Human All-Too-Human, Part 1

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Church Disestablishment.—There is not enough religion in the world even to destroy religions.

[Pg 128]


The Sinlessness of Man.—If it is understood how "sin came into the world," namely through errors of reason by which men held each other, even the single individual held himself, to be much blacker and much worse than was actually the case, the whole sensation will be much lightened, and man and the world will appear in a blaze of innocence which it will do one good to contemplate. In the midst of nature man is always the child per se. This child sometimes has a heavy and terrifying dream, but when it opens its eyes it always finds itself back again in Paradise.


The Irreligiousness of Artists.—Homer is so much at home amongst his gods, and is so familiar with them as a poet, that he must have been deeply irreligious; that which the popular faith gave him—a meagre, rude, partly terrible superstition—he treated as freely as the sculptor does his clay, with the same unconcern, therefore, which schylus and Aristophanes possessed, and by which in later times the great artists of the Renaissance distinguished themselves, as also did Shakespeare and Goethe.


The Art and Power of False Interpretations.—All the visions, terrors, torpors,[Pg 129] and ecstasies of saints are well-known forms of disease, which are only, by reason of deep-rooted religious and psychological errors, differently explained by him, namely not as diseases. Thus, perhaps, the Daimonion of Socrates was only an affection of the ear, which he, in accordance with his ruling moral mode of thought, expounded differently from what would be the case now. It is the same thing with the madness and ravings of the prophets and soothsayers; it is always the degree of knowledge, fantasy, effort, morality in the head and heart of the interpreters which has made so much of it. For the greatest achievements of the people who are called geniuses and saints it is necessary that they should secure interpreters by force, who misunderstand them for the good of mankind.


The Veneration of Insanity.—Because it was remarked that excitement frequently made the mind clearer and produced happy inspirations it was believed that the happiest inspirations and suggestions were called forth by the greatest excitement; and so the insane were revered as wise and oracular. This is based on a false conclusion.


The Promises of Science.—The aim of modern science is: as little pain as possible, as long a life as possible,—a kind of eternal blessedness,[Pg 130] therefore; but certainly a very modest one as compared with the promises of religions.


Forbidden Generosity.—There is not sufficient love and goodness in the world to permit us to give some of it away to imaginary beings.


The Continuance of the Religious Cult in the Feelings.—The Roman Catholic Church, and before that all antique cults, dominated the entire range of means by which man was put into unaccustomed moods and rendered incapable of the cold calculation of judgment or the clear thinking of reason. A church quivering with deep tones; the dull, regular, arresting appeals of a priestly throng, unconsciously communicates its tension to the congregation and makes it listen almost fearfully, as if a miracle were in preparation; the influence of the architecture, which, as the dwelling of a Godhead, extends into the uncertain and makes its apparition to be feared in all its sombre spaces,—who would wish to bring such things back to mankind if the necessary suppositions are no longer believed? But the results of all this are not lost, nevertheless; the inner world of noble, emotional, deeply contrite dispositions, full of presentiments, blessed with hope, is inborn in mankind mainly through this cult; what exists of it now in the[Pg 131] soul was then cultivated on a large scale as it germinated, grew up and blossomed.


THE PAINFUL CONSEQUENCES OF RELIGION.—However much we may think we have weaned ourselves from religion, it has nevertheless not been done so thoroughly as to deprive us of pleasure in encountering religious sensations and moods in music, for instance; and if a philosophy shows us the justification of metaphysical hopes and the deep peace of soul to be thence acquired, and speaks, for instance, of the "whole, certain gospel in the gaze of Raphael's Madonnas," we receive such statements and expositions particularly warmly; here the philosopher finds it easier to prove; that which he desires to give corresponds to a heart that desires to receive. Hence it may be observed how the less thoughtful free spirits really only take offence at the dogmas, but are well acquainted with the charm of religious sensations; they are sorry to lose hold of the latter for the sake of the former. Scientific philosophy must be very careful not to smuggle in errors on the ground of that need,—a need which has grown up and is consequently temporary,—even logicians speak of "presentiments" of truth in ethics and in art (for instance, of the suspicion that "the nature of things is one"), which should be forbidden to them Between the carefully established truths and such "presaged" things there remains the[Pg 132] unbridgable chasm that those are due to intellect and these to requirement Hunger does not prove that food exists to satisfy it, but that it desires food. To "presage" does not mean the acknowledgment of the existence of a thing in any one degree, but its possibility, in so far as it is desired or feared; "presage" does not advance one step into the land of certainty. We believe involuntarily that the portions of a philosophy which are tinged with religion are better proved than others; but actually it is the contrary, but we have the inward desire that it may be so, that that which makes blessed, therefore, may be also the true. This desire misleads us to accept bad reasons for good ones.


Of the Christian Need of Redemption.—With careful reflection it must be possible to obtain an explanation free from mythology of that process in the soul of a Christian which is called the need of redemption, consequently a purely psychological explanation. Up to the present, the psychological explanations of religious conditions and processes have certainly been held in some disrepute, inasmuch as a theology which called itself free carried on its unprofitable practice in this domain; for here from the beginning (as the mind of its founder, Schleiermacher, gives us reason to suppose) the preservation of the Christian religion and the continuance of Christian theology was kept in view; a[Pg 133] theology which was to find a new anchorage in the psychological analyses of religious "facts," and above all a new occupation. Unconcerned about such predecessors we hazard the following interpretation of the phenomenon in question. Man is conscious of certain actions which stand far down in the customary rank of actions; he even discovers in himself a tendency towards similar actions, a tendency which appears to him almost as unchangeable as his whole nature. How willingly would he try himself in that other species of actions which in the general valuation are recognised as the loftiest and highest, how gladly would he feel himself to be full of the good consciousness which should follow an unselfish mode of thought! But unfortunately he stops short at this wish, and the discontent at not being able to satisfy it is added to all the other discontents which his lot in life or the consequences of those above-mentioned evil actions have aroused in him; so that a deep ill-humour is the result, with the search for a physician who could remove this and all its causes. This condition would not be felt so bitterly if man would only compare himself frankly with other men,—then he would have no reason for being dissatisfied with himself to a particular extent, he would only bear his share of the common burden of human dissatisfaction and imperfection. But he compares himself with a being who is said to be capable only of those actions which are called un-egoistic, and to live in the perpetual consciousness of an[Pg 134] unselfish mode of thought, i.e. with God; it is because he gazes into this clear mirror that his image appears to him so dark, so unusually warped. Then he is alarmed by the thought of that same creature, in so far as it floats before his imagination as a retributive justice; in all possible small and great events he thinks he recognises its anger and menaces, that he even feels its scourge-strokes as judge and executioner. Who will help him in this danger, which, by the prospect of an immeasurable duration of punishment, exceeds in horror all the other terrors of the idea?

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