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Full text of "I And Thou"

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separated and stagnant, a gigantic ghost of the fens,
overpowers man. In coming to terms with a world of
objects that no longer assume present being for form he
succumbs to this world. Then smooth causality rises
up till it is an oppressive, stifling fate.
Every great culture that comprehends nations rests
on an original relational incident, on a response to the
Thou made at its source, on an act of the being made
by the spirit. This act, strengthened by the similarly
directed power of succeeding generations, creates in
the spirit a special conception of the cosmos; only
through this act is cosmos, an apprehended world, a
world that is homely and houselike, man's dwelling
in the world, made possible again and again. Only now
can man, confident in his soul, build again and again,
in a special conception of space, dwellings for God and
dwellings for men, and fill swaying time with new
hymns and songs, and shape the very community of men.
But he is free and consequently creative only so long as
he possesses, in action and suffering in his own life, that
act of the being—so long as he himself enters into
relation. If a culture ceases to be centred in the
living and continually renewed relational event, then
it hardens into the world of It, which the glowing deeds
of solitary spirits only spasmodically break through.
Thenceforth smooth causality, which before had no
power to disturb the spiritual conception of the cosmos,
rises up till it is an oppressive, stifling fate. Wise and
masterful destiny, that reigned, in harmony with the
wealth of meaning in the cosmos, over all causality, has
been changed into a demonic spirit adverse to meaning,
and has fallen into the power of causality. The very