From Science, spirit, superstition: a new enquiry into human thought / Constantin Brunner. —London: Allen & Unwin, 1968.
¶ Introduction: Theory of faculties (SSS, 27-34)
Until now, all inquiries into the nature of thought have attempted to tackle its material content while confining themselves solely to the formal logical aspect. They proceeded from a basic supposition regarding the material content, whose utter falsity was never recognized. I am referring to the belief, still current today, in the equality of the material content in the thinking of all men. This equality does not exist. All that can be said to hold universally is this: there is an essential agreement with respect to the formal logical aspect of thought and equality in the practical activities of life. That is to say, there is an equality of Understanding, or of thought concerning relative reality.
Human thought can be divided into three faculties, each of which, by its very nature, has nothing in common with the other two but persists in fundamental independence. Each one has its specific material principle of thought which constitutes the energy for all thoughts and their combinations within its sphere. In order to systematize the material content of thought, it is necessary to recognize this threefold order of faculties and their corresponding principles and energies.
I shall call the first faculty Practical Understanding. Its thinking embraces the entire reality of our world of things, or relative reality. If I assign a material principle also to this sphere of relative thinking, the term 'material principle' will likewise be employed in a purely relative sense: for strictly speaking, the domain of relative thinking contains no material principle within itself but takes and adapts it from the two other faculties. The criterion by which the three faculties are distinguished from one another is chosen according to the three objects of their thought. Of these, the object for the faculty of Practical Understanding is one of a relative material content. The forms in which Practical Understanding manifests itself are feeling, knowing, and willing.
The second faculty I shall call Spirit. The thinking of this faculty concerns the truth of our essence, or absolute reality. There the true material content of our thought is grasped directly. The forms in which Spirit manifests itself are art, philosophy, and love.
I shall call the third faculty Analogon. This is the fictitious thinking of an absolute reality—which, however, is not a true reality—or superstitious thought. The forms in which analogical thought manifests itself are religion, metaphysics, and moralism.
I have spoken here only of truth and superstition, not of truth and falsity. Falsity refers to errors of a formal logical nature in linking a set of ideas. But here we are concerned with the basic material principles of which there can only be two; either that of truth or that of superstition. The latter cannot be termed an error; for to those steeped in superstition it operates as the perverted elemental principle which, unlike an error, is incapable of being corrected. Furthermore, the treatment it receives at the hands of society is vastly different. For logical errors are not being preached, at least not everywhere, and not for generation after generation. Neither do the teachings of individuals that are founded on stupidity and error ever enjoy the sanction of the entire community. Errors of this type which do succeed in spreading widely are soon rectified by the laws of logic, which, being universally valid, will periodically reassert their validity. All this is quite different in regard to material untruths. These keep centuries in darkness and are tenaciously preserved through thousands of years.
People naturally adhere to this confused superstitious thinking. Let me clarify this some more in a few words. Relative thinking is our thinking of things, it makes us appear to ourselves as things in a world of things. Men are well aware that this world of things, as it appears to us—viz. as a world of motion, change, and decay—cannot be absolute. Yet they seek the absolute in it, and of course, fail to find it. This failure is due not, as they suppose, to the limitations of man's relative thinking, nor to the impossibility of transcending the bounds of human experience, but to a quest for an altogether impossible achievement. For they attempt to obtain or to infer the absolute from the relative; in other words, they confuse two faculties and consider them as one. What they imagine to lie beyond the bounds of our relative thinking of things, beyond our experience and observation, namely, the nature of 'things-in-themselves', is nothing but relativity made absolute, an absolutized relative, which cannot exist at all. Beyond the bounds of human experience and observation there are no longer any things whatever, since things exist only for the relativity of our thinking and for the experience of our senses in this, our relative, reality. Nor is it imperfect, this relative thinking of ours. Rather, it is as perfect as can be, namely completely perfect in the sense in which all the faculties of thinking are perfect. The faculty of understanding yields the complete truth of relative reality, or of things; the faculty of spiritual thought yields the complete absolute truth, which, to be sure, is not the truth concerning any absolute things; likewise, the faculty of superstitious thought is entirely perfect, that is to say, the perfect untruth; it consists precisely in the belief that things are absolute, knowably or unknowably so.
With the doctrine of faculties I aim first of all at an emendation of our thinking through a differentiation and systematization, entirely neglected so far, of thoughts according to their different material content. We must know the three principles, which cannot be further resolved or reduced, of the three faculties embracing all thoughts in the order of their threefold material distinction. We must learn to keep these principles apart, unreservedly, definitely and distinctly, according to their real differences. And we must learn the lesson of this distinction—that thinking has two enemies, the illogical, and the unreal, or the wrong thought process and the initially wrong, fictitious thought content. This added doctrine of the faculties neatly fills the last gap in the theory of thought, which the long-perfected formalisms of logic have been unable to achieve. Now, also, all apparent difficulties and contradictions of a material nature will disappear for all those who, by natural disposition, are predestined for correct material thinking. For the material content is as self-consistent as the logical thought process; and one is no more at liberty in choosing whether to arrive, through thought, at materialism, or else at idealism, than one is justified in accepting or rejecting at will the fundamental laws of logic.
It is Spirit and Analogon, respectively, which as the substratum of relative thought, emerges as its real material content. Two types of people will display two manners of thinking, of ultimate material difference, depending on whether Spirit or Analogon constitutes the contents of their thoughts. This material difference cannot be dealt with other than by the doctrine of faculties which might, as it were, be termed the chemistry of thought.
¶ Prolegomena: Primary experience, or things
Our primary experience is awareness of a feeling coupled to representational images. This primary experience of feeling is what we live (the word feeling is used to include all the sensations of all the senses). We live what we feel in our general bodily sensation and with our sense of touch, pressure, and temperature, and in our seeing and hearing, smelling and tasting. We live that which is perceived through feeling in the five-fold modification of the senses. That is our world. That which we feel with our five senses constitutes truly the five continents of which our world consists. It is our thinking consciousness that connects them into one world. We live what we feel by becoming conscious of it, i.e. by thinking it, either directly or through the medium of memory.
We are conscious of a feeling, no matter how minute its intensity, as soon as we become aware of the representational images presented to our thoughts. Whenever we are aware of a feeling, we are, at the same time, aware of a representation; and there can be no representation without a feeling. Everything we are conscious of is feeling coupled to representation. This is precisely what we describe as physical, as thingly, namely things and thingly processes (motion, change and transformation). To the question, 'What are things?', I give the straightforward answer: things are the sensation of our senses coupled to representational images, namely those representational images—and this is the only determinate that need be added—to which we relate the sensations.
We commonly say that we relate all our feelings to things, to our own physical or thing-existence, and to other thing-existences. We regard things as the causes of our feelings, our own thingly existence as being affected by other things and, in its turn, causally affecting itself and other things. Yet what we thus term things are merely the representations, assumed to exist prior to and outside our thinking, to which we causally relate our feeling. These representations taken by themselves do not yet constitute things, for feelings, sensations, cannot be separated from them. We must therefore say: Things are sensations of our senses linked to representational images as to their causes.
A tree, for instance, is a thing to me, i.e. it is that which my feeling, my sense of touch, my vision, etc., perceives of it coupled to the representation image, or more precisely, the fusion product of the representation images of its existence outside my thinking, to which existence I relate the feelings in my stimulated sense organs and sensory nerves. The term 'fusion product of representation images' is appropriate since of each thing there are as many representation images as there are sensations of sensual impressions, the images, like the impressions being different in quality and in degree, and also different in kind, corresponding to the radically different kinds of sensory perception of the various senses. The representation 'tree', for instance, is the fusion product of representations pertaining to its shape, the colour and hardness of its trunk, to its leaves, etc. We say 'a thing' or 'a representation' because we think of such fusion products of representations as single, homogeneous representations.
¶ The theory of science: The theory of motion (SSS, 100-1)
We are, with everything we represent, thingly motion. Our existence is renewed and maintained by the ceaseless, industrious motion of all its particles just as we have grown through the motion-metamorphoses of the embryo, a state of existence as different from our own as the seed is different from root, stalk, trunk, branches, leaves, blossoms and fruit. We think and perceive through thingly motion of our brain and our sense. Without being moved with our thingliness and without our being enmeshed with this moved thingliness in the general thingly motion, there would be no affection of our sensory organs, no feeling and none of the representations we think. It is by virtue of motion that we perceive with our senses: we feel touch only because of the motion of the organs of touch, we taste only through moving food on our tongue, we smell only by means of the movement of air in the olfactory organs, we hear only by means of the processes of movement in the ears and even the most important sensory perception, that of sight, which provides us with representational images in the actual sense, is accomplished only through movement in the eyes and of the eyes. All our sensory perceptions come about through thingly motion and last only as long as the latter lasts in our sense. Also what we perceive with our senses is thingly motion: even though our senses may not perceive it as such, yet higher scientific judgment teaches us to recognize it as being so. Day and night, summer and winter are due to the revolutions of our globe, and what we hear is movement of air and what we see is movement of light and all, all we perceive discloses itself to us as thing-motion, as incessant transformation. 'All passes and all changes before I am aware of it', and 'Nothing but change is constant'. Things and thingly process, phenomenon and motion, matter and energy are one. Each thing in itself is already thingly process, for it is subject, with all its particles, to incessant change of state. A thing happens, a happening is a thing. A thing is an actuality; an actuality is an acting, a working (work, the same word as the Greek ergon) an acting and a being acted upon.
Each thing is affecting others as well as being affected and all things are bound up among each other in a mutual relationship of affecting and being affected. A thing is possible only to the extent that all things are possible and interrelated. In order to comprehend why this truth can gain ascendancy upon the general public only so slowly and with much difficulty, it is necessary to keep in mind the stubborn inertia of public thinking in all its enormity. Otherwise one cannot understand, and it will remain a complete mystery why the four facts of inhaling and exhaling, of the intake and excretion of food, of begetting and being begotten, and no less that of our motions, i.e. that we move and have to move our body and its various members as well as other things, so that they may serve the purpose of maintaining our body—why these four facts collectively, which everyone has constantly before his eyes, have not long since evoked in even the most obtuse minds the natural conviction of our entwinement in the unitary world of things and the utterly lucid awareness of our belonging, as part of it, to the motion of the whole. Each thing is possible only to the extent that all things are possible and are mutually interactive.
¶ Pneumatology: Omnia animata (SSS, 308-11)
Man is a thing, a thing in motion, and inwardly conscious of his own specific motion. Therein consists the degree of his thinking. With man's death his body dies, i.e. his specific motional state comes to an end and passes into another motional state. Simultaneously his degree of thinking also passes into another degree. All is one interconnection; it is the one self-thinking motion, where thinking is nothing in itself but motion alone is the reality which in consciousness experiences itself. And all our conscious motions, in unitary coherence, merge into those that proceed unconsciously for us in the parts of our body and into those others which our body as a whole undergoes through being moved in larger motional unities—and thus the motion and with it the consciousness of the entire universe is a uniformly coherent transformation. It is difficult to visualize this scientifically abstract truth. Just as we consider our physical existence as an individually self-contained one, although it is but a wave in the ocean that constantly impinges upon other waves, issuing from them and merging into them, just so we have immediate consciousness only as of something discrete, separate within us and in other consciousness-gifted beings, as of something that is pluralistic and substantial. Each consciousness appears as a substance. Against this it will be of some help if one reflects how in our own consciousness certain areas seem to us to be isolated which in truth compose a coherent whole. In the specificate of feeling we think only our feeling, in that of willing only our volitions, in that of knowing only knowledge—and moreover in each case only that which lies in the foreground of our intellective interest without including simultaneously all that knowledge stored away in our memory.
In like manner the whole of our consciousness, i.e. the sum-total of feeling, knowing, willing, makes us aware only of the motion of our own human thingliness, viz. only of that which serves our life maintenance. This consciousness conceives itself to be isolated, and even after the thought of the one thingly motion seems to have taken hold, the naive conception still retains its power. The worst offence against the thought of universal oneness continues to be committed as long as one does not abandon the assumption of discreet, insular, substantial units of consciousness in the midst of the continuity of thingly motion.
The twin-sidedness of the One in our conception—I refer to the twin-sidedness of thought and thingliness with which our naively natural conception invest the oneness—need not present an obstacle. In keeping with it we should conceive the oneness and the process of transformation equally twinsided. We would have to conceive not only a oneness of thingliness wherein all individual thingly phenomena exist in continuity with each other (having issued from others and merging into other others), but, correspondingly, the same oneness in its inwardness of thought. We have to conceive our consciousness, too, in its integration in the totality of world-consciousness, that is, the fact that our human-thingly consciousness, too, together with the thingly change, is transition from other consciousness and passes into other consciousness as it moves along, hovering in the continuous stream of transformation. The consciousness, just as the motion of the individual thing, is what it is only in the tension with the consciousness and motion of all other things in the world.
This idea, however, does not appeal even to those who otherwise are firmly rooted in the soil of the correct scientific somatology or phoronomy of the world. Only in the form of metempsychosis an inkling of it keeps coming up from the earliest times to the present day. The good core in this superstition is the thought that a transition of thinking takes place together with that of the thingly. The conclusion is: Thought can originate as little as the body: in the case of thought, too, there can only be a question of change, of change with the body.
Is it really so hopeless a task to render this truth more tangible? Is it not brought home to us already by the transformations of thinking which we, in the course of our human life, as a consequence of natural growth or of illness, can observe? But let us take the example of the foetus in the womb. It cannot be assumed that the mind, an unnatural foreigner, should wait until the moment of birth and then suddenly rush forward and take possession of the natural. Pre-natal touch-reactions can be detected during the later foetal stages. The embryo has a mind from the moment of conception, for procreation by parental progeniture is a natural partition exactly like the visible one of certain organisms. We have here not, as in the case of a river dividing into two, a branching out into two parts of an equal kind, but a process of gradual transformation in the secreted body, including also the gradual transformation of the mind—and precisely this should engage our attention.
It is not as though owing to fertilization a little human being endowed with an individual mind originated—this intra-uterine being is by no means a human form of life. It even lives in an element in which we humans are unable to exist, i.e. not in the air but in water. It is not even properly alive. It presents to us the transition to life and the transition of thinking to live thinking, to human thinking. Not even the new-born possesses human thinking. In such infants we still confront a state of transition towards it.
To be sure, there is thinking in such new-born existence, but what is thought are the incoherent thoughts of a still ego-less body which does not even know as yet how much of the world belongs to it and how much not. Its thinking does not as yet knit the five continents of different sense images into our one world image.
These facts represent evidence of the transformation of minds together with that of the bodies. As we have achieved a somatology of the world in which the somatic outward man has its place, so must we achieve a psychology of the world, or, as I would rather call it, a pneumatology (which leaves the word psychology to designate the science dealing with consciousness in living beings). We must not hope of ever obtaining direct confirmation of the other things' self-experience. To ask for empirical proof of thinking in other things so that the nature of their thinking be revealed to us—this is to ask for a confirmation that would invalidate the assertion. How should we with our feeling, willing, knowing, i.e. the thinking of our own motion be able to experience in which way other things think or experience their motion? Sooner we might imagine with our ears what our eyes see. To us, after all, only utterances pointing to a thinking of our kind can be comprehensible. All the other things' motions must needs take place without any sign noticeable to us of an accompanying thinking, i.e. we do not perceive that these not living beings feel, will and know. But that they do not think in this way is precisely what our sentence about the various degrees of thinking asserts.
¶ Boundary between relative and absolute thought (SSS, 328-9)
He who can see himself as real within the infinite reality of the ever changing, ever one, existence by thinking himself as that which changes in form and thought and yet remains as the One; he who can see himself thus, without his present existence, and even himself to himself, becoming a dream; he who has the heart to embrace this stupendous reality, upon what abundance will his eye light, upon what huge, immense vista of nature at work.
Of nature! With all this we have only thought nature, the relative reality of things. No one will learn what the essence of thought is unless he learn first the essence of practical thought: the ideatum of the one world. One who could learn only this would still not possess the essence, would still be a stranger to himself and a distant exile from that which is nearer to him than the nearest. But, on the other hand, though one seize upon this Last, he will not truly hold it without the First; it will be lost to him in the many hours of weakness, and will, at bottom, never cease to be a mystery to him.
Let us be entirely clear about relativity and be released from human thingly constriction out into the unity of all thingliness. It is scientific abstract thought that leads us thither. It removes first the illusion of a thingly multiplicity and variety, causally connected, in that it exposes all to be the uniform continuity of motion, that eternal and immeasurable connexus which is not a genus, but oneness, and oneness not in the numerical sense. After that it leads us past the twofoldness of thought and thingliness, destroying also here the illusion of a causal relationship and thus completely clearing the view to oneness—all contrariety being dispelled.
And only up there on the summit is where the decision falls on thought. Precisely from up there, from the height of the last Abstraction of the Practical Understanding, the way leads downward, on one hand into spiritual thinking, on the other into superstitious folk-thinking. In the non-spiritual man the Abstraction from the start is differently directed. For apart from the oneness of thingliness the Abstraction, to be perfect, needs relativity and negativity. The oneness of thingliness assumes its great meaning only when joined with the thought of the relativity and negativity of thingliness; only thereby does this last truth of our Practical Understanding become the first in the whole truth of thinking. And this truth of the one thingliness whose relativity and negativity disclose to our view, like a curtain drawn back, the absolutely Positive, is apprehended only in philosophy, in art and in love.
The people think only those Abstractions which are already sufficiently sustained by scientific experience, but not actually as thoughts and not within a connected system of thoughts but only in their practical application. Moreover they immediately pervert them into superstition in that they brand them as absolute thoughts. Solely the thinkers are also the actual thinkers of relativity, the original experiencers thereof—because in them the experience of the whole is thought and each particular within the overall continuity. In them the primordial recollection of the Abstraction of motion lives undimmed. The Abstraction is practice, is experience, arising from the depth of existence and manifesting itself in the genuine thinkers of the abstract idea, in the idealists who in truth are practicians of experience on a large scale and inspire humanity, while the realists and empiricists serve her on a minor level and with details.
¶ Uncounted worlds and my absolute being (SSS, 474-483)
All things think, because motion goes through all of them; the essence of thinghood is thought. Hence we, too, think. No thinking would be possible in man, if there were no thinking also in all things of nature. The idea of pneumatology can thus be presented in the form of a logical conclusion: there is nothing but things, differing from each other. My own thing, my body, I know to be thinking. Now, since all the different things are in motion, becoming different from each other only thereby that they interfuse, even as my own thing has become and is what it is only thereby that other things interfused and interfuse with it, while it, on its part, equally interfuses with and submerges in other things different from it, therefore I conclude: all things think, and they think differently in accordance with their difference. Is not this conclusion more cogent than that other one on which the common assumption is founded and according to which non-thinking things pass over into thinking ones? I cannot be more grossly misunderstood than when a vitalistic conception of nature is foisted upon me and one believes that, like Fechner, I would end up by letting even the inorganic be organic and by regarding the earth and in general everything in the universe as so many organisms—a pedantic, narrow-minded opinion.
My conception of nature, even of that which is vital in nature, is entirely mechanistic, with that reservation, however, that I know of no mechanism in the sense of the crude materialistic conception, not even in the inorganic. It seems barbaric to attempt to deprive nature of its soul, only because it is unlike our soul. Barbaric seems to me a materialism according to which a purely external mechanicality, an outwardness devoid of an inwardness runs through nature. Barbaric was the science that preaches such materialism, that is why philosophy perished in it, in its incapacity for thinking. I know of thingliness in motion with the inwardness of its thinking-itself being its essence. The animate with the inwardness of its peculiar consciousness is only one gradation in the graduated scale of things and their various thinking. I emphasize, then, the difference of the motional degrees but also the unity of all that is thingly and the interconnection between the motional degrees, hence also between the animate and the inanimate. Chemical experience, in fact, furnishes proof that no component exists in the organisms that could not also be found in inorganic nature. It is only from this our ultimate truth of the theory of motion, namely of motion as the relative oneness, that also is derived my opposition to that antithesis of the theory of motion, viz. the adherence to a fixed prototype and a morphological origin for organisms. I believe that all is veritably One, that in this One the animate is so firmly wedded to the inanimate that everything lifeless will also at some time be alive—and I repudiate the notion of a primordial animal from which all animals have evolved. The primordial animal is nature as, everywhere under certain conditions, i.e. in transition from one degree of motion to another, she organizes the inorganic. All things think. To us, from our thinking of things, no other expression is possible. We call everything thing and we speak of the thinking in all things—if, however, one imagines this to mean our kind of thinking then I say: none of the other things think. The contents of their thinking is different from ours by an entire world. Their world is out of this world although it is the same world that to us is the world of things. It is thus that we achieve a truly unitary conception of nature.
To us the animal-genera are pointers and a source of instruction in the truth of the concept of relativity with infinite degrees of thinking, a truth that protects us firstly from the danger of mistaking the systematic conceptual order, inseparable from our human organization and sense perception, for the superstition of the doctrine of evolution with its ascending scale of 'mental capacities' culminating in our own, and secondly from the superstitious belief in the unbridgeable gulf between the genera of being—without, for that reason, precipitating us into the third form of superstition, to allow human-like thinking anywhere else than in our own human nature alone. It is the grandeur of this formidably grand scientific phantasy of the attributes that it allows no anthropomorphizing, not even in man himself with regard to his arrogant opinion of his own significance.
With the above exposition I believe to have pin-pointed and thrown light on Spinoza's thought on the attributes, which is inseparable from his Omnia animata—the thought of philosophical truth finding expression in the loftiest philosophic-scientific phantasy—which, however, does not then remain phantasy and would be inadequate if it did.1
We remain within our thinking of our things, the large ones and the small ones. Large and small is human—in reality nothing is either large or small. We may hold before our eyes glasses that will make our things appear larger or smaller, or coloured—nothing else. But to hold the senses and the nervous system of another animal like glasses before our eyes, in order thereby to achieve a kind of viewing and a thinking of things different from the human—that is unfeasible. Even less feasible is it to push out of our thinking this world in its—to us—thingly form and yet to think it, to pass beyond our barrier and to think another world in non-thingly terms. Thither no phantasy will carry us. Only in the thought of the attributes as the heterogeneous conceptions of the substance—as (quite literally) different worlds—lies true infinity of imagination, eclipsing all other human imagination as if, so to speak, it were not our imagination at all, as if it were imagination of a different nature. For all our imagining is done with the representational images of the things within our attribute; this other imagining, however, is a comparing the representation of our attribute with other attributes for which we entirely lack any manner of representation. A representation is as little valid for other attributes, after all, as for the substance. Hence this comparing is no actual comparing and therefore this imagination is no actual imagination of how but only of that—fairy tales that cannot be told—which nevertheless now occupies, as phantasy, a place in our consciousness. It is a phantasy which, with far more power than any other, sets our thinking into a peerless swing of motion, a phantasy that passes beyond itself, beyond imagination itself, to a thinking knowledge that surpasses all our knowledge, to a kind of knowledge that can only come about through phantasy and which, without being, or even being capable of ever becoming, a knowledge of How, yet is a knowledge and a certainty of That, transformed from phantasy into concept and into that thought which is greater than all phantasy, into our thought, surged about by the billows of all thoughts. The inexhaustibility of this ultimate thinking can be reached by us only as mirrored in adorned phantasies which become progressively less adorned and ever more pale and finally lose themselves in the deep shadows of shuddering premonition (Erahenens) or—to put it, after all, in the language of pneumatology—in progressively fading memories.
Wherewith now the thought of infinity has become a concept, after all. 'Infinite' has hitherto always been a mere word and an abyss—abysses all around. Now imagination inhabits the abysses and from imagination life flows into the concept. That which generally is understood by the word infinite—infinity of the world, for instance—is in fact nothing less than a concept. It contradicts the concept of our world which, most fittingly, is called the temporal, passing and finite world. It is not truly thinkable, does therefore not exist (infinitum actu non datur) and refers only to our one world, to the world of our representation, our human conception of the absolute. The word 'infinite' is to state that this our world is not measurable by our representations of finiteness or size, that it has no end or term as have our usual magnitudes, that, without limit of magnitude, it is infinitely large in space, in time, in effect. But the purely negative of the unending of the infinitum of our one world as the indefinable, the indeterminable, immeasurable, relationless now becomes the positive of a concept as we break the bounds of our one world and relate it to the infinity of the infinite worlds. Now the accent no longer rests on the contradiction of finite and infinite, nor on the impossibility of a positive representation of the infinite (how indeed could the world be thinkable as either infinite or finite, since it is the relative—the relative conception of the absolute can be no real thought, only the absolute can be so), but on the fact of relativity and on getting a concept which is no more unthinkable and no more fantastic than any other concept. We have here a clearly comprehensible reality-value for our thought supported by an analogical conclusion as cogent as that which arrives at the different thinking of the other animals and at the very similar thinking of our fellow human beings. We are here again confronted with the eminent significance, to all our relative thinking, of the conclusion by analogy from the known to the co-ordinate unknown. We produce the relative ideatum of our world of things—the directly imaged ideatum of our own thingliness, including our inwardness, thought in all three specificates of feeling, knowing, willing—and the directly imaged ideatum of the other things, to the beings similar ourselves (men and animals) we ascribe, in pursuance of more or less perfect analogy to our own inwardness, an inwardness more or less like our own. In the inanimate things we assume—in accordance with the proposition Omnia animata—a fundamentally different inner thinking of relativity, which thinking we can compare, however, only on the whole and to the whole of our consciousness, and through this comparison alone still keep some imagery of it for us. In this manner, on the basis of analogy, image thinking still reaches through all relativities of ideated existence which is not truly. Only the Absolute Thought must be truly thought because it is within us the actual primordial experience of our selves, of real Being and is not produced by us. The Absolute Thought alone must be thought, but cannot be thought in images. It can neither be directly imaged nor through analogy based upon our imagery—for it is not co-ordinate to our relative thinking of ideated existence. The sole veritable Absolute Thought always exists only in all the relative conceptions which are not veritable, and it constitutes thought without ideatum or thought without us, i.e. without our relative ego, without theriomorphism. Let this be enough now for what is here our concern: our relativity and the innumerable other relativities of which we said that phantasy leads us to them.
We discover more and more what the significance of this phantasy is which, verily, is not just another phantasy or hypothesis but which, as soon as the way has been cleared for the psychological process of thinking, offers itself as theory and concept on the basis of inescapable analogy. From analogy we derive the imagery necessary to the concept and thus arm the concept from the armour of our relative Practical Understanding. Completed is the concept of relative infinites, and we can now line up and compare the infinity of our world with the innumerable infinites of the other worlds (innumerable as numbers)—we have the all of infinities.
And because the thought of infinity is comprehensible only in this way and is in reality the thought of truth—relative infinity as the relative of absolute eternity, this is truth—therefore I believe that, in this way, it has been Spinoza's thought. It is, seen from the highest bird's eye view of thought, the totality of all the many relative truths, that thought of infinity which the one eternal truth of the absolute requires to be confronted with—a land-survey, as it were, a topography of all relative truths, of all worlds, none omitted; every possible world a real one. This is the truth of earthly-unearthly philosophical thought, the only one that fills up the concept of relativity and entirely remoulds the heart. Only with the phantasy of countless worlds according to the relative mode of appearance is our aim achieved and is, also scientifically, our position soundly planted in the full comprehension of the relative mode of appearance of this our world of things as of our relative conception of the absolute essence; the spiritual recollection of which is only then possible when the world is not regarded according to our conception, or rather when our conception is regarded as entirely relative. Things as apparent to us or yet things in themselves as reality—in other words, things according to our sense illusion or things according to some other sense illusion which is admittedly not representable with our own senses—this is our relative conception from which it is difficult to struggle loose; popular thinking is enmeshed in it or at least reverts constantly to it. The negative criticism of this conception, or of anthropomorphism, now appears not only completed but also complemented and sustained by the concept of innumerable relativities; and therewith philosophizing has been essentially advanced. For to philosophize means to reach beyond anthropomorphism and thereby to modify oneself. Freedom from anthropomorphism must, however, be found already in the concept of relativity, in the attributes and genera and must not be something new to be transferred only directly to the absolute. This thinking filled with all the relativities, which makes of my anthropomorphic thinking a particular instance of thinking, does precisely thereby free me from my being naive and callous in anthropomorphic egoism, from the rabid conceit and from the fear, in my relativity's egoism, of the relativities of the other species. Divesting myself of thingliness and breaking the circle of human limitation, I really receive the truth of the All-one as opposed to the delusion of our own. I cannot truly bethink myself spiritually with only my world and the One. In order that I may truly bethink myself, all worlds are required; for all worlds belong to me, even as this my human world, even as this my thinking of what at present is being thought in my human individuality. This ideatum (of feeling, knowing, willing) is welded to my individuality, but not so Thought—and that which has thought me as a human animal will think me also in all the other metamorphoses; all worlds taken together are the relativity of my absolute nature. All worlds engulfed by the One, this is the depth of recollection, speaking into my soul. My soul strains to pass through the all into the One, through relative infinity towards absolute eternity. However, relatively I am not in the all, but I am the all—and just so am I, absolutely, the One. I am relatively the all: in accordance with the basic law of motion variably accentuated (and yet never fixed) in beings of every kind, in all attributes, and thinking, therefore, in accordance with the thoughts of all attributes. The world of things is the world of thingly motion—this means nothing else than: I am what was, is and will be, endlessly past and endlessly future! This is the concept, this is how I am reached in relativity—and therefore I must realize: my human relativity is but a specimen of my countless relativities. And, absolutely, I am the One. By submerging my relativity, the ideatum of my human world, in the concept of relativities, pluralizing myself into the now to me transparent, infinity of relativities, of ideata which yet are in no manner thinkable, and by recognizing—thinking through to the end—in them the oneness of the absolute, of Absolute Thought, as the solely thinkable real Being underlying relative practical existence—by doing this I have found and seize upon my very own absolute nature. Infinity and eternity. I become all—infinity does not end in my life—and I am the One; for there is nothing but the One.
¶ Modified relative being
Thus I have apprehended my absolute Being in the very midst of my modified practical relative existence. I have walked the path of spiritual modification guided by the doctrine of Omnia animata and the attributes or, in my words: by the doctrine of moved thingliness thinking itself. Out of my thinking of the ideatum, out of my world, out of the conception of Absolute Thought, of the substance, or of God, on the level of the degree of my relativity, of my attribute, and out of the exclusive desire for it—in the thought of universal motion and universal lust of creation, in the love of God towards all that is, I have passed through all worlds, through all relativities, through all thinking of ideata, and have come from thought into Being, from the thinking of ideata into Absolute Thought. That is modification. If one asks: how can the Practical Understanding be modified into spirituality and the expression of spirituality? then, the answer is: this modification is nothing else but absolute truth itself, living concealed in the essence of the Practical Understanding, of relative truth, and revealing itself to and pervading Practical Understanding. Spiritual modification is the awakening of consciousness lying dormant in depth, so that thought may arise from the relative reality of the Practical Understanding, from the thinking of the ideatum, and from the superstition joining it in popular consciousness, from the thinking of fictitious reality, which thinks of Absolute Thought as an ideatum—so that out of these thought may rise into the true Absolute Thought. Just as from the viewpoint of the practical and because of the pseudo-explanations of intellective thought, Absolute Thought appears transformed into the ideatum (and into the infinite profusion of conceptions due to the genera's not being the whole and thus possessing part-thinking only), so modification appears as the re-transformation of the ideatum into Absolute Thought. Absolute Thought thus appears (1) as thinking the ideatum, as that conception of the Absolute Thought in all men which constitutes the Practical Understanding; (2) in the unspiritual generality of men the Absolute Thought appears, in addition, as an ideatum itself, in imitation of the spiritual (the god of religion, materialistic monism); (3) in those of a spiritual nature in a modified ideatum. Spiritual thinking means a modified practical thinking, a modified sensitive, volitional, intellective ideatum, i.e.—since this felt-known-willed is our life—it means living a modified life, a modified biological life which makes the mind free for a life of thought.
The human mind, verily, is not free for thinking. How, after all, does the mass think—and who does not belong to the mass? They believe in many gods, they believe in one god, they believe in no god. They believe in all manner of dogmatism, in the old one of religion as in the new religions of evolution or of race, and in the intrinsic wickedness of all those who are not members of our race; they even believe to be skeptics. They believe they think, but thought, always and everywhere, is drowned in belief and in imitation. And the relations between man to man in society? Man has the short view only and fights with his own kind. Since each partakes of the genus imperfectly and each, moreover, with another imperfection while yet his measure is taken from the perfect idea of genus, therefore they all fall upon one another with criticisms. And still—at the same time they also must elevate their kind high above their own stature. Contrasting the powerful urge man feels critically to examine man and to feel himself his paragon, to censure him, pull him to pieces, ridicule him, despise him, proscribe him, degrade him, annihilate him, there is the all but equally potent urge to admire, to idolize man. The two poles: craze of conceit about the rightness of one's own pseudo-thinking, and on the other hand the secret consciousness of the unsureness and shiftlessness of this same thinking, a fact which always leads to he imitation of some authority—with effects varying from the comical to the terrible.
Where did men learn this, whence comes it that they can intoxicate themselves with both these extremes, with tyrannical arrogance and with idolizing self-abasement? It is the soul locked out. The soul of man, alienated from him, as an ideatum from thought, not knowing what it is—the soul of thoughtlessness, to avoid self-effacement, reels to and fro between conceit and lowliness. Both it unlearns in modification where Absolute Thought enters into it and it into Absolute Thought, into itself, having then access to its own free power. Spiritual thought is assured thought, and the modification of our biological self-concern—modification even in a higher sense in that it leaves, as it were, room for a concern embracing all that exists, a nature-wedded thinking and loving of all, because it is one. Life is changed, modified in supra-qualitative theoretical thought and in all qualitative action—as the lemon-tree bears blossoms and fruit at once. This is modification: I have ex-animated my soul in order to inspirit it anew; I have died and am risen to life. I abandoned my world of things so that I might penetrate its essence which is Spirit; I am returned from the profundities of my spiritual recollection to my world and my life as one shaken and changed and sure of the truth to the very core. The end of modification is metanoia, the conversion and the spiritual recollection inmidst partibus infidelium, the psychic re-attunement from popular thought to spiritual thought and the true attuning, surrendering and entering into the One. The world is no longer lived only as world—Spirit despite world, through active philosophy, through applying the thought to life.
¶ Conclusion (SSS, 485-8)
The essence of Being is Thought—and therefore Omnia animata, in my meaning, signifies not materialistically that all the things also think, that they possess the property or function of thinking, but idealistically: that all is essentially Thought. To make this clear, and also that our relative ideatum is the same as is absolute reality or Absolute Thought, is the ultimate meaning of all my labour. May it not vex you if again and again I sum up this meaning anew in the old words: the relative thinking of ideata is not really thinkable, for it turns out to be a thinking without substratum, a thinking of non-reality. If now there is no substratum, no real content, to the relative thinking of thingly motion, then we cannot be satisfied with that and we cannot leave it there. Least of all, however, can we say that this relativity is itself the content. Rather, we must proceed from thinking the unity of what is relatively thought to the absolute unity of the Spirit or Absolute Thought, as the anagogical character of thinking in relative consciousness demands it, in order that the reality of our essence may be disclosed to us. Thought does not end in earthliness, in the relative Practical Understanding: all thought is One, for the essence is One. Hence do we idealists discern in our relative consciousness, in our apparent isolation and individuation, the anagogical trend pointing to wholeness and oneness, which trend is only misunderstood by materialism. Materialism is imperfect empiricism; it does not know of the distinction of faculties, and nothing about the materialism of the Practical Understanding and the idealism of the Spirit. Materialism trusts the experience of the senses, the things or matter, the pulverized things. The unthinkable things, the things that are conceivable neither as necessary, nor as real, nor even as possible, are its substances with which it wants to explain. Thus materialism is, as a philosophy, not merely imperfect, but naturally faulty experience, faulty sensory experience. Nothing is in such violent contradiction to experience as is materialism. The experience it wants to explain presents itself nowhere; but before the real experience (of relative as well as of absolute thought) it closes its eyes. Materialism is not planted on the ground of the true experience of thinking, it is thing-quackery. Unclear about things as about thinking, which, in deference to the opinion picked up in the street, it regards as the property of some things, it knows only the unity of the things ideated. And since it looks upon the world of things not as upon a fact of thinking and as the relatively ideated of our conception, but as absolute, it is superstitious dogmatism. Materialism has no validity as a philosophy, because everything that is valid for matter is valid only for our conception of truth, not for truth itself. Materialism is our anthropomorphism, or our image of being. It lacks the totality of the experience of thought. It is incapable of fathoming the entire abysmal depth of thought and of recognizing it as the One that is Ours. The relative unity of the ideata is the not really thinkable aspect of that whose absolute unity as Spirit is really thinkable. In relativity we do, to be sure, think the one reality—however, not as it really is, but as the phenomenon of thingly motion ideated in the conception of our relative thinking. The ideatum cannot be really thought because it is not real. For reality itself is that which thinks, and we have and are nothing but thought. From the thinking of the unreal unity of the ideata we are led, through spiritual modification of relativity, to the true unity of the Spirit, of the Absolute Thought.
Those who read these or similar words, and nothing but the words, those will not grasp it. From their grip slips not only the handle but the jug as well; they will not like it, and they will say that 'spiritual oneness' equals naught, that it is a predicateless waste which yields nothing. Be you silent! Serious things are being discussed here, first things and last things. He who, unbeclouded by the mist of superstition and sufficiently acquainted with spiritual experience as to lend such words their due scope and distinction and thereby is able to pull off from the shore of practical thinking, he indeed has in these words the sole true science and freedom (which stems, after all, from those few individuals of mankind who alone truly know and truly are free, the few profoundly erudite Princes of Thought), and he will find outlined in these words that with which all is replete and whence comes all that is his. The 'I' of your Practical Understanding, of your relativity, too, comes to you from the One and is nourished by it—and whence, indeed, does this come to you that you are never in peace and that, no matter how good your fortune in life, it cannot becalm your soul in this your 'I', in this your thinking of ideata, in this your world, in the infinity of your—and yet not your—world?
With your life you are sucked into the maelstrom of your world, you are lost in it, delivered up to its might and its lie. You are what you think—with your thinking of ideata, with your life, you are this ideatum, this self-depending and possessing, self-supporting, self-maintaining and self-propagating edifice of life. What sway hold over you sexual love, possessions and the honour-vanity of your ego; how powerless you are with this ego, with your thinking of the ideatum—thinking an existing reality but not your true, your noble reality! Your ego is not real; and it is an untruth that by itself, shut off, it can really exist. Your ego and your non-ego are also already the One of the world; sometimes the world is yours, sometimes you are the world's. But even with that which is yours you are not your own. The world lies; do not believe it. Your ego just as the non-ego of the world, the echo and enemy of your ego, are both untrue. And if you are given into the power of the world, enmeshed in its net of lies which you are yourself pulling more and more over your head, then you are not in the power of the Spirit, not in your own power. Your thinking of the ideatum, the way your world must and yet cannot think—this is the world's lie which betrays itself because it is the ideatum. The world's lie is after what you lust so hotly and what yet, because it is ideatum, you cannot possibly wish for in the last abysmal bottom of your thinking depth. So great and solemn a lie is the world, and so bewitchingly sweet a lie, deceivingly painted as reality is the world, are your things ideated for the sake of your thingliness! And yet does the lie's tongue slip, and yet does it betray itself before the fibre of thinking in your heart as a solid lie: as your conception for the sake of your relative interest!
Because your god is your belly! Your belly with its pleasure and its suffering and its countless foolish joys and torments. You yourself are the lie, your belly which fibbed to you that ego and non-ego, thinking and things, are of two kinds. But no: pursued by you, your lie pursued by your truth, you separate from yourself into that which you are and that which you are not. Strange double-tongued lie that cannot remain true to itself and which finally says: 'I lie' and then must itself make peace between itself and truth. Oh—so that is thought: lie with inner truth, calling itself to account before that which cannot be called to account. For your lie is that of the likeness; therefore, however ready to believe you may be, nevertheless your heart, sitting in judgment, will feel that you are no true believer. You desire the good fortune and happiness of your world—which, achieved, is no happiness any more! The glory is a withered tree. Good fortune! You will and must enjoy your life; every one has aught of love, of possessions (food and drink!), of honour-vanity. But good fortune? Ask the fortunate ones, ask them about the powerlessness of fortune and where the ball of fortune is rolling. The moment of greatest happiness is not always that of fulfilment. The anticipation of happiness was happiness; happiness was happiness only from afar! From near and in the long run good fortune is like unto misfortune and is, if not an open, then a secret sorrow. The lie has played with you; you accuse your world, you accuse ego and non-ego. You are the lie!
But you are also truth. Behold, how man is made replete with the great verity! Everyone knows this in the core of his nature where he pays homage to truth while lying. And you know it while being in the great lie that rises from depth. See what you do, and see what you are, and then snap your hand shut! There! You are yourself both the liar and the one lied to who craves truth; and in addition you are yourself the bringer of truth which, therefore, you yourself likewise are. You were grasping at the lie and its happiness—and yet you want truth? You do not, then, want to be happy; you want to be blessed and escape from your world and from all the worlds, from your solitude in the infinities to the eternal Oneness, from the likeness to the essence. In the fervent love of the likeness for the essence, thus you blaze aloft. And then from above blazes down upon you the firebrand of the love which the essence feels for the likeness and it kisses you with its mouth's kiss in which all, as a sacrifice, is burnt into the One. Unto you, ideatum, in your darkness-bound, woe-begone life of individuation and isolation, is revealed the oneness and primeness of Absolute Thought as the essence and as causa sui ipsius. You will give yourself back to yourself; it is your due and your destiny. Your modification is the spiritual deed of your self-structuring, your self-revelation, your true self-love. The revelation is your own—it is of your essence to the likeness that you are; the love is your own—it is that of your essence to the likeness as it is that of your likeness to the essence. Love calls forth love ands spirit calls forth spirit.
From Our Christ: the revolt of the mystical genius / Constantin Brunner. Transl. by Graham Harrison and Michael Wex. Ed. by A. M. Rappaport. — Assen: van Gorcum, 1990.
¶ Christ and Pharisaic Judaism: Spirit and Tradition (OC, 158-9)
Jahve, Being, is the term for the wholly abstract spiritual; it has no relation to the relative world. By Jahveh, the wholly great is meant. It means the same thing as Spinoza does in his greater—his absolutely great expression, Ens constans infinitis attributis (Absolute Being with infinite attributes). And Jahveh Tsebaot, Jahveh of infinite powers, is nothing but the mystical expression of the same thing as is expressed philosophically by Ens constans infinitis attributis. The whole tremendous concern of Judaism lies in this phrase Jahve ehad (Ehad = one and only. Pronunciation; with a guttural 'kh,' accent on the second syllable), in that single word Jahveh, which was ultimately forbidden even to be pronounced, and to pronounce which was a deadly sin. The mystical primordial character of Judaism—so naturally mystical that the Jews, in spite of their having made Jahvism into religion, never established a mythology, even while their Jahveh always remained exalted as God over every god of other religions, so that other ancient civilizations did not recognize him as a god, and said that the Jews were without religion and atheistic—the mystical primordial character of Judaism expressed itself in this, its ineffable holy word. There was this one word, the arrheton—no one dared to let it pass his lips. The thought which this word expressed was not like other thoughts; it was not thinkable with ordinary human thought, with the thought of things, for which alone there are actually words. And thus this word Jahveh was beyond all words. A word and not a word, not a word to be spoken; here man, who otherwise speaks, becomes speechless.
Christ makes reference to the Jahve ehad of Moses as he does to the kernel of Truth (gufa shel torah), to Jahveh and the love for him, which is the same as the love for man (Mk. 12:28ff.) and he makes reference to the scattered members of prophetic Judaism. He adopts them, throws himself onto them as onto his own. There they lay, the scattered limbs of a giant—but Christ was the giant come back to life. Do you wish to see whence he became thus? It is of no use here to fish this and that up from here and there and serve it up on the table. If you cannot understand him through himself, then you are left with only Judaism to consider, the real prophetic Judaism. There, at least, you have the ground from which this most Jewish of all real Jews has grown. He had the totality of Judaism within him; not only what was studied, which the scribes gnawed at. Hence his struggle against Pharisaism, the ass with a burden of gold, which has nothing of the gold and knows only the burden. The Pharisees had already been reproached with this by the Sadducees: with making life so infinitely burdensome for the sake of an imaginary afterlife. Hence his struggle against Pharisaism—according to absolute and historic right, it was the struggle of prophecy against Pharisaism. It is the struggle of the intuitive Judaism of genius against its apish inversion and petrification in pharisaic rabbinism, against the mechanical pressure of the lifeless upon life, against the mechanism of the instrument, that played endlessly and spiritlessly on itself and on the player.
¶ The ideas: The modification of practical thought (SSS, 431)
Idealism, and idealism alone, has made history, or more exactly: only the mysticism in idealism. The greatest of all changes has come upon the world through Christ the mystic—and it seems that this Christ has been intended to be with us for all eternity. Therefore also has it been very wrong of you to lump together mysticism and poetry. You share the contempt in which mysticism is held; but only, after all, because it is always presented as the emotional attitude in contrast to the rational one, as though it were something hazy, confused. It is, however, clearer than reason and not only can it but it must coexist with the most lucid understanding, unless the latter is to founder ultimately in the void. It is mysticism which conducts understanding towards the genuinely spiritual content of thought and towards absolute reality. The mystics differ vastly from the poets for their intent is not make-believe; they report nothing but their actual inner experience. And just as they do not proffer a spiritual work of modified nature, a work of art, but the actual experience in their own modified natures, thus also is modification in others their direct aim. Blessed be mysticism which, knowing neither of cognition nor of non-cognition of things, bears us on into thought, into being.
¶ Appendix on "Criticism" (OC, 350)
The Spirit can no more be "proved" than the genius. A person experiences the Spirit within him, and genius is experienced as Spirit: the Spirit cannot be demonstrated to those who are devoid of Spirit and genius cannot be proved to the critic. The so-called ontological proof is not concerned with proving anything, but with stating a proposition which makes philosophy aware of its proper theme in the briefest possible formula. Its entire theme is the absolute Being, Jahve, On. All philosophy is ontology; it takes its stand, with all its logical procedures, on this ontological maxim. 2
¶ From Spinoza gegen Kant und die Sache der geistigen Wahrheit / Constantin Brunner. Unpublished English translation by Henri Lurié (with changes).
I have written extensively about the two kinds of human beings: the truly thinking with their Truth, and the others to whom Truth remains forever invisible and who, instead, believe in its phantom; the Espritals3 and the People. As to the last named, one would be completely mistaken in thinking that by "the People" I intend the usual meaning, for I do not suffer from such ailments and do not recognize any other fundamental difference between human beings, except their unique specific distinction in Espritals and the People. This is an antagonism unlike all the other antagonisms encountered among humans. All the other antagonisms are those of culture and of prejudice, erected by the individuals themselves; that's why their softening and reconciliation is always possible and happens effectively in the course of history.
But the antagonism between the Espritals and the People is an antagonism of souls, by nature, which must always remain what it is, and all attempts to put an end to it and all efforts to make the People partake of Esprital awareness were and will remain folly. I call "the People" all those individuals whose thinking is not of the Esprital kind, as is apparent already from the title of my work, The doctrine of the Espritals and the People. I call therefore "the People" all those who do not think like the Espritals, like those who are productive and/or receptive, either in the scientific methods of philosophy, or in the sublime arts, or in mystical love (where, of course, the distinction between production and receptivity becomes meaningless, since here thinking remains entirely in its depth): to think in one of these forms, that's what I call Espritality. All those whose thinking is not Esprital, I count among the People, however important be their scientific formation and however amazing their intelligence. For, intelligence and Espritalness are two very different things, so that an intelligent individual may be as devoid of spirit i.e. of Esprital awareness, as the silliest of idiots, and, that one may be, like Immanuel Kant, the most intelligent and, nevertheless, completely devoid of Esprital awareness, of spirit; which means: the most intelligent and astute in the details, but in deep contradiction between the particulars, as I have demonstrated and shown it to be the case with Kant, and as it cannot be otherwise from the angle of spiritlessness. Should I be more explicit about what I mean by spiritless? Well, it is (in opposition to Espritality in its three forms) a thinking incapable of detaching itself from the relativity and negativity of the finite, or to use Plato's image, "from the ooze of matter", so as to arrive at the firmness of that Esprital awareness of the absolute or eternal and, instead, hypostatizing the relative into a fictitious absolute.
One cannot be more explicit here about the nature of the People's superstitious thinking which, in all respects, is an antithesis to Espritality and constitutes its inversion. In paying due attention to the material content of human thinking, we must recognize the existence of two energizing principles, fundamentally different and exclusive one of the other, whereof each permeates all the particular thoughts of the individual who finds himself under its domination (that's why no progressive instruction could produce here any change, since there is nothing which could transform one of the principles into its opposite); two distinct principles of thinking distinguish the inner life of those of the spirit from those of the People.
We are constantly facing human beings who belong to two different kinds of inwardness and whose thoughts are materially as far apart as positive reality is apart from nothingness. Their specific difference and their antagonism have stirred my attention to such a degree, that the doctrine of the Espritals and the People had to come into its own right. And instead of saying Espritals and the People, I could say—and in so doing our phrase Spinoza or Kant would be placed at the very focus of its meaning and its importance—it would be exactly the same if, instead of Espritals and the People, I said: Spinozists and Kantians! Even though they do not at all call themselves that way and an overwhelming majority completely ignores Spinoza or Kant, one could nevertheless call them Spinozists and Kantians; all people are either Spinozists or Kantians.
For Spinoza and Kant are not simply two particular individuals on account of whom it doesn't greatly matter how they have thought and spoken and what discipleship they have had different from the discipleship of others. This is not the way to look at Spinoza and Kant. One has to view them rather as the two real representatives and protagonists of the two fundamental human types as we acknowledge them here: for these two kinds of people never agree in their ways of thinking nor in their outlook on life, without any possible transition from one to the other kind. Spiritlessness could never come to spirit; an Esprital thought could not energize a spiritless life, any more than a bell can ring in a vacuum.
What a different inner life these twofold human beings have, meaning: how different their respective feeling, knowing and willing; and, transcending their relative conscience, how they experience the ultimate awareness of the absolute: this is made plain by the two individual paradigms, wherein both types of thinking have reached their highest levels, in Spinoza and in Kant.
In grasping through them the overt antagonism between the two principles and motivations, in its clearest and loudest expression and with the highest intensity of their peculiarities, we come to understand how that antagonism effectively permeates and dominates mankind as a whole and we see clearly the hidden twosome of motivations which splits humanity into two varieties, generally appearing as some blind natural drive.
No doubt, the truth of that difference and antagonism between the two mental varieties of humankind will be flatly rejected by one of these varieties, by all the individuals of the People; for, in their spiritlessness, deprived of any access to true awareness, they are completely incapable of grasping the meaning of the question: "What else is there to be sought besides acuity of understanding?" They constantly and incorrigibly mistake understanding for freethinking and Espritalness, and they do not remain in the quantum of Practical Understanding, but end up in the realm of superstition, where all their thoughts find their effective justification. Thus the question of what lies beyond Practical Understanding must sound to all of them as the most stupid and foolish contentiousness. It is therefore self-evident that those of the People will flatly reject our truth (viz., the subdivision of the one mankind into two mentally different varieties) whereof indeed nothing is visible to the exterior eye. But should one of the Esprital variety also reject it, unaware of the mental difference and of the difference of people resulting therefrom, and of the constant feud going on between them, of the war without armies, the most gigantic, implacable and the most momentous war in human history (which until now has been fought on both sides as a merciless war of subjection, but could not have been ended with such a result)—he who is still unaware of it and ignores the facts, is very far from having adequate ideas about our species, or maybe has prematurely given up his inquiry. Two types of thinking—that's all: a third, a fourth, a fifth etc., type of thinking could only be assumed by some very naïve and ignorant people; but that the thinking of all mankind be of one and same type, this is assumed only by some very naïve, uneducated persons, in contradiction to all facts provided by nature and by the historical reality.
And, as among all men one could be certainly found to be the strongest in physical fitness, such is also no doubt the case for the strength of mind, for the two types of thought content which we find in mankind: on the one side, the thought of Truth, wherein real beingness is the only object of our thinking, which thought is strictly speaking the only one really thinkable; on the other side, that other thought (since we must use here the same word for designating a thought which has been cheated of its own content) wherein its own opposite is kept in mind, turning topsy-turvy as the mind's folly or superstition. One man exists and must be identified, and I have good reasons to say, as I do, that Spinoza is that man one and unique who has thought most clearly and perfectly in the way Espritals think, and who has thought the whole truth, always the same and in harmony with itself.
Then again, there must be also another man who is accordingly related to superstitious thinking or to the mind's folly, and I have a serious suspicion, a good reason and indeed sufficient certainty to assume that in this, in the mind's folly, nobody has been as articulate as Immanuel Kant, who precisely for that reason is the greatest of all brains among those whom I call the People. Which means simply: he has thought on all subjects exactly as does the common man (I have provided an irrefutable proof for that statement) and therefore has been the most intelligent of them all, and a man of learning who has mastered the whole content of common thought, of common results, of common prejudice and superstition in the most sophisticated form and in the most intelligent way. But we know that intelligence is not Espritality, is not Spirit's sovereignty. Oh, his amazing soulless intelligence!
Having said and shown all this about Kant and Spinoza, we consider it as a fundamental necessity which has needed a certain time for its realization in history, and which will require still more time—but we see in it the accomplishment of some innermost necessity, that Spinoza become more and more the head of the Espritals, of the free-spirits, and that Kant become the head of the People.
The separation started immediately after the first impact of both; and so to speak both were born on the same day. In reality Spinoza had come one full century earlier, but what reputation had in his lifetime the great Saint, who accomplished his most amazing miracles only after his death, after having remained long rejected as "a dead dog". A few had known him, but it did not count and could be hardly taken into account, even exceptionally: what during his lifetime the friends "understood" was bad enough, but much worse was that some learned birds of prey, Leibnitz the most famous of them, had concocted out of some of his ideas inventions of their own original philosophy4 and all those tirades of theologians and diabologians against the atrocious atheist have to be mentioned only insofar as they are the chief culprits for Spinoza's one century long suppression.
It would seem indeed as if until one hundred years after his death nobody had been taken in by his fire. But afterwards! Afterwards—at the same time as in Kant the People's way of thinking had gained momentum and the blow against the Idea was dealt, the counter-blow immediately followed. Miraculously awakening from the night of oblivion, Spinoza rose in time, out of nothingness into a gigantic shape—irradiated by the halo of Truth and of Sanctity, a figure as, for many centuries, had not excited the imagination of men; and the password resounded: Spinoza or Kant!
One saw then within a narrow circle what, since then, has appeared progressively everywhere, in all parts of the world: the quibblers and jingle-rhymers (this is a prick on Schiller!) the sly and witty, the narrow-shrewish, the great professors of teapots-and-philosophy, who brood nests since they do not have eggs to sit on, all these were following Kant! Whereas taking side at once with Spinoza were the really great and free spirits, our Goethe at their head, who calls him the Saint and christianissimum et theissimum, and calls himself a fervent disciple; he feels himself "very close", "although Spinoza's spirit is much deeper and purer than his own."
We will analyze at another occasion how far the thinker and how far the poet Goethe was stirred by his enthusiasm for Spinoza; it was also this poet who, since, has been called the Spinoza of poetry. In fact, without the spirit of Spinozist thinking no poet nor artist is really conceivable, and, how important could Spinoza become to each of them! "Indeed, I do not understand how one could be a poet," writes Friedrich Schlegel in his speech on mythology, "without admiring and loving Spinoza and becoming his follower. In the invention of particular subjects your imagination is rich enough; to stimulate, to excite it to activity and to provide it with nourishment nothing is more appropriate than the poetries of other artists. In Spinoza however you find the beginning and the end of all imagination, the general ground and basis on which your own thinking reposes and that very separation of the primordial, of the eternal awareness, from all individual and particular subjects, should be very welcome to you. Seize the occasion and take a look! You are granted a penetrating glance into the innermost workshop of poetry. And as with his imagination, so is it also with Spinoza's affectivity. No sensitiveness for this or that, no passion which rises and falls; but a limpid fragrance hovers invisible-visible over the whole: everywhere the eternal longing finds a reminiscence soaring from the depth of the simple opus, which in its quiet grandeur breathes the eternal spirit of primordial love." 5
I say that all free and active spirits paid homage to Spinoza as to their sovereign—for he was not one of those pedantic philosophers, but the true king and savior of the Espritals, of all those who find their inner life in philosophy, in art and in love. And this familiarity with Spinoza's ideas coïncided with the most important period of modern German history, with the rising and liberation of all beautiful and noble trends in the German being; the important part played by these ideas in the said events will be ignored or undervalued only by those who do not know the power of ideas and how at that period the rediscovery of Spinoza precipitated everything in utter tension and passion and was the fact and reason why all dynamic spirits joined Spinoza.
Their discovery of Spinoza became the discovery of themselves and areas which until then were nameless, as the hidden depth which directs their life and generates ideas in their heart, suddenly acquired a verbal expression. The limpidity and greatness of the ideas then formulated, ideas really thinkable, unconditional and applicable to the whole connexion of a limitless reality: the grandeur of such a real thinking and the sublimity of its manifestations, in complete harmony with the so-thinking individual, this elation has to be understood, not as some being-above-life, for such a sublimity would be a very poor one: above life, outside life and nature is Kantianism in its scholastic eccentricity and in its gloomy futility, and it was also Kant with his life—but the sublimity in Spinoza's life, the gigantic figure of that man, comparable to none but to Christ:6 that, for the first time, obliged even common sense people to call him "the Saint" and to get some clue of what philosophia perennis really means—that the Idea is there for life's sake and that the thinker is not some scientific investigator whose life, besides, would have nothing to do with the ideas of his discipline—here was a man whose life perfectly agreed with the concepts of reality which he taught.
Such was the grandeur of his life, of his knowing about, and his submersion in the universality of Nature, and the glorification of Nature by the living spirit: instead of the world familiar to the others (be it the God-forsaken word, or God's devilish world), his living world in the living spirit—the unheard-of uniqueness of such a life's song flowing from his innermost being, attracted all the lively to the liveliest one and made them remain forever with him, with his world and with his God.
Truly, all the lively; the lively men from the school of Kant became Neospinozists! In other words, they became Spinozists. The Kantians became Spinozists—what happened? Why did the most prominent Kantians—Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, the best philosophical brains Germany has ever produced, become Spinozists? One will try in vain to find an answer to this question in our histories of philosophy, which do not even ask that legitimate and obvious question. And there is no other answer to it than this one: that it could not have been otherwise, since these truly philosophical men necessarily saw and felt how different Benedict Spinoza's stance within philosophy was from that of Kant, who—to say it in my blunt way—had nothing in common with philosophy.
For neither his critique nor his postulates, which together constitute his philosophy, have in fact anything to do with philosophy. The whole content of his original-philosophy is that of vulgar superstition, of thoughts out of the lowest levels of awareness, since he was unable to learn anything from Spinoza, whose content of ideas—as the truly philosophizing men were obliged to see—came from his own system, of that most genuine philosophy which had shaken the foundations of superstition. It was therefore ridiculous to allegedly submit the same foundations to a new shake-up with his scholastic criticism, and, far worse than ridiculous, to extoll them as still valid, once the critical shock was over.
Truly philosophical minds were not willing to look at things in the same way as their predecessors of the 18th century. For the great scholar of the Age of Enlightenment had done nothing else in his laboriously concocted original-philosophy than what scholastics had done all along: after having exercised their sharp criticism over the content of superstition, to pledge their unbroken faith in it. That was not philosophy. The most original oddity and fussiness in combating superstition and in embracing that same superstition is still not philosophy, for in order to merit its name, philosophy must deal with the one and only positive Truth. It makes a tremendous difference to see and to recognize Truth, or to shriek in agony "oh God, oh God!"
He who does not know Immanuel Kant's writings will believe that I slander; he who knows them and calls me nevertheless a slanderer, that I cannot help. But he who does not know them as yet and, in this matter of crucial importance, is not willing to go on believing something just because a great many other people believe it, he will have to read himself the writings of Kant, or at least—which will be much easier for him—to read what I said on that subject in my Doctrine.
He will then say as I do: Everything, everything revolves for Kant around the trinity: God, Liberty, and Immortality. These three words are not at all for him some special terms, for he uses them in the most familiar way of commonplace religion with its personal God who has created man after His own likeness—"So much the worse for dear God if I resemble Him!" could have said Immanuel Kant very conveniently with Frederick the Great, if he were capable of saying so. Also from Goethe: "The honorable professor is a person, but God is none!" if only he could have listened to it. 7
But he could not do it, he could not think otherwise and could not discuss nor believe something else than superstition. Such being the case and seeing that Spinoza's stance in regard to philosophy was so entirely different, this was what then which gave our important men of that time a new awareness and made the Kantians among them become non-Kantians and Spinozists. They saw and felt in what unique relationship to philosophy stood the man Spinoza; which by itself explains their enthusiastic statements about him.
As soon as they started thinking in his way, they were also well aware of the fact that Spinoza has not come with new ideas nor with a new philosophy: it was the philosophy of the human mind, it was their own unflinching conscience, unimpaired by superstition. "Human reason left alone, leads to nothing other than to Spinozism and it is impossible that it direct us elsewhere—if the world still keeps on going for a countless number of years, its universal religion will be some refined Spinozism" believed Lichtenberg; who also said that "Spinoza has thought the highest idea that ever entered a human brain."
Schelling calls Spinoza "the first philosopher who found the concepts whereby all the following centuries have grasped and fixed the two extremities of our knowing mind." For Lessing and Herder philosophy and Spinozism were identical; and the same statement was also made by Hegel, the most comprehensive and systematic, as well as the most independent and firm among the German philosophers, who did not attempt, like Leibnitz, Fichte or Schelling, reshaping again and again his original-philosophy. And Hegel also said, "either you have Spinozism or you have no philosophy!"
And this is certainly the right way of speaking about Spinozism, as we also intend to speak about it, with an ever increasing emphasis and in turning our backs on those petty philologists who, also, become occasionally solemn in their lessons on Spinoza: they are solemn at the start and at the end, but in between they exhibit an ecstatic self-confidence (due to the present-day misconception of that miserable philology which is incapable of any right approach to life) for being personally habilitated to reveal some important mistakes and flaws of that same Spinoza, whom great men and the greatest have so unconditionally glorified.
We turn our backs on all those incompetents, and look back to the competent men, how they spoke about Spinozism, in speaking in our turn as they did. For we could not speak in another way about the one and only system of thinking that remains free of all objections and of all contradictions. He who feels obliged to speak here differently, happens to speak about something other than Spinozism and his criticism is irrelevant and futile, serving only to confuse weaklings and ignorant people—and it must needs proceed from a confused mind. To say it dryly and bluntly: all the many objections against Spinozism, together with all the many alleged right things invented by our original metaphysicians to counter Spinoza, all this is a matter of the People's way of thinking, which normally contradicts not only Spinozism, but even itself; we see how all their pretended objections and truths cancel each other and sooner or later are rejected as absurd, but Spinozism is not canceled thereby; if they contradict it because of its alleged flaws, it happens exactly in the same way as we call a solar eclipse that which in reality is an eclipse of our Earth.
There is such a thing as an inability to think Spinozism, but there is no such a thing as a contradiction to a truly thought Spinozism. For Spinozism is the enunciated one and only Truth of our mind; against it there is no contradiction nor any adverse criticism. For it would have to be a "Critique of Pure Thinking", in other words of our very beingness, which critique is only possible as an illusion and a scholastic game in a mind oblivious to its true self and with its split conscience so completely entered and lost in the patterns of relativity that, blinded by all the absurdities, it tends to oppose its own absolute being.
A Critique of pure thinking would be a critique of our beingness which we truly and really are, and, without which we are truly and really nothing; a critique of pure thinking would be Thought-critiquing-itself just as Baron Münchhausen pulls himself out of the morass: those two mendacious stories do not fool us, despite the very tempting character of the images, suggesting a Münchhausen outside himself and also Thought existing outside itself and thereby thinking itself and münchhausing.
It will suffice to indicate here their scholastic business in "pure nothingness", in their critique of thinking and in their critique of Spinozism, including naturally their "immanent critique" of it. Let us repeat once more: Spinozism as such will never be an object and hence not a disputed object for a conscience where Truth instantly vanishes and is replaced by something else and opposite. It is against that "otherness", against the degradation of absolute thought into absolutized relativity and negativity, into that immanentized, antithethic thought of the People (and such it remains, even if one introduces as one of its components a special scholastic term, e.g. the word "postulate") which creates its critique against its own figments. But the Espritals who think positively, standing above all that antithesis, are aware of the Spinozist idea; as long as they really abide by their free spirit, they have to speak about Spinozism in the way we just have heard, as of the unique and natural system of thinking.
Spinoza himself has spoken about it in a very significant way, in confessing that he hadn't invented any new philosophy, but knows only that he understood the true one—and that philosophy was to him no less certain than that the three angles of a triangle equal two right angles.
Did one hear correctly that confession and did one derive from it a lesson? I doubt it; but his statement is important and stands unique among all philosophers. Also, none of the others has ever tried to avoid having his opus named after him! One should start thinking about that statement, in considering at the same time the simplicity and the naturalness in the system of the man who denied to his philosophy any originality, in contrast to the system builders with their "original-philosophies" (including also those plagiaristic botchers who pollute and poison the waters immediately at their source), with all the artifice, violence, hoisting, whims and fakes, wherefrom none of them could refrain, neither the greatest and smartest, nor the smallest and dullest. There are indeed people pretending that they have invented a new philosophy but who have not invented even gunpowder!
But we do not browse around in the "danse macabre" of the original philosophers who advertise their own findings as the chief concern of philosophy, the freaks of their knowledge, since the chief concern of philosophy has nothing to do with findings but only with the finding-of-oneself, and not at all through knowledge but in beingness: to find oneself in the unity of the truly essential Being.
That absolutely true philosophy stands before us in the works and sayings of Spinoza. We have here more than philosophy!, I would say if only I knew another name for our most precious jewel and treasure and if it were not anyhow clear to all the clear-minded who keep it as the uppermost treasure of humanity, that they cherish in it something else than the kind of philosophy of those finders and most prolific inventors. 8
Those finders and inventors do not know what thinking and philosophy really are, because they are not aware of the chief concern of the human mind and its thinking. Only insofar as they are preoccupied with their own originality do they enter into thinking; and wishing to be original makes them act as fools.
1At this point, in all succinctness, an elucidation of the differences between Spinoza's philosophy and the superstition of pantheism may be fitted in. Spinoza knows countless attributes while pantheism knows only the two human attributes of extension and thought which, unlike Spinoza, it regards not, by any means, as attributes of the substance but as substances.
2Hence Fortlage suggests quite rightly that Spinozism and Hegelianism should be described as logotheistic rather than pantheistic.
3We render "die Geistigen" by "the Espritals" and "Geistigkeit" by "Espritality", since our familiar corresponding English words, "spiritual and "spirituality" carry with them some religious and ritual connotations which are contrary to Constantin Brunner's terminology. (H.L.)
4Update: the most recent original bird of prey, Schopenhauer! who has also robbed everything else at his reach and who, indeed, is to be called a most genial thief.
5On the topic of what philosophy and the philosopher mean to a poet, with Neitzsche and cheap mysticism excluded, let us quote the saying of Jean Paul: "Poets as a whole do not act like philosophers who—I speak for myself—impart to the waves of ideas a longlasting impulse; besides philosophers I do not know any other equally effective stimulant for the brain, perhaps at best coffee and chess." And the same Jean Paul writes to Jacobi: "On your question, what is my earnestness behind poetry, I answer: yours."
6Dalberg to Herder: "Spinoza and Christ, only in these two resides a true awareness of God."
7There is probably no need to state here that the God of Spinoza is different from the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Kant; following a notice in Jean de Clerc's Bibliothèque ancienne et moderne, Tome XXII, I, p. I35 the word God did not appear at all in the original version of the Ethics: "I have been told by a very dependable man (with a handwritten confirmation of the alleged facts) that Spinoza has composed his Ethics with demonstrations in Flemish and has given it to be translated into Latin by the medic named Louis Meyer and that the word God was not used in it at all, but only that of Nature, since he pretended it to be eternal. The medic warned that this omission would cause him great trouble for denying the existence of God and replacing Him by Nature, which last word serves more to indicate the creature than the Creator. Spinoza approved that change and the book was published as suggested by Meyer. In reading his book one sees easily that the word God figures there simply as an adventitious vocable in order to suit the reader." I have given the complete quotation of the notice, although I do not consider it to be trustworthy in that form—same reaction to Stolle's notice Kurtze Anleitung zur Historie der Gelahrtheit, Halle 1718, II, 197, saying that Spinoza had later omitted a chapter "De Diabolo" originally part of the Ethics (where obviously is meant II.25 of the Short treatise upon God, Man etc. )—but I could mention some facts which make the supposition of the former notice not an outright invention. I will have occasion to speak about it in another connexion, because here is not the right place to deal with it. But whatever might have happened then, whether Spinoza had only subsequently introduced the word God, or had used it right from the start, it is sufficiently clear that he understood by that word something entirely different from the God of religion, which point became evident to everybody. But what will not at all enter their evidence is this: that as his God is not identical with the God of religion, He is also not identical with Nature understood as the world of things. In other words, Spinoza's Nature is not identical with the Nature whereof speak our metaphysical empiricists. When they and Spinoza say Nature, it is only the same word but bearing two entirely different meanings. Spinoza has always thought what is thinkable and hence different from the theologians and from natural scientists. When he says Deus sive Natura he understands by that, in opposition to the God doted with an intelligence and a will, and, also in opposition to the nature of things or thinghood: Substance consisting in infinite attributes whereof each expresses the eternal and infinite Beingness.
From which definition therefore clearly results that Spinozism is as remote from pantheism or from natural-materialistic monism as Truth is remote from superstition. It is highly desirable that our natural philosophers, the materialistic monists, be finally willing to become aware of the difference between Spinozism and their own creed, since their brothers, the theologians, have already long ago established very clearly the difference between their creed and Spinozism. To us, both of them are on the same level, the superstitious adorers of a personal God (Ruler of the Universe) and the superstitious adorers of the Cosmos—even if the first believe in the unknown God and the second believe in the unknown world behind the world of appearances and of the phenomena of the Cosmos.
8It is sad and painful to see how even our great Neospinozists Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel are far from abiding always by it and frequently try to show that they surpass Spinoza. In their times many people have shared that opinion with them, but nowadays nobody believes it any more; Spinozism stands firm and their systems withstood against it like foam against rock. They have not refuted Spinozism, neither have they outdone it. Wherein they believed to outdo Spinoza, therein they were in fact lagging far behind him and fell down from the heights of inspiration to platitude—or, as Fichte has shown it to be the case (in his Beiträgen zur Charakteristik der neueren Philosophie) with Schelling and Hegel that it is already found in Spinoza and only insofar different as it is there much more clearly expressed, so that one does best reverting to the original if one wishes to continue the reading. To understand how it was possible after Spinoza and his clearness to represent Spinozism so unclearly as done by those Neospinozists and Hegel among them (that amazing man who occasionally was so admirably clear)—one must pay due attention to the fact that they came from Kant's school.
This unclear representation explains also quite well the significant fact that Schopenhauer, whose stance with regard to Spinoza was similar to theirs (and to whose own ideas therefore applies what he criticized about their ideas and generally about the whole Postkantian philosophy: that it all was a distorted Spinozism), about the same ideas which he acknowledges as Spinoza's great accomplishments, and as even preparations to his own Schopenhauer-original-system, he vituperates as pure nonsense when he finds it with those other Spinozists, completely unaware that he is thus rejecting the part of Spinozism he had glorified for himself. Sometimes, of course, Schopenhauer rejects the whole of Spinozism, namely always when he asserts the Schopenhauerianism to be an original invention and the only truth. It is suspicious enough that precisely then he feels obliged to mention Spinoza. And exactly so goes it with Fichte, Schelling and Hegel. They cannot state their own system otherwise than in opposition to Spinoza; also for Fichte, who was paid back by Schelling (cf. his Ferneren Darstellungen aus dem Systeme der Philosophie), judging Spinoza's conception of the Absolute much superior to Fichte's—but Fichte betrays himself also. He says indeed that there exist only two consistent systems, Spinoza's and the critical, which is his own. We find the same phenomenon already with Leibnitz who said that there is no other escape from Spinozism than his New System. "If there weren't Monads, Spinoza would be right." Everywhere the same sequence: from their natural and fair dependence on Spinoza, to the vanity and nonsense of their original-systems. Their relationship to Spinoza resembles that between Zeus and the other gods: all the gods and goddesses may suspend themselves on the golden chain that Zeus lowers from the sky, they will never succeed in pulling him down. "But if it pleased me now to pull in my turn, I would lift you all, even with the Earth and the Sea!"