though the mouth
boasted that it was its work alone to maintain the body.

The works of all really capable minds are distinguished from all other
works by a character of decision and definiteness, and, in consequence,
of lucidity and clearness. This is because minds like these know
definitely and clearly what they wish to express--whether it be in
prose, in verse, or in music. Other minds are wanting in this decision
and clearness, and therefore may be instantly recognised.

The characteristic sign of a mind of the highest standard is the
directness of its judgment. Everything it utters is the result of
thinking for itself; this is shown everywhere in the way it gives
expression to its thoughts. Therefore it is, like a prince, an imperial
director in the realm of intellect. All other minds are mere delegates,
as may be seen by their style, which has no stamp of its own.

Hence every true thinker for himself is so far like a monarch; he is
absolute, and recognises nobody above him. His judgments, like the
decrees of a monarch, spring from his own sovereign power and proceed
directly from himself. He takes as little notice of authority as a
monarch does of a command; nothing is valid unless he has himself
authorised it. On the other hand, those of vulgar minds, who are swayed
by all kinds of current opinions, authorities, and prejudices, are like
the people which in silence obey the law and commands.

* * * * *

The people who are so eager and impatient to settle disputed questions,
by bringing forward authorities, are really glad when they can place the
understanding and insight of some one else in the field in place of
their own, which are deficient. Their number is legion. For, as Seneca
says, "_Unusquisque mavult credere, quam judicare._"

The weapon they commonly use in their controversies is that of
authorities: they strike each other with it, and whoever is drawn into
the fray will do well not to defend himself with reason and arguments;
for against a weapon of this kind they are like horned Siegfrieds,
immersed in a flood of incapacity for thinking and judging. They will
bring forward their authorities as an _argumentum ad verecundiam_ and
then cry _victoria_.

* * * * *

In the realm of reality, however fair, happy, and pleasant it may prove
to be, we always move controlled by the law of gravity, which we must be
unceasingly overcoming. While in the realm of thought we are disembodied
spirits, uncontrolled by the law of gravity and free from penury.

This is why there is no happiness on earth like that which at the
propitious moment a fine and fruitful mind finds in itself.

* * * * *

The presence of a thought is like the presence of our beloved. We
imagine we shall never forget this thought, and that this loved one
could never be indifferent to us. But out of sight out of mind! The
finest thought runs the risk of being irrevocably forgotten if it is not
written down, and the dear one of being forsaken if we do not marry her.

* * * * *

There are many thoughts which are valuable to the man who thinks them;
but out of them only a few which possess strength to produce either
repercussion or reflex action, that is, to win the reader's sympathy
after they have been written down. It is what a man has thought out
directly _for himself_ that alone has true value. Thinkers may be
classed as follows: those who, in the first place, think for themselves,
and those who think directly for others. The former thinkers are the
genuine, _they think for themselves_ in both senses of the word; they
are the true _philosophers_; they alone are in earnest. Moreover, the
enjoyment and happiness of their existence consist in thinking. The
others are the _sophists_; they wish to _seem_, and seek their happiness
in what they hope to get from other people; their earnestness consists
in this. To which of these two classes a man belongs is soon seen by his
whole method and manner. Lichtenberg is an example of the first class,
while Herder obviously belongs to the second.

* * * * *

When one considers how great and how close to us the _problem of
existence_ is,--this equivocal, tormented, fleeting, dream-like
existence--so great and so close that as soon as one perceives it, it
overshadows and conceals all other problems and aims;--and when one sees
how all men--with a few and rare exceptions--are not clearly conscious
of the problem, nay, do not even seem to see it, but trouble themselves
about everything else rather than this, and live on taking thought only
for the present day and the scarcely longer span of their own personal
future, while they either expressly give the problem up or are ready to
agree with it, by the aid of some system of popular metaphysics, and are
satisfied with this;--when one, I say, reflects upon this, so may one be
of the opinion that man is a _thinking being_ only in a very remote
sense, and not feel any special surprise at any trait of thoughtlessness
or folly; but know, rather, that the intellectual outlook of the normal
man indeed surpasses that of the brute,--whose whole existence resembles
a continual present without any consciousness of the future or the
past--but, however, not to such an extent as one is wont to suppose.

And corresponding to this, we find in the conversation of most men that
their thoughts are cut up as small as chaff, making it impossible for
them to spin out the thread of their discourse to any length. If this
world were peopled by really thinking beings, noise of every kind would
not be so universally tolerated, as indeed the most horrible and aimless
form of it is.[12] If Nature had intended man to think she would not
have given him ears, or, at any rate, she would have furnished them with
air-tight flaps like the bat, which for this reason is to be envied.
But, in truth, man is like the rest, a poor animal, whose powers are
calculated only to maintain him during his existence; therefore he
requires to have his ears always open to announce of themselves, by
night as by day, the approach of the pursuer.


[12] See Essay on Noise, p. 28.



_Thrasymachos._ Tell me briefly, what shall I be after my death? Be
clear and precise.

_Philalethes._ Everything and nothing.

_Thras._ That is what I expected. You solve the problem by a
contradiction. That trick is played out.

_Phil._ To answer transcendental questions in language that is made for
immanent knowledge must assuredly lead to a contradiction.

_Thras._ What do you call transcendental knowledge, and what immanent?
It is true these expressions are known to me, for my professor used
them, but only as predicates of God, and as his philosophy had
exclusively to do with God, their use was quite appropriate. For
instance, if God was in the world, He was immanent; if He was somewhere
outside it, He was transcendent. That is clear and comprehensible. One
knows how things stand. But your old-fashioned Kantian doctrine is no
longer understood. There has been quite a succession of great men in the
metropolis of German learning----

_Phil. (aside)._ German philosophical nonsense!

_Thras._----such as the eminent Schleiermacher and that gigantic mind
Hegel; and to-day we have left all that sort of thing behind, or rather
we are so far ahead of it that it is out of date and known no more.
Therefore, what good is it?

_Phil._ Transcendental knowledge is that which, going beyond the
boundary of possible experience, endeavours to determine the nature of
things as they are in themselves; while immanent knowledge keeps itself
within the boundary of possible experience, therefore it can only apply
to phenomena. As an individual, with your death there will be an end of
you. But your individuality is not your true and final being, indeed it
is rather the mere expression of it; it is not the thing-in-itself but
only the phenomenon presented in the form of time, and accordingly has
both a beginning and an end. Your being in itself, on the contrary,
knows neither time, nor beginning, nor end, nor the limits of a given
individuality; hence no individuality can be without it, but it is there
in each and all. So that, in the first sense, after death you become
nothing; in the second, you are and remain everything. That is why I
said that after death you would be all and nothing. It is difficult to
give you a more exact answer to your question than this and to be brief
at the same time; but here we have undoubtedly another contradiction;
this is because your life is in time and your immortality in eternity.
Hence your immortality may be said to be something that is
indestructible and yet has no endurance--which is again contradictory,
you see. This is what happens when transcendental knowledge is brought
within the boundary of immanent knowledge; in doing this some sort of
violence is done to the latter, since it is used for things for which it
was not intended.

_Thras._ Listen; without I retain my individuality I shall not give a
_sou_ for your immortality.

_Phil._ Perhaps you will allow me to explain further. Suppose I
guarantee that you will retain your individuality, on condition,
however, that you spend three months in absolute unconsciousness before
you awaken.

_Thras._ I consent to that.

_Phil._ Well then, as we have no idea of time when in a perfectly
unconscious state, it is all the same to us when we are dead whether
three months or ten thousand years pass away in the world of
consciousness. For in the one case, as in the other, we must accept on
faith and trust what we are told when we awake. Accordingly it will be
all the same to you whether your individuality is restored to you after
the lapse of three months or ten thousand years.

_Thras._ At bottom, that cannot very well be denied.

_Phil._ But if, at the end of those ten thousand years, some one has
quite forgotten to waken you, I imagine that you would have become
accustomed to that long state of non-existence, following such a very
short existence, and that the misfortune would not be very great.
However, it is quite certain that you would know nothing about it. And
again, it would fully console you to know that the mysterious power
which gives life to your present phenomenon had never ceased for one
moment during the ten thousand years to produce other phenomena of a
like nature and to give them life.

_Thras._ Indeed! And so it is in this way that you fancy you can
quietly, and without my knowing, cheat me of my individuality? But you
cannot cozen me in this way. I have stipulated for the retaining of my
individuality, and neither mysterious forces nor phenomena can console
me for the loss of it. It is dear to me, and I shall not let it go.

_Phil._ That is to say, you regard your individuality as something so
very delightful, excellent, perfect, and incomparable that there is
nothing better than it; would you not exchange it for another, according
to what is told us, that is better and more lasting?

_Thras._ Look here, be my individuality what it may, it is myself,

"For God is God, and I am I."

I--I--I want to exist! That is what I care about, and not an existence
which has to be reasoned out first in order to show that it is mine.

_Phil._ Look what you are doing! When you say, _I--I--I want to exist_
you alone do not say this, but everything, absolutely everything, that
has only a vestige of consciousness. Consequently this desire of yours
is just that which is _not_ individual but which is common to all
without distinction. It does not proceed from individuality, but from
_existence_ in general; it is the essential in everything that exists,
nay, it is _that_ whereby anything has existence at all; accordingly it
is concerned and satisfied only with existence _in general_ and not with
any definite individual existence; this is not its aim. It has the
appearance of being so because it can attain consciousness only in an
individual existence, and consequently looks as if it were entirely
concerned with that. This is nothing but an illusion which has entangled
the individual; but by reflection, it can be dissipated and we ourselves
set free. It is only _indirectly_ that the individual has this great
longing for existence; it is the will to live in general that has this
longing directly and really, a longing that is one and the same in
everything. Since, then, existence itself is the free work of the will,
nay, the mere reflection of it, existence cannot be apart from will, and
the latter will be provisionally satisfied with existence in general, in
so far, namely, as that which is eternally dissatisfied can be
satisfied. The will is indifferent to individuality; it has nothing to
do with it, although it appears to, because the individual is _only_
directly conscious of will in himself. From this it is to be gathered
that the individual carefully guards his own existence; moreover, if
this were not so, the preservation of the species would not be assured.
From all this it follows that individuality is not a state of perfection
but of limitation; so that to be freed from it is not loss but rather
gain. Don't let this trouble you any further, it will, forsooth, appear
to you both childish and extremely ridiculous when you completely and
thoroughly recognise what you are, namely, that your own existence is
the universal will to live.

_Thras._ You are childish yourself and extremely ridiculous, and so are
all philosophers; and when a sedate man like myself lets himself in for
a quarter of an hour's talk with such fools, it is merely for the sake
of amusement and to while away the time. I have more important matters
to look to now; so, adieu!



_Demopheles._ Between ourselves, dear old friend, I am sometimes
dissatisfied with you in your capacity as philosopher; you talk
sarcastically about religion, nay, openly ridicule it. The religion of
every one is sacred to him, and so it should be to you.

_Philalethes. Nego consequentiam!_ I don't see at all why I should have
respect for lies and frauds because other people are stupid. I respect
truth everywhere, and it is precisely for that reason that I cannot
respect anything that is opposed to it. My maxim is, _Vigeat veritas, et
pereat mundus_, the same as the lawyer's _Fiat justitia, et pereat
mundus._ Every profession ought to have an analogous device.

_Demop._ Then that of the medical profession would be, _Fiant pilulae,
et pereat mundus_, which would be the easiest to carry out.

_Phil._ Heaven forbid! Everything must be taken _cum grano salis_.

_Demop._ Exactly; and it is just for that reason that I want you to
accept religion _cum grano salis_, and to see that the needs of the
people must be met according to their powers of comprehension. Religion
affords the only means of proclaiming and making the masses of crude
minds and awkward intelligences, sunk in petty pursuits and material
work, feel the high import of life. For the ordinary type of man,
primarily, has no thought for anything else but what satisfies his
physical needs and longings, and accordingly affords him a little
amusement and pastime. Founders of religion and philosophers come into
the world to shake him out of his torpidity and show him the high
significance of existence: philosophers for the few, the emancipated;
founders of religion for the many, humanity at large. For [Greek:
philosophon plaethos adynaton einai], as your friend Plato has said, and
you should not forget it. Religion is the metaphysics of the people,
which by all means they must keep; and hence it must be eternally
respected, for to discredit it means taking it away. Just as there is
popular poetry, popular wisdom in proverbs, so too there must be popular
metaphysics; for mankind requires most certainly _an interpretation of
life_, and it must be in keeping with its power of comprehension. So
that this interpretation is at all times an allegorical investiture of
the truth, and it fulfils, as far as practical life and our feelings are
concerned--that is to say, as a guidance in our affairs, and as a
comfort and consolation in suffering and death--perhaps just as much as
truth itself could, if we possessed it. Don't be hurt at its unpolished,
baroque, and apparently absurd form, for you, with your education and
learning, cannot imagine the roundabout ways that must be used in order
to make people in their crude state understand deep truths. The various
religions are only various forms in which the people grasp and
understand the truth, which in itself they could not grasp, and which is
inseparable from these forms. Therefore, my dear fellow, don't be
displeased if I tell you that to ridicule these forms is both
narrow-minded and unjust.

_Phil._ But is it not equally narrow-minded and unjust to require that
there shall be no other metaphysics but this one cut out to meet the
needs and comprehension of the people? that its teachings shall be the
boundary of human researches and the standard of all thought, so that
the metaphysics of the few, the emancipated, as you call them, must aim
at confirming, strengthening, and interpreting the metaphysics of the
people? That is, that the highest faculties of the human mind must
remain unused and undeveloped, nay, be nipped in the bud, so that their
activity may not thwart the popular metaphysics? And at bottom are not
the claims that religion makes just the same? Is it right to have
tolerance, nay, gentle forbearance, preached by what is intolerance and
cruelty itself? Let me remind you of the heretical tribunals,
inquisitions, religious wars and crusades, of Socrates' cup of poison,
of Bruno's and Vanini's death in the flames. And is all this to-day
something belonging to the past? What can stand more in the way of
genuine philosophical effort, honest inquiry after truth, the noblest
calling of the noblest of mankind, than this conventional system of
metaphysics invested with a monopoly from the State, whose principles
are inculcated so earnestly, deeply, and firmly into every head in
earliest youth as to make them, unless the mind is of miraculous
elasticity, become ineradicable? The result is that the basis of healthy
reasoning is once and for all deranged--in other words, its feeble
capacity for thinking for itself, and for unbiassed judgment in regard
to everything to which it might be applied, is for ever paralysed and

_Demop,_ Which really means that the people have gained a conviction
which they will not give up in order to accept yours in its place.

_Phil._ Ah! if it were only conviction based on insight, one would then
be able to bring forward arguments and fight the battle with equal
weapons. But religions admittedly do not lend themselves to conviction
after argument has been brought to bear, but to belief as brought about
by revelation. The capacity for belief is strongest in childhood;
therefore one is most careful to take possession of this tender age. It
is much more through this than through threats and reports of miracles
that the doctrines of belief take root. If in early childhood certain
fundamental views and doctrines are preached with unusual solemnity and
in a manner of great earnestness, the like of which has never been seen
before, and if, too, the possibility of a doubt about them is either
completely ignored or only touched upon in order to show that doubt is
the first step to everlasting perdition; the result is that the
impression will be so profound that, as a rule, that is to say in almost
every case, a man will be almost as incapable of doubting the truth of
those doctrines as he is of doubting his own existence. Hence it is
scarcely one in many thousands that has the strength of mind to honestly
and seriously ask himself--is that true? Those who are able to do this
have been more appropriately styled strong minds, _esprits forts_, than
is imagined. For the commonplace mind, however, there is nothing so
absurd or revolting but what, if inoculated in this way, the firmest
belief in it will take root. If, for example, the killing of a heretic
or an infidel were an essential matter for the future salvation of the
soul, almost every one would make it the principal object of his life,
and in dying get consolation and strength from the remembrance of his
having succeeded; just as, in truth, in former times almost every
Spaniard looked upon an _auto da fe_ as the most pious of acts and one
most pleasing to God.

We have an analogy to this in India in the _Thugs_, a religious body
quite recently suppressed by the English, who executed numbers of them.
They showed their regard for religion and veneration for the goddess
Kali by assassinating at every opportunity their own friends and
fellow-travellers, so that they might obtain their possessions, and they
were seriously convinced that thereby they had accomplished something
that was praiseworthy and would contribute to their eternal welfare. The
power of religious dogma, that has been inculcated early, is so great
that it destroys conscience, and finally all compassion and sense of
humanity. But if you wish to see with your own eyes, and close at hand,
what early inoculation of belief does, look at the English. Look at this
nation, favoured by nature before all others, endowed before all others
with reason, intelligence, power of judgment, and firmness of character;
look at these people degraded, nay, made despicable among all others by
their stupid ecclesiastical superstition, which among their other
capacities appears like a fixed idea, a monomania. For this they have to
thank the clergy in whose hands education is, and who take care to
inculcate all the articles, of belief at the earliest age in such a way
as to result in a kind of partial paralysis of the brain; this then
shows itself throughout their whole life in a silly bigotry, making even
extremely intelligent and capable people among them degrade themselves
so that they become quite an enigma to us. If we consider how essential
to such a masterpiece is inoculation of belief in the tender age of
childhood, the system of missions appears no longer merely as the height
of human importunity, arrogance, and impertinence, but also of
absurdity; in so far as it does not confine itself to people who are
still in the stage of _childhood_, such as the Hottentots, Kaffirs,
South Sea Islanders, and others like them, among whom it has been really
successful. While, on the other hand, in India the Brahmans receive the
doctrines of missionaries either with a smile of condescending approval
or refuse them with a shrug of their shoulders; and among these people
in general, notwithstanding the most favourable circumstances, the
missionaries' attempts at conversion are usually wrecked. An authentic
report in vol. xxi. of the _Asiatic Journal_ of 1826 shows that after so
many years of missionary activity in the whole of India (of which the
English possessions alone amount to one hundred and fifteen million
inhabitants) there are not more than three hundred living converts to be
found; and at the same time it is admitted that the Christian converts
are distinguished for their extreme immorality. There are only three
hundred venal and bribed souls out of so many millions. I cannot see
that it has gone better with Christianity in India since then, although
the missionaries are now trying, contrary to agreement, to work on the
children's minds in schools exclusively devoted to secular English
instruction, in order to smuggle in Christianity, against which,
however, the Hindoos are most jealously on their guard. For, as has been
said, childhood is the time, and not manhood, to sow the seeds of
belief, especially where an earlier belief has taken root. An acquired
conviction, however, that is assumed by matured converts serves,
generally, as only the mask for some kind of personal interest. And it
is the feeling that this could hardly be otherwise that makes a man, who
changes his religion at maturity, despised by most people everywhere; a
fact which reveals that they do not regard religion as a matter of
reasoned conviction but merely as a belief inoculated in early
childhood, before it has been put to any test. That they are right in
looking at religion in this way is to be gathered from the fact that it
is not only the blind, credulous masses, but also the clergy of every
religion, who, as such, have studied its sources, arguments, dogmas and
differences, who cling faithfully and zealously as a body to the
religion of their fatherland; consequently it is the rarest thing in the
world for a priest to change from one religion or creed to another. For
instance, we see that the Catholic clergy are absolutely convinced of
the truth of all the principles of their Church, and that the
Protestants are also of theirs, and that both defend the principles of
their confession with like zeal. And yet the conviction is the outcome
merely of the country in which each is born: the truth of the Catholic
dogma is perfectly clear to the clergy of South Germany, the Protestant
to the clergy of North Germany. If, therefore, these convictions rest on
objective reasons, these reasons must be climatic and thrive like
plants, some only here, some only there. The masses everywhere, however,
accept on trust and faith the convictions of those who are _locally

_Demop._ That doesn't matter, for essentially it makes no difference.
For instance, Protestantism in reality is more suited to the north,
Catholicism to the south.

_Phil._ So it appears. Still, I take a higher point of view, and have
before me a more important object, namely, the progress of the knowledge
of truth among the human race. It is a frightful condition of things
that, wherever a man is born, certain propositions are inculcated in his
earliest youth, and he is assured that under penalty of forfeiting
eternal salvation he may never entertain any doubt about them; in so
far, that is, as they are propositions which influence the foundation of
all our other knowledge and accordingly decide for ever our point of
view, and if they are false, upset it for ever. Further, as the
influences drawn from these propositions make inroads everywhere into
the entire system of our knowledge, the whole of human knowledge is
through and through affected by them. This is proved by every
literature, and most conspicuously by that of the Middle Age, but also,
in too great an extent, by that of the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries. We see how paralysed even the minds of the first rank of all
those epochs were by such false fundamental conceptions; and how
especially all insight into the true substance and working of Nature was
hemmed in on every side. During the whole of the Christian period Theism
lay like a kind of oppressive nightmare on all intellectual effort, and
on philosophical effort in particular, hindering and arresting all
progress. For the men of learning of those epochs, God, devil, angels,
demons, hid the whole of Nature; no investigation was carried out to the
end, no matter sifted to the bottom; everything that was beyond the most
obvious _causal nexus_ was immediately attributed to these; so that, as
Pomponatius expressed himself at the time, _Certe philosophi nihil
verisimile habent ad haec, quare necesse est, ad Deum, ad angelos et
daemones recurrere._ It is true that there is a suspicion of irony in
what this man says, as his malice in other ways is known, nevertheless
he has expressed the general way of thinking of his age. If any one, on
the other hand, possessed that rare elasticity of mind which alone
enabled him to free himself from the fetters, his writings, and he
himself with them, were burnt; as happened to Bruno and Vanini. But how
absolutely paralysed the ordinary mind is by that early metaphysical
preparation may be seen most strikingly, and from its most ridiculous
side, when it undertakes to criticise the doctrines of a foreign belief.
One finds the ordinary man, as a rule, merely trying to carefully prove
that the dogmas of the foreign belief do not agree with those of his
own; he labours to explain that not only do they not say the same, but
certainly do not mean the same thing as his. With that he fancies in his
simplicity that he has proved the falsity of the doctrines of the alien
belief. It really never occurs to him to ask the question which of the
two is right; but his own articles of belief are to him as _a priori_
certain principles. The Rev. Mr. Morrison has furnished an amusing
example of this kind in vol. xx. of the _Asiatic Journal_ wherein he
criticises the religion and philosophy of the Chinese.

_Demop._ So that's your higher point of view. But I assure you that
there is a higher still. _Primum vivere, deinde philosophari_ is of more
comprehensive significance than one supposes at first sight. Before
everything else, the raw and wicked tendencies of the masses ought to be
restrained, in order to protect them from doing anything that is
extremely unjust, or committing cruel, violent, and disgraceful deeds.
If one waited until they recognised and grasped the truth one would
assuredly come too late. And supposing they had already found truth, it
would surpass their powers of comprehension. In any case it would be a
mere allegorical investiture of truth, a parable, or a myth that would
be of any good to them. There must be, as Kant has said, a public
standard of right and virtue, nay, this must at all times flutter high.
It is all the same in the end what kind of heraldic figures are
represented on it, if they only indicate what is meant. Such an
allegorical truth is at all times and everywhere, for mankind at large,
a beneficial substitute for an eternally unattainable truth, and in
general, for a philosophy which it can never grasp; to say nothing of
its changing its form daily, and not having as yet attained any kind of
general recognition. Therefore practical aims, my good Philalethes, have
in every way the advantage of theoretical.

_Phil._ This closely resembles the ancient advice of Timaeus of Locrus,
the Pythagorean: [Greek: tas psychas apeirgomes pseudesi logois, ei ka
mae agaetai alathesi].[13] And I almost suspect that it is your wish,
according to the fashion of to-day, to remind me--

"Good friend, the time is near
When we may feast off what is good in peace."

And your recommendation means that we should take care in time, so that
the waves of the dissatisfied, raging masses may not disturb us at
table. But the whole of this point of view is as false as it is nowadays
universally liked and praised; this is why I make haste to put in a
protest against it. It is _false_ that state, justice, and law cannot be
maintained without the aid of religion and its articles of belief, and
that justice and police regulations need religion as a complement in
order to carry out legislative arrangements. It is _false_ if it were
repeated a hundred times. For the ancients, and especially the Greeks,
furnish us with striking _instantia in contrarium_ founded on fact. They
had absolutely nothing of what we understand by religion. They had no
sacred documents, no dogma to be learnt, and its acceptance advanced by
every one, and its principles inculcated early in youth. The servants of
religion preached just as little about morals, and the ministers
concerned themselves very little about any kind of morality or in
general about what the people either did or left undone. No such thing.
But the duty of the priests was confined merely to temple ceremonies,
prayers, songs, sacrifices, processions, lustrations, and the like, all
of which aimed at anything but the moral improvement of the individual.
The whole of their so-called religion consisted, and particularly in the
towns, in some of the _deorum majorum gentium_ having temples here and
there, in which the aforesaid worship was conducted as an affair of
state, when in reality it was an affair of police. No one, except the
functionaries engaged, was obliged in any way to be present, or even to
believe in it. In the whole of antiquity there is no trace of any
obligation to believe in any kind of dogma. It was merely any one who
openly denied the existence of the gods or calumniated them that was
punished; because by so doing he insulted the state which served these
gods; beyond this every one was allowed to think what he chose of them.
If any one wished to win the favour of these gods privately by prayer or
sacrifice he was free to do so at his own cost and risk; if he did not
do it, no one had anything to say against it, and least of all the
State. Every Roman had his own Lares and Penates at home, which were,
however, at bottom nothing more than the revered portraits of his
ancestors. The ancients had no kind of decisive, clear, and least of all
dogmatically fixed ideas about the immortality of the soul and a life
hereafter, but every one in his own way had lax, vacillating, and
problematical ideas; and their ideas about the gods were just as
various, individual, and vague. So that the ancients had really no
_religion_ in our sense of the word. Was it for this reason that anarchy
and lawlessness reigned among them? Is not law and civil order rather so
much their work, that it still constitutes the foundation of ours? Was
not property perfectly secure, although it consisted of slaves for the
greater part? And did not this condition of things last longer than a
thousand years?

So I cannot perceive, and must protest against the practical aims and
necessity of religion in the sense which you have indicated, and in such
general favour to-day, namely, as an indispensable foundation of all
legislative regulations. For from such a standpoint the pure and sacred
striving after light and truth, to say the least, would seem quixotic
and criminal if it should venture in its feeling of justice to denounce
the authoritative belief as a usurper who has taken possession of the
throne of truth and maintained it by continuing the deception.

_Demop._ But religion is not opposed to truth; for it itself teaches
truth. Only it must not allow truth to appear in its naked form, because
its sphere of activity is not a narrow auditory, but the world and
humanity at large, and therefore it must conform to the requirements and
comprehension of so great and mixed a public; or, to use a medical
simile, it must not present it pure, but must as a medium make use of a
mythical vehicle. Truth may also be compared in this respect to certain
chemical stuffs which in themselves are gaseous, but which for official
uses, as also for preservation or transmission, must be bound to a firm,
palpable base, because they would otherwise volatilise. For example,
chlorine is for all such purposes applied only in the form of chlorides.
But if truth, pure, abstract, and free from anything of a mythical
nature, is always to remain unattainable by us all, philosophers
included, it might be compared to fluorine, which cannot be presented by
itself alone, but only when combined with other stuffs. Or, to take a
simpler simile, truth, which cannot be expressed in any other way than
by myth and allegory, is like water that cannot be transported without a
vessel; but philosophers, who insist upon possessing it pure, are like a
person who breaks the vessel in order to get the water by itself. This
is perhaps a true analogy. At any rate, religion is truth allegorically
and mythically expressed, and thereby made possible and digestible to
mankind at large. For mankind could by no means digest it pure and
unadulterated, just as we cannot live in pure oxygen but require an
addition of four-fifths of nitrogen. And without speaking figuratively,
the profound significance and high aim of life can only be revealed and
shown to the masses symbolically, because they are not capable of
grasping life in its real sense; while philosophy should be like the
Eleusinian mysteries, for the few, the elect.

_Phil._ I understand. The matter resolves itself into truth putting on
the dress of falsehood. But in doing so it enters into a fatal alliance.
What a dangerous weapon is given into the hands of those who have the
authority to make use of falsehood as the vehicle of truth! If such is
the case, I fear there will be more harm caused by the falsehood than
good derived from the truth. If the allegory were admitted to be such, I
should say nothing against it; but in that case it would be deprived of
all respect, and consequently of all efficacy. Therefore the allegory
must assert a claim, which it must maintain, to be true in _sensu
proprio_ while at the most it is true in _sensu allegorico_. Here lies
the incurable mischief, the permanent evil; and therefore religion is
always in conflict, and always will be with the free and noble striving
after pure truth.

_Demop_. Indeed, no. Care has been taken to prevent that. If religion
may not exactly admit its allegorical nature, it indicates it at any
rate sufficiently.

_Phil_. And in what way does it do that?

_Demop_. In its mysteries. _Mystery_ is at bottom only the theological
_terminus technicus_ for religious allegory. All religions have their
mysteries. In reality, a mystery is a palpably absurd dogma which
conceals in itself a lofty truth, which by itself would be absolutely
incomprehensible to the ordinary intelligence of the raw masses. The
masses accept it in this disguise on trust and faith, without allowing
themselves to be led astray by its absurdity, which is palpable to them;
and thereby they participate in the kernel of the matter so far as they
are able. I may add as an explanation that the use of mystery has been
attempted even in philosophy; for example, when Pascal, who was pietest,
mathematician, and philosopher in one, says in this threefold character:
_God is everywhere centre and nowhere periphery_. Malebranche has also
truly remarked, _La liberte est un mystere_. One might go further, and
maintain that in religions everything is really mystery. For it is
utterly impossible to impart truth in _sensu proprio_ to the multitude
in its crudity; it is only a mythical and allegorical reflection of it
that can fall to its share and enlighten it. Naked truth must not appear
before the eyes of the profane vulgar; it can only appear before them
closely veiled. And it is for this reason that it is unfair to demand of
a religion that it should be true in _sensu proprio_, and that, _en
passant_. Rationalists and Supernaturalists of to-day are so absurd.
They both start with the supposition that religion must be the truth;
and while the former prove that it is not, the latter obstinately
maintain that it is; or rather the former cut up and dress the allegory
in such a way that it could be true in _sensu proprio_ but would in that
case become a platitude. The latter wish to maintain, without further
dressing, that it is true in _sensu proprio_, which, as they should
know, can only be carried into execution by inquisitions and the stake.
While in reality, myth and allegory are the essential elements of
religion, but under the indispensable condition (because of the
intellectual limitations of the great masses) that it supplies enough
satisfaction to meet those metaphysical needs of mankind which are
ineradicable, and that it takes the place of pure philosophical truth,
which is infinitely difficult, and perhaps never attainable.

_Phil._ Yes, pretty much in the same way as a wooden leg takes the place
of a natural one. It supplies what is wanting, does very poor service
for it, and claims to be regarded as a natural leg, and is more or less
cleverly put together. There is a difference, however, for, as a rule,
the natural leg was in existence before the wooden one, while religion
everywhere has gained the start of philosophy.

_Demop._ That may be; but a wooden leg is of great value to those who
have no natural leg. You must keep in view that the metaphysical
requirements of man absolutely demand satisfaction; because the horizon
of his thoughts must be defined and not remain unlimited. A man, as a
rule, has no faculty of judgment for weighing reasons, and
distinguishing between what is true and what is false. Moreover, the
work imposed upon him by nature and her requirements leaves him no time
for investigations of that kind, or for the education which they
presuppose. Therefore it is entirely out of the question to imagine he
will be convinced by reasons; there is nothing left for him but belief
and authority. Even if a really true philosophy took the place of
religion, at least nine-tenths of mankind would only accept it on
authority, so that it would be again a matter of belief; for Plato's
[Greek: philosophon plaethos adynaton einai] will always hold good.
Authority, however, is only established by time and circumstances, so
that we cannot bestow it on that which has only reason to commend it;
accordingly, we must grant it only to that which has attained it in the
course of history, even if it is only truth represented allegorically.
This kind of truth, supported by authority, appeals directly to the
essentially metaphysical temperament of man--that is, to his need of a
theory concerning the riddle of existence, which thrusts itself upon
him, and arises from the consciousness that behind the physical in the
world there must be a metaphysical, an unchangeable something, which
serves as the foundation of constant change. It also appeals to the
will, fears, and hopes of mortals living in constant need; religion
provides them with gods, demons, to whom they call, appease, and
conciliate. Finally, it appeals to their moral consciousness, which is
undeniably present, and lends to it that authenticity and support from
without--a support without which it would not easily maintain itself in
the struggle against so many temptations. It is exactly from this side
that religion provides an inexhaustible source of consolation and
comfort in the countless and great sorrows of life, a comfort which does
not leave men in death, but rather then unfolds its full efficacy. So
that religion is like some one taking hold of the hand of a blind person
and leading him, since he cannot see for himself; all that the blind
person wants is to attain his end, not to see everything as he walks

_Phil._ This side is certainly the brilliant side of religion. If it is
a _fraus_ it is indeed a _pia fraus_; that cannot be denied. Then
priests become something between deceivers and moralists. For they dare
not teach the real truth, as you yourself have quite correctly
explained, even if it were known to them; which it is not. There can, at
any rate, be a true philosophy, but there can be no true religion: I
mean true in the real and proper understanding of the word, not merely
in that flowery and allegorical sense which you have described, a sense
in which every religion would be true only in different degrees. It is
certainly quite in harmony with the inextricable admixture of good and
evil, honesty and dishonesty, goodness and wickedness, magnanimity and
baseness, which the world presents everywhere, that the most important,
the most lofty, and the most sacred truths can make their appearance
only in combination with a lie, nay, can borrow strength from a lie as
something that affects mankind more powerfully; and as revelation must
be introduced by a lie. One might regard this fact as the _monogram_ of
the moral world. Meanwhile let us not give up the hope that mankind will
some day attain that point of maturity and education at which it is able
to produce a true philosophy on the one hand, and accept it on the
other. _Simplex sigillum veri_: the naked truth must be so simple and
comprehensible that one can impart it to all in its true form without
any admixture of myth and fable (a pack of lies)--in other words,
without masking it as _religion_.

_Demop._ You have not a sufficient idea of the wretched capacities of
the masses.

_Phil._ I express it only as a hope; but to give it up is impossible. In
that case, if truth were in a simpler and more comprehensible form, it
would surely soon drive religion from the position of vicegerent which
it has so long held. Then religion will have fulfilled her mission and
finished her course; she might then dismiss the race which she has
guided to maturity and herself retire in peace. This will be the
_euthanasia_ of religion. However, as long as she lives she has two
faces, one of truth and one of deceit. According as one looks
attentively at one or the other one will like or dislike her. Hence
religion must be regarded as a necessary evil, its necessity resting on
the pitiful weak-mindedness of the great majority of mankind, incapable
of grasping the truth, and consequently when in extremity requires a
substitute for truth.

_Demop._ Really, one would think that you philosophers had truth lying
in readiness, and all that one had to do was to lay hold of it.

_Phil._ If we have not got it, it is principally to be ascribed to the
pressure under which philosophy, at all periods and in all countries,
has been held by religion. We have tried to make not only the expression
and communication of truth impossible, but even the contemplation and
discovery of it, by giving the minds of children in earliest childhood
into the hands of priests to be worked upon; to have the groove in which
their fundamental thoughts are henceforth to run so firmly imprinted, as
in principal matters, to become fixed and determined for a lifetime. I
am sometimes shocked to see when I take into my hand the writings of
even the most intelligent minds of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, and especially if I have just left my oriental studies, how
paralysed and hemmed in on all sides they are by Jewish notions.
Prepared in this way, one cannot form any idea of the true philosophy!

_Demop._ And if, moreover, this true philosophy were discovered,
religion would not cease to exist, as you imagine. There cannot be one
system of metaphysics for everybody; the natural differences of
intellectual power in addition to those of education make this
impossible. The great majority of mankind must necessarily be engaged in
that arduous bodily labour which is requisite in order to furnish the
endless needs of the whole race. Not only does this leave the majority
no time for education, for learning, or for reflection; but by virtue of
the strong antagonism between merely physical and intellectual
qualities, much excessive bodily labour blunts the understanding and
makes it heavy, clumsy, and awkward, and consequently incapable of
grasping any other than perfectly simple and palpable matters. At least
nine-tenths of the human race comes under this category. People require
a system of metaphysics, that is, an account of the world and our
existence, because such an account belongs to the most natural
requirements of mankind. They require also a popular system of
metaphysics, which, in order for it to be this, must combine many rare
qualities; for instance, it must be exceedingly lucid, and yet in the
right places be obscure, nay, to a certain extent, impenetrable; then a
correct and satisfying moral system must be combined with its dogmas;
above everything, it must bring inexhaustible consolation in suffering
and death. It follows from this that it can only be true in _sensu
allegorico_ and not in _sensu proprio_. Further, it must have the
support of an authority which is imposing by its great age, by its
general recognition, by its documents, together with their tone and
statements--qualities which are so infinitely difficult to combine that
many a man, if he stopped to reflect, would not be so ready to help to
undermine a religion, but would consider it the most sacred treasure of
the people. If any one wants to criticise religion he should always bear
in mind the nature of the great masses for which it is destined, and
picture to himself their complete moral and intellectual inferiority. It
is incredible how far this inferiority goes and how steadily a spark of
truth will continue to glimmer even under the crudest veiling of
monstrous fables and grotesque ceremonies, adhering indelibly, like the
perfume of musk, to everything which has come in contact with it. As an
illustration of this, look at the profound wisdom which is revealed in
the Upanishads, and then look at the mad idolatry in the India of
to-day, as is revealed in its pilgrimages, processions, and festivities,
or at the mad and ludicrous doings of the Saniassi of the present time.
Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that in all this madness and absurdity
there yet lies something that is hidden from view, something that is in
accordance with, or a reflection of the profound wisdom that has been
mentioned. It requires this kind of dressing-up for the great brute
masses. In this antithesis we have before us the two poles of
humanity:--the wisdom of the individual and the bestiality of the
masses, both of which, however, find their point of harmony in the moral
kingdom. Who has not thought of the saying from the Kurral--"Vulgar
people look like men; but I have never seen anything like them." The
more highly cultured man may always explain religion to himself _cum
grano salis_; the man of learning, the thoughtful mind, may, in secret,
exchange it for a philosophy. And yet _one_ philosophy would not do for
everybody; each philosophy by the laws of affinity attracts a public to
whose education and mental capacities it is fitted. So there is always
an inferior metaphysical system of the schools for the educated
plebeians, and a higher system for the _elite_. Kant's lofty doctrine,
for example, was degraded to meet the requirements of the schools, and
ruined by Fries, Krug, Salat, and similar people. In short, Goethe's
dictum is as applicable here as anywhere: _One does not suit all_. Pure
belief in revelation and pure metaphysics are for the two extremes; and
for the intermediate steps mutual modifications of both in countless
combinations and gradations. The immeasurable differences which nature
and education place between men have made this necessary.

_Phil._ This point of view reminds me seriously of the mysteries of the
ancients which you have already mentioned; their aim at bottom seems to
have lain in remedying the evil arising out of the differences of mental
capacities and education. Their plan was to single out of the great
multitude a few people, to whom the unveiled truth was absolutely
incomprehensible, and to reveal the truth to them up to a certain point;
then out of these they singled out others to whom they revealed more, as
they were able to grasp more; and so on up to the Epopts. And so we got
[Greek: mikra, kai meizona, kai megista mystaeria]. The plan was based
on a correct knowledge of the intellectual inequality of mankind.

_Demop_. To a certain extent the education in our lower, middle, and
high schools represents the different forms of initiation into the


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