The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer; Religion, A Dialogue, Etc.
Arthur Schopenhauer













Schopenhauer is one of the few philosophers who can be generally
understood without a commentary. All his theories claim to be drawn
direct from the facts, to be suggested by observation, and to interpret
the world as it is; and whatever view he takes, he is constant in his
appeal to the experience of common life. This characteristic endows his
style with a freshness and vigor which would be difficult to match in
the philosophical writing of any country, and impossible in that of
Germany. If it were asked whether there were any circumstances apart
from heredity, to which he owed his mental habit, the answer might be
found in the abnormal character of his early education, his acquaintance
with the world rather than with books, the extensive travels of his
boyhood, his ardent pursuit of knowledge for its own sake and without
regard to the emoluments and endowments of learning. He was trained in
realities even more than in ideas; and hence he is original, forcible,
clear, an enemy of all philosophic indefiniteness and obscurity; so that
it may well be said of him, in the words of a writer in the _Revue
Contemporaine, ce n'est pas un philosophe comme les autres, c'est un
philosophe qui a vu le monde_.

It is not my purpose, nor would it be possible within the limits of a
prefatory note, to attempt an account of Schopenhauer's philosophy, to
indicate its sources, or to suggest or rebut the objections which may be
taken to it. M. Ribot, in his excellent little book, [Footnote: _La
Philosophie de Schopenhauer_, par Th. Ribot.] has done all that is
necessary in this direction. But the essays here presented need a word
of explanation. It should be observed, and Schopenhauer himself is at
pains to point out, that his system is like a citadel with a hundred
gates: at whatever point you take it up, wherever you make your
entrance, you are on the road to the center. In this respect his
writings resemble a series of essays composed in support of a single
thesis; a circumstance which led him to insist, more emphatically even
than most philosophers, that for a proper understanding of his system it
was necessary to read every line he had written. Perhaps it would be
more correct to describe _Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung_ as his
main thesis, and his other treatises as merely corollary to it. The
essays in this volume form part of the corollary; they are taken from a
collection published towards the close of Schopenhauer's life, and by
him entitled _Parerga und Paralipomena_, as being in the nature of
surplusage and illustrative of his main position. They are by far the
most popular of his works, and since their first publication in 1851,
they have done much to build up his fame. Written so as to be
intelligible enough in themselves, the tendency of many of them is
towards the fundamental idea on which his system is based. It may
therefore be convenient to summarize that idea in a couple of sentences;
more especially as Schopenhauer sometimes writes as if his advice had
been followed and his readers were acquainted with the whole of his

All philosophy is in some sense the endeavor to find a unifying
principle, to discover the most general conception underlying the whole
field of nature and of knowledge. By one of those bold generalizations
which occasionally mark a real advance in Science, Schopenhauer
conceived this unifying principle, this underlying unity, to consist in
something analogous to that _will_ which self-consciousness reveals to
us. _Will_ is, according to him, the fundamental reality of the world,
the thing-in-itself; and its objectivation is what is presented in
phenomena. The struggle of the will to realize itself evolves the
organism, which in its turn evolves intelligence as the servant of the
will. And in practical life the antagonism between the will and the
intellect arises from the fact that the former is the metaphysical
substance, the latter something accidental and secondary. And further,
will is _desire_, that is to say, need of something; hence need and pain
are what is positive in the world, and the only possible happiness is a
negation, a renunciation of _the will to live_.

It is instructive to note, as M. Ribot points out, that in finding the
origin of all things, not in intelligence, as some of his predecessors
in philosophy had done, but in will, or the force of nature, from which
all phenomena have developed, Schopenhauer was anticipating something of
the scientific spirit of the nineteenth century. To this it may be added
that in combating the method of Fichte and Hegel, who spun a system out
of abstract ideas, and in discarding it for one based on observation and
experience, Schopenhauer can be said to have brought down philosophy
from heaven to earth.

In Schopenhauer's view the various forms of Religion are no less a
product of human ingenuity than Art or Science. He holds, in effect,
that all religions take their rise in the desire to explain the world;
and that, in regard to truth and error, they differ, in the main, not by
preaching monotheism polytheism or pantheism, but in so far as they
recognize pessimism or optimism as the true description of life. Hence
any religion which looked upon the world as being radically evil
appealed to him as containing an indestructible element of truth. I have
endeavored to present his view of two of the great religions of the
world in the extract which concludes this volume, and to which I have
given the title of _The Christian System_. The tenor of it is to show
that, however little he may have been in sympathy with the supernatural
element, he owed much to the moral doctrines of Christianity and of
Buddhism, between which he traced great resemblance. In the following
_Dialogue_ he applies himself to a discussion of the practical efficacy
of religious forms; and though he was an enemy of clericalism, his
choice of a method which allows both the affirmation and the denial of
that efficacy to be presented with equal force may perhaps have been
directed by the consciousness that he could not side with either view to
the exclusion of the other. In any case his practical philosophy was
touched with the spirit of Christianity. It was more than artistic
enthusiasm which led him in profound admiration to the Madonna di San

Sie traegt zur Welt ihn, und er schaut entsetzt
In ihrer Graeu'l chaotische Verwirrung,
In ihres Tobens wilde Raserei,
In ihres Treibens nie geheilte Thorheit,
In ihrer Quaalen nie gestillten Schmerz;
Entsetzt: doch strahlet Rub' and Zuversicht
Und Siegesglanz sein Aug', verkuendigend
Schon der Erloesung ewige gewissheit.

Pessimism is commonly and erroneously supposed to be the distinguishing
feature of Schopenhauer's system. It is right to remember that the same
fundamental view of the world is presented by Christianity, to say
nothing of Oriental religions.

That Schopenhauer conceives life as an evil is a deduction, and possibly
a mistaken deduction, from his metaphysical theory. Whether his scheme
of things is correct or not--and it shares the common fate of all
metaphysical systems in being unverifiable, and to that extent
unprofitable--he will in the last resort have made good his claim to be
read by his insight into the varied needs of human life. It may be that
a future age will consign his metaphysics to the philosophical
lumber-room; but he is a literary artist as well as a philosopher, and
he can make a bid for fame in either capacity. What is remarked with
much truth of many another writer, that he suggests more than he
achieves, is in the highest degree applicable to Schopenhauer; and his
_obiter dicta_, his sayings by the way, will always find an audience.




_Demopheles_. Between ourselves, my dear fellow, I don't care about the
way you sometimes have of exhibiting your talent for philosophy; you
make religion a subject for sarcastic remarks, and even for open
ridicule. Every one thinks his religion sacred, and therefore you ought
to respect it.

_Philalethes_. That doesn't follow! I don't see why, because other
people are simpletons, I should have any regard for a pack of lies. I
respect truth everywhere, and so I can't respect what is opposed to it.
My maxim is _Vigeat veritas et pereat mundus_, like the lawyers' _Fiat
justitia et pereat mundus_. Every profession ought to have an analogous

_Demopheles_. Then I suppose doctors should say _Fiant pilulae et pereat
mundus_,--there wouldn't be much difficulty about that!

_Philalethes_. Heaven forbid! You must take everything _cum grano

_Demopheles_. Exactly; that's why I want you to take religion _cum grano
salis_. I want you to see that one must meet the requirements of the
people according to the measure of their comprehension. Where you have
masses of people of crude susceptibilities and clumsy intelligence,
sordid in their pursuits and sunk in drudgery, religion provides the
only means of proclaiming and making them feel the hight import of life.
For the average man takes an interest, primarily, in nothing but what
will satisfy his physical needs and hankerings, and beyond this, give
him a little amusement and pastime. Founders of religion and
philosophers come into the world to rouse him from his stupor and point
to the lofty meaning of existence; philosophers for the few, the
emancipated, founders of religion for the many, for humanity at large.
For, as your friend Plato has said, the multitude can't be philosophers,
and you shouldn't forget that. Religion is the metaphysics of the
masses; by all means let them keep it: let it therefore command external
respect, for to discredit it is to take it away. Just as they have
popular poetry, and the popular wisdom of proverbs, so they must have
popular metaphysics too: for mankind absolutely needs _an interpretation
of life_; and this, again, must be suited to popular comprehension.
Consequently, this interpretation is always an allegorical investiture
of the truth: and in practical life and in its effects on the feelings,
that is to say, as a rule of action and as a comfort and consolation in
suffering and death, it accomplishes perhaps just as much as the truth
itself could achieve if we possessed it. Don't take offense at its
unkempt, grotesque and apparently absurd form; for with your education
and learning, you have no idea of the roundabout ways by which people in
their crude state have to receive their knowledge of deep truths. The
various religions are only various forms in which the truth, which taken
by itself is above their comprehension, is grasped and realized by the
masses; and truth becomes inseparable from these forms. Therefore, my
dear sir, don't take it amiss if I say that to make a mockery of these
forms is both shallow and unjust.

_Philalethes_. But isn't it every bit as shallow and unjust to demand
that there shall be no other system of metaphysics but this one, cut out
as it is to suit the requirements and comprehension of the masses? that
its doctrine shall be the limit of human speculation, the standard of
all thought, so that the metaphysics of the few, the emancipated, as you
call them, must be devoted only to confirming, strengthening, and
explaining the metaphysics of the masses? that the highest powers of
human intelligence shall remain unused and undeveloped, even be nipped
in the bud, in order that their activity may not thwart the popular
metaphysics? And isn't this just the very claim which religion sets up?
Isn't it a little too much to have tolerance and delicate forbearance
preached by what is intolerance and cruelty itself? Think of the
heretical tribunals, inquisitions, religious wars, crusades, Socrates'
cup of poison, Bruno's and Vanini's death in the flames! Is all this
to-day quite a thing of the past? How can genuine philosophical effort,
sincere search after truth, the noblest calling of the noblest men, be
let and hindered more completely than by a conventional system of
metaphysics enjoying a State monopoly, the principles of which are
impressed into every head in earliest youth, so earnestly, so deeply,
and so firmly, that, unless the mind is miraculously elastic, they
remain indelible. In this way the groundwork of all healthy reason is
once for all deranged; that is to say, the capacity for original thought
and unbiased judgment, which is weak enough in itself, is, in regard to
those subjects to which it might be applied, for ever paralyzed and

_Demopheles._ Which means, I suppose, that people have arrived at a
conviction which they won't give up in order to embrace yours instead.

_Philalethes_. Ah! if it were only a conviction based on insight. Then
one could bring arguments to bear, and the battle would be fought with
equal weapons. But religions admittedly appeal, not to conviction as the
result of argument, but to belief as demanded by revelation. And as the
capacity for believing is strongest in childhood, special care is taken
to make sure of this tender age. This has much more to do with the
doctrines of belief taking root than threats and reports of miracles.
If, in early childhood, certain fundamental views and doctrines are
paraded with unusual solemnity, and an air of the greatest earnestness
never before visible in anything else; if, at the same time, the
possibility of a doubt about them be completely passed over, or touched
upon only to indicate that doubt is the first step to eternal perdition,
the resulting impression will be so deep that, as a rule, that is, in
almost every case, doubt about them will be almost as impossible as
doubt about one's own existence. Hardly one in ten thousand will have
the strength of mind to ask himself seriously and earnestly--is that
true? To call such as can do it strong minds, _esprits forts_, is a
description more apt than is generally supposed. But for the ordinary
mind there is nothing so absurd or revolting but what, if inculcated in
that way, the strongest belief in it will strike root. If, for example,
the killing of a heretic or infidel were essential to the future
salvation of his soul, almost every one would make it the chief event of
his life, and in dying would draw consolation and strength from the
remembrance that he had succeeded. As a matter of fact, almost every
Spaniard in days gone by used to look upon an _auto da fe_ as the most
pious of all acts and one most agreeable to God. A parallel to this may
be found in the way in which the Thugs (a religious sect in India,
suppressed a short time ago by the English, who executed numbers of
them) express their sense of religion and their veneration for the
goddess Kali; they take every opportunity of murdering their friends and
traveling companions, with the object of getting possession of their
goods, and in the serious conviction that they are thereby doing a
praiseworthy action, conducive to their eternal welfare. [Footnote: Cf.
Illustrations of the history and practice of the Thugs, London, 1837;
also the _Edinburg Review_, Oct.-Jan., 1836-7.] The power of religious
dogma, when inculcated early, is such as to stifle conscience,
compassion, and finally every feeling of humanity. But if you want to
see with your own eyes and close at hand what timely inoculation will
accomplish, look at the English. Here is a nation favored before all
others by nature; endowed, more than all others, with discernment,
intelligence, power of judgment, strength of character; look at them,
abased and made ridiculous, beyond all others, by their stupid
ecclesiastical superstition, which appears amongst their other abilities
like a fixed idea or monomania. For this they have to thank the
circumstance that education is in the hands of the clergy, whose
endeavor it is to impress all the articles of belief, at the earliest
age, in a way that amounts to a kind of paralysis of the brain; this in
its turn expresses itself all their life in an idiotic bigotry, which
makes otherwise most sensible and intelligent people amongst them
degrade themselves so that one can't make head or tail of them. If you
consider how essential to such a masterpiece is inoculation in the
tender age of childhood, the missionary system appears no longer only as
the acme of human importunity, arrogance and impertinence, but also as
an absurdity, if it doesn't confine itself to nations which are still in
their infancy, like Caffirs, Hottentots, South Sea Islanders, etc.
Amongst these races it is successful; but in India, the Brahmans treat
the discourses of the missionaries with contemptuous smiles of
approbation, or simply shrug their shoulders. And one may say generally
that the proselytizing efforts of the missionaries in India, in spite of
the most advantageous facilities, are, as a rule, a failure. An
authentic report in the Vol. XXI. of the Asiatic Journal (1826) states
that after so many years of missionary activity not more than three
hundred living converts were to be found in the whole of India, where
the population of the English possessions alone comes to one hundred and
fifteen millions; and at the same time it is admitted that the Christian
converts are distinguished for their extreme immorality. Three hundred
venal and bribed souls out of so many millions! There is no evidence
that things have gone better with Christianity in India since then, in
spite of the fact that the missionaries are now trying, contrary to
stipulation and in schools exclusively designed for secular English
instruction, to work upon the children's minds as they please, in order
to smuggle in Christianity; against which the Hindoos are most jealously
on their guard. As I have said, childhood is the time to sow the seeds
of belief, and not manhood; more especially where an earlier faith has
taken root. An acquired conviction such as is feigned by adults is, as a
rule, only the mask for some kind of personal interest. And it is the
feeling that this is almost bound to be the case which makes a man who
has changed his religion in mature years an object of contempt to most
people everywhere; who thus show that they look upon religion, not as a
matter of reasoned conviction, but merely as a belief inoculated in
childhood, before any test can be applied. And that they are right in
their view of religion is also obvious from the way in which not only
the masses, who are blindly credulous, but also the clergy of every
religion, who, as such, have faithfully and zealously studied its
sources, foundations, dogmas and disputed points, cleave as a body to
the religion of their particular country; consequently for a minister of
one religion or confession to go over to another is the rarest thing in
the world. The Catholic clergy, for example, are fully convinced of the
truth of all the tenets of their Church, and so are the Protestant
clergy of theirs, and both defend the principles of their creeds with
like zeal. And yet the conviction is governed merely by the country
native to each; to the South German ecclesiastic the truth of the
Catholic dogma is quite obvious, to the North German, the Protestant. If
then, these convictions are based on objective reasons, the reasons must
be climatic, and thrive, like plants, some only here, some only there.
The convictions of those who are thus locally convinced are taken on
trust and believed by the masses everywhere.

_Demopheles_. Well, no harm is done, and it doesn't make any real
difference. As a fact, Protestantism is more suited to the North,
Catholicism to the South.

_Philalethes_. So it seems. Still I take a higher standpoint, and keep
in view a more important object, the progress, namely, of the knowledge
of truth among mankind. And from this point of view, it is a terrible
thing that, wherever a man is born, certain propositions are inculcated
in him in earliest youth, and he is assured that he may never have any
doubts about them, under penalty of thereby forfeiting eternal
salvation; propositions, I mean, which affect the foundation of all our
other knowledge and accordingly determine for ever, and, if they are
false, distort for ever, the point of view from which our knowledge
starts; and as, further, the corollaries of these propositions touch the
entire system of our intellectual attainments at every point, the whole
of human knowledge is thoroughly adulterated by them. Evidence of this
is afforded by every literature; the most striking by that of the Middle
Age, but in a too considerable degree by that of the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries. Look at even the first minds of all those epochs;
how paralyzed they are by false fundamental positions like these; how,
more especially, all insight into the true constitution and working of
nature is, as it were, blocked up. During the whole of the Christian
period Theism lies like a mountain on all intellectual, and chiefly on
all philosophical efforts, and arrests or stunts all progress. For the
scientific men of these ages God, devil, angels, demons hid the whole of
nature; no inquiry was followed to the end, nothing ever thoroughly
examined; everything which went beyond the most obvious casual nexus was
immediately set down to those personalities. "_It was at once explained
by a reference to God, angels or demons_," as Pomponatius expressed
himself when the matter was being discussed, "_and philosophers at any
rate have nothing analogous_." There is, to be sure, a suspicion of
irony in this statement of Pomponatius, as his perfidy in other matters
is known; still, he is only giving expression to the general way of
thinking of his age. And if, on the other hand, any one possessed the
rare quality of an elastic mind, which alone could burst the bonds, his
writings and he himself with them were burnt; as happened to Bruno and
Vanini. How completely an ordinary mind is paralyzed by that early
preparation in metaphysics is seen in the most vivid way and on its most
ridiculous side, where such a one undertakes to criticise the doctrines
of an alien creed. The efforts of the ordinary man are generally found
to be directed to a careful exhibition of the incongruity of its dogmas
with those of his own belief: he is at great pains to show that not only
do they not say, but certainly do not mean, the same thing; and with
that he thinks, in his simplicity, that he has demonstrated the
falsehood of the alien creed. He really never dreams of putting the
question which of the two may be right; his own articles of belief he
looks upon as _a priori_ true and certain principles.

_Demopheles_. So that's your higher point of view? I assure you there is
a higher still. _First live, then philosophize_ is a maxim of more
comprehensive import than appears at first sight. The first thing to do
is to control the raw and evil dispositions of the masses, so as to keep
them from pushing injustice to extremes, and from committing cruel,
violent and disgraceful acts. If you were to wait until they had
recognized and grasped the truth, you would undoubtedly come too late;
and truth, supposing that it had been found, would surpass their powers
of comprehension. In any case an allegorical investiture of it, a
parable or myth, is all that would be of any service to them. As Kant
said, there must be a public standard of Right and Virtue; it must
always flutter high overhead. It is a matter of indifference what
heraldic figures are inscribed on it, so long as they signify what is
meant. Such an allegorical representation of truth is always and
everywhere, for humanity at large, a serviceable substitute for a truth
to which it can never attain,--for a philosophy which it can never
grasp; let alone the fact that it is daily changing its shape, and has
in no form as yet met with general acceptance. Practical aims, then, my
good Philalethes, are in every respect superior to theoretical.

_Philalethes_. What you say is very like the ancient advice of Timaeus
of Locrus, the Pythagorean, _stop the mind with falsehood if you can't
speed it with truth_. I almost suspect that your plan is the one which
is so much in vogue just now, that you want to impress upon me that

The hour is nigh
When we may feast in quiet.

You recommend us, in fact, to take timely precautions, so that the waves
of the discontented raging masses mayn't disturb us at table. But the
whole point of view is as false as it is now-a-days popular and
commended; and so I make haste to enter a protest against it. It is
_false_, that state, justice, law cannot be upheld without the
assistance of religion and its dogmas; and that justice and public order
need religion as a necessary complement, if legislative enactments are
to be carried out. It is _false_, were it repeated a hundred times. An
effective and striking argument to the contrary is afforded by the
ancients, especially the Greeks. They had nothing at all of what we
understand by religion. They had no sacred documents, no dogma to be
learned and its acceptance furthered by every one, its principles to be
inculcated early on the young. Just as little was moral doctrine
preached by the ministers of religion, nor did the priests trouble
themselves about morality or about what the people did or left undone.
Not at all. The duty of the priests was confined to temple-ceremonial,
prayers, hymns, sacrifices, processions, lustrations and the like, the
object of which was anything but the moral improvement of the
individual. What was called religion consisted, more especially in the
cities, in giving temples here and there to some of the gods of the
greater tribes, in which the worship described was carried on as a state
matter, and was consequently, in fact, an affair of police. No one,
except the functionaries performing, was in any way compelled to attend,
or even to believe in it. In the whole of antiquity there is no trace of
any obligation to believe in any particular dogma. Merely in the case of
an open denial of the existence of the gods, or any other reviling of
them, a penalty was imposed, and that on account of the insult offered
to the state, which served those gods; beyond this it was free to
everyone to think of them what he pleased. If anyone wanted to gain the
favor of those gods privately, by prayer or sacrifice, it was open to
him to do so at his own expense and at his own risk; if he didn't do it,
no one made any objection, least of all the state. In the case of the
Romans, everyone had his own Lares and Penates at home; they were,
however, in reality, only the venerated busts of ancestors. Of the
immortality of the soul and a life beyond the grave, the ancients had no
firm, clear or, least of all, dogmatically fixed idea, but very loose,
fluctuating, indefinite and problematical notions, everyone in his own
way: and the ideas about the gods were just as varying, individual and
vague. There was, therefore, really no _religion_, in our sense of the
word, amongst the ancients. But did anarchy and lawlessness prevail
amongst them on that account? Is not law and civil order, rather, so
much their work, that it still forms the foundation of our own? Was
there not complete protection for property, even though it consisted for
the most part of slaves? And did not this state of things last for more
than a thousand years? So that I can't recognize, I must even protest
against the practical aims and the necessity of religion in the sense
indicated by you, and so popular now-a-days, that is, as an
indispensable foundation of all legislative arrangements. For, if you
take that point of view, the pure and sacred endeavor after truth would,
to say the least, appear quixotic, and even criminal, if it ventured, in
its feeling of justice, to denounce the authoritative creed as a usurper
who had taken possession of the throne of truth and maintained his
position by keeping up the deception.

_Demopheles_. But religion is not opposed to truth; it itself teaches
truth. And as the range of its activity is not a narrow lecture room,
but the world and humanity at large, religion must conform to the
requirements and comprehension of an audience so numerous and so mixed.
Religion must not let truth appear in its naked form; or, to use a
medical simile, it must not exhibit it pure, but must employ a mythical
vehicle, a medium, as it were. You can also compare truth in this
respect to certain chemical stuffs which in themselves are gaseous, but
which for medicinal uses, as also for preservation or transmission, must
be bound to a stable, solid base, because they would otherwise
volatilize. Chlorine gas, for example, is for all purposes applied only
in the form of chlorides. But if truth, pure, abstract and free from all
mythical alloy, is always to remain unattainable, even by philosophers,
it might be compared to fluorine, which cannot even be isolated, but
must always appear in combination with other elements. Or, to take a
less scientific simile, truth, which is inexpressible except by means of
myth and allegory, is like water, which can be carried about only in
vessels; a philosopher who insists on obtaining it pure is like a man
who breaks the jug in order to get the water by itself. This is,
perhaps, an exact analogy. At any rate, religion is truth allegorically
and mythically expressed, and so rendered attainable and digestible by
mankind in general. Mankind couldn't possibly take it pure and unmixed,
just as we can't breathe pure oxygen; we require an addition of four
times its bulk in nitrogen. In plain language, the profound meaning, the
high aim of life, can only be unfolded and presented to the masses
symbolically, because they are incapable of grasping it in its true
signification. Philosophy, on the other hand, should be like the
Eleusinian mysteries, for the few, the _elite_.

_Philalethes_. I understand. It comes, in short, to truth wearing the
garment of falsehood. But in doing so it enters on a fatal alliance.
What a dangerous weapon is put into the hands of those who are
authorized to employ falsehood as the vehicle of truth! If it is as you
say, I fear the damage caused by the falsehood will be greater than any
advantage the truth could ever produce. Of course, if the allegory were
admitted to be such, I should raise no objection; but with the admission
it would rob itself of all respect, and consequently, of all utility.
The allegory must, therefore, put in a claim to be true in the proper
sense of the word, and maintain the claim; while, at the most, it is
true only in an allegorical sense. Here lies the irreparable mischief,
the permanent evil; and this is why religion has always been and always
will be in conflict with the noble endeavor after pure truth.

_Demopheles_. Oh no! that danger is guarded against. If religion mayn't
exactly confess its allegorical nature, it gives sufficient indication
of it.

_Philalethes_. How so?

_Demopheles_. In its mysteries. "Mystery," is in reality only a
technical theological term for religious allegory. All religions have
their mysteries. Properly speaking, a mystery is a dogma which is
plainly absurd, but which, nevertheless, conceals in itself a lofty
truth, and one which by itself would be completely incomprehensible to
the ordinary understanding of the raw multitude. The multitude accepts
it in this disguise on trust, and believes it, without being led astray
by the absurdity of it, which even to its intelligence is obvious; and
in this way it participates in the kernel of the matter so far as it is
possible for it to do so. To explain what I mean, I may add that even in
philosophy an attempt has been made to make use of a mystery. Pascal,
for example, who was at once a pietist, a mathematician, and a
philosopher, says in this threefold capacity: _God is everywhere center
and nowhere periphery_. Malebranche has also the just remark: _Liberty
is a mystery_. One could go a step further and maintain that in
religions everything is mystery. For to impart truth, in the proper
sense of the word, to the multitude in its raw state is absolutely
impossible; all that can fall to its lot is to be enlightened by a
mythological reflection of it. Naked truth is out of place before the
eyes of the profane vulgar; it can only make its appearance thickly
veiled. Hence, it is unreasonable to require of a religion that it shall
be true in the proper sense of the word; and this, I may observe in
passing, is now-a-days the absurd contention of Rationalists and
Supernaturalists alike. Both start from the position that religion must
be the real truth; and while the former demonstrate that it is not the
truth, the latter obstinately maintain that it is; or rather, the former
dress up and arrange the allegorical element in such a way, that, in the
proper sense of the word, it could be true, but would be, in that case,
a platitude; while the latter wish to maintain that it is true in the
proper sense of the word, without any further dressing; a belief, which,
as we ought to know is only to be enforced by inquisitions and the
stake. As a fact, however, myth and allegory really form the proper
element of religion; and under this indispensable condition, which is
imposed by the intellectual limitation of the multitude, religion
provides a sufficient satisfaction for those metaphysical requirements
of mankind which are indestructible. It takes the place of that pure
philosophical truth which is infinitely difficult and perhaps never

_Philalethes_. Ah! just as a wooden leg takes the place of a natural
one; it supplies what is lacking, barely does duty for it, claims to be
regarded as a natural leg, and is more or less artfully put together.
The only difference is that, whilst a natural leg as a rule preceded the
wooden one, religion has everywhere got the start of philosophy.

_Demopheles_. That may be, but still for a man who hasn't a natural leg,
a wooden one is of great service. You must bear in mind that the
metaphysical needs of mankind absolutely require satisfaction, because
the horizon of men's thoughts must have a background and not remain
unbounded. Man has, as a rule, no faculty for weighing reasons and
discriminating between what is false and what is true; and besides, the
labor which nature and the needs of nature impose upon him, leaves him
no time for such enquiries, or for the education which they presuppose.
In his case, therefore, it is no use talking of a reasoned conviction;
he has to fall back on belief and authority. If a really true philosophy
were to take the place of religion, nine-tenths at least of mankind
would have to receive it on authority; that is to say, it too would be a
matter of faith, for Plato's dictum, that the multitude can't be
philosophers, will always remain true. Authority, however, is an affair
of time and circumstance alone, and so it can't be bestowed on that
which has only reason in its favor, it must accordingly be allowed to
nothing but what has acquired it in the course of history, even if it is
only an allegorical representation of truth. Truth in this form,
supported by authority, appeals first of all to those elements in the
human constitution which are strictly metaphysical, that is to say, to
the need man feels of a theory in regard to the riddle of existence
which forces itself upon his notice, a need arising from the
consciousness that behind the physical in the world there is a
metaphysical, something permanent as the foundation of constant change.
Then it appeals to the will, to the fears and hopes of mortal beings
living in constant struggle; for whom, accordingly, religion creates
gods and demons whom they can cry to, appease and win over. Finally, it
appeals to that moral consciousness which is undeniably present in man,
lends to it that corroboration and support without which it would not
easily maintain itself in the struggle against so many temptations. It
is just from this side that religion affords an inexhaustible source of
consolation and comfort in the innumerable trials of life, a comfort
which does not leave men in death, but rather then only unfolds its full
efficacy. So religion may be compared to one who takes a blind man by
the hand and leads him, because he is unable to see for himself, whose
concern it is to reach his destination, not to look at everything by the

_Philalethes_. That is certainly the strong point of religion. If it is
a fraud, it is a pious fraud; that is undeniable. But this makes priests
something between deceivers and teachers of morality; they daren't teach
the real truth, as you have quite rightly explained, even if they knew
it, which is not the case. A true philosophy, then, can always exist,
but not a true religion; true, I mean, in the proper understanding of
the word, not merely in that flowery or allegorical sense which you have
described; a sense in which all religions would be true, only in various
degrees. It is quite in keeping with the inextricable mixture of weal
and woe, honesty and deceit, good and evil, nobility and baseness, which
is the average characteristic of the world everywhere, that the most
important, the most lofty, the most sacred truths can make their
appearance only in combination with a lie, can even borrow strength from
a lie as from something that works more powerfully on mankind; and, as
revelation, must be ushered in by a lie. This might, indeed, be regarded
as the _cachet_ of the moral world. However, we won't give up the hope
that mankind will eventually reach a point of maturity and education at
which it can on the one side produce, and on the other receive, the true
philosophy. _Simplex sigillum veri_: the naked truth must be so simple
and intelligible that it can be imparted to all in its true form,
without any admixture of myth and fable, without disguising it in the
form of _religion_.

_Demopheles_. You've no notion how stupid most people are.

_Philalethes_. I am only expressing a hope which I can't give up. If it
were fulfilled, truth in its simple and intelligible form would of
course drive religion from the place it has so long occupied as its
representative, and by that very means kept open for it. The time would
have come when religion would have carried out her object and completed
her course: the race she had brought to years of discretion she could
dismiss, and herself depart in peace: that would be the _euthanasia_ of
religion. But as long as she lives, she has two faces, one of truth, one
of fraud. According as you look at one or the other, you will bear her
favor or ill-will. Religion must be regarded as a necessary evil, its
necessity resting on the pitiful imbecility of the great majority of
mankind, incapable of grasping the truth, and therefore requiring, in
its pressing need, something to take its place.

_Demopheles_. Really, one would think that you philosophers had truth in
a cupboard, and that all you had to do was to go and get it!

_Philalethes_. Well, if we haven't got it, it is chiefly owing to the
pressure put upon philosophy by religion at all times and in all places.
People have tried to make the expression and communication of truth,
even the contemplation and discovery of it, impossible, by putting
children, in their earliest years, into the hands of priests to be
manipulated; to have the lines, in which their fundamental thoughts are
henceforth to run, laid down with such firmness as, in essential
matters, to be fixed and determined for this whole life. When I take up
the writings even of the best intellects of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries, (more especially if I have been engaged in
Oriental studies), I am sometimes shocked to see how they are paralyzed
and hemmed in on all sides by Jewish ideas. How can anyone think out the
true philosophy when he is prepared like this?

_Demopheles_. Even if the true philosophy were to be discovered,
religion wouldn't disappear from the world, as you seem to think. There
can't be one system of metaphysics for everybody; that's rendered
impossible by the natural differences of intellectual power between man
and man, and the differences, too, which education makes. It is a
necessity for the great majority of mankind to engage in that severe
bodily labor which cannot be dispensed with if the ceaseless
requirements of the whole race are to be satisfied. Not only does this
leave the majority no time for education, for learning, for
contemplation; but by virtue of the hard and fast antagonism between
muscles and mind, the intelligence is blunted by so much exhausting
bodily labor, and becomes heavy, clumsy, awkward, and consequently
incapable of grasping any other than quite simple situations. At least
nine-tenths of the human race falls under this category. But still the
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
needs of mankind, they require a popular system; and to be popular it
must combine many rare qualities. It must be easily understood, and at
the same time possess, on the proper points, a certain amount of
obscurity, even of impenetrability; then a correct and satisfactory
system of morality must be bound up with its dogmas; above all, it must
afford inexhaustible consolation in suffering and death; the consequence
of all this is, that it can only be true in an allegorical and not in a
real sense. Further, it must have the support of an authority which is
impressive by its great age, by being universally recognized, by its
documents, their tone and utterances; qualities which are so extremely
difficult to combine that many a man wouldn't be so ready, if he
considered the matter, to help to undermine a religion, but would
reflect that what he is attacking is a people's most sacred treasure. If
you want to form an opinion on religion, you should always bear in mind
the character of the great multitude for which it is destined, and form
a picture to yourself of its complete inferiority, moral and
intellectual. It is incredible how far this inferiority goes, and how
perseveringly a spark of truth will glimmer on even under the crudest
covering of monstrous fable or grotesque ceremony, clinging
indestructibly, like the odor of musk, to everything that has once come
into contact with it. In illustration of this, consider the profound
wisdom of the Upanishads, and then look at the mad idolatry in the India
of to-day, with its pilgrimages, processions and festivities, or at the
insane and ridiculous goings-on of the Saniassi. Still one can't deny
that in all this insanity and nonsense there lies some obscure purpose
which accords with, or is a reflection of the profound wisdom I
mentioned. But for the brute multitude, it had to be dressed up in this
form. In such a contrast as this we have the two poles of humanity, the
wisdom of the individual and the bestiality of the many, both of which
find their point of contact in the moral sphere. That saying from the
Kurral must occur to everybody. _Base people look like men, but I have
never seen their exact counterpart_. The man of education may, all the
same, interpret religion to himself _cum grano salis_; the man of
learning, the contemplative spirit may secretly exchange it for a
philosophy. But here again one philosophy wouldn't suit everybody; by
the laws of affinity every system would draw to itself that public to
whose education and capacities it was most suited. So there is always an
inferior metaphysical system of the schools for the educated multitude,
and a higher one for the _elite_. Kant's lofty doctrine, for instance,
had to be degraded to the level of the schools and ruined by such men as
Fries, Krug and Salat. In short, here, if anywhere, Goethe's maxim is
true, _One does not suit all_. Pure faith in revelation and pure
metaphysics are for the two extremes, and for the intermediate steps
mutual modifications of both in innumerable combinations and gradations.
And this is rendered necessary by the immeasurable differences which
nature and education have placed between man and man.

_Philalethes_. The view you take reminds me seriously of the mysteries
of the ancients, which you mentioned just now. Their fundamental purpose
seems to have been to remedy the evil arising from the differences of
intellectual capacity and education. The plan was, out of the great
multitude utterly impervious to unveiled truth, to select certain
persons who might have it revealed to them up to a given point; out of
these, again, to choose others to whom more would be revealed, as being
able to grasp more; and so on up to the Epopts. These grades correspond
to the little, greater and greatest mysteries. The arrangement was
founded on a correct estimate of the intellectual inequality of mankind.

_Demopheles_. To some extent the education in our lower, middle and high
schools corresponds to the varying grades of initiation into the

_Philalethes_. In a very approximate way; and then only in so far as
subjects of higher knowledge are written about exclusively in Latin. But
since that has ceased to be the case, all the mysteries are profaned.

_Demopheles_. However that may be, I wanted to remind you that you
should look at religion more from the practical than from the
theoretical side. _Personified_ metaphysics may be the enemy of
religion, but all the same _personified_ morality will be its friend.
Perhaps the metaphysical element in all religions is false; but the
moral element in all is true. This might perhaps be presumed from the
fact that they all disagree in their metaphysics, but are in accord as
regards morality.

_Philalethes_. Which is an illustration of the rule of logic that false
premises may give a true conclusion.

_Demopheles_. Let me hold you to your conclusion: let me remind you that
religion has two sides. If it can't stand when looked at from its
theoretical, that is, its intellectual side; on the other hand, from the
moral side, it proves itself the only means of guiding, controlling and
mollifying those races of animals endowed with reason, whose kinship
with the ape does not exclude a kinship with the tiger. But at the same
time religion is, as a rule, a sufficient satisfaction for their dull
metaphysical necessities. You don't seem to me to possess a proper idea
of the difference, wide as the heavens asunder, the deep gulf between
your man of learning and enlightenment, accustomed to the process of
thinking, and the heavy, clumsy, dull and sluggish consciousness of
humanity's beasts of burden, whose thoughts have once and for all taken
the direction of anxiety about their livelihood, and cannot be put in
motion in any other; whose muscular strength is so exclusively brought
into play that the nervous power, which makes intelligence, sinks to a
very low ebb. People like that must have something tangible which they
can lay hold of on the slippery and thorny pathway of their life, some
sort of beautiful fable, by means of which things can be imparted to
them which their crude intelligence can entertain only in picture and
parable. Profound explanations and fine distinctions are thrown away
upon them. If you conceive religion in this light, and recollect that
its aims are above all practical, and only in a subordinate degree
theoretical, it will appear to you as something worthy of the highest

_Philalethes_. A respect which will finally rest upon the principle that
the end sanctifies the means. I don't feel in favor of a compromise on a
basis like that. Religion may be an excellent means of training the
perverse, obtuse and ill-disposed members of the biped race: in the eyes
of the friend of truth every fraud, even though it be a pious one, is to
be condemned. A system of deception, a pack of lies, would be a strange
means of inculcating virtue. The flag to which I have taken the oath is
truth; I shall remain faithful to it everywhere, and whether I succeed
or not, I shall fight for light and truth! If I see religion on the
wrong side--

_Demopheles_. But you won't. Religion isn't a deception: it is true and
the most important of all truths. Because its doctrines are, as I have
said, of such a lofty kind that the multitude can't grasp them without
an intermediary, because, I say, its light would blind the ordinary eye,
it comes forward wrapt in the veil of allegory and teaches, not indeed
what is exactly true in itself, but what is true in respect of the lofty
meaning contained in it; and, understood in this way, religion is the

_Philalethes_. It would be all right if religion were only at liberty to
be true in a merely allegorical sense. But its contention is that it is
downright true in the proper sense of the word. Herein lies the
deception, and it is here that the friend of truth must take up a
hostile position.

_Demopheles_. The deception is a _sine qua non_. If religion were to
admit that it was only the allegorical meaning in its doctrine which was
true, it would rob itself of all efficacy. Such rigorous treatment as
this would destroy its invaluable influence on the hearts and morals of
mankind. Instead of insisting on that with pedantic obstinacy, look at
its great achievements in the practical sphere, its furtherance of good
and kindly feelings, its guidance in conduct, the support and
consolation it gives to suffering humanity in life and death. How much
you ought to guard against letting theoretical cavils discredit in the
eyes of the multitude, and finally wrest from it, something which is an
inexhaustible source of consolation and tranquillity, something which,
in its hard lot, it needs so much, even more than we do. On that score
alone, religion should be free from attack.

_Philalethes_. With that kind of argument you could have driven Luther
from the field, when he attacked the sale of indulgences. How many a one
got consolation from the letters of indulgence, a consolation which
nothing else could give, a complete tranquillity; so that he joyfully
departed with the fullest confidence in the packet of them which he held
in his hand at the hour of death, convinced that they were so many cards
of admission to all the nine heavens. What is the use of grounds of
consolation and tranquillity which are constantly overshadowed by the
Damocles-sword of illusion? The truth, my dear sir, is the only safe
thing; the truth alone remains steadfast and trusty; it is the only
solid consolation; it is the indestructible diamond.

_Demopheles_. Yes, if you had truth in your pocket, ready to favor us
with it on demand. All you've got are metaphysical systems, in which
nothing is certain but the headaches they cost. Before you take anything
away, you must have something better to put in its place.

_Philalethes_. That's what you keep on saying. To free a man from error
is to give, not to take away. Knowledge that a thing is false is a
truth. Error always does harm; sooner or later it will bring mischief to
the man who harbors it. Then give up deceiving people; confess ignorance
of what you don't know, and leave everyone to form his own articles of
faith for himself. Perhaps they won't turn out so bad, especially as
they'll rub one another's corners down, and mutually rectify mistakes.
The existence of many views will at any rate lay a foundation of
tolerance. Those who possess knowledge and capacity may betake
themselves to the study of philosophy, or even in their own persons
carry the history of philosophy a step further.

_Demopheles_. That'll be a pretty business! A whole nation of raw
metaphysicians, wrangling and eventually coming to blows with one

_Philalethes_. Well, well, a few blows here and there are the sauce of
life; or at any rate a very inconsiderable evil compared with such
things as priestly dominion, plundering of the laity, persecution of
heretics, courts of inquisition, crusades, religious wars, massacres of
St. Bartholomew. These have been the result of popular metaphysics
imposed from without; so I stick to the old saying that you can't get
grapes from thistles, nor expect good to come from a pack of lies.

_Demopheles_. How often must I repeat that religion is anything but a
pack of lies? It is truth itself, only in a mythical, allegorical
vesture. But when you spoke of your plan of everyone being his own
founder of religion, I wanted to say that a particularism like this is
totally opposed to human nature, and would consequently destroy all
social order. Man is a metaphysical animal,--that is to say, he has
paramount metaphysical necessities; accordingly, he conceives life above
all in its metaphysical signification, and wishes to bring everything
into line with that. Consequently, however strange it may sound in view
of the uncertainty of all dogmas, agreement in the fundamentals of
metaphysics is the chief thing, because a genuine and lasting bond of
union is only possible among those who are of one opinion on these
points. As a result of this, the main point of likeness and of contrast
between nations is rather religion than government, or even language;
and so the fabric of society, the State, will stand firm only when
founded on a system of metaphysics which is acknowledged by all. This,
of course, can only be a popular system,--that is, a religion: it
becomes part and parcel of the constitution of the State, of all the
public manifestations of the national life, and also of all solemn acts
of individuals. This was the case in ancient India, among the Persians,
Egyptians, Jews, Greeks and Romans; it is still the case in the Brahman,
Buddhist and Mohammedan nations. In China there are three faiths, it is
true, of which the most prevalent--Buddhism--is precisely the one which
is not protected by the State; still, there is a saying in China,
universally acknowledged, and of daily application, that "the three
faiths are only one,"--that is to say, they agree in essentials. The
Emperor confesses all three together at the same time. And Europe is the
union of Christian States: Christianity is the basis of every one of the
members, and the common bond of all. Hence Turkey, though geographically
in Europe, is not properly to be reckoned as belonging to it. In the
same way, the European princes hold their place "by the grace of God:"
and the Pope is the vicegerent of God. Accordingly, as his throne was
the highest, he used to wish all thrones to be regarded as held in fee
from him. In the same way, too, Archbishops and Bishops, as such,
possessed temporal power; and in England they still have seats and votes
in the Upper House. Protestant princes, as such, are heads of their
churches: in England, a few years ago, this was a girl eighteen years
old. By the revolt from the Pope, the Reformation shattered the European
fabric, and in a special degree dissolved the true unity of Germany by
destroying its common religious faith. This union, which had practically
come to an end, had, accordingly, to be restored later on by artificial
and purely political means. You see, then, how closely connected a
common faith is with the social order and the constitution of every
State. Faith is everywhere the support of the laws and the constitution,
the foundation, therefore, of the social fabric, which could hardly hold
together at all if religion did not lend weight to the authority of
government and the dignity of the ruler.

_Philalethes_. Oh, yes, princes use God as a kind of bogey to frighten
grown-up children to bed with, if nothing else avails: that's why they
attach so much importance to the Deity. Very well. Let me, in passing,
recommend our rulers to give their serious attention, regularly twice
every year, to the fifteenth chapter of the First Book of Samuel, that
they may be constantly reminded of what it means to prop the throne on
the altar. Besides, since the stake, that _ultima ration theologorum_,
has gone out of fashion, this method of government has lost its
efficacy. For, as you know, religions are like glow-worms; they shine
only when it is dark. A certain amount of general ignorance is the
condition of all religions, the element in which alone they can exist.
And as soon as astronomy, natural science, geology, history, the
knowledge of countries and peoples have spread their light broadcast,
and philosophy finally is permitted to say a word, every faith founded
on miracles and revelation must disappear; and philosophy takes its
place. In Europe the day of knowledge and science dawned towards the end
of the fifteenth century with the appearance of the Renaissance
Platonists: its sun rose higher in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries so rich in results, and scattered the mists of the Middle Age.
Church and Faith were compelled to disappear in the same proportion; and
so in the eighteenth century English and French philosophers were able
to take up an attitude of direct hostility; until, finally, under
Frederick the Great, Kant appeared, and took away from religious belief
the support it had previously enjoyed from philosophy: he emancipated
the handmaid of theology, and in attacking the question with German
thoroughness and patience, gave it an earnest instead of a frivolous
tone. The consequence of this is that we see Christianity undermined in
the nineteenth century, a serious faith in it almost completely gone; we
see it fighting even for bare existence, whilst anxious princes try to
set it up a little by artificial means, as a doctor uses a drug on a
dying patient. In this connection there is a passage in Condorcet's
"_Des Progres de l'esprit humain_" which looks as if written as a
warning to our age: "the religious zeal shown by philosophers and great
men was only a political devotion; and every religion which allows
itself to be defended as a belief that may usefully be left to the
people, can only hope for an agony more or less prolonged." In the whole
course of the events which I have indicated, you may always observe that
faith and knowledge are related as the two scales of a balance; when the
one goes up, the other goes down. So sensitive is the balance that it
indicates momentary influences. When, for instance, at the beginning of
this century, those inroads of French robbers under the leadership of
Bonaparte, and the enormous efforts necessary for driving them out and
punishing them, had brought about a temporary neglect of science and
consequently a certain decline in the general increase of knowledge, the
Church immediately began to raise her head again and Faith began to show
fresh signs of life; which, to be sure, in keeping with the times, was
partly poetical in its nature. On the other hand, in the more than
thirty years of peace which followed, leisure and prosperity furthered
the building up of science and the spread of knowledge in an
extraordinary degree: the consequence of which is what I have indicated,
the dissolution and threatened fall of religion. Perhaps the time is
approaching which has so often been prophesied, when religion will take
her departure from European humanity, like a nurse which the child has
outgrown: the child will now be given over to the instructions of a
tutor. For there is no doubt that religious doctrines which are founded
merely on authority, miracles and revelations, are only suited to the
childhood of humanity. Everyone will admit that a race, the past
duration of which on the earth all accounts, physical and historical,
agree in placing at not more than some hundred times the life of a man
of sixty, is as yet only in its first childhood.

_Demopheles_. Instead of taking an undisguised pleasure in prophesying
the downfall of Christianity, how I wish you would consider what a
measureless debt of gratitude European humanity owes to it, how greatly
it has benefited by the religion which, after a long interval, followed
it from its old home in the East. Europe received from Christianity
ideas which were quite new to it, the Knowledge, I mean, of the
fundamental truth that life cannot be an end-in-itself, that the true
end of our existence lies beyond it. The Greeks and Romans had placed
this end altogether in our present life, so that in this sense they may
certainly be called blind heathens. And, in keeping with this view of
life, all their virtues can be reduced to what is serviceable to the
community, to what is useful in fact. Aristotle says quite naively,
_Those virtues must necessarily be the greatest which are the most
useful to others_. So the ancients thought patriotism the highest
virtue, although it is really a very doubtful one, since narrowness,
prejudice, vanity and an enlightened self-interest are main elements in
it. Just before the passage I quoted, Aristotle enumerates all the
virtues, in order to discuss them singly. They are _Justice, Courage,
Temperance, Magnificence, Magnanimity, Liberality, Gentleness, Good
Sense_ and _Wisdom_. How different from the Christian virtues! Plato
himself, incomparably the most transcendental philosopher of
pre-Christian antiquity, knows no higher virtue than _Justice_; and he
alone recommends it unconditionally and for its own sake, whereas the
rest make a happy life, _vita beata_, the aim of all virtue, and moral
conduct the way to attain it. Christianity freed European humanity from
this shallow, crude identification of itself with the hollow, uncertain
existence of every day,

coelumque tueri
Jussit, et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.

Christianity, accordingly, does not preach mere Justice, but _the Love
of Mankind, Compassion, Good Works, Forgiveness, Love of your Enemies,
Patience, Humility, Resignation, Faith_ and _Hope_. It even went a step
further, and taught that the world is of evil, and that we need
deliverance. It preached despisal of the world, self-denial, chastity,
giving up of one's will, that is, turning away from life and its
illusory pleasures. It taught the healing power of pain: an instrument
of torture is the symbol of Christianity. I am quite ready to admit that
this earnest, this only correct view of life was thousands of years
previously spread all over Asia in other forms, as it is still,
independently of Christianity; but for European humanity it was a new
and great revelation. For it is well known that the population of Europe
consists of Asiatic races driven out as wanderers from their own homes,
and gradually settling down in Europe; on their wanderings these races
lost the original religion of their homes, and with it the right view of
life: so, under a new sky, they formed religions for themselves, which
were rather crude; the worship of Odin, for instance, the Druidic or the
Greek religion, the metaphysical content of which was little and
shallow. In the meantime the Greeks developed a special, one might
almost say, an instinctive sense of beauty, belonging to them alone of
all the nations who have ever existed on the earth, peculiar, fine and
exact: so that their mythology took, in the mouth of their poets, and in
the hands of their artists, an exceedingly beautiful and pleasing shape.
On the other hand, the true and deep significance of life was lost to
the Greeks and Romans. They lived on like grown-up children, till
Christianity came and recalled them to the serious side of existence.

_Philalethes_. And to see the effects one need only compare antiquity
with the Middle Age; the time of Pericles, say, with the fourteenth
century. You could scarcely believe you were dealing with the same kind
of beings. There, the finest development of humanity, excellent
institutions, wise laws, shrewdly apportioned offices, rationally
ordered freedom, all the arts, including poetry and philosophy, at their
best; the production of works which, after thousands of years, are
unparalleled, the creations, as it were, of a higher order of beings,
which we can never imitate; life embellished by the noblest fellowship,
as portrayed in Xenophen's _Banquet_. Look on the other picture, if you
can; a time at which the Church had enslaved the minds, and violence the
bodies of men, that knights and priests might lay the whole weight of
life upon the common beast of burden, the third estate. There, you have
might as right, Feudalism and Fanaticism in close alliance, and in their
train abominable ignorance and darkness of mind, a corresponding
intolerance, discord of creeds, religious wars, crusades, inquisitions
and persecutions; as the form of fellowship, chivalry, compounded of
savagery and folly, with its pedantic system of ridiculous false
pretences carried to an extreme, its degrading superstition and apish
veneration for women. Gallantry is the residue of this veneration,
deservedly requited as it is by feminine arrogance; it affords continual
food for laughter to all Asiatics, and the Greeks would have joined in
it. In the golden Middle Age the practice developed into a regular and
methodical service of women; it imposed deeds of heroism, _cours
d'amour_, bombastic Troubadour songs, etc.; although it is to be
observed that these last buffooneries, which had an intellectual side,
were chiefly at home in France; whereas amongst the material sluggish
Germans, the knights distinguished themselves rather by drinking and
stealing; they were good at boozing and filling their castles with
plunder; though in the courts, to be sure, there was no lack of insipid
love songs. What caused this utter transformation? Migration and

_Demopheles_. I am glad you reminded me of it. Migration was the source
of the evil; Christianity the dam on which it broke. It was chiefly by
Christianity that the raw, wild hordes which came flooding in were
controlled and tamed. The savage man must first of all learn to kneel,
to venerate, to obey; after that he can be civilized. This was done in
Ireland by St. Patrick, in Germany by Winifred the Saxon, who was a
genuine Boniface. It was migration of peoples, the last advance of
Asiatic races towards Europe, followed only by the fruitless attempts of
those under Attila, Zenghis Khan, and Timur, and as a comic afterpiece,
by the gipsies,--it was this movement which swept away the humanity of
the ancients. Christianity was precisely the principle which set itself
to work against this savagery; just as later, through the whole of the
Middle Age, the Church and its hierarchy were most necessary to set
limits to the savage barbarism of those masters of violence, the princes
and knights: it was what broke up the icefloes in that mighty deluge.
Still, the chief aim of Christianity is not so much to make this life
pleasant as to render us worthy of a better. It looks away over this
span of time, over this fleeting dream, and seeks to lead us to eternal
welfare. Its tendency is ethical in the highest sense of the word, a
sense unknown in Europe till its advent; as I have shown you, by putting
the morality and religion of the ancients side by side with those of

_Philalethes_. You are quite right as regards theory: but look at the
practice! In comparison with the ages of Christianity the ancient world
was unquestionably less cruel than the Middle Age, with its deaths by
exquisite torture, its innumerable burnings at the stake. The ancients,
further, were very enduring, laid great stress on justice, frequently
sacrificed themselves for their country, showed such traces of every
kind of magnanimity, and such genuine manliness, that to this day an
acquaintance with their thoughts and actions is called the study of
Humanity. The fruits of Christianity were religious wars, butcheries,
crusades, inquisitions, extermination of the natives in America, and the
introduction of African slaves in their place; and among the ancients
there is nothing analogous to this, nothing that can be compared with
it; for the slaves of the ancients, the _familia_, the _vernae_, were a
contented race, and faithfully devoted to their masters' service, and as
different from the miserable negroes of the sugar plantations, which are
a disgrace to humanity, as their two colors are distinct. Those special
moral delinquencies for which we reproach the ancients, and which are
perhaps less uncommon now-a-days than appears on the surface to be the
case, are trifles compared with the Christian enormities I have
mentioned. Can you then, all considered, maintain that mankind has been
really made morally better by Christianity?

_Demopheles_. If the results haven't everywhere been in keeping with the
purity and truth of the doctrine, it may be because the doctrine has
been too noble, too elevated for mankind, that its aim has been placed
too high. It was so much easier to come up to the heathen system, or to
the Mohammedan. It is precisely what is noble and dignified that is most
liable everywhere to misuse and fraud: _abusus optimi pessimus_. Those
high doctrines have accordingly now and then served as a pretext for the
most abominable proceedings, and for acts of unmitigated wickedness. The
downfall of the institutions of the old world, as well as of its arts
and sciences, is, as I have said, to be attributed to the inroad of
foreign barbarians. The inevitable result of this inroad was that
ignorance and savagery got the upper hand; consequently violence and
knavery established their dominion, and knights and priests became a
burden to mankind. It is partly, however, to be explained by the fact
that the new religion made eternal and not temporal welfare the object
of desire, taught that simplicity of heart was to be preferred to
knowledge, and looked askance at all worldly pleasure. Now the arts and
sciences subserve worldly pleasure; but in so far as they could be made
serviceable to religion they were promoted, and attained a certain
degree of perfection.

_Philalethes_. In a very narrow sphere. The sciences were suspicious
companions, and as such, were placed under restrictions: on the other
hand, darling ignorance, that element so necessary to a system of faith,
was carefully nourished.

_Demopheles_. And yet mankind's possessions in the way of knowledge up
to that period, which were preserved in the writings of the ancients,
were saved from destruction by the clergy, especially by those in the
monasteries. How would it have fared if Christianity hadn't come in just
before the migration of peoples.

_Philalethes_. It would really be a most useful inquiry to try and make,
with the coldest impartiality, an unprejudiced, careful and accurate
comparison of the advantages and disadvantages which may be put down to
religion. For that, of course, a much larger knowledge of historical and
psychological data than either of us command would be necessary.
Academies might make it a subject for a prize essay.

_Demopheles_. They'll take good care not to do so.

_Philalethes_. I'm surprised to hear you say that: it's a bad look out
for religion. However, there are academies which, in proposing a subject
for competition, make it a secret condition that the prize is to go to
the man who best interprets their own view. If we could only begin by
getting a statistician to tell us how many crimes are prevented every
year by religious, and how many by other motives, there would be very
few of the former. If a man feels tempted to commit a crime, you may
rely upon it that the first consideration which enters his head is the
penalty appointed for it, and the chances that it will fall upon him:
then comes, as a second consideration, the risk to his reputation. If I
am not mistaken, he will ruminate by the hour on these two impediments,
before he ever takes a thought of religious considerations. If he gets
safely over those two first bulwarks against crime, I think religion
alone will very rarely hold him back from it.

_Demopheles_. I think that it will very often do so, especially when its
influence works through the medium of custom. An atrocious act is at
once felt to be repulsive. What is this but the effect of early
impressions? Think, for instance, how often a man, especially if of
noble birth, will make tremendous sacrifices to perform what he has
promised, motived entirely by the fact that his father has often
earnestly impressed upon him in his childhood that "a man of honor" or
"a gentleman" or a "a cavalier" always keeps his word inviolate.

_Philalethes_. That's no use unless there is a certain inborn
honorableness. You mustn't ascribe to religion what results from innate
goodness of character, by which compassion for the man who would suffer
by his crime keeps a man from committing it. This is the genuine moral
motive, and as such it is independent of all religions.

_Demopheles_. But this is a motive which rarely affects the multitude
unless it assumes a religious aspect. The religious aspect at any rate
strengthens its power for good. Yet without any such natural foundation,
religious motives alone are powerful to prevent crime. We need not be
surprised at this in the case of the multitude, when we see that even
people of education pass now and then under the influence, not indeed of
religious motives, which are founded on something which is at least
allegorically true, but of the most absurd superstition, and allow
themselves to be guided by it all their life long; as, for instance,
undertaking nothing on a Friday, refusing to sit down thirteen at a
table, obeying chance omens, and the like. How much more likely is the
multitude to be guided by such things. You can't form any adequate idea
of the narrow limits of the mind in its raw state; it is a place of
absolute darkness, especially when, as often happens, a bad, unjust and
malicious heart is at the bottom of it. People in this condition--and
they form the great bulk of humanity--must be led and controlled as well
as may be, even if it be by really superstitious motives; until such
time as they become susceptible to truer and better ones. As an instance
of the direct working of religion, may be cited the fact, common enough,
in Italy especially, of a thief restoring stolen goods, through the
influence of his confessor, who says he won't absolve him if he doesn't.
Think again of the case of an oath, where religion shows a most decided
influence; whether it be that a man places himself expressly in the
position of a purely _moral being_, and as such looks upon himself as
solemnly appealed to, as seems to be the case in France, where the
formula is simply _je le jure_, and also among the Quakers, whose solemn
_yea_ or _nay_ is regarded as a substitute for the oath; or whether it
be that a man really believes he is pronouncing something which may
affect his eternal happiness,--a belief which is presumably only the
investiture of the former feeling. At any rate, religious considerations
are a means of awakening and calling out a man's moral nature. How often
it happens that a man agrees to take a false oath, and then, when it
comes to the point, suddenly refuses, and truth and right win the day.

_Philalethes_. Oftener still false oaths are really taken, and truth and
right trampled under foot, though all witnesses of the oath know it
well! Still you are quite right to quote the oath as an undeniable
example of the practical efficacy of religion. But, in spite of all
you've said, I doubt whether the efficacy of religion goes much beyond
this. Just think; if a public proclamation were suddenly made announcing
the repeal of all the criminal laws; I fancy neither you nor I would
have the courage to go home from here under the protection of religious
motives. If, in the same way, all religions were declared untrue, we
could, under the protection of the laws alone, go on living as before,
without any special addition to our apprehensions or our measures of
precaution. I will go beyond this, and say that religions have very
frequently exercised a decidedly demoralizing influence. One may say
generally that duties towards God and duties towards humanity are in
inverse ratio.

It is easy to let adulation of the Deity make amends for lack of proper
behavior towards man. And so we see that in all times and in all
countries the great majority of mankind find it much easier to beg their
way to heaven by prayers than to deserve to go there by their actions.
In every religion it soon comes to be the case that faith, ceremonies,
rites and the like, are proclaimed to be more agreeable to the Divine
will than moral actions; the former, especially if they are bound up
with the emoluments of the clergy, gradually come to be looked upon as a
substitute for the latter. Sacrifices in temples, the saying of masses,
the founding of chapels, the planting of crosses by the roadside, soon
come to be the most meritorious works, so that even great crimes are
expiated by them, as also by penance, subjection to priestly authority,
confessions, pilgrimages, donations to the temples and the clergy, the
building of monasteries and the like. The consequence of all this is
that the priests finally appear as middlemen in the corruption of the
gods. And if matters don't go quite so far as that, where is the
religion whose adherents don't consider prayers, praise and manifold
acts of devotion, a substitute, at least in part, for moral conduct?
Look at England, where by an audacious piece of priestcraft, the
Christian Sunday, introduced by Constantine the Great as a subject for
the Jewish Sabbath, is in a mendacious way identified with it, and takes
its name,--and this in order that the commands of Jehovah for the
Sabbath (that is, the day on which the Almighty had to rest from his six
days' labor, so that it is essentially the last day of the week), might
be applied to the Christian Sunday, the _dies solis_, the first day of
the week which the sun opens in glory, the day of devotion and joy. The
consequence of this fraud is that "Sabbath-breaking," or "the
desecration of the Sabbath," that is, the slightest occupation, whether
of business or pleasure, all games, music, sewing, worldly books, are on
Sundays looked upon as great sins. Surely the ordinary man must believe
that if, as his spiritual guides impress upon him, he is only constant
in "a strict observance of the holy Sabbath," and is "a regular
attendant at Divine Service," that is, if he only invariably idles away
his time on Sundays, and doesn't fail to sit two hours in church to hear
the same litany for the thousandth time and mutter it in tune with the
others, he may reckon on indulgence in regard to those little
peccadilloes which he occasionally allows himself. Those devils in human
form, the slave owners and slave traders in the Free States of North
America (they should be called the Slave States) are, as a rule,
orthodox, pious Anglicans who would consider it a grave sin to work on
Sundays; and having confidence in this, and their regular attendance at
church, they hope for eternal happiness. The demoralizing tendency of
religion is less problematical than its moral influence. How great and
how certain that moral influence must be to make amends for the
enormities which religions, especially the Christian and Mohammedan
religions, have produced and spread over the earth! Think of the
fanaticism, the endless persecutions, the religious wars, that
sanguinary frenzy of which the ancients had no conception! think of the
crusades, a butchery lasting two hundred years and inexcusable, its war
cry "_It is the will of God_," its object to gain possession of the
grave of one who preached love and sufferance! think of the cruel
expulsion and extermination of the Moors and Jews from Spain! think of
the orgies of blood, the inquisitions, the heretical tribunals, the
bloody and terrible conquests of the Mohammedans in three continents, or
those of Christianity in America, whose inhabitants were for the most
part, and in Cuba entirely, exterminated. According to Las Cases,
Christianity murdered twelve millions in forty years, of course all _in
majorem Dei gloriam_, and for the propagation of the Gospel, and because
what wasn't Christian wasn't even looked upon as human! I have, it is
true, touched upon these matters before; but when in our day, we hear of
_Latest News from the Kingdom of God_ [Footnote: A missionary paper, of
which the 40th annual number appeared in 1856], we shall not be weary of
bringing old news to mind. And above all, don't let us forget India, the
cradle of the human race, or at least of that part of it to which we
belong, where first Mohammedans, and then Christians, were most cruelly
infuriated against the adherents of the original faith of mankind. The
destruction or disfigurement of the ancient temples and idols, a
lamentable, mischievous and barbarous act, still bears witness to the
monotheistic fury of the Mohammedans, carried on from Marmud, the
Ghaznevid of cursed memory, down to Aureng Zeb, the fratricide, whom the
Portuguese Christians have zealously imitated by destruction of temples
and the _auto de fe_ of the inquisition at Goa. Don't let us forget the
chosen people of God, who after they had, by Jehovah's express command,
stolen from their old and trusty friends in Egypt the gold and silver
vessels which had been lent to them, made a murderous and plundering
inroad into "the Promised Land," with the murderer Moses at their head,
to tear it from the rightful owners,--again, by the same Jehovah's
express and repeated commands, showing no mercy, exterminating the
inhabitants, women, children and all (Joshua, ch. 9 and 10). And all
this, simply because they weren't circumcised and didn't know Jehovah,
which was reason enough to justify every enormity against them; just as
for the same reason, in earlier times, the infamous knavery of the
patriarch Jacob and his chosen people against Hamor, King of Shalem, and
his people, is reported to his glory because the people were
unbelievers! (Genesis xxxiii. 18.) Truly, it is the worst side of
religions that the believers of one religion have allowed themselves
every sin again those of another, and with the utmost ruffianism and
cruelty persecuted them; the Mohammedans against the Christians and
Hindoos; the Christians against the Hindoos, Mohammedans, American
natives, Negroes, Jews, heretics, and others.

Perhaps I go too far in saying _all_ religions. For the sake of truth, I
must add that the fanatical enormities perpetrated in the name of
religion are only to be put down to the adherents of monotheistic
creeds, that is, the Jewish faith and its two branches, Christianity and
Islamism. We hear of nothing of the kind in the case of Hindoos and
Buddhists. Although it is a matter of common knowledge that about the
fifth century of our era Buddhism was driven out by the Brahmans from
its ancient home in the southernmost part of the Indian peninsula, and
afterwards spread over the whole of the rest of Asia, as far as I know,
we have no definite account of any crimes of violence, or wars, or
cruelties, perpetrated in the course of it.

That may, of course, be attributable to the obscurity which veils the
history of those countries; but the exceedingly mild character of their
religion, together with their unceasing inculcation of forbearance
towards all living things, and the fact that Brahmanism by its caste
system properly admits no proselytes, allows one to hope that their
adherents may be acquitted of shedding blood on a large scale, and of
cruelty in any form. Spence Hardy, in his excellent book on _Eastern
Monachism_, praises the extraordinary tolerance of the Buddhists, and
adds his assurance that the annals of Buddhism will furnish fewer
instances of religious persecution than those of any other religion.

As a matter of fact, it is only to monotheism that intolerance is
essential; an only god is by his nature a jealous god, who can allow no
other god to exist. Polytheistic gods, on the other hand, are naturally
tolerant; they live and let live; their own colleagues are the chief
objects of their sufferance, as being gods of the same religion. This
toleration is afterwards extended to foreign gods, who are, accordingly,
hospitably received, and later on admitted, in some cases, to an
equality of rights; the chief example of which is shown by the fact,
that the Romans willingly admitted and venerated Phrygian, Egyptian and
other gods. Hence it is that monotheistic religions alone furnish the
spectacle of religious wars, religious persecutions, heretical
tribunals, that breaking of idols and destruction of images of the gods,
that razing of Indian temples, and Egyptian colossi, which had looked on
the sun three thousand years, just because a jealous god had said, _Thou
shalt make no graven image_.

But to return to the chief point. You are certainly right in insisting
on the strong metaphysical needs of mankind; but religion appears to me
to be not so much a satisfaction as an abuse of those needs. At any rate
we have seen that in regard to the furtherance of morality, its utility
is, for the most part, problematical, its disadvantages, and especially
the atrocities which have followed in its train, are patent to the light
of day. Of course it is quite a different matter if we consider the
utility of religion as a prop of thrones; for where these are held "by
the grace of God," throne and altar are intimately associated; and every
wise prince who loves his throne and his family will appear at the head
of his people as an exemplar of true religion. Even Machiavelli, in the
eighteenth chapter of his book, most earnestly recommended religion to
princes. Beyond this, one may say that revealed religions stand to
philosophy exactly in the relation of "sovereigns by the grace of God,"
to "the sovereignty of the people"; so that the two former terms of the
parallel are in natural alliance.

_Demopheles_. Oh, don't take that tone! You're going hand in hand with
ochlocracy and anarchy, the arch enemy of all legislative order, all
civilization and all humanity.

_Philalethes_. You are right. It was only a sophism of mine, what the
fencing master calls a feint. I retract it. But see how disputing
sometimes makes an honest man unjust and malicious. Let us stop.

_Demopheles_. I can't help regretting that, after all the trouble I've
taken, I haven't altered your disposition in regard to religion. On the
other hand, I can assure you that everything you have said hasn't shaken
my conviction of its high value and necessity.

_Philalethes_. I fully believe you; for, as we may read in Hudibras--

A man convinced against his will
Is of the same opinion still.

My consolation is that, alike in controversies and in taking mineral
waters, the after effects are the true ones.

_Demopheles_. Well, I hope it'll be beneficial in your case.

_Philalethes_. It might be so, if I could digest a certain Spanish

_Demopheles_. Which is?

_Philalethes. Behind the cross stands the devil_.

_Demopheles_. Come, don't let us part with sarcasms. Let us rather admit
that religion, like Janus, or better still, like the Brahman god of
death, Yama, has two faces, and like him, one friendly, the other
sullen. Each of us has kept his eye fixed on one alone.

_Philalethes_. You are right, old fellow.


The controversy between Theism and Pantheism might be presented in an
allegorical or dramatic form by supposing a dialogue between two persons
in the pit of a theatre at Milan during the performance of a piece. One
of them, convinced that he is in Girolamo's renowned marionette-theatre,
admires the art by which the director gets up the dolls and guides their
movements. "Oh, you are quite mistaken," says the other, "we're in the
Teatro della Scala; it is the manager and his troupe who are on the
stage; they are the persons you see before you; the poet too is taking a

The chief objection I have to Pantheism is that it says nothing. To call
the world "God" is not to explain it; it is only to enrich our language
with a superfluous synonym for the word "world." It comes to the same
thing whether you say "the world is God," or "God is the world." But if
you start from "God" as something that is given in experience, and has
to be explained, and they say, "God is the world," you are affording
what is to some extent an explanation, in so far as you are reducing
what is unknown to what is partly known (_ignotum per notius_); but it
is only a verbal explanation. If, however, you start from what is really
given, that is to say, from the world, and say, "the world is God," it
is clear that you say nothing, or at least you are explaining what is
unknown by what is more unknown.

Hence, Pantheism presupposes Theism; only in so far as you start from a
god, that is, in so far as you possess him as something with which you
are already familiar, can you end by identifying him with the world; and
your purpose in doing so is to put him out of the way in a decent
fashion. In other words, you do not start clear from the world as
something that requires explanation; you start from God as something
that is given, and not knowing what to do with him, you make the world
take over his role. This is the origin of Pantheism. Taking an
unprejudiced view of the world as it is, no one would dream of regarding
it as a god. It must be a very ill-advised god who knows no better way
of diverting himself than by turning into such a world as ours, such a
mean, shabby world, there to take the form of innumerable millions who
live indeed, but are fretted and tormented, and who manage to exist a
while together, only by preying on one another; to bear misery, need and
death, without measure and without object, in the form, for instance, of
millions of negro slaves, or of the three million weavers in Europe who,
in hunger and care, lead a miserable existence in damp rooms or the
cheerless halls of a factory. What a pastime this for a god, who must,
as such, be used to another mode of existence!

We find accordingly that what is described as the great advance from
Theism to Pantheism, if looked at seriously, and not simply as a masked
negation of the sort indicated above, is a transition from what is
unproved and hardly conceivable to what is absolutely absurd. For
however obscure, however loose or confused may be the idea which we
connect with the word "God," there are two predicates which are
inseparable from it, the highest power and the highest wisdom. It is
absolutely absurd to think that a being endowed with these qualities
should have put himself into the position described above. Theism, on
the other hand, is something which is merely unproved; and if it is
difficult to look upon the infinite world as the work of a personal, and
therefore individual, Being, the like of which we know only from our
experience of the animal world, it is nevertheless not an absolutely
absurd idea. That a Being, at once almighty and all-good, should create
a world of torment is always conceivable; even though we do not know why
he does so; and accordingly we find that when people ascribe the height
of goodness to this Being, they set up the inscrutable nature of his
wisdom as the refuge by which the doctrine escapes the charge of
absurdity. Pantheism, however, assumes that the creative God is himself
the world of infinite torment, and, in this little world alone, dies
every second, and that entirely of his own will; which is absurd. It
would be much more correct to identify the world with the devil, as the
venerable author of the _Deutsche Theologie_ has, in fact, done in a
passage of his immortal work, where he says, "_Wherefore the evil spirit
and nature are one, and where nature is not overcome, neither is the
evil adversary overcome_."

It is manifest that the Pantheists give the Sansara the name of God. The
same name is given by the Mystics to the Nirvana. The latter, however,
state more about the Nirvana than they know, which is not done by the
Buddhists, whose Nirvana is accordingly a relative nothing. It is only
Jews, Christians, and Mohammedans who give its proper and correct
meaning to the word "God."

The expression, often heard now-a-days, "the world is an end-in-itself,"
leaves it uncertain whether Pantheism or a simple Fatalism is to be
taken as the explanation of it. But, whichever it be, the expression
looks upon the world from a physical point of view only, and leaves out
of sight its moral significance, because you cannot assume a moral
significance without presenting the world as means to a higher end. The
notion that the world has a physical but not a moral meaning, is the
most mischievous error sprung from the greatest mental perversity.


Ignorance is degrading only when found in company with riches. The poor
man is restrained by poverty and need: labor occupies his thoughts, and
takes the place of knowledge. But rich men who are ignorant live for
their lusts only, and are like the beasts of the field; as may be seen
every day: and they can also be reproached for not having used wealth
and leisure for that which gives them their greatest value.

When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental
process. In learning to write, the pupil goes over with his pen what the
teacher has outlined in pencil: so in reading; the greater part of the
work of thought is already done for us. This is why it relieves us to
take up a book after being occupied with our own thoughts. And in
reading, the mind is, in fact, only the playground of another's
thoughts. So it comes about that if anyone spends almost the whole day
in reading, and by way of relaxation devotes the intervals to some
thoughtless pastime, he gradually loses the capacity for thinking; just
as the man who always rides, at last forgets how to walk. This is the
case with many learned persons: they have read themselves stupid. For to
occupy every spare moment in reading, and to do nothing but read, is
even more paralyzing to the mind than constant manual labor, which at
least allows those engaged in it to follow their own thoughts. A spring
never free from the pressure of some foreign body at last loses its
elasticity; and so does the mind if other people's thoughts are
constantly forced upon it. Just as you can ruin the stomach and impair
the whole body by taking too much nourishment, so you can overfill and
choke the mind by feeding it too much. The more you read, the fewer are
the traces left by what you have read: the mind becomes like a tablet
crossed over and over with writing. There is no time for ruminating, and
in no other way can you assimilate what you have read. If you read on
and on without setting your own thoughts to work, what you have read can
not strike root, and is generally lost. It is, in fact, just the same
with mental as with bodily food: hardly the fifth part of what one takes
is assimilated. The rest passes off in evaporation, respiration and the

The result of all this is that thoughts put on paper are nothing more
than footsteps in the sand: you see the way the man has gone, but to
know what he saw on his walk, you want his eyes.

There is no quality of style that can be gained by reading writers who
possess it; whether it be persuasiveness, imagination, the gift of
drawing comparisons, boldness, bitterness, brevity, grace, ease of
expression or wit, unexpected contrasts, a laconic or naive manner, and
the like. But if these qualities are already in us, exist, that is to
say, potentially, we can call them forth and bring them to
consciousness; we can learn the purposes to which they can be put; we
can be strengthened in our inclination to use them, or get courage to do
so; we can judge by examples the effect of applying them, and so acquire
the correct use of them; and of course it is only when we have arrived
at that point that we actually possess these qualities. The only way in
which reading can form style is by teaching us the use to which we can
put our own natural gifts. We must have these gifts before we begin to
learn the use of them. Without them, reading teaches us nothing but
cold, dead mannerisms and makes us shallow imitators.

The strata of the earth preserve in rows the creatures which lived in
former ages; and the array of books on the shelves of a library stores
up in like manner the errors of the past and the way in which they have
been exposed. Like those creatures, they too were full of life in their
time, and made a great deal of noise; but now they are stiff and
fossilized, and an object of curiosity to the literary palaeontologist

Herodotus relates that Xerxes wept at the sight of his army, which
stretched further than the eye could reach, in the thought that of all
these, after a hundred years, not one would be alive. And in looking
over a huge catalogue of new books, one might weep at thinking that,
when ten years have passed, not one of them will be heard of.

It is in literature as in life: wherever you turn, you stumble at once
upon the incorrigible mob of humanity, swarming in all directions,
crowding and soiling everything, like flies in summer. Hence the number,
which no man can count, of bad books, those rank weeds of literature,
which draw nourishment from the corn and choke it. The time, money and
attention of the public, which rightfully belong to good books and their
noble aims, they take for themselves: they are written for the mere
purpose of making money or procuring places. So they are not only
useless; they do positive mischief. Nine-tenths of the whole of our
present literature has no other aim than to get a few shillings out of
the pockets of the public; and to this end author, publisher and
reviewer are in league.

Let me mention a crafty and wicked trick, albeit a profitable and
successful one, practised by litterateurs, hack writers, and voluminous
authors. In complete disregard of good taste and the true culture of the
period, they have succeeded in getting the whole of the world of fashion
into leading strings, so that they are all trained to read in time, and
all the same thing, viz., _the newest books_; and that for the purpose
of getting food for conversation in the circles in which they move. This
is the aim served by bad novels, produced by writers who were once
celebrated, as Spindler, Bulwer Lytton, Eugene Sue. What can be more
miserable than the lot of a reading public like this, always bound to
peruse the latest works of extremely commonplace persons who write for
money only, and who are therefore never few in number? and for this
advantage they are content to know by name only the works of the few
superior minds of all ages and all countries. Literary newspapers, too,
are a singularly cunning device for robbing the reading public of the
time which, if culture is to be attained, should be devoted to the
genuine productions of literature, instead of being occupied by the
daily bungling commonplace persons.

Hence, in regard to reading, it is a very important thing to be able to
refrain. Skill in doing so consists in not taking into one's hands any
book merely because at the time it happens to be extensively read; such
as political or religious pamphlets, novels, poetry, and the like, which
make a noise, and may even attain to several editions in the first and
last year of their existence. Consider, rather, that the man who writes
for fools is always sure of a large audience; be careful to limit your
time for reading, and devote it exclusively to the works of those great
minds of all times and countries, who o'ertop the rest of humanity,
those whom the voice of fame points to as such. These alone really
educate and instruct. You can never read bad literature too little, nor
good literature too much. Bad books are intellectual poison; they
destroy the mind. Because people always read what is new instead of the
best of all ages, writers remain in the narrow circle of the ideas which
happen to prevail in their time; and so the period sinks deeper and
deeper into its own mire.

There are at all times two literatures in progress, running side by
side, but little known to each other; the one real, the other only
apparent. The former grows into permanent literature; it is pursued by
those who live _for_ science or poetry; its course is sober and quiet,
but extremely slow; and it produces in Europe scarcely a dozen works in
a century; these, however, are permanent. The other kind is pursued by
persons who live _on_ science or poetry; it goes at a gallop with much
noise and shouting of partisans; and every twelve-month puts a thousand
works on the market. But after a few years one asks, Where are they?
where is the glory which came so soon and made so much clamor? This kind
may be called fleeting, and the other, permanent literature.

In the history of politics, half a century is always a considerable
time; the matter which goes to form them is ever on the move; there is
always something going on. But in the history of literature there is
often a complete standstill for the same period; nothing has happened,
for clumsy attempts don't count. You are just where you were fifty years

To explain what I mean, let me compare the advance of knowledge among
mankind to the course taken by a planet. The false paths on which
humanity usually enters after every important advance are like the
epicycles in the Ptolemaic system, and after passing through one of
them, the world is just where it was before it entered it. But the great
minds, who really bring the race further on its course do not accompany
it on the epicycles it makes from time to time. This explains why
posthumous fame is often bought at the expense of contemporary praise,
and _vice versa_. An instance of such an epicycle is the philosophy
started by Fichte and Schelling, and crowned by Hegel's caricature of
it. This epicycle was a deviation from the limit to which philosophy had
been ultimately brought by Kant; and at that point I took it up again
afterwards, to carry it further. In the intervening period the sham
philosophers I have mentioned and some others went through their
epicycle, which had just come to an end; so that those who went with
them on their course are conscious of the fact that they are exactly at
the point from which they started.

This circumstance explains why it is that, every thirty years or so,
science, literature, and art, as expressed in the spirit of the time,
are declared bankrupt. The errors which appear from time to time amount
to such a height in that period that the mere weight of their absurdity
makes the fabric fall; whilst the opposition to them has been gathering
force at the same time. So an upset takes place, often followed by an
error in the opposite direction. To exhibit these movements in their
periodical return would be the true practical aim of the history of
literature: little attention, however, is paid to it. And besides, the
comparatively short duration of these periods makes it difficult to
collect the data of epochs long gone by, so that it is most convenient
to observe how the matter stands in one's own generation. An instance of
this tendency, drawn from physical science, is supplied in the Neptunian
geology of Werter.

But let me keep strictly to the example cited above, the nearest we can
take. In German philosophy, the brilliant epoch of Kant was immediately
followed by a period which aimed rather at being imposing than at
convincing. Instead of being thorough and clear, it tried to be
dazzling, hyperbolical, and, in a special degree, unintelligible:
instead of seeking truth, it intrigued. Philosophy could make no
progress in this fashion; and at last the whole school and its method
became bankrupt. For the effrontery of Hegel and his fellows came to
such a pass,--whether because they talked such sophisticated nonsense,
or were so unscrupulously puffed, or because the entire aim of this
pretty piece of work was quite obvious,--that in the end there was
nothing to prevent charlatanry of the whole business from becoming
manifest to everybody: and when, in consequence of certain disclosures,
the favor it had enjoyed in high quarters was withdrawn, the system was
openly ridiculed. This most miserable of all the meagre philosophies
that have ever existed came to grief, and dragged down with it into the
abysm of discredit, the systems of Fichte and Schelling which had
preceded it. And so, as far as Germany is concerned, the total
philosophical incompetence of the first half of the century following
upon Kant is quite plain: and still the Germans boast of their talent
for philosophy in comparison with foreigners, especially since an
English writer has been so maliciously ironical as to call them "a
nation of thinkers."

For an example of the general system of epicycles drawn from the history
of art, look at the school of sculpture which flourished in the last
century and took its name from Bernini, more especially at the
development of it which prevailed in France. The ideal of this school
was not antique beauty, but commonplace nature: instead of the
simplicity and grace of ancient art, it represented the manners of a
French minuet.

This tendency became bankrupt when, under Winkelman's direction, a
return was made to the antique school. The history of painting furnishes
an illustration in the first quarter of the century, when art was looked
upon merely as a means and instrument of mediaeval religious sentiment,
and its themes consequently drawn from ecclesiastical subjects alone:
these, however, were treated by painters who had none of the true
earnestness of faith, and in their delusion they followed Francesco
Francia, Pietro Perugino, Angelico da Fiesole and others like them,
rating them higher even than the really great masters who followed. It
was in view of this terror, and because in poetry an analogous aim had
at the same time found favor, that Goethe wrote his parable
_Pfaffenspiel_. This school, too, got the reputation of being whimsical,
became bankrupt, and was followed by a return to nature, which
proclaimed itself in _genre_ pictures and scenes of life of every kind,
even though it now and then strayed into what was vulgar.

The progress of the human mind in literature is similar. The history of
literature is for the most part like the catalogue of a museum of
deformities; the spirit in which they keep best is pigskin. The few
creatures that have been born in goodly shape need not be looked for
there. They are still alive, and are everywhere to be met with in the
world, immortal, and with their years ever green. They alone form what I
have called real literature; the history of which, poor as it is in
persons, we learn from our youth up out of the mouths of all educated
people, before compilations recount it for us.

As an antidote to the prevailing monomania for reading literary
histories, in order to be able to chatter about everything, without
having any real knowledge at all, let me refer to a passage in
Lichtenberg's works (vol. II., p. 302), which is well worth perusal.

I believe that the over-minute acquaintance with the history of science
and learning, which is such a prevalent feature of our day, is very
prejudicial to the advance of knowledge itself. There is pleasure in
following up this history; but as a matter of fact, it leaves the mind,
not empty indeed, but without any power of its own, just because it
makes it so full. Whoever has felt the desire, not to fill up his mind,
but to strengthen it, to develop his faculties and aptitudes, and
generally, to enlarge his powers, will have found that there is nothing
so weakening as intercourse with a so-called litterateur, on a matter of
knowledge on which he has not thought at all, though he knows a thousand
little facts appertaining to its history and literature. It is like
reading a cookery-book when you are hungry. I believe that so-called
literary history will never thrive amongst thoughtful people, who are
conscious of their own worth and the worth of real knowledge. These
people are more given to employing their own reason than to troubling
themselves to know how others have employed theirs. The worst of it is
that, as you will find, the more knowledge takes the direction of
literary research, the less the power of promoting knowledge becomes;
the only thing that increases is pride in the possession of it. Such
persons believe that they possess knowledge in a greater degree than
those who really possess it. It is surely a well-founded remark, that
knowledge never makes its possessor proud. Those alone let themselves be
blown out with pride, who incapable of extending knowledge in their own
persons, occupy themselves with clearing up dark points in its history,
or are able to recount what others have done. They are proud, because
they consider this occupation, which is mostly of a mechanical nature,
the practice of knowledge. I could illustrate what I mean by examples,
but it would be an odious task.

Still, I wish some one would attempt a _tragical_ history of literature,
giving the way in which the writers and artists, who form the proudest
possession of the various nations which have given them birth, have been
treated by them during their lives. Such a history would exhibit the
ceaseless warfare, which what was good and genuine in all times and
countries has had to wage with what was bad and perverse. It would tell
of the martyrdom of almost all those who truly enlightened humanity, of
almost all the great masters of every kind of art: it would show us how,
with few exceptions, they were tormented to death, without recognition,
without sympathy, without followers; how they lived in poverty and
misery, whilst fame, honor, and riches, were the lot of the unworthy;
how their fate was that of Esau, who while he was hunting and getting
venison for his father, was robbed of the blessing by Jacob, disguised
in his brother's clothes, how, in spite of all, they were kept up by the
love of their work, until at last the bitter fight of the teacher of
humanity is over, until the immortal laurel is held out to him, and the
hour strikes when it can be said:

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


That the outer man is a picture of the inner, and the face an expression
and revelation of the whole character, is a presumption likely enough in
itself, and therefore a safe one to go by; evidenced as it is by the
fact that people are always anxious to see anyone who has made himself
famous by good or evil, or as the author of some extraordinary work; or
if they cannot get a sight of him, to hear at any rate from others what
he looks like. So people go to places where they may expect to see the
person who interests them; the press, especially in England, endeavors
to give a minute and striking description of his appearance; painters
and engravers lose no time in putting him visibly before us; and finally
photography, on that very account of such high value, affords the most
complete satisfaction of our curiosity. It is also a fact that in
private life everyone criticises the physiognomy of those he comes
across, first of all secretly trying to discern their intellectual and
moral character from their features. This would be a useless proceeding
if, as some foolish people fancy, the exterior of a man is a matter of
no account; if, as they think, the soul is one thing and the body
another, and the body related to the soul merely as the coat to the man

On the contrary, every human face is a hieroglyphic, and a hieroglyphic,
too, which admits of being deciphered, the alphabet of which we carry
about with us already perfected. As a matter of fact, the face of a man
gives us a fuller and more interesting information than his tongue; for
his face is the compendium of all he will ever say, as it is the one
record of all his thoughts and endeavors. And, moreover, the tongue
tells the thought of one man only, whereas the face expresses a thought
of nature itself: so that everyone is worth attentive observation, even
though everyone may not be worth talking to. And if every individual is
worth observation as a single thought of nature, how much more so is
beauty, since it is a higher and more general conception of nature, is,
in fact, her thought of a species. This is why beauty is so captivating:
it is a fundamental thought of nature: whereas the individual is only a
by-thought, a corollary.

In private, people always proceed upon the principle that a man is what
he looks; and the principle is a right one, only the difficulty lies in
its application. For though the art of applying the principle is partly
innate and may be partly gained by experience, no one is a master of it,
and even the most experienced is not infallible. But for all that,
whatever Figaro may say, it is not the face which deceives; it is we who
deceive ourselves in reading in it what is not there.

The deciphering of a face is certainly a great and difficult art, and
the principles of it can never be learnt in the abstract. The first
condition of success is to maintain a purely objective point of view,
which is no easy matter. For, as soon as the faintest trace of anything
subjective is present, whether dislike or favor, or fear or hope, or
even the thought of the impression we ourselves are making upon the
object of our attention the characters we are trying to decipher become
confused and corrupt. The sound of a language is really appreciated only
by one who does not understand it, and that because, in thinking of the
signification of a word, we pay no regard to the sign itself. So, in the
same way, a physiognomy is correctly gauged only by one to whom it is
still strange, who has not grown accustomed to the face by constantly
meeting and conversing with the man himself. It is, therefore, strictly
speaking, only the first sight of a man which affords that purely
objective view which is necessary for deciphering his features. An odor
affects us only when we first come in contact with it, and the first
glass of wine is the one which gives us its true taste: in the same way,
it is only at the first encounter that a face makes its full impression
upon us. Consequently the first impression should be carefully attended
to and noted, even written down if the subject of it is of personal
importance, provided, of course, that one can trust one's own sense of
physiognomy. Subsequent acquaintance and intercourse will obliterate the
impression, but time will one day prove whether it is true.

Let us, however, not conceal from ourselves the fact that this first
impression is for the most part extremely unedifying. How poor most
faces are! With the exception of those that are beautiful, good-natured,
or intellectual, that is to say, the very few and far between, I believe
a person of any fine feeling scarcely ever sees a new face without a
sensation akin to a shock, for the reason that it presents a new and
surprising combination of unedifying elements. To tell the truth, it is,
as a rule, a sorry sight. There are some people whose faces bear the
stamp of such artless vulgarity and baseness of character, such an
animal limitation of intelligence, that one wonders how they can appear
in public with such a countenance, instead of wearing a mask. There are
faces, indeed, the very sight of which produces a feeling of pollution.
One cannot, therefore, take it amiss of people, whose privileged
position admits of it, if they manage to live in retirement and
completely free from the painful sensation of "seeing new faces." The
metaphysical explanation of this circumstance rests upon the
consideration that the individuality of a man is precisely that by the
very existence of which he should be reclaimed and corrected. If, on the
other hand, a psychological explanation is satisfactory, let any one ask
himself what kind of physiognomy he may expect in those who have all
their life long, except on the rarest occasions, harbored nothing but
petty, base and miserable thoughts, and vulgar, selfish, envious, wicked
and malicious desires. Every one of these thoughts and desires has set
its mark upon the face during the time it lasted, and by constant
repetition, all these marks have in course of time become furrows and
blotches, so to speak. Consequently, most people's appearance is such as
to produce a shock at first sight; and it is only gradually that one
gets accustomed to it, that is to say, becomes so deadened to the
impression that it has no more effect on one.

And that the prevailing facial expression is the result of a long
process of innumerable, fleeting and characteristic contractions of the
features is just the reason why intellectual countenances are of gradual
formation. It is, indeed, only in old age that intellectual men attain
their sublime expression, whilst portraits of them in their youth show
only the first traces of it. But on the other hand, what I have just
said about the shock which the first sight of a face generally produces,
is in keeping with the remark that it is only at that first sight that
it makes its true and full impression. For to get a purely objective and
uncorrupted impression of it, we must stand in no kind of relation to
the person; if possible, we must not yet have spoken with him. For every
conversation places us to some extent upon a friendly footing,
establishes a certain _rapport_, a mutual subjective relation, which is
at once unfavorable to an objective point of view. And as everyone's
endeavor is to win esteem or friendship for himself, the man who is
under observation will at once employ all those arts of dissimulation in
which he is already versed, and corrupt us with his airs, hypocrisies
and flatteries; so that what the first look clearly showed will soon be
seen by us no more.

This fact is at the bottom of the saying that "most people gain by
further acquaintance"; it ought, however, to run, "delude us by it." It
is only when, later on, the bad qualities manifest themselves, that our
first judgment as a rule receives its justification and makes good its
scornful verdict. It may be that "a further acquaintance" is an
unfriendly one, and if that is so, we do not find in this case either
that people gain by it. Another reason why people apparently gain on a
nearer acquaintance is that the man whose first aspect warns us from
him, as soon as we converse with him, no longer shows his own being and
character, but also his education; that is, not only what he really is
by nature, but also what he has appropriated to himself out of the
common wealth of mankind. Three-fourths of what he says belongs not to
him, but to the sources from which he obtained it; so that we are often
surprised to hear a minotaur speak so humanly. If we make a still closer
acquaintance, the animal nature, of which his face gave promise, will
manifest itself "in all its splendor." If one is gifted with an acute
sense for physiognomy, one should take special note of those verdicts
which preceded a closer acquaintance and were therefore genuine. For the
face of a man is the exact impression of what he is; and if he deceives
us, that is our fault, not his. What a man says, on the other hand, is
what he thinks, more often what he has learned, or it may be even, what
he pretends to think. And besides this, when we talk to him, or even
hear him talking to others, we pay no attention to his physiognomy
proper. It is the underlying substance, the fundamental _datum_, and we
disregard it; what interests us is its pathognomy, its play of feature
during conversation. This, however, is so arranged as to turn the good
side upwards.

When Socrates said to a young man who was introduced to him to have his
capabilities tested, "Talk in order that I may see you," if indeed by
"seeing" he did not simply mean "hearing," he was right, so far as it is
only in conversation that the features and especially the eyes become
animated, and the intellectual resources and capacities set their mark
upon the countenance. This puts us in a position to form a provisional
notion of the degree and capacity of intelligence; which was in that
case Socrates' aim. But in this connection it is to be observed,
firstly, that the rule does not apply to moral qualities, which lie
deeper, and in the second place, that what from an objective point of
view we gain by the clearer development of the countenance in
conversation, we lose from a subjective standpoint on account of the
personal relation into which the speaker at once enters in regard to us,
and which produces a slight fascination, so that, as explained above, we
are not left impartial observers. Consequently from the last point of
view we might say with greater accuracy, "Do not speak in order that I
may see you."

For to get a pure and fundamental conception of a man's physiognomy, we
must observe him when he is alone and left to himself. Society of any
kind and conversation throw a reflection upon him which is not his own,
generally to his advantage; as he is thereby placed in a state of action
and reaction which sets him off. But alone and left to himself, plunged
in the depths of his own thoughts and sensations, he is wholly himself,
and a penetrating eye for physiognomy can at one glance take a general
view of his entire character. For his face, looked at by and in itself,
expresses the keynote of all his thoughts and endeavors, the _arret
irrevocable_, the irrevocable decree of his destiny, the consciousness
of which only comes to him when he is alone.

The study of physiognomy is one of the chief means of a knowledge of
mankind, because the cast of a man's face is the only sphere in which
his arts of dissimulation are of no avail, since these arts extended
only to that play of feature which is akin to mimicry. And that is why I
recommend such a study to be undertaken when the subject of it is alone
and given up to his own thoughts, and before he is spoken to: and this
partly for the reason that it is only in such a condition that
inspection of the physiognomy pure and simple is possible, because
conversation at once lets in a pathognomical element, in which a man can
apply the arts of dissimulation which he has learned: partly again
because personal contact, even of the very slightest kind, gives a
certain bias and so corrupts the judgment of the observer.

And in regard to the study of physiognomy in general, it is further to
be observed that intellectual capacity is much easier of discernment
than moral character. The former naturally takes a much more outward
direction, and expresses itself not only in the face and the play of
feature, but also in the gait, down even to the very slightest movement.
One could perhaps discriminate from behind between a blockhead, a fool
and a man of genius. The blockhead would be discerned by the torpidity
and sluggishness of all his movements: folly sets its mark upon every
gesture, and so does intellect and a studious nature. Hence that remark
of La Bruyere that there is nothing so slight, so simple or
imperceptible but that our way of doing it enters in and betrays us: a
fool neither comes nor goes, nor sits down, nor gets up, nor holds his
tongue, nor moves about in the same way as an intelligent man. (And this
is, be it observed by way of parenthesis, the explanation of that sure
and certain instinct which, according to Helvetius, ordinary folk
possess of discerning people of genius, and of getting out of their

The chief reason for this is that, the larger and more developed the
brain, and the thinner, in relation to it, the spine and nerves, the
greater is the intellect; and not the intellect alone, but at the same
time the mobility and pliancy of all the limbs; because the brain
controls them more immediately and resolutely; so that everything hangs
more upon a single thread, every movement of which gives a precise
expression to its purpose.

This is analogous to, nay, is immediately connected with the fact that
the higher an animal stands in the scale of development, the easier it
becomes to kill it by wounding a single spot. Take, for example,
batrachia: they are slow, cumbrous and sluggish in their movements; they
are unintelligent, and, at the same time, extremely tenacious of life;
the reason of which is that, with a very small brain, their spine and
nerves are very thick. Now gait and movement of the arms are mainly
functions of the brain; our limbs receive their motion and every little
modification of it from the brain through the medium of the spine.

This is why conscious movements fatigue us: the sensation of fatigue,
like that of pain, has its seat in the brain, not, as people commonly
suppose, in the limbs themselves; hence motion induces sleep.

On the other hand those motions which are not excited by the brain, that
is, the unconscious movements of organic life, of the heart, of the
lungs, etc., go on in their course without producing fatigue. And as
thought, equally with motion, is a function of the brain, the character
of the brain's activity is expressed equally in both, according to the
constitution of the individual; stupid people move like lay-figures,
while every joint of an intelligent man is eloquent.

But gesture and movement are not nearly so good an index of intellectual
qualities as the face, the shape and size of the brain, the contraction
and movement of the features, and above all the eye,--from the small,
dull, dead-looking eye of a pig up through all gradations to the
irradiating, flashing eyes of a genius.

The look of good sense and prudence, even of the best kind, differs from
that of genius, in that the former bears the stamp of subjection to the
will, while the latter is free from it.

And therefore one can well believe the anecdote told by Squarzafichi in
his life of Petrarch, and taken from Joseph Brivius, a contemporary of
the poet, how once at the court of the Visconti, when Petrarch and other
noblemen and gentlemen were present, Galeazzo Visconti told his son, who
was then a mere boy (he was afterwards first Duke of Milan), to pick out
the wisest of the company; how the boy looked at them all for a little,
and then took Petrarch by the hand and led him up to his father, to the
great admiration of all present. For so clearly does nature set the mark
of her dignity on the privileged among mankind that even a child can
discern it.

Therefore, I should advise my sagacious countrymen, if ever again they
wish to trumpet about for thirty years a very commonplace person as a
great genius, not to choose for the purpose such a beerhouse-keeper
physiognomy as was possessed by that philosopher, upon whose face nature
had written, in her clearest characters, the familiar inscription,
"commonplace person."

But what applies to intellectual capacity will not apply to moral
qualities, to character. It is more difficult to discern its
physiognomy, because, being of a metaphysical nature, it lies
incomparably deeper.

It is true that moral character is also connected with the constitution,
with the organism, but not so immediately or in such direct connection
with definite parts of its system as is intellectual capacity.

Hence while everyone makes a show of his intelligence and endeavors to
exhibit it at every opportunity, as something with which he is in
general quite contented, few expose their moral qualities freely, and
most people intentionally cover them up; and long practice makes the
concealment perfect. In the meantime, as I explained above, wicked
thoughts and worthless efforts gradually set their mask upon the face,
especially the eyes. So that, judging by physiognomy, it is easy to
warrant that a given man will never produce an immortal work; but not
that he will never commit a great crime.


For every animal, and more especially for man, a certain conformity and
proportion between the will and the intellect is necessary for existing
or making any progress in the world. The more precise and correct the
proportion which nature establishes, the more easy, safe and agreeable
will be the passage through the world. Still, if the right point is only
approximately reached, it will be enough to ward off destruction. There
are, then, certain limits within which the said proportion may vary, and
yet preserve a correct standard of conformity. The normal standard is as
follows. The object of the intellect is to light and lead the will on
its path, and therefore, the greater the force, impetus and passion,
which spurs on the will from within, the more complete and luminous must
be the intellect which is attached to it, that the vehement strife of
the will, the glow of passion, and the intensity of the emotions, may
not lead man astray, or urge him on to ill considered, false or ruinous
action; this will, inevitably, be the result, if the will is very
violent and the intellect very weak. On the other hand, a phlegmatic
character, a weak and languid will, can get on and hold its own with a
small amount of intellect; what is naturally moderate needs only
moderate support. The general tendency of a want of proportion between
the will and the intellect, in other words, of any variation from the
normal proportion I have mentioned, is to produce unhappiness, whether
it be that the will is greater than the intellect, or the intellect
greater than the will. Especially is this the case when the intellect is
developed to an abnormal degree of strength and superiority, so as to be
out of all proportion to the will, a condition which is the essence of
real genius; the intellect is then not only more than enough for the
needs and aims of life, it is absolutely prejudicial to them. The result
is that, in youth, excessive energy in grasping the objective world,
accompanied by a vivid imagination and a total lack of experience, makes
the mind susceptible, and an easy prey to extravagant ideas, nay, even
to chimeras; and the result is an eccentric and phantastic character.
And when, in later years, this state of mind yields and passes away
under the teaching of experience, still the genius never feels himself
at home in the common world of every day and the ordinary business of
life; he will never take his place in it, and accommodate himself to it
as accurately as the person of moral intellect; he will be much more
likely to make curious mistakes. For the ordinary mind feels itself so
completely at home in the narrow circle of its ideas and views of the
world that no one can get the better of it in that sphere; its faculties
remain true to their original purpose, viz., to promote the service of
the will; it devotes itself steadfastly to this end, and abjures
extravagant aims. The genius, on the other hand, is at bottom a
_monstrum per excessum_; just as, conversely, the passionate, violent
and unintelligent man, the brainless barbarian, is a _monstrum per

* * * * *

_The will to live_, which forms the inmost core of every living being,
exhibits itself most conspicuously in the higher order of animals, that
is, the cleverer ones; and so in them the nature of the will may be seen
and examined most clearly. For in the lower orders its activity is not
so evident; it has a lower degree of objectivation; whereas, in the
class which stands above the higher order of animals, that is, in men,
reason enters in; and with reason comes discretion, and with discretion,
the capacity of dissimulation, which throws a veil over the operations
of the will. And in mankind, consequently, the will appears without its
mask only in the affections and the passions. And this is the reason why
passion, when it speaks, always wins credence, no matter what the
passion may be; and rightly so. For the same reason the passions are the
main theme of poets and the stalking horse of actors. The
conspicuousness of the will in the lower order of animals explains the
delight we take in dogs, apes, cats, etc.; it is the entirely naive way
in which they express themselves that gives us so much pleasure.

The sight of any free animal going about its business undisturbed,
seeking its food, or looking after its young, or mixing in the company
of its kind, all the time being exactly what it ought to be and can
be,--what a strange pleasure it gives us! Even if it is only a bird, I
can watch it for a long time with delight; or a water rat or a hedgehog;
or better still, a weasel, a deer, or a stag. The main reason why we
take so much pleasure in looking at animals is that we like to see our
own nature in such a simplified form. There is only one mendacious being
in the world, and that is man. Every other is true and sincere, and
makes no attempt to conceal what it is, expressing its feelings just as
they are.

* * * * *

Many things are put down to the force of habit which are rather to be
attributed to the constancy and immutability of original, innate
character, according to which under like circumstances we always do the
same thing: whether it happens for the first or the hundredth time, it
is in virtue of the same necessity. Real force of habit, as a matter of
fact, rests upon that indolent, passive disposition which seeks to
relieve the intellect and the will of a fresh choice, and so makes us do
what we did yesterday and have done a hundred times before, and of which
we know that it will attain its object. But the truth of the matter lies
deeper, and a more precise explanation of it can be given than appears
at first sight. Bodies which may be moved by mechanical means only are
subject to the power of inertia; and applied to bodies which may be
acted on by motives, this power becomes the force of habit. The actions
which we perform by mere habit come about, in fact, without any
individual separate motive brought into play for the particular case:
hence, in performing them, we really do not think about them. A motive
was present only on the first few occasions on which the action
happened, which has since become a habit: the secondary after-effect of
this motive is the present habit, and it is sufficient to enable the
action to continue: just as when a body had been set in motion by a
push, it requires no more pushing in order to continue its motion; it
will go on to all eternity, if it meets with no friction. It is the same
in the case of animals: training is a habit which is forced upon them.
The horse goes on drawing his cart quite contentedly, without having to
be urged on: the motion is the continued effect of those strokes of the
whip, which urged him on at first: by the law of inertia they have
become perpetuated as habit. All this is really more than a mere
parable: it is the underlying identity of the will at very different
degrees of its objectivation, in virtue of which the same law of motion
takes such different forms.

* * * * *

_Vive muchos anos_ is the ordinary greeting in Spain, and all over the
earth it is quite customary to wish people a long life. It is presumably
not a knowledge of life which directs such a wish; it is rather
knowledge of what man is in his inmost nature, _the will to live_.

The wish which everyone has that he may be remembered after his
death,--a wish which rises to the longing for posthumous glory in the
case of those whose aims are high,--seems to me to spring from this
clinging to life. When the time comes which cuts a man off from every
possibility of real existence, he strives after a life which is still
attainable, even though it be a shadowy and ideal one.

* * * * *

The deep grief we feel at the loss of a friend arises from the feeling
that in every individual there is something which no words can express,
something which is peculiarly his own and therefore irreparable. _Omne
individuum ineffabile_.

* * * * *

We may come to look upon the death of our enemies and adversaries, even
long after it has occurred, with just as much regret as we feel for that
of our friends, viz., when we miss them as witnesses of our brilliant

* * * * *

That the sudden announcement of a very happy event may easily prove
fatal rests upon the fact that happiness and misery depend merely on the
proportion which our claims bear to what we get. Accordingly, the good
things we possess, or are certain of getting, are not felt to be such;
because all pleasure is in fact of a negative nature and effects the
relief of pain, while pain or evil is what is really positive; it is the
object of immediate sensation. With the possession or certain
expectation of good things our demands rises, and increases our capacity
for further possession and larger expectations. But if we are depressed
by continual misfortune, and our claims reduced to a minimum, the sudden
advent of happiness finds no capacity for enjoying it. Neutralized by an
absence of pre-existing claims, its effects are apparently positive, and
so its whole force is brought into play; hence it may possibly break our
feelings, _i.e._, be fatal to them. And so, as is well known, one must
be careful in announcing great happiness. First, one must get the person
to hope for it, then open up the prospect of it, then communicate part
of it, and at last make it fully known. Every portion of the good news
loses its efficacy, because it is anticipated by a demand, and room is
left for an increase in it. In view of all this, it may be said that our
stomach for good fortune is bottomless, but the entrance to it is
narrow. These remarks are not applicable to great misfortunes in the
same way. They are more seldom fatal, because hope always sets itself
against them. That an analogous part is not played by fear in the case
of happiness results from the fact that we are instinctively more
inclined to hope than to fear; just as our eyes turn of themselves
towards light rather than darkness.

* * * * *

Hope is the result of confusing the desire that something should take
place with the probability that it will. Perhaps no man is free from
this folly of the heart, which deranges the intellect's correct
appreciation of probability to such an extent that, if the chances are a
thousand to one against it, yet the event is thought a likely one. Still
in spite of this, a sudden misfortune is like a death stroke, whilst a
hope that is always disappointed and still never dies, is like death by
prolonged torture.

He who has lost all hope has also lost all fear; this is the meaning of
the expression "desperate." It is natural to a man to believe what he
wishes to be true, and to believe it because he wishes it, If this
characteristic of our nature, at once beneficial and assuaging, is
rooted out by many hard blows of fate, and a man comes, conversely, to a
condition in which he believes a thing must happen because he does not
wish it, and what he wishes to happen can never be, just because he
wishes it, this is in reality the state described as "desperation."

* * * * *

That we are so often deceived in others is not because our judgment is
at fault, but because in general, as Bacon says, _intellectus luminis
sicci non est, sed recipit infusionem a voluntate et affectibus_: that
is to say, trifles unconsciously bias us for or against a person from
the very beginning. It may also be explained by our not abiding by the
qualities which we really discover; we go on to conclude the presence of
others which we think inseparable from them, or the absence of those
which we consider incompatible. For instance, when we perceive
generosity, we infer justice; from piety, we infer honesty; from lying,
deception; from deception, stealing, etc.; a procedure which opens the
door to many false views, partly because human nature is so strange,
partly because our standpoint is so one-sided. It is true, indeed, that
character always forms a consistent and connected whole; but the roots
of all its qualities lie too deep to allow of our concluding from
particular data in a given case whether certain qualities can or cannot
exist together.

* * * * *

We often happen to say things that may in some way or other be
prejudicial to us; but we keep silent about things that might make us
look ridiculous; because in this case effect follows very quickly on

* * * * *

The pain of an unfulfilled wish is small in comparison with that of
repentance; for the one stands in the presence of the vast open future,
whilst the other has the irrevocable past closed behind it.

* * * * *

_Geduld, patientia_, patience, especially the Spanish _sufrimiento_, is
strongly connected with the notion of _suffering_. It is therefore a
passive state, just as the opposite is an active state of the mind, with
which, when great, patience is incompatible. It is the innate virtue of
a phlegmatic, indolent, and spiritless people, as also of women. But
that it is nevertheless so very useful and necessary is a sign that the
world is very badly constituted.

* * * * *

Money is human happiness in the abstract: he, then, who is no longer
capable of enjoying human happiness in the concrete, devotes his heart
entirely to money.

* * * * *

Obstinacy is the result of the will forcing itself into the place of the

* * * * *

If you want to find out your real opinion of anyone, observe the
impression made upon you by the first sight of a letter from him.

* * * * *

The course of our individual life and the events in it, as far as their
true meaning and connection is concerned, may be compared to a piece of
rough mosaic. So long as you stand close in front of it, you cannot get
a right view of the objects presented, nor perceive their significance
or beauty. Both come in sight only when you stand a little way off. And
in the same way you often understand the true connection of important
events in your life, not while they are going on, nor soon after they
are past, but only a considerable time afterwards.

Is this so, because we require the magnifying effect of imagination? or
because we can get a general view only from a distance? or because the
school of experience makes our judgment ripe? Perhaps all of these
together: but it is certain that we often view in the right light the
actions of others, and occasionally even our own, only after the lapse
of years. And as it is in one's own life, so it is in history.

Happy circumstances in life are like certain groups of trees. Seen from
a distance they look very well: but go up to them and amongst them, and
the beauty vanishes; you don't know where it can be; it is only trees
you see. And so it is that we often envy the lot of others.

* * * * *

The doctor sees all the weakness of mankind, the lawyer all the
wickedness, the theologian all the stupidity.

* * * * *

A person of phlegmatic disposition who is a blockhead, would, with a
sanguine nature, be a fool.

* * * * *

Now and then one learns something, but one forgets the whole day long.

Moreover our memory is like a sieve, the holes of which in time get
larger and larger: the older we get, the quicker anything entrusted to
it slips from the memory, whereas, what was fixed fast in it in early
days is there still. The memory of an old man gets clearer and clearer,
the further it goes back, and less clear the nearer it approaches the
present time; so that his memory, like his eyes, becomes short-sighted.

* * * * *

In the process of learning you may be apprehensive about bewildering and
confusing the memory, but not about overloading it, in the strict sense
of the word. The faculty for remembering is not diminished in proportion
to what one has learnt, just as little as the number of moulds in which
you cast sand, lessens its capacity for being cast in new moulds. In
this sense the memory is bottomless. And yet the greater and more
various any one's knowledge, the longer he takes to find out anything
that may suddenly be asked him; because he is like a shopkeeper who has
to get the article wanted from a large and multifarious store; or, more
strictly speaking, because out of many possible trains of thought he has
to recall exactly that one which, as a result of previous training,
leads to the matter in question. For the memory is not a repository of
things you wish to preserve, but a mere dexterity of the intellectual
powers; hence the mind always contains its sum of knowledge only
potentially, never actually.

It sometimes happens that my memory will not reproduce some word in a
foreign language, or a name, or some artistic expression, although I
know it very well. After I have bothered myself in vain about it for a
longer or a shorter time, I give up thinking about it altogether. An
hour or two afterwards, in rare cases even later still, sometimes only
after four or five weeks, the word I was trying to recall occurs to me
while I am thinking of something else, as suddenly as if some one had
whispered it to me. After noticing this phenomenon with wonder for very
many years, I have come to think that the probable explanation of it is
as follows. After the troublesome and unsuccessful search, my will
retains its craving to know the word, and so sets a watch for it in the
intellect. Later on, in the course and play of thought, some word by
chance occurs having the same initial letters or some other resemblance
to the word which is sought; then the sentinel springs forward and
supplies what is wanting to make up the word, seizes it, and suddenly
brings it up in triumph, without my knowing where and how he got it; so
it seems as if some one had whispered it to me. It is the same process
as that adopted by a teacher towards a child who cannot repeat a word;
the teacher just suggests the first letter of the word, or even the
second too; then the child remembers it. In default of this process, you
can end by going methodically through all the letters of the alphabet.

In the ordinary man, injustice rouses a passionate desire for vengeance;
and it has often been said that vengeance is sweet. How many sacrifices
have been made just to enjoy the feeling of vengeance, without any
intention of causing an amount of injury equivalent to what one has
suffered. The bitter death of the centaur Nessus was sweetened by the
certainty that he had used his last moments to work out an extremely
clever vengeance. Walter Scott expresses the same human inclination in
language as true as it is strong: "Vengeance is the sweetest morsel to
the mouth that ever was cooked in hell!" I shall now attempt a
psychological explanation of it.

Suffering which falls to our lot in the course of nature, or by chance,
or fate, does not, _ceteris paribus_, seem so painful as suffering which
is inflicted on us by the arbitrary will of another. This is because we
look upon nature and chance as the fundamental masters of the world; we
see that the blow we received from them might just as well have fallen
on another. In the case of suffering which springs from this source, we
bewail the common lot of humanity rather than our own misfortune. But
that it is the arbitrary will of another which inflicts the suffering,
is a peculiarly bitter addition to the pain or injury it causes, viz.,
the consciousness that some one else is superior to us, whether by force
or cunning, while we lie helpless. If amends are possible, amends heal
the injury; but that bitter addition, "and it was you who did that to
me," which is often more painful than the injury itself, is only to be
neutralized by vengeance. By inflicting injury on the one who has
injured us, whether we do it by force or cunning, is to show our
superiority to him, and to annul the proof of his superiority to us.
That gives our hearts the satisfaction towards which it yearns. So where
there is a great deal of pride and vanity, there also will there be a
great desire of vengeance. But as the fulfillment of every wish brings
with it more or less of a sense of disappointment, so it is with
vengeance. The delight we hope to get from it is mostly embittered by
compassion. Vengeance taken will often tear the heart and torment the
conscience: the motive to it is no longer active, and what remains is
the evidence of our malice.


When the Church says that, in the dogmas of religion, reason is totally
incompetent and blind, and its use to be reprehended, it is in reality
attesting the fact that these dogmas are allegorical in their nature,
and are not to be judged by the standard which reason, taking all things
_sensu proprio_, can alone apply. Now the absurdities of a dogma are
just the mark and sign of what is allegorical and mythical in it. In the
case under consideration, however, the absurdities spring from the fact
that two such heterogeneous doctrines as those of the Old and New
Testaments had to be combined. The great allegory was of gradual growth.
Suggested by external and adventitious circumstances, it was developed
by the interpretation put upon them, an interpretation in quiet touch
with certain deep-lying truths only half realized. The allegory was
finally completed by Augustine, who penetrated deepest into its meaning,
and so was able to conceive it as a systematic whole and supply its
defects. Hence the Augustinian doctrine, confirmed by Luther, is the
complete form of Christianity; and the Protestants of to-day, who take
Revelation _sensu proprio_ and confine it to a single individual, are in
error in looking upon the first beginnings of Christianity as its most
perfect expression. But the bad thing about all religions is that,
instead of being able to confess their allegorical nature, they have to
conceal it; accordingly, they parade their doctrine in all seriousness
as true _sensu proprio_, and as absurdities form an essential part of
these doctrines, you have the great mischief of a continual fraud. And,
what is worse, the day arrives when they are no longer true _sensu
proprio_, and then there is an end of them; so that, in that respect, it
would be better to admit their allegorical nature at once. But the
difficulty is to teach the multitude that something can be both true and
untrue at the same time. And as all religions are in a greater or less
degree of this nature, we must recognize the fact that mankind cannot
get on without a certain amount of absurdity, that absurdity is an
element in its existence, and illusion indispensable; as indeed other
aspects of life testify. I have said that the combination of the Old
Testament with the New gives rise to absurdities. Among the examples
which illustrate what I mean, I may cite the Christian doctrine of
Predestination and Grace, as formulated by Augustine and adopted from
him by Luther; according to which one man is endowed with grace and
another is not. Grace, then, comes to be a privilege received at birth
and brought ready into the world; a privilege, too, in a matter second
to none in importance. What is obnoxious and absurd in this doctrine may
be traced to the idea contained in the Old Testament, that man is the
creation of an external will, which called him into existence out of
nothing. It is quite true that genuine moral excellence is really
innate; but the meaning of the Christian doctrine is expressed in
another and more rational way by the theory of metempsychosis, common to
Brahmans and Buddhists. According to this theory, the qualities which
distinguish one man from another are received at birth, are brought,
that is to say, from another world and a former life; these qualities
are not an external gift of grace, but are the fruits of the acts
committed in that other world. But Augustine's dogma of Predestination
is connected with another dogma, namely, that the mass of humanity is
corrupt and doomed to eternal damnation, that very few will be found
righteous and attain salvation, and that only in consequence of the gift
of grace, and because they are predestined to be saved; whilst the
remainder will be overwhelmed by the perdition they have deserved, viz.,
eternal torment in hell. Taken in its ordinary meaning, the dogma is
revolting, for it comes to this: it condemns a man, who may be, perhaps,
scarcely twenty years of age, to expiate his errors, or even his
unbelief, in everlasting torment; nay, more, it makes this almost
universal damnation the natural effect of original sin, and therefore
the necessary consequence of the Fall. This is a result which must have
been foreseen by him who made mankind, and who, in the first place, made
them not better than they are, and secondly, set a trap for them into
which he must have known they would fall; for he made the whole world,
and nothing is hidden from him. According to this doctrine, then, God
created out of nothing a weak race prone to sin, in order to give them
over to endless torment. And, as a last characteristic, we are told that
this God, who prescribes forbearance and forgiveness of every fault,
exercises none himself, but does the exact opposite; for a punishment
which comes at the end of all things, when the world is over and done
with, cannot have for its object either to improve or deter, and is
therefore pure vengeance. So that, on this view, the whole race is
actually destined to eternal torture and damnation, and created
expressly for this end, the only exception being those few persons who
are rescued by election of grace, from what motive one does not know.

Putting these aside, it looks as if the Blessed Lord had created the
world for the benefit of the devil! it would have been so much better
not to have made it at all. So much, then, for a dogma taken _sensu
proprio_. But look at it _sensu allegorico_, and the whole matter
becomes capable of a satisfactory interpretation. What is absurd and
revolting in this dogma is, in the main, as I said, the simple outcome
of Jewish theism, with its "creation out of nothing," and really foolish
and paradoxical denial of the doctrine of metempsychosis which is
involved in that idea, a doctrine which is natural, to a certain extent
self-evident, and, with the exception of the Jews, accepted by nearly
the whole human race at all times. To remove the enormous evil arising
from Augustine's dogma, and to modify its revolting nature, Pope Gregory
I., in the sixth century, very prudently matured the doctrine of
_Purgatory_, the essence of which already existed in Origen (cf. Bayle's
article on Origen, note B.). The doctrine was regularly incorporated
into the faith of the Church, so that the original view was much
modified, and a certain substitute provided for the doctrine of
metempsychosis; for both the one and the other admit a process of
purification. To the same end, the doctrine of "the Restoration of all
things" [Greek: apokatastasis] was established, according to which, in
the last act of the Human Comedy, the sinners one and all will be
reinstated _in integrum_. It is only Protestants, with their obstinate
belief in the Bible, who cannot be induced to give up eternal punishment
in hell. If one were spiteful, one might say, "much good may it do
them," but it is consoling to think that they really do not believe the
doctrine; they leave it alone, thinking in their hearts, "It can't be so
bad as all that."

The rigid and systematic character of his mind led Augustine, in his
austere dogmatism and his resolute definition of doctrines only just
indicated in the Bible and, as a matter of fact, resting on very vague
grounds, to give hard outlines to these doctrines and to put a harsh
construction on Christianity: the result of which is that his views
offend us, and just as in his day Pelagianism arose to combat them, so
now in our day Rationalism does the same. Take, for example, the case as
he states it generally in the _De Civitate Dei_, Bk. xii. ch. 21. It
comes to this: God creates a being out of nothing, forbids him some
things, and enjoins others upon him; and because these commands are not
obeyed, he tortures him to all eternity with every conceivable anguish;
and for this purpose, binds soul and body inseparably together, so that,
instead, of the torment destroying this being by splitting him up into
his elements, and so setting him free, he may live to eternal pain. This
poor creature, formed out of nothing! At least, he has a claim on his
original nothing: he should be assured, as a matter of right, of this
last retreat, which, in any case, cannot be a very evil one: it is what
he has inherited. I, at any rate, cannot help sympathizing with him. If
you add to this Augustine's remaining doctrines, that all this does not
depend on the man's own sins and omissions, but was already predestined
to happen, one really is at a loss what to think. Our highly educated
Rationalists say, to be sure, "It's all false, it's a mere bugbear;
we're in a state of constant progress, step by step raising ourselves to
ever greater perfection." Ah! what a pity we didn't begin sooner; we
should already have been there.

In the Christian system the devil is a personage of the greatest
importance. God is described as absolutely good, wise and powerful; and
unless he were counterbalanced by the devil, it would be impossible to
see where the innumerable and measureless evils, which predominate in
the world, come from, if there were no devil to account for them. And
since the Rationalists have done away with the devil, the damage
inflicted on the other side has gone on growing, and is becoming more
and more palpable; as might have been foreseen, and was foreseen, by the
orthodox. The fact is, you cannot take away one pillar from a building
without endangering the rest of it. And this confirms the view, which
has been established on other grounds, that Jehovah is a transformation
of Ormuzd, and Satan of the Ahriman who must be taken in connection with
him. Ormuzd himself is a transformation of Indra.

Christianity has this peculiar disadvantage, that, unlike other
religions, it is not a pure system of doctrine: its chief and essential
feature is that it is a history, a series of events, a collection of
facts, a statement of the actions and sufferings of individuals: it is
this history which constitutes dogma, and belief in it is salvation.
Other religions, Buddhism, for instance, have, it is true, historical
appendages, the life, namely, of their founders: this, however, is not
part and parcel of the dogma but is taken along with it. For example,
the Lalitavistara may be compared with the Gospel so far as it contains
the life of Sakya-muni, the Buddha of the present period of the world's
history: but this is something which is quite separate and different
from the dogma, from the system itself: and for this reason; the lives
of former Buddhas were quite other, and those of the future will be
quite other, than the life of the Buddha of to-day. The dogma is by no
means one with the career of its founder; it does not rest on individual
persons or events; it is something universal and equally valid at all
times. The Lalitavistara is not, then, a gospel in the Christian sense
of the word; it is not the joyful message of an act of redemption; it is
the career of him who has shown how each one may redeem himself. The
historical constitution of Christianity makes the Chinese laugh at
missionaries as story-tellers.

I may mention here another fundamental error of Christianity, an error
which cannot be explained away, and the mischievous consequences of
which are obvious every day: I mean the unnatural distinction
Christianity makes between man and the animal world to which he really
belongs. It sets up man as all-important, and looks upon animals as
merely things. Brahmanism and Buddhism, on the other hand, true to the
facts, recognize in a positive way that man is related generally to the
whole of nature, and specially and principally to animal nature; and in
their systems man is always represented by the theory of metempsychosis
and otherwise, as closely connected with the animal world. The important
part played by animals all through Buddhism and Brahmanism, compared
with the total disregard of them in Judaism and Christianity, puts an
end to any question as to which system is nearer perfection, however
much we in Europe may have become accustomed to the absurdity of the
claim. Christianity contains, in fact, a great and essential
imperfection in limiting its precepts to man, and in refusing rights to
the entire animal world. As religion fails to protect animals against
the rough, unfeeling and often more than bestial multitude, the duty
falls to the police; and as the police are unequal to the task,
societies for the protection of animals are now formed all over Europe
and America. In the whole of uncircumcised Asia, such a procedure would
be the most superfluous thing in the world, because animals are there
sufficiently protected by religion, which even makes them objects of
charity. How such charitable feelings bear fruit may be seen, to take an
example, in the great hospital for animals at Surat, whither Christians,
Mohammedans and Jews can send their sick beasts, which, if cured, are
very rightly not restored to their owners. In the same way when a
Brahman or a Buddhist has a slice of good luck, a happy issue in any
affair, instead of mumbling a _Te Deum_, he goes to the market-place and
buys birds and opens their cages at the city gate; a thing which may be
frequently seen in Astrachan, where the adherents of every religion meet
together: and so on in a hundred similar ways. On the other hand, look
at the revolting ruffianism with which our Christian public treats its
animals; killing them for no object at all, and laughing over it, or
mutilating or torturing them: even its horses, who form its most direct
means of livelihood, are strained to the utmost in their old age, and
the last strength worked out of their poor bones until they succumb at
last under the whip. One might say with truth, Mankind are the devils of
the earth, and the animals the souls they torment. But what can you
expect from the masses, when there are men of education, zoologists
even, who, instead of admitting what is so familiar to them, the
essential identity of man and animal, are bigoted and stupid enough to
offer a zealous opposition to their honest and rational colleagues, when
they class man under the proper head as an animal, or demonstrate the
resemblance between him and the chimpanzee or ourang-outang. It is a
revolting thing that a writer who is so pious and Christian in his
sentiments as Jung Stilling should use a simile like this, in his
_Scenen aus dem Geisterreich_. (Bk. II. sc. i., p. 15.) "Suddenly the
skeleton shriveled up into an indescribably hideous and dwarf-like form,
just as when you bring a large spider into the focus of a burning glass,
and watch the purulent blood hiss and bubble in the heat." This man of
God then was guilty of such infamy! or looked on quietly when another
was committing it! in either case it comes to the same thing here. So
little harm did he think of it that he tells us of it in passing, and
without a trace of emotion. Such are the effects of the first chapter of
Genesis, and, in fact, of the whole of the Jewish conception of nature.
The standard recognized by the Hindus and Buddhists is the Mahavakya
(the great word),--"tat-twam-asi" (this is thyself), which may always be
spoken of every animal, to keep us in mind of the identity of his inmost
being with ours. Perfection of morality, indeed! Nonsense.

The fundamental characteristics of the Jewish religion are realism and
optimism, views of the world which are closely allied; they form, in
fact, the conditions of theism. For theism looks upon the material world
as absolutely real, and regards life as a pleasant gift bestowed upon
us. On the other hand, the fundamental characteristics of the Brahman
and Buddhist religions are idealism and pessimism, which look upon the
existence of the world as in the nature of a dream, and life as the
result of our sins. In the doctrines of the Zendavesta, from which, as
is well known, Judaism sprang, the pessimistic element is represented by
Ahriman. In Judaism, Ahriman has as Satan only a subordinate position;
but, like Ahriman, he is the lord of snakes, scorpions, and vermin. But
the Jewish system forthwith employs Satan to correct its fundamental
error of optimism, and in the _Fall_ introduces the element of
pessimism, a doctrine demanded by the most obvious facts of the world.
There is no truer idea in Judaism than this, although it transfers to
the course of existence what must be represented as its foundation and

The New Testament, on the other hand, must be in some way traceable to
an Indian source: its ethical system, its ascetic view of morality, its
pessimism, and its Avatar, are all thoroughly Indian. It is its morality
which places it in a position of such emphatic and essential antagonism
to the Old Testament, so that the story of the Fall is the only possible
point of connection between the two. For when the Indian doctrine was
imported into the land of promise, two very different things had to be
combined: on the one hand the consciousness of the corruption and misery
of the world, its need of deliverance and salvation through an Avatar,
together with a morality based on self-denial and repentance; on the
other hand the Jewish doctrine of Monotheism, with its corollary that
"all things are very good" [Greek: panta kala lian]. And the task
succeeded as far as it could, as far, that is, as it was possible to
combine two such heterogeneous and antagonistic creeds.

As ivy clings for the support and stay it wants to a rough-hewn post,
everywhere conforming to its irregularities and showing their outline,
but at the same time covering them with life and grace, and changing the
former aspect into one that is pleasing to the eye; so the Christian
faith, sprung from the wisdom of India, overspreads the old trunk of
rude Judaism, a tree of alien growth; the original form must in part
remain, but it suffers a complete change and becomes full of life and
truth, so that it appears to be the same tree, but is really another.

Judaism had presented the Creator as separated from the world, which he
produced out of nothing. Christianity identifies this Creator with the
Saviour, and through him, with humanity: he stands as their
representative; they are redeemed in him, just as they fell in Adam, and
have lain ever since in the bonds of iniquity, corruption, suffering and
death. Such is the view taken by Christianity in common with Buddhism;
the world can no longer be looked at in the light of Jewish optimism,
which found "all things very good": nay, in the Christian scheme, the
devil is named as its Prince or Ruler ([Greek: ho archon tou
kosmoutoutou.] John 12, 33). The world is no longer an end, but a means:
and the realm of everlasting joy lies beyond it and the grave.
Resignation in this world and direction of all our hopes to a better,
form the spirit of Christianity. The way to this end is opened by the
Atonement, that is the Redemption from this world and its ways. And in
the moral system, instead of the law of vengeance, there is the command
to love your enemy; instead of the promise of innumerable posterity, the
assurance of eternal life; instead of visiting the sins of the fathers
upon the children to the third and fourth generations, the Holy Spirit
governs and overshadows all.

We see, then, that the doctrines of the Old Testament are rectified and
their meaning changed by those of the New, so that, in the most
important and essential matters, an agreement is brought about between
them and the old religions of India. Everything which is true in
Christianity may also be found in Brahmanism and Buddhism. But in
Hinduism and Buddhism you will look in vain for any parallel to the
Jewish doctrines of "a nothing quickened into life," or of "a world made
in time," which cannot be humble enough in its thanks and praises to
Jehovah for an ephemeral existence full of misery, anguish and need.

Whoever seriously thinks that superhuman beings have ever given our race
information as to the aim of its existence and that of the world, is
still in his childhood. There is no other revelation than the thoughts
of the wise, even though these thoughts, liable to error as is the lot
of everything human, are often clothed in strange allegories and myths
under the name of religion. So far, then, it is a matter of indifference
whether a man lives and dies in reliance on his own or another's
thoughts; for it is never more than human thought, human opinion, which
he trusts. Still, instead of trusting what their own minds tell them,
men have as a rule a weakness for trusting others who pretend to
supernatural sources of knowledge. And in view of the enormous
intellectual inequality between man and man, it is easy to see that the
thoughts of one mind might appear as in some sense a revelation to


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