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bear within myself the original, the alone true, and essential life? It is not a possible thought that Nature should annihilate a life which did not spring from her; Nature, which exists only for my sake, not I for hers.
But even my natural life, even this mere representation of an inward invisible life to mortal eyes, Nature cannot annihilate; otherwise she must be able to annihilate herself. She who exists only for me and for my sake, and who ceases to exist, if I am not. Even because she puts me to death she must quicken me anew. It can only be my higher life unfolding itself in her, before which my present life disappears; and that which mortals call death is the visible appearing of a second vivification. Did no rational being, who has once beheld its light, perish from the earth, there would be no reason to expect a new heaven and a new earth. The only possible aim of Nature, that of representing and maintaining Reason, would have been already fulfilled here below, and her circle would be complete. But the act by which she puts to death a free, self-subsisting being is her solemn,- to all Reason apparent, — transcending of that act, and of the entire sphere which she thereby closes. The apparition of death is the conductor by which my spiritual eye passes over to the new life of myself, and of Nature for me.
Every one of my kind who passes from earthly connections, and who cannot, to my spirit, seem annihilated, because he is one of my kind, draws my thought over with him. He still is, and to him belongs a place.
While we, here below, sorrow for him with such sorrow as would be felt, if possible, in the dull kingdom of unconsciousness, when a human being withdraws himself from thence to the light of earth's sun; — while we so mourn, on yonder side there is joy, because a man is born into their world; as we citizens of earth receive with joy our own. When I, sometime, shall follow them, there will be joy for me; for sorrow remains behind in the sphere which I quit.
It vanishes and sinks before my gaze, the world which I so lately admired. With all the fullness of life, of order, of increase, which I behold in it, it is but the curtain by which an infinitely more perfect world is concealed from me. It is but the germ out of which that infinitely more perfect shall unfold itself. My faith enters behind this curtain, and warms and quickens this
germ. It sees nothing definite, but expects more than it can grasp here below, than it will ever be able to grasp in time.
So I live and so I am; and so I am unchangeable, firm, and complete for all eternity. For this being is not one which I have received from without; it is my own only true being and essence.
From «The Destiny of Man.”
THE DESTINY OF MAN
W HEN I contemplate the world as it is, independently of any VV injunction, there manifests itself in my interior the wish,
the longing, no! not a longing merely,- the absolute demand for a better world. I cast a glance at the relations of men to each other and to Nature, at the weakness of their powers, at the strength of their appetites and passions. It cries to me irresistibly from my innermost soul: “Thus it cannot possibly be destined always to remain. It must, Oh! it must all become other and better!”
I can in nowise imagine to myself the present condition of man as that which is designed to endure. I cannot imagine it to be his whole and final destination. If so, then would everything be dream and delusion, and it would not be worth the trouble to have lived and to have taken part in this ever-recurring, unproductive and unmeaning game. Only so far as I can regard this condition as the means of something better, as a point of transition to a higher and more perfect, does it acquire any value for me. Not on its own account, but on account of something better for which it prepares the way, can I bear it, honor it, and joyfully fulfill my part in it. My mind can find no place, nor rest a moment, in the present; it is irresistibly repelled by it. My whole life streams irrepressibly on toward the future and better.
Am I only to eat and to drink that I may hunger and thirst again, and again eat and drink, until the grave, yawning beneath my feet, swallows me up, and I myself spring up as food from the ground ? Am I to beget beings like myself, that they also may eat and drink and die, and leave behind them beings like themselves, who shall do the same that I have done? To what purpose this circle which perpetually returns into itself; this game forever recommencing, after the same manner, in which everything is born but to perish, and perishes but to be born again as it was ? This monster which forever devours itself, that it may produce itself again, and which produces itself that it may again devour itself?
Never can this be the destination of my being and of all being. There must be something which exists because it has been brought forth, and which now remains and can never be brought forth again, after it has been brought forth once. And this that is permanent must beget itself amid the mutations of the perishing, and continue amid those mutations, and be borne along unhurt upon the waves of time.
As yet our race wrings with difficulty its sustenance and its continuance from opposing Nature. As yet the larger portion of mankind are bowed down their whole life long by hard labor, to procure sustenance for themselves and the few who think for them. Immortal spirits are compelled to fix all their thinking and scheming, and all their efforts, on the soil which bears them nourishment. It often comes to pass as yet, that when the laborer has ended, and promises himself, for his pains, the continuance of his own existence and of those pains; that then hostile elements destroy in a moment what he had been slowly and carefully preparing for years, and delivers up the industrious painstaking man, without any fault of his own, to hunger and misery. It often comes to pass as yet, that inundations, storm winds, volcanoes, desolate whole countries, and mingle works which bear the impress of a rational mind, as well as their authors, with the wild chaos of death and destruction. Diseases still hurry men into a premature grave, men in the bloom of their powers, and children whose existence passes away without fruit or result. The pestilence still stalks through blooming states, and leaves the few who escape it, bereaved and alone, deprived of the accustomed aid of their companions; and does all in its power to give back to the wilderness the land which the industry of man had already conquered for its own.
So it is, but so it cannot surely have been intended always to remain. No work which bears the impress of reason, and which was undertaken for the purpose of extending the dominion of reason, can be utterly lost in the progress of the times. The sacrifices which the irregular violence of Nature draws from reason must at least weary, satisfy, and reconcile that violence. The force which has caused injury by acting without rule cannot be intended to do so more in that way; it cannot be destined to renew itself; it must be used up, from this time forth and forever, by that one outbreak. All those outbreaks of rude force, before which human power vanishes into nothing,—those desolating hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, can be nothing else but the final struggle of the wild mass against the lawfully progressive, life-giving, systematic course to which it is compelled, contrary to its own impulse. They can be nothing but the last concussive strokes in the formation of our globe, now about to perfect itself. That opposition must gradually become weaker, and at last exhausted, since, in the lawful course of things, there can be nothing that should renew its power. That formation must at last be perfected, and our destined abode complete. Nature must gradually come into a condition in which we can count with certainty upon her equal step, and in which her power shall keep unaltered a determinate relation with that power which is destined to govern it, that is, the human. So far as this relation already exists, and the systematic cultivation of Nature has gained firm footing, the workmanship of man, by its mere existence and its effects, independent of any design on the part of the author, is destined to react upon Nature, and to represent in her a new and life-giving principle. Cultivated lands are to quicken and mitigate the sluggish, hostile atmosphere of the eternal forests, wildernesses, and morasses. Well-ordered and diversified culture is to diffuse through the air a new principle of life and fructification; and the sun to send forth its most animating beams into that atmosphere which is breathed by a healthy, industrious, and ingenious people. Science, awakened, at first, by the pressure of necessity, shall hereafter penetrate deliberately and calmly into the unchangeable laws of Nature, overlook her whole power, and learn to calculate her possible developments; -- shall form for itself a new Nature in idea, attach itself closely to the living and active, and follow hard upon her footsteps. And all knowledge which reason has wrung from Nature shall be preserved in the course of the times, and become the foundation of further knowledge, for the common understanding of our race. Thus shall Nature become ever more transparent and pen. etrable to human perception, even to its innermost secrets. And human power, enlightened and fortified with its inventions, shall rule her with ease, and peacefully maintain the conquest once effected. By degrees, there shall be needed no greater outlay of mechanical labor than the human body requires for its development, cultivation, and health. And this labor shall cease to be a burden; for the rational being is not destined to be a bearer of burdens.
But it is not nature, it is liberty itself, that occasions the most numerous and the most fearful disorders among our kind. The direst enemy of man is man.... It is the destination of our race to unite in one body, thoroughly acquainted with itself in all its parts, and uniformly cultivated in all. Nature, and even the passions and vices of mankind, have, from the beginning, drifted towards this goal. A large part of the road which leads to it is already put behind us, and we may count with certainty that this goal, which is the condition of further, united progress, will be reached in due season. Do not ask History whether mankind, on the whole, have grown more purely moral! They have grown to extended, comprehensive, forceful acts of arbitrary will; but it was almost a necessity of their condition that they should direct that will exclusively to evil.
Neither ask History whether the æsthetic education and the culture of the understanding, of the fore-world, concentrated upon a few single points, may not have far exceeded, in degree, that of modern times. It might be that the answer would put us to shame, and that the human race would appear, in this regard, not to have advanced, but to have lost ground.
But ask History in what period the existing culture was most widely diffused and distributed among the greatest number of individuals. Undoubtedly, it will be found that from the beginning of history down to our own day, the few light-points of culture have extended their rays further and further from their centres, have seized one individual after another, and one people after another; and that this diffusion of culture is still going on before our eyes.
And this was the first goal of Humanity, on its infinite path. Until this is attained, until the existing culture of an age is diffused over the whole habitable globe, and our race is made capable of the most unlimited communication with itself, one nation, one quarter of the globe must await the other, on their common