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Full text of "The tragic sense of life in men and in peoples"

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THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 
IN MEN AND IN PEOPLES 



THE 
TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 

IN MEN AND IN PEOPLES 



BY 

MIGUEL DE UNAM 



TRANSLATED BY 

J. E. CRAWFORD FLITCH 

M.A. (CANTAB.) 
WITH AN INTRODUCTORY ESSAY BY 

SALVADOR DE MADARIAGA 




MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED 

ST. MARTIN S STREET, LONDON 

1921 



CONTENTS 



PAGES 

INTRODUCTORY ESSAY - - xi-xxxii 

AUTHOR S PREFACE - xxxiii-xxxv 

I 
THE MAN OF FLESH AND BONE 

Philosophy and the concrete man The man Kant, the man 
Butler, and the man Spinoza Unity and continuity of the 
person Man an end not a means Intellectual necessities 
and necessities of the heart and the will Tragic sense of 
life in men and in peoples 1-18 

II 

THE STARTING-POINT 

Tragedy of Paradise Disease an element of progress Necessity 
of knowing in order to live Instinct of preservation and 
instinct of perpetuation The sensible world and the ideal 
world Practical starting-point of all philosophy Know 
ledge an end in itself ? The man Descartes The longing 
not to die iQ-37 

III 

THE HUNGER OF IMMORTALITY 

Thirst of being Cult of immortality Plato s " glorious risk " 
Materialism Paul s discourse to the Athenians In 
tolerance of the intellectuals Craving for fame Struggle 
for survival 38-57 

IV 

THE ESSENCE OF CATHOLICISM 

Immortality and resurrection- Development of idea of im 
mortality in Judaic and Hellenic religions Paul and the 
dogma of the resurrection Athanasius Sacrament of the 
Eucharist Lutheranism Modernism The Catholic ethic 
Scholasticism The Catholic solution 58-78 



vi CONTENTS 

V 

THE RATIONALIST DISSOLUTION 

PAGES 

Materialism Concept of substance Substantiality of the soul 
Berkeley Myers Spencer Combat of life with reason 
- Theological advocacy Odium anti-theologicum The 
rationalist attitude Spinoza Nietzsche Truth and con 
solation 79~ IO 5 

VI 

IN THE DEPTHS OF THE ABYSS 

Passionate doubt and Cartesian doubt Irrationality of the 
problem of immortality Will and intelligence Vitalism 
and rationalism Uncertainty as basis of faith The ethic 
of despair Pragmatical justification of despair Summary 
of preceding criticism 106-131 

VII 

LOVE, SUFFERING, PITY, AND PERSONALITY 

Sexual love Spiritual love Tragic love Love and pity 
Personalizing faculty of love God the Personalization of 
the All Anthropomorphic tendency Consciousness of the 
Universe What is Truth ? Finality of the Universe 132-155 

VIII 
FROM GOD TO GOD 

Concept and feeling of Divinity Pantheism Monotheism- 
Trie rational God Proofs of God s existence Law of 
necessity Argument from Consensus gentium The living 
God Individuality and personality God a multiplicity 
The God of Reason The God of Love Existence of 
God 156-185 

IX 

FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY 

Personal element in faith Creative power of faith Wishing 
that God may exist Hope the form of faith Love and 
suffering The suffering God Consciousness revealed 
through suffering Spiritualization of matter - - 186-215 



CONTENTS vii 



X 

RELIGION, THE MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND, 
AND THE APOCATASTASIS 

PAGES 

What is religion ? The longing for immortality Concrete 
representation of a future life Beatific vision St. Teresa 
Delight requisite for happiness Degradation of energy 
Apocatastasis Climax of the tragedy Mystery of the 
Beyond - - 216259 

XI 

THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 

Conflict as basis of conduct Injustice of annihilation Making 
ourselves irreplaceable Religious value of the civil occu 
pation Business of religion and religion of business 
Ethic of domination Ethic of the cloister Passion and 
culture The Spanish soul - 260-296 

CONCLUSION 

DON QUIXOTE IN THE CONTEMPORARY 
EUROPEAN TRAGI-COMEDY 

Culture Faust The modern Inquisition Spain and the 
scientific spirit Cultural achievement of Spain Thought 
and language Don Quixote the hero of Spanish thought 
Religion a transcendental economy Tragic ridicule 
Quixotesque philosophy Mission of Don Quixote 
to-day - - 297-330 



INTRODUCTORY ESSAY 

DON MIGUEL DE UNAMUNO 

I SAT, several years ago, at the Welsh National Eisteddfod, 
under the vast tent in which the Bard of Wales was being 
crowned. After the small golden crown had been placed 
in unsteady equilibrium on the head of a clever-looking 
pressman, several Welsh bards came on the platform 
and recited little epigrams. A Welsh bard is, if young, 
a pressman, and if of maturer years, a divine. In this 
case, as England was at war, they were all of the 
maturer kind, and, while I listened to the music of their 
ditties the sense thereof being, alas ! beyond my reach 
I was struck by the fact that all of them, though 
different, closely resembled Don Miguel de Unamuno. 
It is not my purpose to enter into the wasp-nest of racial 
disquisitions. If there is a race in the world over which 
more sense and more nonsense can be freely said for lack 
of definite information than the Welsh, it is surely 
this ancient Basque people, whose greatest contemporary 
figure is perhaps Don Miguel de Unamuno. I am 
merely setting down that intuitional fact for what it may 
be worth, though I do not hide my opinion that such 
promptings of the inner, untutored man are worth more 
than cavefuls of bones and tombfuls of undecipherable 
papers. 

This reminiscence, moreover, which springs up into 
the light of my memory every time I think of Don 
Miguel de Unamuno, has to my mind a further value in 

ix 



x INTRODUCTORY ESSAY 

that in it the image of Don Miguel does not appear as 
evoked by one man, but by many, though many of one 
species, many who in depth are but one man, one type, 
the Welsh divine. Now, this unity underlying a multi 
plicity, these many faces, moods, and movements, trace 
able to one only type, I find deeply connected in my 
mind with Unamuno s person and with what he signifies 
in Spanish life and letters. And when I further delve 
into my impression, I first realize an undoubtedly 
physical relation between the many-one Welsh divines 
and the many-one Unamuno. A tall, broad-shouldered, 
bony man, with high cheeks, a beak-like nose, pointed 
grey beard, and a complexion the colour of the red 
hematites on which Bilbao, his native town, is built, 
and which Bilbao ruthlessly plucks from its very body 
to exchange for gold in the markets of England and in 
the deep sockets under the high aggressive forehead 
prolonged by short iron-grey hair, two eyes like gimlets 
eagerly watching the world through spectacles which 
seem to be purposely pointed at the object like micro 
scopes ; a fighting expression, but of noble fighting, 
above the prizes of the passing world, the contempt for 
which is shown in a peculiar attire whose blackness in 
vades even that little triangle of white which worldly men 
leave on their breast for the necktie of frivolity and the 
decorations of vanity, and, blinding it, leaves but the 
thinnest rim of white collar to emphasize, rather than 
relieve, the priestly effect of the whole. Such is Don 
Miguel de Unamuno. 

Such is, rather, his photograph. For Unamuno him 
self is ever changing. A talker, as all good Spaniards 
are nowadays, but a talker in earnest and with his heart 
in it, he is varied, like the subjects of his conversation, 
and, still more, like the passions which they awake in 
him. And here I find an unsought reason in intellectual 
support of that intuitional observation which I noted 
down in starting that Unamuno resembles the Welsh 



INTRODUCTORY ESSAY xi 

in that he is not ashamed of showing his passions a 
thing which he has often to do, for he is very much alive 
and feels therefore plenty of them. But a word of 
caution may here be necessary, since that term, "pas 
sion," having been diminished that is, made meaner 
by the world, an erroneous impression might be 
conveyed by what precedes, of the life and ways of 
Unamuno. So that it may not be superfluous to say 
that Don Miguel de Unamuno is a Professor of Greek 
in the University of Salamanca, an ex-Rector of it who 
left behind the reputation of being a strong ruler; a 
father of a numerous family, and a man who has sung 
the quiet and deep -joys of married life with a restraint, 
a vigour, and a nobility which it would be difficult to 
match in any literature. Yet a passionate man or, as 
he would perhaps prefer to say, therefore a passionate 
man. But in a major, not in a minor key; of strong, 
not of weak passions. 

The difference between the two lies perhaps in that the 
man with strong passions lives them, while the man with 
weak passions is lived by them, so that while weak 
passions paralyze the will, strong passions urge man to 
action. It is such an urge towards life, such a vitality 
ever awake, which inspires Unamuno s multifarious 
activities in the realm of the mind. The duties of his 
chair of Greek are the first claim upon his time. But 
then, his reading is prodigious, as any reader of this 
book will realize for himself. Not only is he familiar 
with the stock-in-trade of every intellectual worker the 
Biblical, Greek, Roman, and Italian cultures but there 
is hardly anything worth reading in Europe and America 
which he has not read, and, but for the Slav languages, 
in the original. Though never out of Spain, and 
seldom out of Salamanca, he has succeeded in establish 
ing direct connections with most of the intellectual 
leaders of the world, and in gathering an astonishingly 
accurate knowledge of the spirit and literature of foreign 



xii INTRODUCTORY ESSAY 

peoples. It was in his library at Salamanca that he once 
explained to an Englishman the meaning of a particular 
Scotticism in Robert Burns; and it was there that he 
congratulated another Englishman on his having read 
Rural Rides, " the hall-mark," he said, " of the man of 
letters who is no mere man of letters, but also a man." 
From that corner of Castile, he has poured out his spirit 
in essays, poetry, criticism, novels, philosophy, lectures, 
and public meetings, and that daily toil of press article 
writing which is the duty rather than the privilege of 
most present-day writers in Spain. Such are the many 
faces, moods, and movements in which Unamuno 
appears before Spain and the world. And yet, despite 
this multiplicity and this dispersion, the dominant im 
pression which his personality leaves behind is that of 
a vigorous unity, an unswerving concentration both of 
mind and purpose. Bagaria, the national caricaturist, 
a genius of rhythm and character which the war revealed, 
but who was too good not to be overshadowed by the 
facile art of Raemaekers (imagine Goya overshadowed 
by Reynolds !), once represented Unamuno as an owl. 
A marvellous thrust at the heart of Unamuno s char 
acter. For all this vitality and ever-moving activity of 
mind is shot through by the absolute immobility of 
two owlish eyes piercing the darkness of spiritual night. 
And this intense gaze into the mystery is the steel axis 
round which his spirit revolves and revolves in despera 
tion ; the unity under his multiplicity ; the one fire under 
his passions and the inspiration of his whole work and 

life. 

***** 

It was Unamuno himself who once said that the 
Basque is the alkaloid of the Spaniard. The saying is 
true, so far as it goes. But it would be more accurate 
to say " one of the two alkaloids." It is probable that 
if the Spanish character were analyzed always pro 
vided that the Mediterranean aspect of it be left 



INTRODUCTORY ESSAY xiii 

aside as a thing apart two main principles would be 
recognized in it i.e., the Basque, richer in concen 
tration, substance, strength ; and the Andalusian, more 
given to observation, grace, form. The two types 
are to this day socially opposed. The Andalusian is a 
people which has lived down many civilizations, and in 
which even illiterate peasants possess a kind of innate 
education. The Basques are a primitive people of 
mountaineers and fishermen, in which even scholars 
have a peasant-like roughness not unlike the roughness 
of Scotch tweeds or character. It is the even balancing 
of these two elements the force of the Northerner with 
the grace of the Southerner which gives the Castilian 
his admirable poise and explains the graceful virility of 
men such as Fray Luis de Leon and the feminine 
strength of women such as Queen Isabel and Santa 
Teresa. We are therefore led to expect in so forcible a 
representative of the Basque race as Unamuno the more 
substantial and earnest features of the Spanish spirit. 

Our expectation is not disappointed. And to begin 
with it appears in that very concentration of his mind 
and soul on the mystery of man s destiny on earth. 
Unamuno is in earnest, in dead earnest, as to this 
matter. This earnestness is a distinct Spanish, nay, 
Basque feature in him. There is something of the stern 
attitude of Loyola about his " tragic sense of life," and 
on this subject under one form or another, his only 
subject he admits no joke, no flippancy, no subterfuge. 
A true heir of those great Spanish saints and mystics 
whose lifework was devoted to the exploration of the 
kingdoms of faith, he is more human than they in that 
he has lost hold of the firm ground where they had stuck 
their anchor. Yet, though loose in the modern world, 
he refuses to be drawn away from the main business of 
the Christian, the saving of his soul, which, in his inter 
pretation, means the conquest of his immortality, his 
own immortality. 



xiv INTRODUCTORY ESSAY 

An individualist. Certainly. And he proudly claims 
the title. Nothing more refreshing in these days of 
hoggish communistic cant than this great voice asserting 
the divine, the eternal rights of the individual. But it 
is not with political rights that he is concerned. Political 
individualism, when not a mere blind for the unlimited 
freedom of civil privateering, is but the outcome of that 
abstract idea of man which he so energetically condemns 
as pedantic -that is, inhuman. His opposition of the 
individual to society is not that of a puerile anarchist to 
a no less puerile socialist. There is nothing childish 
about Unamuno. His assertion that society is for the 
individual, not the individual for society, is made on a 
transcendental plane. It is not the argument of liberty 
against authority which can be easily answered on the 
rationalistic plane by showing that authority is in its 
turn the liberty of the social or collective being, a higher, 
more complex, and longer-living " individual " than the 
individual pure and simple. It is rather the unanswer 
able argument of eternity against duration. Now that 
argument must rest on a religious basis. And it is on 
a religious basis that Unamuno founds his individualism. 
Hence the true Spanish flavour of his social theory, 
which will not allow itself to be set down and analyzed 
into principles of ethics and politics, with their inevitable 
tendency to degenerate into mere economics, but remains 
free and fluid and absolute, like the spirit. 

Such an individualism has therefore none of the 
features of that childish half-thinking which inspires 
most anarchists. It is, on the contrary, based on high 
thinking, the highest of all, that which refuses to dwell 
on anything less than man s origin and destination. 
We are here confronted with that humanistic tendency 
of the Spanish mind which can be observed as the 
dominant feature of her arts and literature. All races 
are of course predominantly concerned with man. But 
they all manifest their concern with a difference. Man 



INTRODUCTORY ESSAY xv 

is in Spain a concrete being, the man of flesh and bones, 
and the whole man. He is neither subtilized into an 
idea by pure thinking nor civilized into a gentleman by 
social laws and prejudices. Spanish art and letters deal 
with concrete, tangible persons. Now, there is no more 
concrete, no more tangible person for every one of us 
than ourself. Unamuno is therefore right in the line 
of Spanish tradition in dealing predominantly one 
might almost say always with his own person. The 
feeling of the awareness of one s own personality has 
seldom been more forcibly expressed than by Unamuno. 
This is primarily due to the fact that he is himself 
obsessed by it. But in his expression of it Unamuno 
derives also some strength from his own sense of matter 
and the material again a typically Spanish element of 
his character. Thus his human beings are as much 
body as soul, or rather body and soul all in one, a union 
which he admirably renders by bold mixtures of physical 
and spiritual metaphors, as in gozarse uno la carne del 
alma (to enjoy the flesh of one s own soul). 

In fact, Unamuno, as a true Spaniard which he is, 
refuses to surrender life to ideas, and that is why he runs 
shy of abstractions, in which he sees but shrouds where 
with we cover dead thoughts. He is solely concerned 
with his own life, nothing but his life, and the whole of 
his life. An egotistical position ? Perhaps. Unamuno, 
however, can and does answer the charge. We can 
only know and feel humanity in the one human being 
which we have at hand. It is by penetrating deep into 
ourselves that we find our brothers in us branches of 
the same trunk which can only touch each other by 
seeking their common origin. This searching within, 
Unamuno has undertaken with a sincerity, a fearlessness 
which cannot be excelled. Nowhere will the reader find 
the inner contradictions of a modern human being, who 
is at the same time healthy and capable of thought, set 
down with a greater respect for truth. Here the uncom- 



xvi INTRODUCTORY ESSAY 

promising tendency of the Spanish race, whose eyes 
never turn away from nature, however unwelcome the 
sight, is strengthened by that passion for life which 
burns in Unamuno. The suppression of the slightest 
thought or feeling for the sake of intellectual order w r ould 
appear to him as a despicable worldly trick. Thus it is 
precisely because he does sincerely feel a passionate love 
of his own life that he thinks out with such scrupulous 
accuracy every argument which he finds in his mind 
his own mind, a part of his life against the possibility 
of life after death ; but it is also because he feels that, 
despite such conclusive arguments, his will to live per 
severes, that he refuses to his intellect the power to kill 
his faith. A knight-errant of the spirit, as he himself 
calls the Spanish mystics, he starts for his adventures 
after having, like Hernan Cortes, burnt his ships. 
But, is it necessary to enhance his figure by literary 
comparison ? He is what he wants to be, a man in 
the striking expression which he chose as a title for one 
of his short stories, nothing less than a whole man. Not 
a mere thinking machine, set to prove a theory, nor an 
actor on the world stage, singing a well-built poem, well 
built at the price of many a compromise ; but a whole 
man, with all his affirmations and all his negations, all 
the pitiless thoughts of a penetrating mind that denies, 
and all the desperate self-assertions of a soul that yearns 
for eternal life. 

This strife between enemy truths, the truth thought 
and the truth felt, or, as he himself puts it, between 
veracity and sincerity, is Unamuno s raison d etre. And 
it is because the " Tragic Sense of Life" is the most 
direct expression of it that this book is his masterpiece. 
The conflict is here seen as reflected in the person of the 
author. The book opens by a definition of the Spanish 
man, the " man of flesh and bones," illustrated by the 
consideration of the real living men who stood behind 
the bookish figures of great philosophers and consciously 



INTRODUCTORY ESSAY xvii 

or unconsciously shaped and misshaped their doctrines 
in order to satisfy their own vital yearnings. This is 
followed by the statement of the will to live or hunger 
for immortality, in the course of which the usual subter 
fuges with which this all-important issue is evaded in 
philosophy, theology, or mystic literature, are exposed 
and the real, concrete, " flesh and bones " character of 
the immortality which men desire is reaffirmed. The 
Catholic position is then explained as the vital attitude 
in the matter, summed up in Tertullian s Credo quia 
absurdum, and this is opposed to the critical attitude 
which denies the possibility of individual survival in the 
sense previously defined. Thus Unamuno leads us to 
his inner deadlock : his reason can rise no higher than 
scepticism, and, unable to become vital, dies sterile; his 
faith, exacting anti-rational affirmations and unable there 
fore to be apprehended by the logical mind, remains in 
communicable. From the bottom of this abyss Unamuno 
builds up his theory of life. But is it a theory? 
Unamuno does not claim for it such an intellectual 
dignity. He knows too well that in the constructive 
part of his book his vital self takes the leading part and 
repeatedly warns his reader of the fact, lest critical 
objections might be raised against this or that assump 
tion or self-contradiction. It is on the survival of his 
will to live, after all the onslaughts of his critical in 
tellect, that he finds the basis for his belief or rather for 
his effort to believe. Self-compassion leads to self-love, 
and this self-love, founded as it is on a universal con 
flict, widens into love of all that lives and therefore wants 
to survive. So, by an act of love, springing from our 
own hunger for immortality, we are led to give a con 
science to the Universe that is, to create God. 

Such is the process by which Unamuno, from the 
transcendental pessimism of his inner contradiction, 
extracts an everyday optimism founded on love. His 
symbol of this attitude is the figure of Don Quixote, of 

b 



xviii INTRODUCTORY ESSAY 

whom he truly says that his creed " can hardly be called 
idealism, since he did not fight for ideas : it was 
spiritualism, for he fought for the spirit." Thus he 
opposes a synthetical to an analytical attitude; a reli 
gious to an ethico-scientific ideal ; Spain, his Spain 
i.e., the spiritual manifestation of the Spanish race to 
Europe, his Europe i.e., the intellectual manifestation 
of the white race, which he sees in Franco-Germany ; 
and heroic love, even when comically unpractical, to 
culture, which, in this book, written in 1912, is already 
prophetically spelt Kultura. 

This courageous work is written in a style which is the 
man for Buffon s saying, seldom true, applies here to 
the letter. It is written as Carlyle wrote, not merely 
with the brain, but with the whole soul and the whole 
body of the man, and in such a vivid manner that one 
can without much effort imagine the eager gesticulation 
which now and then underlines, interprets, despises, 
argues, denies, and above all asserts. In his absolute 
subservience to the matter in hand this manner of writ 
ing has its great precedent in Santa Teresa. The 
differences, and they are considerable, are not of art, 
absent in either case, but of nature. They are such deep 
and obvious differences as obtain between the devout, 
ignorant, graceful nun of sixteenth-century Avila and 
the free-thinking, learned, wilful professor of twentieth- 
century Salamanca. In the one case, as in the other, 
the language is the most direct and simple required. 
It is also the least literary and the most popular. 
Unamuno, who lives in close touch with the people, has 
enriched the Spanish literary language by returning 
to it many a popular term. His vocabulary abounds in 
racy words of the soil, and his writings gain from them 
an almost peasant-like pith and directness which suits 
his own Basque primitive nature. His expression occurs 
simultaneously with the thoughts and feelings to be ex 
pressed, the flow of which, but loosely controlled by the 



INTRODUCTORY ESSAY xix 

critical mind, often breaks through the meshes of estab 
lished diction and gives birth to new forms created under 
the pressure of the moment. This feature Unamuno has 
also in common with Santa Teresa, but what in the Saint 
was a self-ignorant charm becomes in Unamuno a 
deliberate manner inspired, partly by an acute sense of 
the symbolical and psychological value of word-connec 
tions, partly by that genuine need for expansion of the 
language which all true original thinkers or " feelers " 
must experience, but partly also by an acquired habit of 
juggling with words which is but natural in a philologist 
endowed with a vigorous imagination. Unamuno revels 
in words. He positively enjoys stretching them beyond 
their usual meaning, twisting them, composing, oppos 
ing, and transposing them in all sorts of possible ways. 
This game not wholly unrewarded now and then by 
striking intellectual finds seems to be the only relaxa 
tion which he allows his usually austere mind. It 
certainly is the only light feature of a style the merit of 
which lies in its being the close-fitting expression of a 
great mind earnestly concentrated on a great idea. 



The earnestness, the intensity, and the oneness of his 
predominant passion are the main cause of the strength 
of Unamuno s philosophic work. They remain his 
main asset, yet become also the principal cause of his 
weakness, as a creative artist. Great art can only 
flourish in the temperate zone of the passions, on the 
return journey from the torrid. Unamuno, as a creator, 
has none of the failings of those artists who have never 
felt deeply. But he does show the limitations of those 
artists who cannot cool down. And the most striking 
of them is that at bottom he is seldom able to put himself 
in a purely esthetical mood. In this, as in many other 
features, Unamuno curiously resembles Wordsworth 
whom, by the way, he is one of the few Spaniards to 



xx INTRODUCTORY ESSAY 

read and appreciate. 1 Like him, Unamuno is an essen 
tially purposeful and utilitarian mind. Of the two 
qualities which the work of art requires for its inception 
earnestness and detachment both Unamuno and 
Wordsworth possess the first ; both are deficient in the 
second. Their interest in their respective leading 
thought survival in the first, virtue in the second is 
too direct, too pressing, to allow them the " distance " 
necessary for artistic work. Both are urged to work by 
a lofty utilitarianism the search for God through the 
individual soul in Unamuno, the search for God through 
the social soul in Wordsworth so that their thoughts 
and sensations are polarized and their spirit loses that 
impartial transparence for nature s lights without which 
no great art is possible. Once suggested, this parallel 
is too rich in sidelights to be lightly dropped. This 
single-mindedness which distinguishes them explains 
that both should have consciously or unconsciously 
chosen a life of semi-seclusion, for Unamuno lives in 
Salamanca very much as Wordsworth lived in the Lake 
District- 
in a still retreat 
Sheltered, but not to social duties lost, 

hence in both a certain proclivity towards ploughing 
a solitary furrow and becoming self-centred. There 
are no doubt important differences. The Englishman s 
sense of nature is both keener and more concrete ; while 
the Spaniard s knowledge of human nature is not barred 
by the subtle inhibitions and innate limitations which 
tend to blind its more unpleasant aspects to the eye 
of the Englishman. There is more courage and passion 
in the Spaniard ; more harmony and goodwill in the 
Englishman ; the one is more like fire, the other like 

1 In what follows, I confess to refer not so much to the generally admitted 
opinion on Wordsworth as to my own views on him and his poetry, which I 
tried to explain in my essay: "The Case of Wordsworth" (Shelley and 
Calderon, and other Essays, Constable and Co., 1920). 



INTRODUCTORY ESSAY xxi 

light. For Wordsworth, a poem is above all an essay, 
a means for conveying a lesson in forcible and easily 
remembered terms to those who are in need of improve 
ment. For Unamuno, a poem or a novel (and he holds 
that a novel is but a poem) is the outpouring of a man s 
passion, the overflow of the heart which cannot help 
itself and lets go. And it may be that the essential 
difference between the two is to be found in this differ 
ence between their respective purposes : Unamuno s 
purpose is more intimately personal and individual ; 
Wordsworth s is more social and objective. Thus both 
miss the temperate zone, where emotion takes shape into 
the moulds of art ; but while Wordsworth is driven 
by his ideal of social service this side of it, into the 
cold light of both moral and intellectual self-control, 
Unamuno remains beyond, where the molten metal is 
too near the fire of passion, and cannot cool down into 
shape. 

Unamuno is therefore not unlike Wordsworth in the 
insufficiency of his sense of form. We have just seen 
the essential cause of this insufficiency to lie in the non- 
esthetical attitude of his mind, and we have tried to show 
one of the roots of such an attitude in the very loftiness 
and earnestness of his purpose. Yet, there are others, 
for living nature is many-rooted as it is many-branched. 
It cannot be doubted that a certain refractoriness to form 
is a typical feature of the Basque character. The sense 
of form is closely in sympathy with the feminine element 
in human nature, and the Basque race is strongly mascu 
line. The predominance of the masculine element 
strength without grace is as typical of Unamuno as 
it is of Wordsworth. The literary gifts which might 
for the sake of synthesis be symbolized in a smile are 
absent in both. There is as little humour in the one 
as in the other. Humour, however, sometimes occurs 
in Unamuno, but only in his ill-humoured moments, and 
then with a curious bite of its own which adds an un- 



xxii INTRODUCTORY ESSAY 

conscious element to its comic effect. Grace only visits 
them in moments of inspiration, and then it is of a noble 
character, enhanced as it is by the ever-present gift of 
strength. And as for the sense for rhythm and music, 
both Unamuno and Wordsworth seem to be limited to 
the most vigorous and masculine gaits. This feature 
is particularly pronounced in Unamuno, for while 
Wordsworth is painstaking, all-observant, and too good 
a " teacher " to underestimate the importance of pleasure 
in man s progress, Unamuno knows no compromise. 
His aim is not to please but to strike, and he deliberately 
seeks the naked, the forceful, even the brutal word for 
truth. There is in him, however, a cause of formless 
ness from which Wordsworth is free namely, an eager 
ness for sincerity and veracity which brushes aside all 
preparation, ordering or planning of ideas as suspect of 
"dishing up," intellectual trickery, and juggling with 
spontaneous truths. 

***** 

Such qualities both the positive and the negative- 
are apparent in his poetry. In it, the appeal of force 
and sincerity is usually stronger than that of art. This 
is particularly the case in his first volume (Poesias, 1907), 
in which a lofty inspiration, a noble attitude of mind, 
a rich and racy vocabulary, a keen insight into the spirit 
of places, and above all the overflowing vitality of a 
strong man in the force of ripeness, contend against the 
still awkward gait of the Basque and a certain rebellious 
ness of rhyme. The dough of the poetic language is 
here seen heavily pounded by a powerful hand, bent on 
reducing its angularities and on improving its plasticity. 
Nor do we need to wait for further works in order to 
enjoy the reward of such efforts, for it is attained in this 
very volume more than once, as for instance in Muere 
en el mar el ave que volo del nido, a beautiful poem in 
which emotion and thought are happily blended into 
exquisite form. 



INTRODUCTORY ESSAY xxiii 

In his last poem, El Cristo de Velazquez (1920), 
Unamuno undertakes the task of giving a poetical 
rendering of his tragic sense of life, in the form of a 
meditation on the Christ of Velazquez, the beautiful and 
pathetic picture in the Prado. Why Velazquez s and 
not Christ himself? The fact is that, though in his 
references to actual forms, Unamuno closely follows 
Velazquez s picture, the spiritual interpretation of it 
which he develops as the poem unfolds itself is wholly 
personal. It would be difficult to find two great 
Spaniards wider apart than Unamuno and Velazquez, 
for if Unamuno is the very incarnation of the masculine 
spirit of the North all strength and substance Velaz 
quez is the image of the feminine spirit of the South 
all grace and form. Velazquez is a limpid mirror, with 
a human depth, yet a mirror. That Unamuno has de 
parted from the image of Christ which the great Sevillian 
reflected on his immortal canvas was therefore to be 
expected. But then Unamuno has, while speaking of 
Don Quixote, whom he has also freely and personally 
interpreted, 1 taken great care to point out that a work of 
art is, for each of us, all that we see in it. And, moreover, 
Unamuno has not so much departed from Velazquez s 
image of Christ as delved into its depths, expanded, 
enlarged it, or, if you prefer, seen in its limpid surface 
the immense figure of his own inner Christ. However 
free and unorthodox in its wide scope of images and 
ideas, the poem is in its form a regular meditation in the 
manner approved by the Catholic Church, and it is 
therefore meet that it should rise from a concrete, tangible 
object as it is recommended to the faithful. To this 
concrete character of its origin, the poem owes much of 
its suggestiveness, as witness the following passage 
quoted here, with a translation sadly unworthy of the 
original, as being the clearest link between the poetical 

1 Vida de Don Quijote y Sane ho, exphcada y comentada, por M. de 
Unamuno : Madrid, Fernando Fe, 1905. 



xxiv INTRODUCTORY ESSAY 

meditation and the main thought that underlies all the 
work and the life of Unamuno. 

NUBE NEGRA 

O es que una nube negra de los cielos 
ese negror le dio a tu cabellera 
de nazareno, cual de mustio sauce 
de una noche sin luna sobre el rfo ? 
,; Es la sombra del ala sin perfiles 
del angel de la nada negadora, 
de Luzbel, que en su caida inacabable 
fondo no puede dar su eterna cuita 
clava en tu frente, en tu razon ? Se vela 
el claro Verbo en Ti con esa nube, 
negra cual de Luzbel las negras alas, 
mientras brilla el Amor, todo desnudo, 
con tu desnudo pecho por cendal ? 

BLACK CLOUD 

Or was it then that a black cloud from heaven 

Such blackness gave to your Nazarene s hair, 

As of a languid willow o er the river 

Brooding in moonless night ? Is it the shadow 

Of the profileless wing of Luzbel, the Angel 

Of denying nothingness, endlessly falling 

Bottom he ne er can touch whose grief eternal 

He nails on to Thy forehead, to Thy reason ? 

Is the clear Word in Thee with that cloud veiled 

A cloud as black as the black wings of Luzbel 

While Love shines naked within Thy naked breast ? 

The poem, despite its length, easily maintains this 
lofty level throughout, and if he had written nothing 
else Unamuno would still remain as having given to 
Spanish letters the noblest and most sustained lyrical 
flight in the language. It abounds in passages of ample 
beauty and often strikes a note of primitive strength in 
the true Old Testament style. It is most distinctively a 
poem in a major key, in a group with Paradise Lost 
and The Excursion, but in a tone halfway between the 
two ; and, as coming from the most Northern-minded 
and substantial poet that Spain ever had, wholly free 



INTRODUCTORY ESSAY xxv 

from that tendency towards grandiloquence and Cice 
ronian drapery which blighted previous similar efforts 
in Spain. Its weakness lies in a certain monotony due to 
the interplay of Unamuno s two main limitations as an 
artist : the absolute surrender to one dominant thought 
and a certain deficiency of form bordering here on con 
tempt. The plan is but a loose sequence of meditations 
on successive aspects of Christ as suggested by images 
or advocations of His divine person, or even of parts of 
His human body : Lion, Bull, Lily, Sword, Crown, 
Head, Knees. Each meditation is treated in a period 
of blank verse, usually of a beautiful texture, the splen 
dour of which is due less to actual images than to the 
inner vigour of ideas and the eagerness with which even 
the simplest facts are interpreted into significant symbols. 
Yet, sometimes, this blank verse becomes hard and 
stony under the stubborn hammering of a too insistent 
mind, and the device of ending each meditation with a 
line accented on its last syllable tends but to increase the 
monotony of the whole. 

Blank verse is never the best medium for poets of a 
strong masculine inspiration, for it does not sufficiently 
correct their usual deficiency in form. Such poets are 
usually at their best when they bind themselves to the 
discipline of existing forms and particularly when they 
limit the movements of their muse to the ** sonnet s 
scanty plot of ground." Unamuno s best poetry, as 
Wordsworth s, is in his sonnets. His Rosario dc 
Sonetos Liricos, published in 1911, contains some of the 
finest sonnets in the Spanish language. There is variety 
in this volume more at least than is usual in Unamuno : 
from comments on events of local politics (sonnet Hi.) 
which savour of the more prosaic side of Words 
worth, to meditations on space and time such as that 
sonnet xxxvii., so reminiscent of Shelley s Osymandias 
of Egypt; from a suggestive homily to a " Don Juan of 
Ideas " whose thirst for knowledge is " not love of truth, 



xxvi INTRODUCTORY ESSAY 

but intellectual lust," and whose " thought is therefore 
sterile " (sonnet cvii.), to an exquisitely rendered moon 
light love scene (sonnet civ.). The author s main theme 
itself, which of course occupies a prominent part in the 
series, appears treated under many different lights and 
in genuinely poetical moods which truly do justice to 
the inherent wealth of poetical inspiration which it con 
tains. Many a sonnet might be quoted here, and in 
particular that sombre and fateful poem Nihil Novum 
sub Sole (cxxiii.), which defeats its own theme by the 
striking originality of its inspiration. 

So active, so positive is the inspiration of this poetry 
that the question of outside influences does not even arise. 
Unamuno is probably the Spanish contemporary poet 
whose manner owes least, if anything at all, to modern 
developments of poetry such as those which take their 
source in Baudelaire and Verlaine. These over-sensitive 
and over-refined artists have no doubt enriched the 
sensuous, the formal, the sentimental, even the intel 
lectual aspects of verse with an admirable variety of 
exquisite shades, lacking which most poetry seems old- 
fashioned to the fastidious palate of modern men. 
Unamuno is too genuine a representative of the spiritual 
and masculine variety of Spanish genius, ever impervious 
to French, and generally, to intellectual, influences, to 
be affected by the esthetic excellence of this art. Yet, 
for all his disregard of the modern resources which it 
adds to the poetic craft, Unamuno loses none of his 
modernity. He is indeed more than modern. When, 
as he often does, he strikes the true poetic note, he is 
outside time. His appeal is not in complexity but in 
strength. He is not refined : he is final. 

* * * * * 

In the Preface to his Tres Novelas Ejemplares y un 
Prologo (1921) Unamuno says : " . . . novelist that is, 
poet ... a novel that is, a poem." Thus, with char 
acteristic decision, he sides with the lyrical conception 



INTRODUCTORY ESSAY xxvii 

of the novel. There is of course an infinite variety of 
types of novels. But they can probably all be reduced 
to two classes i.e., the dramatic or objective, and the 
lyrical or subjective, according to the mood or inspira 
tion which predominates in them. The present trend of 
the world points towards the dramatic or objective type. 
This type is more in tune with the detached and scientific 
character of the age. The novel is often nowadays con 
sidered as a document, a " slice of life," a piece of in 
formation, a literary photograph representing places and 
people which purse or time prevents us from seeing with 
our own eyes. It is obvious, given what we now know 
of him, that such a view of the novel cannot appeal to 
Unamuno. He is a utilitarian, but not of worldly 
utilities. His utilitarianism transcends our daily wants 
and seeks to provide for our eternal ones. He is, more 
over, a mind whose workings turn in spiral form towards 
a central idea and therefore feels an instinctive antagon 
ism to the dispersive habits of thought and sensation 
which such detailed observation of life usually entails. 
For at bottom the opposition between the lyrical and the 
dramatic novel may be reduced to that between the poet 
and the dramatist. Both the dramatist and the poet 
create in order to link up their soul and the world in one 
complete circle of experience, but this circle is travelled 
in opposite directions. The poet goes inwards first, then 
out to nature full of his inner experience, and back home. 
The dramatist goes outwards first, then comes back to 
himself, his harvest of wisdom gathered in reality. It 
is the recognition of his own lyrical inward-looking 
nature which makes Unamuno pronounce the identity 
of the novel and the poem. 

Whatever we may think of it as a general theory, there 
is little doubt that this opinion is in the main sound in 
so far as it refers to Unamuno s own work. His novels 
are created within. They are and their author is the 
first to declare it so novels which happen in the king- 



xxviii INTRODUCTORY ESSAY 

dom of the spirit. Outward points of reference in time 
and space are sparingly given in fact, reduced to a bare 
minimum. In some of them, as for instance Niebla 
(1914), the name of the town in which the action takes 
place is not given, and such scanty references to the 
topography and general features as are supplied would 
equally apply to any other provincial town of Spain. 
Action, in the current sense of the word, is correspond 
ingly simplified, since the material and local elements on 
which it usually exerts itself are schematized, and in their 
turn made, as it were, spiritual. Thus a street, a river 
of colour for some, for others a series of accurately 
described shops and dwellings, becomes in Unamuno 
(see Niebla) a loom where the passions and desires of 
men and women cross and recross each other and weave 
the cloth of daily life. Even the physical description of 
characters is reduced to a standard of utmost simplicity. 
So that, in fine, Unamuno s novels, by eliminating all 
other material, appear, if the boldness of the metaphor 
be permitted, as the spiritual skeletons of novels, con 
flicts between souls. 

Nor is this the last stage in his deepening and narrow 
ing of the creative furrow. For these souls are in their 
turn concentrated so that the whole of their vitality burns 
into one passion. If a somewhat fanciful comparison 
from another art may throw any light on this feature of 
his work \ve might say that his characters are to those of 
Galdos, for instance, as counterpoint music to the com 
plex modern symphony. Joaquin Monegro, the true 
hero of his Abel Sanchez (1917), is the personification of 
hatred. Raquel in Dos Madres 1 and Catalina in El 
Marques de Lumbria 1 are two widely different but 
vigorous, almost barbarous, ** maternities." Alejandro, 
the hero of his powerful Nada Menos que To do un 
H ombre, 1 is masculine will, pure and unconquerable, 

1 These three novels appeared together as Tres Novelets y tin Frologo 
Calpe, Madrid, 1921. 



INTRODUCTORY ESSAY xxix 

save by death. Further still, in most if not all of his 
main characters, we can trace the dominant passion which 
is their whole being to a mere variety of the one and only 
passion which obsesses Unamuno himself, the hunger 
for life, a full life, here and after. Here is, for instance, 
Abel Sanchez, a sombre study of hatred, a modern para 
phrase of the story of Cain. Joaquin Monegro, the Cain 
of the novel, has been reading Byron s poem, and writes 
in his diary : "It was when I read how Lucifer declared 
to Cain that he, Cain, was immortal, that I began in 
terror to wonder whether I also was immortal and whether 
in me would be also immortal my hatred. * Have I a 
soul? I said to myself then. * Is this my hatred soul? 
And I came to think that it could not be otherwise, that 
such a hatred cannot be the function of a body. . . . 
A corruptible organism could not hate as I hated." 

Thus Joaquin Monegro, like every other main char 
acter in his work, appears preoccupied by the same 
central preoccupation of Unamuno. In one word, all 
Unamuno s characters are but incarnations of himself. 
But that is what we expected to find in a lyrical novelist. 

There are critics who conclude from this observation 
that these characters do not exist, that they are mere 
arguments on legs, personified ideas. Here and there, 
in Unamuno s novels, there are passages which lend 
some colour of plausibility to this view. Yet, it is in 
my opinion mistaken. Unamuno s characters may be 
schematized, stripped of their complexities, reduced to the 
mainspring of their nature; they may, moreover, reveal 
mainsprings made of the same steel. But that they are 
alive no one could deny who has a sense for life. The 
very restraint in the use of physical details which 
Unamuno has made a feature of his creative work may 
have led his critics to forget the intensity of those 
admirably chosen which are given. It is significant 
that the eyes play an important part in his description 
of characters and in his narrative too. His sense of the 



xxx INTRODUCTORY ESSAY 

interpenetration of body and soul is so deep that he does 
not for one moment let us forget how bodily his " souls " 
are, and how pregnant with spiritual significance is every 
one of their words and gestures. No. These characters 
are not arguments on legs. They truly are men and 
women of " flesh and bones," human, terribly human. 

In thus emphasizing a particular feature in their 
nature, Unamuno imparts to his creations a certain 
deformity which savours of romantic days. Yet 
Unamuno is not a romanticist, mainly because Roman 
ticism was an esthetic attitude, and his attitude is seldom 
purely esthetic. For all their show of passion, true 
Romanticists seldom gave their real selves to their art. 
They created a stage double of their own selves for public 
exhibitions. They sought the picturesque. Their form 
was lyrical, but their substance was dramatic. Unamuno, 
on the contrary, even though he often seeks expression 
in dramatic form, is essentially lyrical. And if he is 
always intense, he never is exuberant. He follows the 
Spanish tradition for restraint for there is one, along its 
opposite tradition for grandiloquence and, true to the 
spirit of it, he seeks the maximum of effect through the 
minimum of means. Then, he never shouts. Here is 
an example of his quiet method, the rhythmical beauty 
of which is unfortunately almost untranslatable : 

" Y asi pasaron dias de llanto y de negrura hasta que 
las lagrimas fueron yendose hacia adentro y la casa fue 
derritiendo los negrores " (Niebla) (And thus, days of 
weeping and mourning went by, till the tears began to 
flow inward and the blackness to melt in the home). 



Miguel de Unamuno is to-day the greatest literary 
figure of Spain. Baroja may surpass him in variety of 
external experience, Azorin in delicate art, Ortega y 
Gasset in philosophical subtlety, Ayala in intellectual 
elegance, Valle Inclan in rhythmical grace. Even in 



INTRODUCTORY ESSAY xxxi 

vitality he may have to yield the first place to that over 
whelming athlete of literature, Blasco Ibanez. But 
Unamuno is head and shoulders above them all in the 
highness of his purpose and in the earnestness and 
loyalty with which, Quixote-like, he has served all 
through his life his unattainable Dulcinea. Then there 
is another and most important reason which explains 
his position as first, princeps, of Spanish letters, and it 
is that Unamuno, by the cross which he has chosen to 
bear, incarnates the spirit of modern Spain. His eternal 
conflict between faith and reason, between life and 
thought, between spirit and intellect, between heaven 
and civilization, is the conflict of Spain herself. A 
border country, like Russia, in which East and West 
mix their spiritual waters, Spain wavers between two 
life-philosophies and cannot rest. In Russia, this con 
flict emerges in literature during the nineteenth century, 
when Dostoievsky and Tolstoy stand for the East while 
Turgeniev becomes the West s advocate. In Spain, a 
country less articulate, and, moreover, a country in which 
the blending of East and West is more intimate, for both 
found a common solvent in centuries of Latin civiliza 
tion, the conflict is less clear, less on the surface. To 
day Ortega y Gasset is our Turgeniev not without 
mixture. Unamuno is our Dostoievsky, but painfully 
aware of the strength of the other side within him, and 
full of misgivings. Nor is it sure that when we speak of 
East in this connection we really mean East. There is 
a third country in Europe in which the " Eastern " view 
is as forcibly put and as deeply understood as the 
Western," a third border country England. Eng 
land, particularly in those of her racial elements conven 
tionally named Celtic, is closely in sympathy with the 
" East." Ireland is almost purely " Eastern " in this 
respect. That is perhaps why Unamuno feels so strong 
an attraction for the English language and its literature, 
and why, even to this day, he follows so closely the 



xxxii INTRODUCTORY ESSAY 

movements of English thought. 1 For his own nature, 
of a human being astride two enemy ideals, draws him 
instinctively towards minds equally placed in opposition, 
yet a co-operating opposition, to progress. Thus 
Unamuno, whose literary qualities and defects make him 
a genuine representative of the more masculine variety 
of the Spanish genius, becomes in his spiritual life the 
true living symbol of his country and his time. And 
that he is great enough to bear this incarnation is a suffi 
cient measure of his greatness. 

S. DE MADARIAGA. 

1 " Me va interesando ese Dean Inge," he wrote to me last year. 



AUTHOR S PREFACE 

I INTENDED at first to write a short Prologue to this 
English translation of my Del Sentimiento Trdgico de 
la Vida, which has been undertaken by my friend 
Mr. J. E. Crawford Flitch. But upon further considera 
tion I have abandoned the idea, for I reflected that after 
all I wrote this book not for Spaniards only, but for all 
civilized and Christian men Christian in particular, 
whether consciously so or not of whatever country they 
may be. 

Furthermore, if I were to set about writing an Intro 
duction in the light of all that we see and feel now, after 
the Great War, and, still more, of what we foresee and 
forefeel, I should be led into writing yet another book. 
And that is a thing to be done with deliberation and only 
after having better digested this terrible peace, which is 
nothing else but the war s painful convalescence. 

As for many years my spirit has been nourished 
upon the very core of English literature evidence of 
which the reader may discover in the following pages 
the translator, in putting my Sentimiento Trdgico into 
English, has merely converted not a few of the thoughts 
and feelings therein expressed back into their original 
form of expression. Or retranslated them, perhaps. 
Whereby they emerge other than they originally were, 
for an idea does not pass from one language to another 
without change. 

xxxiii 



xxxiv AUTHOR S PREFACE 

The fact that this English translation has been care 
fully revised here, in my house in this ancient city of 
Salamanca, by the translator and myself, implies not 
merely some guarantee of exactitude, but also something 
more namely, a correction, in certain respects, of the 
original. 

The truth is that, being an incorrigible Spaniard, I 
am naturally given to a kind of extemporization and to 
rleglectfulness of a filed niceness in my works. For this 
reason my original work and likewise the Italian and 
French translations of it issued from the press with a 
certain number of errors, obscurities, and faulty refer 
ences. The labour which my friend Mr. J. E. Crawford 
Flitch fortunately imposed upon me in making me revise 
his translation obliged me to correct these errors, to 
clarify some obscurities, and to give greater exactitude 
to certain quotations from foreign writers. Hence this 
English translation of my Sentimiento Trdgico presents 
in some ways a more purged and correct text than that of 
the original Spanish. This perhaps compensates for what 
it may lose in the spontaneity of my Spanish thought, 
which at times, I believe, is scarcely translatable. 

It would advantage me greatly if this translation, in 
opening up to me a public of English-speaking readers, 
should some day lead to my writing something addressed 
to and concerned with this public. For just as a new 
friend enriches our spirit, not so much by what he gives 
us of himself, as by what he causes us to discover in our 
own selves, something which, if we had never known 
him, would have lain in us undeveloped, so it is with a 
new public. Perhaps there may be regions in my own 
Spanish spirit my Basque spirit, and therefore doubly 
Spanish unexplored by myself, some corner hitherto 



AUTHOR S PREFACE xxxv 

uncultivated, which I should have to cultivate in order 
to offer the flowers and fruits of it to the peoples of 
English speech. 

And now, no more. 

God give my English readers that inextinguishable 
thirst for truth which I desire for myself. 

MIGUEL DE UNAMUNO. 

SALAMANCA, 
April, 1921. 



TRANSLATOR S NOTE 

FOOTNOTES added by the Translator, other than those which merely 
supplement references to writers or their works mentioned in the 
text, are distinguished by his initials. 



I 

THE MAN OF FLESH AND BONE 

Homo sum; nihil humani a me alienum puto, said the 
Latin playwright. And I would rather say, Nullum 
hominem a me aliemim puto : I am a man ; no other 
man do I deem a stranger. For to me the adjective 
humanus is no less suspect than its abstract substantive 
humanitas, humanity. Neither " the human " nor 
"humanity," neither the simple adjective nor the 
substantivized adjective, but the concrete substantive 
man. The man of flesh and bone; the man who is born, 
suffers, and dies above all, who dies ; the man who eats 
and drinks and plays and sleeps and thinks and wills ; 
the man who is seen and heard ; the brother, the real 
brother. 

For there is another thing which is also called man, 
and he is the subject of not a few lucubrations, more or 
less scientific. He is the legendary featherless biped, 
the %u>ov TroXiTiKov of Aristotle, the social contractor of 
Rousseau, the homo economicus of the Manchester 
school, the homo sapiens of Linnaeus, or, if you like, 
the vertical mammal. A man neither of here nor there, 
neither of this age nor of another, who has neither sex 
nor country, who is, in brief, merely an idea. That is 
to say, a no-man. 

The man we have to do with is the man of flesh and 
bone I, you, reader of mine, the other man yonder, all 
of us who walk solidly on the earth. 

And this concrete man, this man of flesh and bone, 
is at once the subject and the supreme object of all 

i 



2 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE i 

philosophy, whether certain self-styled philosophers like 
it or not. 

In most of the histories of philosophy that I know, 
philosophic systems are presented to us as if growing 
out of one another spontaneously, and their authors, 
the philosophers, appear only as mere pretexts. The 
inner biography of the philosophers, of the men who 
philosophized, occupies a secondary place. And yet it 
is precisely this inner biography that explains for us 
most things. 

It behoves us to say, before all, that philosophy lies 
closer to poetry than to science. All philosophic systems 
which have been constructed as a supreme concord of 
the final results of the individual sciences have in every 
age possessed much less consistency and life than those 
which expressed the integral spiritual yearning of their 
authors. 

And, though they concern us so greatly, and are, 
indeed, indispensable for our life and thought, the 
sciences are in a certain sense more foreign to us than 
philosophy. They fulfil a more objective end that is 
to say, an end more external to ourselves. They are 
fundamentally a matter of economics. A new scientific 
discovery, of the kind called theoretical, is, like a 
mechanical discovery that of the steam-engine, the 
telephone, the phonograph, or the aeroplane a thing 
which is useful for something else. Thus the telephone 
may be useful to us in enabling us to communicate at a 
distance with the woman we love. But she, wherefore is 
she useful to us ? A man takes an electric tram to go to 
hear an opera, and asks himself, Which, in this case, is 
the more useful, the tram or the opera ? 

Philosophy answers to our need of forming a complete 
and unitary conception of the world and of life, and as a 
result of this conception, a feeling which gives birth to 
an inward attitude and even to outward action. But the 
fact is that this feeling, instead of being a consequence 



i THE MAN OF FLESH AND BONE 3 

of this conception, is the cause of it. Our philosophy 
that is, our mode of understanding or not understanding 
the world and life springs from our feeling towards life 
itself. And life, like everything affective, has roots in 
subconsciousness, perhaps in unconsciousness. 

It is not usually our ideas that make us optimists or 
pessimists, but it is our optimism or our pessimism, of 
physiological or perhaps pathological origin, as much 
the one as the other, that makes our ideas. 

Man is said to be a reasoning animal. I do not know 
why he has not been defined as an affective or feeling 
animal. Perhaps that which differentiates him from 
other animals is feeling rather than reason. More often 
I have seen a cat reason than laugh or weep. Perhaps 
it weeps or laughs inwardly but then perhaps, also 
inwardly, the crab resolves equations of the second 
degree. 

And thus, in a philosopher, what must needs most 
concern us is the man. 

Take Kant, the man Immanuel Kant, who was born 
and lived at Konigsberg, in the latter part of the eigh 
teenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth. In 
the philosophy of this man Kant, a man of heart and head 
that is to say, a man there is a significant somersault, 
as Kierkegaard, another man and what a man ! would 
have said, the somersault from the Critique of Pure Reason 
to the Critique of Practical Reason. He reconstructs in 
the latter what he destroyed in the former, in spite of what 
those may say who do not see the man himself. After 
having examined and pulverized with his analysis the 
traditional proofs of the existence of God, of the Aris 
totelian God, who is the God corresponding to the 
o>oi/ iro\iTiKov, the abstract God, the unmoved prime 
Mover, he reconstructs God anew ; but the God of the 
conscience, the Author of the moral order the Lutheran 
God, in short. This transition of Kant exists already in 
embryo in the Lutheran notion of faith. 



4 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE i 

The first God, the rational God, is the projection to 
the outward infinite of man as he is by definition that 
is to say, of the abstract man, of the man no-man ; the 
other God, the God of feeling and volition, is the pro 
jection to the inward infinite of man as he is by life, of 
the concrete man, the man of flesh and bone. 

Kant reconstructed with the heart that which with the 
head he had overthrown. And we know, from the testi 
mony of those who knew him and from his testi 
mony in his letters and private declarations, that the man 
Kant, the more or less selfish old bachelor who professed 
philosophy at Konigsberg at the end of the century of the 
Encyclopedia and the goddess of Reason, was a man 
much preoccupied with the problem I mean with the 
only real vital problem, the problem that strikes at the 
very root of our being, the problem of our individual 
and personal destiny, of the immortality of the soul. 
The man Kant was not resigned to die utterly. And 
because he was not resigned to die utterly he made that 
leap, that immortal somersault, 1 from the one Critique 
to the other. 

Whosoever reads the Critique of Practical. Reason 
carefully and without blinkers will see that, in strict fact, 
the existence of God is therein deduced from the immor 
tality of the soul, and not the immortality of the soul 
from the existence of God. The categorical imperative 
leads us to a moral postulate which necessitates in its 
turn, in the teleological or rather eschatological order, 
the immortality of the soul, and in order to sustain this 
immortality God is introduced. All the rest is the 
jugglery of the professional of philosophy. 

The man Kant felt that morality w r as the basis of 
eschatology, but the professor of philosophy inverted 
the terms. 

1 " Salto inmortal" There is a play here upon the term salto mortal, used 
to denote the dangerous aerial somersault of the acrobat, which cannot be 
rendered in English. J. E. C. F. 



i THE MAN OF FLESH AND BONE 5 

Another professor, the professor and man William 
James, has somewhere said that for the generality of 
men God is the provider of immortality. Yes, for the 
generality of men, including the man Kant, the man 
James, and the man who writes these lines which you, 
reader, are reading. 

Talking to a peasant one day, I proposed to him the 
hypothesis that there might indeed be a God who governs 
heaven and earth, a Consciousness 1 of the Universe, but 
that for all that the soul of every man may not be 
immortal in the traditional and concrete sense. He 
replied : "Then wherefore God?" So answered, in the 
secret tribunal of their consciousness, the man Kant and 
the man James. Only in their capacity as professors 
they were compelled to justify rationally an attitude in 
itself so little rational. Which does not mean, of course, 
that the attitude is absurd. 

Hegel made famous his aphorism that all the rational 
is real and all the real rational ; but there are many of us 
who, unconvinced by Hegel, continue to believe that the 
real, the really real, is irrational, that reason builds upon 
irrationalities. Hegel, a great framer of definitions, 
attempted with definitions to reconstruct the universe, 
like that artillery sergeant who said that cannon were 
made by taking a hole and enclosing it with steel. 

Another man, the man Joseph Butler, the Anglican 
bishop who lived at the beginning of the eighteenth 
century and whom Cardinal Newman declared to be the 
greatest man in the Anglican Church, wrote, at the con 
clusion of the first chapter of his great work, The Analogy 
of Religion, the chapter which treats of a future life, 
these pregnant words : " This credibility of a future life, 
which has been here insisted upon, how little soever it 
may satisfy our curiosity, seems to answer all the pur- 

1 " Conciencia" The same word is used in Spanish to denote both 
consciousness and conscience. If the latter is specifically intended, the 
qualifying adjective " mora!" or " religiosa" is commonly added. J. E. C. F. 



6 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE i 

poses of religion, in like manner as a demonstrative proof 
would. Indeed a proof, even a demonstrative one, of a 
future life, would not be a proof of religion. For, that 
we are to live hereafter, is just as reconcilable with the 
scheme of atheism, and as well to be accounted for by it, 
as that we are now alive is : and therefore nothing can be 
more absurd than to argue from that scheme that there 
can be no future state." 

The man Butler, whose works were perhaps known to 
the man Kant, wished to save the belief in the immor 
tality of the soul, and with this object he made it 
independent of belief in God. The first chapter of his 
Analogy treats, as I have said, of the future life, and 
the second of the government of God by rewards and 
punishments. And the fact is that, fundamentally, the 
good Anglican bishop deduces the existence of God from 
the immortality of the soul. And as this deduction was 
the good Anglican bishop s starting-point, he had not to 
make that somersault which at the close of the same 
century the good Lutheran philosopher had to make. 
Butler, the bishop, was one man and Kant, the professor, 
another man. 

To be a man is to be something concrete, unitary, 
and substantive; it is to be a thing res. Now we know 
what another man, the man Benedict Spinoza, that Portu 
guese Jew who was born and lived in Holland in the 
middle of the seventeenth century, wrote about the nature 
of things. The sixth proposition of Part III. of his 
Ethic states : unaquceque res, quatenus in se est, in suo 
esse perseverare conatur that is, Everything, in so far 
as it is in itself, endeavours to persist in its own being. 
Everything in so far as it is in itself that is to say, in 
so far as it is substance, for according to him substance 
is id quod in se est et per se concipitur that which is in 
itself and is conceived by itself. And in the following 
proposition, the seventh, of the same part, he adds : 
conatus, quo unaquceque res in suo esse perseverare 



i THE MAN OF FLESH AND BONE 7 

conatur, nihil est prczter ipsius rei actualem essentiam 
that is, the endeavour wherewith everything endeavours 
to persist in its own being is nothing but the actual 
essence of the thing itself. This means that your essence, 
reader, mine, that of the man ^Spinoza, that of the man 
Butler, of the man Kant, and of every man who is a man, 
is nothing but the endeavour, the effort, which he makes 
to continue to be a man, not to die. And the other 
proposition which follows these two, the eighth, says : 
conatus, quo unaquceque res in suo esse perseverare 
conatur, nullum tempus finitum, sed indefinitum in- 
volvit that is, The endeavour whereby each individual 
thing endeavours to persist involves no finite time but 
indefinite time. That is to say that you, I, and Spinoza 
wish never to die and that this longing of ours never to 
die is our actual essence. Nevertheless, this poor Portu 
guese Jew, exiled in the mists of Holland, could never 
attain to believing in his own personal immortality, and 
all his philosophy was but a consolation which he con 
trived for his lack of faith. Just as other men have a 
pain in hand or foot, heart-ache or head-ache, so he had 
God-ache. Unhappy man ! And unhappy fellow-men ! 
And man, this thing, is he a thing ? How absurd 
soever the question may appear, there are some who have 
propounded it. Not long ago there went abroad a certain 
doctrine called Positivism, which did much good and 
much ill. And among other ills that it wrought was the 
introduction of a method of analysis whereby facts were 
pulverized, reduced to a dust of facts. Most of the facts 
labelled as such by Positivism were really only fragments 
of facts. In psychology its action was harmful. There 
were even scholastics meddling in literature I will not 
say philosophers meddling in poetry, because poet and 
philosopher are twin brothers, if not even one and the 
same who carried this Positivist psychological analysis 
into the novel and the drama, where the main business is 
to give act and motion to concrete men, men of flesh and 



8 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE i 

bone, and by dint of studying states of consciousness, 
consciousness itself disappeared. The same thing hap 
pened to them which is said often to happen in the 
examination and testing of certain complicated, organic, 
living chemical compounds, when the reagents destroy 
the very body which it was proposed to examine and all 
that is obtained is the products of its decomposition. 

Taking as their starting-point the evident fact that 
contradictory states pass through our consciousness, they 
did not succeed in envisaging consciousness itself, the 
" I." To ask a man about his " I " is like asking him 
about his body. And note that in speaking of the "I," 
I speak of the concrete and personal "I," not of the " I " 
of Fichte, but of Fichte himself, the man Fichte. 

That which determines a man, that which makes him 
one man, one and not another, the man he is and not the 
man he is not, is a principle of unity and a principle of 
continuity. A principle of unity firstly in space, thanks 
to the body, and next in action and intention. When we 
walk, one foot does not go forward and the other back 
ward, nor, when we look, if we are normal, does one eye 
look towards the north and the other towards the south. 
In each moment of our life we entertain some purpose, 
and to this purpose the synergy of our actions is directed. 
Notwithstanding the next moment we may change our 
purpose. And in a certain sense a man is so much the 
more a man the more unitary his action. Some there are 
who throughout their whole life follow but one single 
purpose, be it what it may. 

Also a principle of continuity in time. Without 
entering upon a discussion an unprofitable discussion 
as to whether I am or am not he who I was twenty years 
ago, it appears to me to be indisputable that he who I am 
to-day derives, by a continuous series of states of con 
sciousness, from him who was in my body twenty years 
ago. Memory is the basis of individual personality, just 
as tradition is the basis of the collective personality of a 



i THE MAN OF FLESH AND BONE 9 

people. We live in memory and by memory, and our 
spiritual life is at bottom simply the effort of our memory 
to persist, to transform itself into hope, the effort of our 
past to transform itself into our future. 

All this, I know well, is sheer platitude ; but in going 
about in the world one meets men who seem to have no 
feeling of their own personality. One of my best friends 
with whom I have walked and talked every day for many 
years, whenever I spoke to him of this sense of one s own 
personality, used to say : " But I have no sense of 
myself; I don t know what that is." 

On a certain occasion this friend remarked to me : 
"I should like to be So-and-so" (naming someone), and I 
said : "That is what I shall never be able to understand 
that one should want to be someone else. To want to be 
someone else is to want to cease to be he who one is. I 
understand that one should wish to have what someone 
else has, his wealth or his knowledge ; but to be someone 
else, that is a thing I cannot comprehend." It has often 
been said that every man who has suffered misfortunes 
prefers to be himself, even with his misfortunes, rather 
than to be someone else without them. For unfortunate 
men, when they preserve their normality in their mis 
fortune that is to say, when they endeavour to persist 
in their own being prefer misfortune to non-existence. 
For myself I can say that as a youth, and even as a 
child, I remained unmoved when shown the most moving 
pictures of hell, for even then nothing appeared to me 
quite so horrible as nothingness itself. It was a furious 
hunger of being that possessed me, an appetite for 
divinity, as one of our ascetics has put it. 1 

To propose to a man that he should be someone else, 
that he should become someone else, is to propose to him 
that he should cease to be himself. Everyone defends his 
own personality, and only consents to a change in his 
mode of thinking or of feeling in so far as this change is 

1 San Juan de los Angeles. 



io THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE i 

able to enter into the unity of his spirit and become 
involved in its continuity; in so far as this change can 
harmonize and integrate itself with all the rest of his 
mode of being, thinking and feeling, and can at the 
same time knit itself with his memories. Neither of a 
man nor of a people which is, in a certain sense, also a 
man can a change be demanded which breaks the unity 
and continuity of the person. A man can change greatly, 
almost completely even, but the change must take place 
within his continuity. 

It is true that in certain individuals there occur what 
are called changes of personality ; but these are patho 
logical cases, and as such are studied by alienists. In 
these changes of personality, memory, the basis of con 
sciousness, is completely destroyed, and all that is left 
to the sufferer as the substratum of his individual con 
tinuity, which has now ceased to be personal, is the 
physical organism. For the subject who suffers it, such 
an infirmity is equivalent to death it is not equivalent 
to death only for those who expect to inherit his fortune, 
if he possesses one ! And this infirmity is nothing less 
than a revolution, a veritable revolution. 

A disease is, in a certain sense, an organic dissocia 
tion ; it is a rebellion of some element or organ of the 
living body which breaks the vital synergy and seeks an 
end distinct from that which the other elements co 
ordinated with it seek. Its end, considered in itself 
that is to say, in the abstract may be more elevated, 
more noble, more anything you like; but it is different. 
To fly and breathe in the air may be better than to swim 
and breathe in the water; but if the fins of a fish aimed 
at converting themselves into wings, the fish, as a fish, 
would perish. And it is useless to say that it would end 
by becoming a bird, if in this becoming there was not a 
process of continuity. I do not precisely know, but 
perhaps it may be possible for a fish to engender a bird, 
or another fish more akin to a bird than itself ; but a fish, 



i THE MAN OF FLESH AND BONE n 

this fish, cannot itself and during its own lifetime become 
a bird. 

Everything in me that conspires to break the unity and 
continuity of my life conspires to destroy me and conse 
quently to destroy itself. Every individual in a people 
who conspires to break the spiritual unity and continuity 
of that people tends to destroy it and to destroy himself 
as a part of that people. What if some other people is 
better than our own ? Very possibly, although perhaps 
we do not clearly understand what is meant by better or 
worse. Richer ? Granted. More cultured ? Granted 
likewise. Happier ? Well, happiness . . . but still, let 
it pass ! A conquering people (or what is called conquer 
ing) while we are conquered? Well and good. All this 
is good but it is something different. And that is 
enough. Because for me the becoming other than I am, 
the breaking of the unity and continuity of my life, is to 
cease to be he who I am that is to say, it is simply to 
cease to be. And that no ! Anything rather than that ! 

Another, you say, might play the part that I play as 
well or better? Another might fulfil my function in 
society? Yes, but it would not be I. 

" I, I, I, always I !" some reader will exclaim; "and 
who are you ?" I might reply in the words of Obermann, 
that tremendous man Obermann : " For the universe, 
nothing for myself, everything"; but no, I would 
rather remind him of a doctrine of the man Kant to 
wit, that we ought to think of our fellow-men not as 
means but as ends. For the question does not touch me 
alone, it touches you also, grumbling reader, it touches 
each and all. Singular judgments have the value of 
universal judgments, the logicians say. The singular is 
not particular, it is universal. 

Man is an end, not a means. All civilization addresses 
itself to man, to each man, to each I. What is that idol, 
call it Humanity or call it what you like, to which all 
men and each individual man must be sacrificed? For 



12 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE i 

I sacrifice myself for my neighbours, for my fellow- 
countrymen, for my children, and these sacrifice them 
selves in their turn for theirs, and theirs again for those 
that come after them, and so on in a never-ending series 
of generations. And who receives the fruit of this 
sacrifice ? 

Those who talk to us about this fantastic sacrifice, this 
dedication without an object, are wont to talk to us also 
about the right to live. What is this right to live ? They 
tell me I am here to realize I know not what social end ; 
but I feel that I, like each one of my fellows, am here to 
realize myself, to live. 

Yes, yes, I see it all ! an enormous social activity, a 
mighty civilization, a profuseness of science, of art, of 
industry, of morality, and afterwards, when we have 
filled the world with industrial marvels, with great fac 
tories, with roads, museums, and libraries, we shall fall 
exhausted at the foot of it all, and it will subsist for 
whom ? Was man made for science or was science made 
for man ? 

"Why!" the reader will exclaim again, "we are 
coming back to what the Catechism says : * Q. For whom 
did God create the world? A. For man. Well, why 
not? so ought the man who is a man to reply. The 
ant, if it took account of these matters and were a person, 
would reply " For the ant," and it would reply rightly. 
The world is made for consciousness, for each con 
sciousness. 

A human soul is worth all the universe, someone I 
know not whom has said and said magnificently. A 
human soul, mind you ! Not a human life. Not this 
life. And it happens that the less a man believes in the 
soul that is to say in his conscious immortality, personal 
and concrete the more he will exaggerate the worth of 
this poor transitory life. This is the source from which 
springs all that effeminate, sentimental ebullition against 
war. True, a man ought not to wish to die, but the 



i THE MAN OF FLESH AND BONE 13 

death to be renounced is the death of the soul. " Who 
soever will save his life shall lose it," says the Gospel; 
but it does not say "whosoever will save his soul," the 
immortal soul or, at any rate, which we believe and 
wish to be immortal. 

And what all the objectivists do not see, or rather do 
not wish to see, is that when a man affirms his " I," his 
personal consciousness, he affirms man, man concrete 
and real, affirms the true humanism the humanism of 
man, not of the things of man and in affirming man he 
affirms consciousness. For the only consciousness of 
which we have consciousness is that of man. 

The world is for consciousness. Or rather this /or, 
this notion of finality, and feeling rather than notion, 
this teleological feeling, is born only where there is 
consciousness. Consciousness and finality are funda 
mentally the same thing. 

If the sun possessed consciousness it would think, no 
doubt, that it lived in order to give light to the worlds ; 
but it would also and above all think that the worlds 
existed in order that it might give them light and enjoy 
itself in giving them light and so live. And it would 
think well. 

And all this tragic fight of man to save himself, this 
immortal craving for immortality which caused the man 
Kant to make that immortal leap of which I have 
spoken, all this is simply a fight for consciousness. If 
consciousness is, as some inhuman thinker has said, 
nothing more than a flash of light between two eternities 
of darkness, then there is nothing more execrable than 
existence. 

Some may espy a fundamental contradiction in every 
thing that I am saying, now expressing a longing for 
unending life, now affirming that this earthly life does 
not possess the value that is given to it. Contradiction ? 
To be sure ! The contradiction of my heart that says 
Yes and of my head that says No ! Of course there 



14 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE i 

is contradiction. Who does not recollect those words 
of the Gospel, "Lord, I believe, help thou my un 
belief"? Contradiction! Of course! Since we only 
live in and by contradictions, since life is tragedy and 
the tragedy is perpetual struggle, without victory or the 
hope of victory, life is contradiction. 

The values we are discussing are, as you see, values of 
the heart, and against values of the heart reasons do not 
avail. For reasons are only reasons that is to say, they 
are not even truths. There is a class of pedantic label- 
mongers, pedants by nature and by grace, who remind 
me of that man who, purposing to console a father 
whose son has suddenly died in the flower of his years, 
says to him, * Patience, my friend, we all must die!" 
Would you think it strange if this father were offended 
at such an impertinence? For it is an impertinence. 
There are times when even an axiom can become an 
impertinence. How many times may it not be said- 
Para pensar cual tii t solo es precise 
110 letter nada mas que iiiteligencia. * 

There are, in fact, people who appear to think only 
with the brain, or with whatever may be the specific 
thinking organ ; while others think with all the body and 
all the soul, with the blood, with the marrow of the bones, 
with the heart, with the lungs, with the belly, with the 
life. And the people who think only with the brain 
develop into definition-mongers ; they become the 
professionals of thought. And you know what a 
professional is ? You know what a product of the 
differentiation of labour is ? 

Take a professional boxer. He has learnt to hit with 
such economy of effort that, while concentrating all his 
strength in the blow, he only brings into play just those 
muscles that are required for the immediate and definite 

1 To be lacking in everything but intelligence is the necessary qualification 
for thinking like you. 



i THE MAN OF FLESH AND BONE 15 

object of his action to knock out his opponent. A 
blow given by a non-professional will not have so much 
immediate, objective efficiency ; but it will more greatly 
vitalize the striker, causing him to bring into play almost 
the whole of his body. The one is the blow of a boxer, 
the other that of a man. And it is notorious that the 
Hercules of the circus, the athletes of the ring, are not, 
as a rule, healthy. They knock out their opponents, 
they lift enormous weights, but they die of phthisis or 
dyspepsia. 

If a philosopher is not a man, he is anything but a 
philosopher; he is above all a pedant, and a pedant is 
a caricature of a man. The cultivation of any branch 
of science of chemistry, of physics, of geometry, of 
philology may be a work of differentiated specializa 
tion, and even so only within very narrow limits and 
restrictions ; but philosophy, like poetry, is a work of 
integration and synthesis, or else it is merely pseudo- 
philosophical erudition. 

All knowledge has an ultimate object. Knowledge for 
the sake of knowledge is, say what you will, nothing but 
a dismal begging of the question. We learn something 
either for an immediate practical end, or in order to 
complete the rest of our knowledge. Even the knowledge 
that appears to us to be most theoretical that is to say, 
of least immediate application to the non-intellectual 
necessities of life answers to a necessity which is no less 
real because it is intellectual, to a reason of economy in 
thinking, to a principle of unity and continuity of con 
sciousness. But just as a scientific fact has its finality 
in the rest of knowledge, so the philosophy that we would 
make our own has also its extrinsic object it refers to 
our whole destiny, to our attitude in face of life and the 
universe. And the most tragic problem of philosophy is 
to reconcile intellectual necessities with the necessities 
of the heart and the will. For it is on this rock that 
every philosophy that pretends to resolve the eternal and 



16 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE i 

tragic contradiction, the basis of our existence, breaks to 
pieces. But do all men face this contradiction squarely ? 

Little can be hoped from a ruler, for example, who has 
not at some time or other been preoccupied, even if only 
confusedly, with the first beginning and the ultimate end 
of all things, and above all of man, with the " why " of 
his origin and the "wherefore" of his destiny. 

And this supreme preoccupation cannot be purely 
rational, it must involve the heart. It is not enough to 
think about our destiny : it must be felt. And the 
would-be leader of men who affirms and proclaims that 
he pays no heed to the things of the spirit, is not worthy 
to lead them. By which I do not mean, of course, that 
any ready-made solution is to be required of him. 
Solution ? Is there indeed any ? 

So far as I am concerned, I will never willingly yield 
myself, nor entrust my confidence, to any popular leader 
who is not penetrated with the feeling that he who 
orders a people orders men, men of flesh and bone, men 
who are born, suffer, and, although they do not wish to 
die, die; men who are ends in themselves, not merely 
means ; men who must be themselves and not others ; 
men, in fine, who seek that which we call happiness. 
It is inhuman, for example, to sacrifice one generation 
of men to the generation which follows, without having 
any feeling for the destiny of those who are sacrificed, 
without having any regard, not for their memory, not 
for their names, but for them themselves. 

All this talk of a man surviving in his children, or in 
his works, or in the universal consciousness, is but vague 
verbiage which satisfies only those who suffer from 
affective stupidity, and who, for the rest, may be persons 
of a certain cerebral distinction. For it is possible to 
possess great talent, or what we call great talent, and yet 
to be stupid as regards the feelings and even morally 
imbecile. There have been instances. 
These clever-witted, affectively stupid persons are wont 



I THE MAN OF FLESH AND BONE 17 

to say that it is useless to seek to delve in the unknow 
able or to kick against the pricks. It is as if one should 
say to a man whose leg has had to be amputated that it 
does not help him at all to think about it. And we all 
lack something ; only some of us feel the lack and others 
do not. Or they pretend not to feel the lack, and then 
they are hypocrites. 

A pedant who beheld Solon weeping for the death of 
a son said to him, " Why do you weep thus, if weeping 
avails nothing?" And the sage answered him, "Pre 
cisely for that reason because it does not avail." It 
is manifest that weeping avails something, even if only 
the alleviation of distress; but the deep sense of Solon s 
reply to the impertinent questioner is plainly seen. 
And I am convinced that we should solve many things 
if we all went out into the streets and uncovered our 
griefs, which perhaps would prove to be but one sole 
common grief, and joined together in beweeping them 
and crying aloud to the heavens and calling upon God. 
And this, even though God should hear us not ; but He 
would hear us. The chief est sanctity of a temple is that 
it is a place to which men go to weep in common. A 
miserere sung in common by a multitude tormented by 
destiny has as much value as a philosophy. It is not 
enough to cure the plague : we must learn to weep for 
it. Yes, we must learn to weep ! Perhaps that is the 
supreme wisdom. Why? Ask Solon. 

There is something which, for lack of a better name, 
we will call the tragic sense of life, which carries with it 
a whole conception of life itself and of the universe, a 
whole philosophy more or less formulated, more or less 
conscious. And this sense may be possessed, and is 
possessed, not only by individual men but by whole 
peoples. And this sense does not so much flow from 
ideas as determine them, even though afterwards, as is 
manifest, these ideas react upon it and confirm it. 
vSometimes it mav originate in a chance illness 



i8 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE i 

dyspepsia, for example ; but at other times it is constitu 
tional. And it is useless to speak, as we shall see, of 
men who are healthy and men who are not healthy. 
Apart from the fact there is no normal standard of 
health, nobody has proved that man is necessarily cheer 
ful by nature. And further, man, by the very fact of 
being man, of possessing consciousness, is, in compari 
son with the ass or the crab, a diseased animal. Con 
sciousness is a disease. 

Among men of flesh and bone there have been typical 
examples of those who possess this tragic sense of life. 
I recall now Marcus Aurelius, St. Augustine, Pascal, 
Rousseau, Rene, Obermann, Thomson, 1 Leopardi, 
Vigny, Lenau, Kleist, Amiel, Quental, Kierkegaard- 
men burdened with wisdom rather than with knowledge. 

And there are, I believe, peoples who possess this 
tragic sense of life also. 

It is to this that we must now turn our attention, 
beginning with this matter of health and disease. 

1 James Thomson, author of The City of Dread/ill Night. 



II. 

THE STARTING-POINT 

To some, perhaps, the foregoing reflections may seem 
to possess a certain morbid character. Morbid? But 
what is disease precisely ? And what is health ? 

May not disease itself possibly be the essential condi 
tion of that which we call progress and progress itself a 
disease ? 

Who does not know the mythical tragedy of Paradise? 
Therein dwelt our first parents in a state of perfect health 
and perfect innocence, and Jahwe gave them to eat of the 
tree of life and created all things for them ; but he com 
manded them not to taste of the fruit of the tree of the 
knowledge of good and evil. But they, tempted by the 
serpent Christ s type of prudence tasted of the fruit 
of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and became 
subject to all diseases, and to death, which is their crown 
and consummation, and to labour and to progress. For 
progress, according to this legend, springs from original 
sin. And thus it was the curiosity of Eve, of woman, of 
her who is most thrall to the organic necessities of life 
and of the conservation of life, that occasioned the Fall 
and with the Fall the Redemption, and it was the Re 
demption that set our feet on the way to God and made 
it possible for us to attain to Him and to be in Him. 

Do you want another version of our origin ? Very 
well then. According to this account, man is, strictly 
speaking, merely a species of gorilla, orang-outang, 
chimpanzee, or the like, more or less hydrocephalous. 
Once on a time an anthropoid monkey had a diseased 
offspring diseased from the strictly animal or zoological 



20 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE n 

point of view, really diseased ; and this disease, although 
a source of weakness, resulted in a positive gain in the 
struggle for survival. The only vertical mammal at last 
succeeded in standing erect man. The upright posi 
tion freed him from the necessity of using his hands as 
means of support in walking ; he was able, therefore, to 
oppose the thumb to the other four fingers, to seize hold 
of objects and to fashion tools ; and it is well known that 
the hands are great promoters of the intelligence. This 
same position gave to the lungs, trachea, larynx, and 
mouth an aptness for the production of articulate speech, 
and speech is intelligence. Moreover, this position, 
causing the head to weigh vertically upon the trunk, 
facilitated its development and increase of weight, and 
the head is the seat of the mind. But as this necessitated 
greater strength and resistance in the bones of the pelvis 
than in those of species whose head and trunk rest upon 
all four extremities, the burden fell upon woman, the 
author of the Fall according to Genesis, of bringing forth 
larger-headed offspring through a harder framework of 
bone. And Jahw6 condemned her, for having sinned, 
to bring forth her children in sorrow. 

The gorilla, the chimpanzee, the orang-outang, and 
their kind, must look upon man as a feeble and infirm 
animal, whose strange custom it is to store up his dead. 
Wherefore ? 

And this primary disease and all subsequent diseases 
are they not perhaps the capital element of progress ? 
Arthritis, for example, infects the blood and introduces 
into it scoriae, a kind of refuse, of an imperfect organic 
combustion ; but may not this very impurity happen to 
make the blood more stimulative ? May not this impure 
blood promote a more active cerebration precisely because 
it is impure ? Water that is chemically pure is un- 
drinkable. And may not also blood that is physiolo 
gically pure be unfit for the brain of the vertical mammal 
that has to live by thought ? 



ii THE STARTING-POINT 21 

The history of medicine, moreover, teaches us that 
progress consists not so much in expelling the germs of 
disease, or rather diseases themselves, as in accommodat 
ing them to our organism and so perhaps enriching it, 
in dissolving them in our blood. What but this is the 
meaning of vaccination and all the serums, and immunity 
from infection through lapse of time ? 

If this notion of absolute health were not an abstract 
category, something which does not strictly exist, we 
might say that a perfectly healthy man would be no 
longer a man, but an irrational animal. Irrational, 
because of the lack of some disease to set a spark to his 
reason. And this disease which gives us the appetite of 
knowing for the sole pleasure of knowing, for the delight 
of tasting of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good 
and evil, is a real disease and a tragic one. 

TLdvres avOpwTroi TOV elbevai opeyovrcu (jzvcret,, "all men 
naturally desire to know." Thus Aristotle begins his 
Metaphysic, and it has been repeated a thousand times 
since then that curiosity or the desire to know, which 
according to Genesis led our first mother to sin, is the 
origin of knowledge. 

But it is necessary to distinguish here between the 
desire or appetite for knowing, apparently and at first 
sight for the love of knowledge itself, between the eager 
ness to taste of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and 
the necessity of knowing for the sake of living. The 
latter, which gives us direct and immediate knowledge, 
and which in a certain sense might be called, if it does 
not seem too paradoxical, unconscious knowledge, is 
common both to men and animals, while that which 
distinguishes us from them is reflective knowledge, the 
knowing that we know. 

Man has debated at length and will continue to debate 
at length the world having been assigned as a theatre 
for his debates concerning the origin of knowledge ; 
but, apart from the question as to what the real truth 



22 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE n 

about this origin may be, which we will leave until later, 
it is a certainly ascertained fact that in the apparential 
order of things, in the life of beings who are endowed 
with a certain more or less cloudy faculty of knowing 
and perceiving, or who at any rate appear to act as if 
they were so endowed, knowledge is exhibited to us as 
bound up with the necessity of living and of procuring 
the wherewithal to maintain life. It is a consequence of 
that very essence of being, which according to Spinoza 
consists in the effort to persist indefinitely in its own 
being. Speaking in terms in which concreteness verges 
upon grossness, it may be said that the brain, in so far as 
its function is concerned, depends upon the stomach. 
In beings which rank in the lowest scale of life, those 
actions which present the characteristics of will, those 
which appear to be connected with a more or less clear 
consciousness, are actions designed to procure nourish 
ment for the being performing them. 

Such then is what we may call the historical origin of 
knowledge, whatever may be its origin from another 
point of view. Beings which appear to be endowed with 
perception, perceive in order to be able to live, and only 
perceive in so far as they require to do so in order to live. 
But perhaps this stored-up knowledge, the utility in 
which it had its origin being exhausted, has come to 
constitute a fund of knowledge far exceeding that re 
quired for the bare necessities of living. 

Thus we have, first, the necessity of knowing in order 
to live, and next, arising out of this, that other know 
ledge which we might call superfluous knowledge or 
knowledge dc luxe, which may in its turn come to con 
stitute a new necessity. Curiosity, the so-called innate 
desire of knowing, only awakes and becomes operative 
after the necessity of knowing for the sake of living is 
satisfied ; and although sometimes in the conditions 
under which the human race is actually living it may not 
so befall, but curiosity may prevail over necessity and 



ii THE STARTING-POINT 23 

knowledge over hunger, nevertheless the primordial 
fact is that curiosity sprang from the necessity of know 
ing in order to live, and this is the dead weight and 
gross matter carried in the matrix of science. Aspiring 
to be knowledge for the sake of knowledge, to know the 
truth for the sake of the truth itself, science is forced by 
the necessities of life to turn aside and put it itself at 
their service. While men believe themselves to be 
seeking truth for its own sake, they are in fact seeking 
life in truth. The variations of science depend upon 
the variations of human needs, and men of science are 
wont to work, willingly or unwillingly, wittingly or 
unwittingly, in the service of the powerful or in that of 
a people that demands from them the confirmation of its 
own desires. 

But is this really a dead weight that impedes the 
progress of science, or is it not rather its innermost 
redeeming essence? It is in fact the latter, and it is a 
gross stupidity to presume to rebel against the very 
condition of life. 

Knowledge is employed in the service of the necessity 
of life and primarily in the service of the instinct of 
personal preservation. This necessity and this instinct 
have created in man the organs of knowledge and given 
them such capacity as they possess. Man sees, hears, 
touches, tastes, and smells that which it is necessary for 
him to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell in order to 
preserve his life. The decay or the loss of any of these 
senses increases the risks with which his life is environed, 
and if it increases them less in the state of society in 
which we are actually living, the reason is that some see, 
hear, touch, and smell for others. A blind man, by 
himself and without a guide, could not live long. Society 
is an additional sense ; it is the true common sense. 

Man, then, in his quality of an isolated individual, 
only sees, hears, touches, tastes, and smells in so far as 
is necessary for living and self-preservation. If he does 



24 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE n 

not perceive colours below red or above violet, the reason 
perhaps is that the colours which he does perceive suffice 
for the purposes of self-preservation. And the senses 
themselves are simplifying apparati which eliminate 
from objective reality everything that it is not necessary 
to know in order to utilize objects for the purpose of 
preserving life. In complete darkness an animal, if it 
does not perish, ends by becoming blind. Parasites 
which live in the intestines of other animals upon the 
nutritive juices which they find ready prepared for them 
by these animals, as they do not need either to see or 
hear, do in fact neither see nor hear ; they simply adhere, 
a kind of receptive bag, to the being upon whom they 
live. For these parasites the visible and audible world 
does not exist. It is enough for them that the animals, 
in whose intestines they live, see and hear. 

Knowledge, then, is primarily at the service of the 
instinct of self-preservation, which is indeed, as we have 
said with Spinoza, its very essence. And thus it may 
be said that it is the instinct of self-preservation that 
makes perceptible for us the reality and truth of the 
world; for it is this instinct that cuts out and separates 
that which exists for us from the unfathomable and 
illimitable region of the possible. In effect, that which 
has existence for us is precisely that which, in one way 
or another, we need to know in order to exist ourselves ; 
objective existence, as we know it, is a dependence of 
our own personal existence. And nobody can deny that 
there may not exist, and perhaps do exist, aspects of 
reality unknowai to us, to-day at any rate, and perhaps 
unknowable, because they are in no way necessary to us 
for the preservation of our own actual existence. 

But man does not live alone ; he is not an isolated 
individual, but a member of society. There is not a little 
truth in the saying that the individual, like the atom, is 
an abstraction. Yes, the atom apart from the universe 
is as much an abstraction as the universe apart from the 



ii THE STARTING-POINT 25 

atom. And if the individual maintains his existence 
by the instinct of self-preservation, society owes its 
being and maintenance to the individual s instinct of 
perpetuation. And from this instinct, or rather from 
society, springs reason. 

Reason, that which we call reason, reflex and re 
flective knowledge, the distinguishing mark of man, is 
a social product. 

It owes its origin, perhaps, to language. We 
think articulately i.e., reflectively thanks to articulate 
language, and this language arose out of the need of 
communicating our thought to our neighbours. To 
think is to talk with oneself, and each one of us talks 
with himself, thanks to our having had to talk with one 
another. In everyday life it frequently happens that 
we hit upon an idea that we were seeking and succeed 
in giving it form that is to say, we obtain the idea, 
drawing it forth from the mist of dim perceptions which 
it represents, thanks to the efforts which we make to 
present it to others. Thought is inward language, and 
the inward language originates in the outward. Hence 
it results that reason is social and common. A fact 
pregnant with consequences, as we shall have occasion 
to see. 

Now if there is a reality which, in so far as we have 
knowledge of it, is the creation of the instinct of personal 
preservation and of the senses at the service of this instinct, 
must there not be another reality, not less real than the 
former, the creation, in so far as we have knowledge of it, 
of the instinct of perpetuation, the instinct of the species, 
and of the senses at the service of this instinct ? The 
instinct of preservation, hunger, is the foundation of the 
human individual ; the instinct of perpetuation, love, in 
its most rudimentary and physiological form, is the 
foundation of human society. And just as man knows 
that which he needs to know in order that he may pre 
serve his existence, so society, or man in so far as he is 



26 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 



ii 



a social being, knows that which he needs to know in 
order that he may perpetuate himself in society. 

There is a world, the sensible world, that is the child 
of hunger, and there is another world, the ideal world, 
that is the child of love. And just as there are senses 
employed in the service of the knowledge of the sensible 
world, so there are also senses, at present for the most 
part dormant, for social consciousness has scarcely 
awakened, employed in the service of the knowledge of 
the ideal world. And why must we deny objective 
reality to the creations of love, of the instinct of perpetua 
tion, since we allow it to the creations of hunger or the 
instinct of preservation ? For if it be said that the 
former creations are only the creations of our imagina 
tion, without objective value, may it not equally be said 
of the latter that they are only the creations of our 
senses ? Who can assert that there is not an invisible 
and intangible world, perceived by the inward sense that 
lives in the service of the instinct of perpetuation ? 

Human society, as a society, possesses senses which 
the individual, but for his existence in society, would 
lack, just as the individual, man, who is in his turn a 
kind of society, possesses senses lacking in the cells of 
which he is composed. The blind cells of hearing, in 
their dim consciousness, must of necessity be unaware 
of the existence of the visible world, and if they should 
hear it spoken of they would perhaps deem it to be the 
arbitrary creation of the deaf cells of sight, while the 
latter in their turn would consider as illusion the audible 
world which the hearing cells create. 

We have remarked before that the parasites which 
live in the intestines of higher animals, feeding upon the 
nutritive juices which these animals supply, do not need 
either to see or hear, and therefore for them the visible 
and audible world does not exist. And if they possessed 
a certain degree of consciousness and took account of 
the fact that the animal at whose expense they live 



ii THE STARTING-POINT 27 

believed in a world of sight and hearing, they would 
perhaps deem such belief to be due merely to the 
extravagance of its imagination. And similarly there 
are social parasites, as Mr. A. J. Balfour admirably 
observes, 1 who, receiving from the society in which they 
live the motives of their moral conduct, deny that belief 
in God and the other life is a necessary foundation for 
good conduct and for a tolerable life, society having 
prepared for them the spiritual nutriment by which they 
live. An isolated individual can endure life and live it 
well and even heroically without in any sort believing 
either in the immortality of the soul or in God, but he 
lives the life of a spiritual parasite. What we call the 
sense of honour is, even in non-Christians, a Christian 
product. And I will say further, that if there exists in 
a man faith in God joined to a life of purity and moral 
elevation, it is not so much the believing in God that 
makes him good, as the being good, thanks to God, 
that makes him believe in Him. Goodness is the best 
source of spiritual clear-sightedness. 

I am well aware that it may be objected that all this 
talk of man creating the sensible world and love the ideal 
world, of the blind cells of hearing and the deaf cells of 
sight, of spiritual parasites, etc., is merely metaphor. 
So it is, and I do not claim to discuss otherwise than by 
metaphor. And it is true that this social sense, the 
creature of love, the creator of language, of reason, and 
of the ideal world that springs from it, is at bottom 
nothing other than what we call fancy or imagination. 

1 The Foundations of Belief, being Notes Introductory to the Study of 
Theology, by the Right Hon. Arthur James Balfour London, 1895 : 
"So it is with those persons who claim to show by their example that 
naturalism is practically consistent with the maintenance of ethical ideals with 
which naturalism has no natural affinity. Their spiritual life is parasitic : it is 
sheltered by convictions which belong, not to them, but to the society of 
which they form a part ; it is nourished by processes in which they take no 
share. And when those convictions decay, and those processes come to an 
end, the alien life which they have maintained can scarce be expected to 
outlast them" (Chap. iv.). 



28 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE n 

Out of fancy springs reason. And if by imagination is 
understood a faculty which fashions images capriciously, 
I will ask : What is caprice ? And in any case the senses 
and reason are also fallible. 

We shall have to enquire what is this inner social 
faculty, the imagination which personalizes everything, 
and which, employed in the service of the instinct of 
perpetuation, reveals to us God and the immortality of 
the soul God being thus a social product. 

But this we will reserve till later. 

And now, why does man philosophize ? that is to 
say, why does he investigate the first causes and ultimate 
ends of things? Why does he seek the disinterested 
truth ? For to say that all men have a natural tendency 
to know is true ; but wherefore ? 

Philosophers seek a theoretic or ideal starting-point 
for their human work, the work of philosophizing ; but 
they are not usually concerned to seek the practical and 
real starting-point, the purpose. What is the object in 
making philosophy, in thinking it and then expounding it 
to one s fellows? What does the philosopher seek in it 
and with it? The truth for the truth s own sake? The 
truth, in order that we may subject our conduct to it and 
determine our spiritual attitude towards life and the 
universe comformably with it? 

Philosophy is a product of the humanity of each 
philosopher, and each philosopher is a man of flesh and 
bone who addresses himself to other men of flesh and 
bone like himself. And, let him do what he will, he 
philosophizes not with the reason only, but with the 
will, with the feelings, with the flesh and with the bones, 
with the whole soul and the whole body. It is the man 
that philosophizes. 

I do not wish here to use the word " I " in connection 
with philosophizing, lest the impersonal " I " should 
be understood in place of the man that philosophizes ; 
for this concrete, circumscribed " I," this " I " of flesh 



ii THE STARTING-POINT 29 

and bone, that suffers from tooth-ache and finds life 
insupportable if death is the annihilation of the personal 
consciousness, must not be confounded with that other 
counterfeit "I," the theoretical " I " which Fichte 
smuggled into philosophy, nor yet with the Unique, 
also theoretical, of Max Stirner. It is better to say 
"we," understanding, however, the "we" who are 
circumscribed in space. 

Knowledge for the sake of knowledge ! Truth for 
truth s sake! This is inhuman. And if we say that 
theoretical philosophy addresses itself to practical 
philosophy, truth to goodness, science to ethics, I will 
ask : And to what end is goodness ? Is it, perhaps, an 
end in itself ? Good is simply that which contributes 
to the preservation, perpetuation, and enrichment of 
consciousness. Goodness addresses itself to man, to 
the maintenance and perfection of human society which 
is composed of men. And to what end is this? "So 
act that your action may be a pattern to all men," Kant 
tells us. That is well, but wherefore? We must needs 
seek for a wherefore. 

In the starting-point of all philosophy, in the real 
starting-point, the practical not the theoretical, there is 
a wherefore. The philosopher philosophizes for some 
thing more than for the sake of philosophizing. 
Primum vivere, delude philosophari, says the old Latin 
adage ; and as the philosopher is a man before he is a 
philosopher, he must needs live before he can philoso 
phize, and, in fact, he philosophizes in order to live. 
And usually he philosophizes either in order to resign 
himself to life, or to seek some finality in it, or to dis 
tract himself and forget his griefs, or for pastime and 
amusement. A good illustration of this last case is to 
be found in that terrible Athenian ironist, Socrates, of 
whom Xenophon relates in his Memorabilia that he 
discovered to Theodata, the courtesan, the wiles that 
she ought to make use of in order to lure lovers to her 



30 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE n 

house so aptly, that she begged him to act as her com 
panion in the chase, crwO^parr)^^ her pimp, in a word. 
And philosophy is wont, in fact, not infrequently to 
convert itself into a kind of art of spiritual pimping. 
And sometimes into an opiate for lulling sorrows to 
sleep. 

I take at random a book of metaphysics, the first that 
comes to my hand, Time and Space, a Metaphysical 
Essay, by Shadworth H. Hodgson. I open it, and in 
the fifth paragraph of the first chapter of the first part 
I read : 

"Metaphysics is, properly speaking, not a science 
but a philosophy that is, it is a science whose end is in 
itself, in the gratification and education of the minds 
which carry it on, not in external purpose, such as the 
founding of any art conducive to the welfare of life." 
Let us examine this. We see that metaphysics is not, 
properly speaking, a science that is, it is a science 
whose end is in itself. And this science, which, properly 
speaking, is not a science, has its end in itself, in the 
gratification and education of the minds that cultivate 
it. But what are we to understand? Is its end in itself 
or is it to gratify and educate the minds that cultivate it ? 
Either the one or the other ! Hodgson afterwards adds 
that the end of metaphysics is not any external purpose, 
such as that of founding an art conducive to the welfare 
of life. But is not the gratification of the mind of him 
who cultivates philosophy part of the well-being of his 
life? Let the reader consider this passage of the 
English metaphysician and tell me if it is not a tissue 
of contradictions. 

Such a contradiction is inevitable when an attempt is 
made to define humanly this theory of science, of know 
ledge, whose end is in itself, of knowing for the sake 
of knowing, of attaining truth for the sake of truth. 
Science exists only in personal consciousness and thanks 
to it ; astronomy, mathematics, have no other reality 



ii THE STARTING-POINT 3* 

than that which they possess as knowledge in the minds 
of those who study and cultivate them. And if some 
day all personal consciousness must come to an end on 
the earth ; if some day the human spirit must return to 
the nothingness that is to say, to the absolute uncon 
sciousness from whence it sprang ; and if there shall no 
more be any spirit that can avail itself of all our accumu 
lated knowledge then to what end is this knowledge? 
For we must not lose sight of the fact that the problem 
of the personal immortality of the soul involves the 
future of the whole human species. 

This series of contradictions into which the English 
man falls in his desire to explain the theory of a science 
whose end is in itself, is easily understood when it is 
remembered that it is an Englishman who speaks, and 
that the Englishman is before everything else a man. 
Perhaps a German specialist, a philosopher who had 
made philosophy his speciality, who had first murdered 
his humanity and then buried it in his philosophy, would 
be better able to explain this theory of a science whose 
end is in itself and of knowledge for the sake of 
knowledge. 

Take the man Spinoza, that Portuguese Jew exiled in 
Holland; read his Ethic as a despairing elegiac poem, 
which in fact it is, and tell me if you do not hear, 
beneath the disemburdened and seemingly serene pro 
positions more geometrico, the lugubrious echo of the 
prophetic psalms. It is not the philosophy of resigna 
tion but of despair. And when he wrote that the free 
man thinks of nothing less than of death, and that his 
wisdom consists in meditating not on death but on life 
homo liber de nulla re minus quam de morte cogitat et 
eius sapientia non mortis, sed vitce meditatio est (Ethic, 
Part IV., Prop. LXVII.) when he wrote that, he felt, as 
we all feel, that we are slaves, and he did in fact think 
about death, and he wrote it in a vain endeavour to free 
himself from this thought. Nor in writing Proposition 



32 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE n 

XLII. of Part V., that " happiness is not the reward of 
virtue but virtue itself," did he feel, one may be sure, 
what he wrote. For this is usually the reason why men 
philosophize in order to convince themselves, even 
though they fail in the attempt. And this desire of 
convincing- oneself that is to say, this desire of doing 
violence to one s own human nature is the real starting- 
point of not a few philosophies. 

Whence do I come and whence comes the world in 
which and by which I live? Whither do I go and 
whither goes everything that environs me? What does 
it all mean ? Such are the questions that man asks as 
soon as he frees himself from the brutalizing necessity 
of labouring for his material sustenance. And if we 
look closely, we shall see that beneath these questions 
lies the wish to know not so much the "why" as the 
"wherefore," not the cause but the end. Cicero s 
definition of philosophy is well known " the knowledge 
of things divine and human and of the causes in which 
these things are contained," rerum divinarum et 
humanarum, cans arum que quibus hcz res continentur ; 
but in reality these causes are, for us, ends. And what 
is the Supreme Cause, God, but the Supreme End ? 
The "why" interests us only in view of the "where 
fore." We wish to know whence we came only in order 
the better to be able to ascertain whither we are going. 

This Ciceronian definition, which is the Stoic defini 
tion, is also found in that formidable intellectualist, 
Clement of Alexandria, who was canonized by the 
Catholic Church, and he expounds it in the fifth chapter 
of the first of his Stromata. But this same Christian 
philosopher Christian ? in the twenty-second chapter 
of his fourth Stroma tells us that for the gnostic that is 
to say, the intellectual knowledge, gnosis, ought to 
suffice, and he adds : "I will dare aver that it is not 
because he wishes to be saved that he, who devotes him 
self to knowledge for the sake of the divine science itself, 



ii THE STARTING-POINT 33 

chooses knowledge. For the exertion of the intellect by 
exercise is prolonged to a perpetual exertion. And the 
perpetual exertion of the intellect is the essence of an 
intelligent being, which results from an uninterrupted 
process of admixture, and remains eternal contempla 
tion, a living subsiance. Could we, then, suppose any 
one proposing to the gnostic whether he would choose 
the knowledge of God or everlasting salvation, and if 
these, which are entirely identical, were separable, he 
would without the least hesitation choose the knowledge 
of God?" May He, may God Himself, whom we long 
to enjoy and possess eternally, deliver us from this 
Clementine gnosticism or intellectualism ! 

Why do I wish to know whence I come and whither 
I go, whence comes and whither goes everything that 
environs me, and what is the meaning of it all ? For I 
do not wish to die utterly, and I wish to know whether 
I am to die or not definitely. If I do not die, what is 
my destiny ? and if I die, then nothing has any meaning 
for me. And there are three solutions : (a) I know that 
I shall die utterly, and then irremediable despair, or 
(b) I know that I shall not die utterly, and then resigna 
tion, or (c) I cannot know either one or the other, and 
then resignation in despair or despair in resignation, a 
desperate resignation or a resigned despair, and hence 
conflict. 

" It is best," some reader will say, "not to concern 
yourself with what cannot be known." But is it pos 
sible? In his very beautiful poem, The Ancient Sage, 
Tennyson said : 

Thou canst not prove the Nameless, O my son, 
Nor canst thou prove the world thou movest in, 
Thou canst not prove that thou art body alone, 
Thou canst not prove that thou art spirit alone, 
Nor canst thou prove that thou art both in one : 
Nor canst thou prove thou art immortal, no, 
Nor yet that thou art mortal nay, my son, 
Thou canst not prove that I, who speak with thee, 



34 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE n 

Am not thyself in converse with thyself, 
For nothing worthy proving can be proven, 
Nor yet disproven : wherefore thou be wise, 
Cleave ever to the sunnier side of doubt, 
Cling to Faith beyond the forms of Faith ! 

Yes, perhaps, as the Sage says, " nothing worthy 
proving can be proven, nor yet disproven ; but can 
we restrain that instinct which urges man to wish to 
know, and above all to wish to know the things which 
may conduce to life, to eternal life? Eternal life, not 
eternal knowledge, as the Alexandrian gnostic said. 
For living is one thing and knowing is another; and, 
as we shall see, perhaps there is such an opposition 
between the two that we may say that everything vital 
is anti-rational, not merely irrational, and that every 
thing rational is anti-vital. And this is the basis of the 
tragic sense of life. 

The defect of Descartes Discourse of Method lies not 
in the antecedent methodical doubt ; not in his beginning 
by resolving to doubt everything, a merely intellectual 
device ; but in his resolution to begin by emptying him 
self of himself, of Descartes, of the real man, the man of 
flesh and bone, the man who does not \vant to die, in 
order that he might be a mere thinker that is, an 
abstraction. But the real man returned and thrust 
himself into the philosophy. 

" Le bon sens est la chose du monde la mieux 
partage e." Thus begins the Discourse of Method, and 
this good sense saved him. He continues talking about 
himself, about the man Descartes, telling us among 
other things that he greatly esteemed eloquence and 
loved poetry ; that he delighted above all in mathematics 
because of the evidence and certainty of its reasons, and 
that he revered our theology and claimed as much as any 
to attain to heaven et prdtendais aidant qu aucun autre 
a gagner le del. And this pretension a very laudable 
one, I think, and above all very natural was what 



ii THE STARTING-POINT 35 

prevented him from deducing all the consequences of 
his methodical doubt. The man Descartes claimed, as 
much as any other, to attain to heaven, "but having 
learned as a thing very sure that the way to it is not less 
open to the most ignorant than to the most learned, and 
that the revealed truths which lead thither are beyond 
our intelligence, I did not dare submit them to my feeble 
reasonings, and I thought that to undertake to examine 
them and to succeed therein, I should want some extra 
ordinary help from heaven and need to be more than 
man." And here we have the man. Here we have the 
man who "did not feel obliged, thank God, to make a 
profession (metier) of science in order to increase his 
means, and who did not pretend to play the cynic and 
despise glory." And afterwards he tells us how he was 
compelled to make a sojourn in Germany, and there, 
shut up in a stove (poele) he began to philosophize his 
method. But in Germany, shut up in a stove ! And 
such his discourse is, a stove-discourse, and the stove 
a German one, although the philosopher shut up in it 
was a Frenchman who proposed to himself to attain to 
heaven. 

And he arrives at the cogito ergo sum, which St. 
Augustine had already anticipated; but the ego implicit 
in this enthymeme, ego cogito, ergo ego sum, is an unreal 
that is, an ideal ego or I, and its sum, its existence, 
something unreal also. " I think, therefore I am," can 
only mean "I think, therefore I am a thinker"; this 
being of the " I am," which is deduced from " I think," 
is merely a knowing ; this being is knowledge, but not 
life. And the primary reality is not that I think, but 
that I live, for those also live who do not think. Although 
this living may not be a real living. God ! what con 
tradictions when we seek to join in wedlock life and 
reason ! 

The truth is sum, ergo cogito I am, therefore 1 
think, although not everything that is thinks. Is not 



36 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE n 

consciousness of thinking above all consciousness of 
being? Is pure thought possible, without conscious 
ness of self, without personality ? Can there exist pure 
knowledge without feeling, without that species of 
materiality which feeling lends to it ? Do we not per 
haps feel thought, and do we not feel ourselves in the 
act of knowing and willing ? Could not the man in the 
stove have said : " I feel, therefore I am " ? or " I will, 
therefore I am " ? And to feel oneself, is it not perhaps 
to feel oneself imperishable? To will oneself, is it not 
to wish oneself eternal that is to say, not to wish to 
die ? What the sorrowful Jew of Amsterdam called the 
essence of the thing, the effort that it makes to persist 
indefinitely in its own being, self-love, the longing for 
immortality, is it not perhaps the primal and funda 
mental condition of all reflective or human knowledge ? 
And is it not therefore the true base, the real starting- 
point, of all philosophy, although the philosophers, 
perverted by intellectualism, may not recognize it? 

And, moreover, it was the cogito that introduced a 
distinction which, although fruitful of truths, has been 
fruitful also of confusions, and this distinction is that 
between object, cogito, and subject, sum. There is 
scarcely any distinction that does not also lead to con 
fusion. But we will return to this later. 

For the present let us remain keenly suspecting that 
the longing not to die, the hunger for personal immor 
tality, the effort whereby we tend to persist indefinitely 
in our own being, which is, according to the tragic Jew, 
our very essence, that this is the affective basis of all 
knowledge and the personal inward starting-point of all 
human philosophy, wrought by a man and for men. 
And we shall see how the solution of this inward affective 
problem, a solution which may be but the despairing 
renunciation of the attempt at a solution, is that which 
colours all the rest of philosophy. Underlying even the 
so-called problem of knowledge there is simply this 



ii THE STARTING-POINT 37 

human feeling, just as underlying the enquiry into the 
"why," the cause, there is simply the search for the 
"wherefore," the end. All the rest is either to deceive 
oneself or to wish to deceive others ; and to wish to 
deceive others in order to deceive oneself. 

And this personal and affective starting-point of all 
philosophy and all religion is the tragic sense of life. 
Let us now proceed to consider this. 



Ill 

THE HUNGER OF IMMORTALITY 

LET us pause to consider this immortal yearning for 
immortality even though the gnostics or intellectuals 
may be able to say that what follows is not philosophy 
but rhetoric. Moreover, the divine Plato, when he 
discussed the immortality of the soul in his Phcedo, said 
that it was proper to clothe it in legend, fjLv0o\oyeiv. 

First of all let us recall once again and it will not be 
for the last time that saying of Spinoza that every 
being endeavours to persist in itself, and that this 
endeavour is its actual essence, and implies indefinite 
time, and that the soul, in fine, sometimes with a clear 
and distinct idea, sometimes confusedly, tends to persist 
in its being with indefinite duration, and is aware of its 
persistency (Ethic, Part III., Props. VI.-X.). 

It is impossible for us, in effect, to conceive of 
ourselves as not existing, and no effort is capable of 
enabling consciousness to realize absolute unconscious 
ness, its own annihilation. Try, reader, to imagine to 
yourself, when you are wide awake, the condition of your 
soul when you are in a deep sleep ; try to fill your con 
sciousness with the representation of no-consciousness, 
and you will see the impossibility of it. The effort to 
comprehend it causes the most tormenting dizziness. 
We cannot conceive ourselves as not existing. 

The visible universe, the universe that is created by 
the instinct of self-preservation, becomes all too narrow 
for me. It is like a cramped cell, against the bars of 
which my soul beats its wings in vain. Its lack of air 
stifles me. More, more, and always more ! I want to be 
myself, and yet without ceasing to be myself to be others 

38 



in THE HUNGER OF IMMORTALITY 39 

as well, to merge myself into the totality of things visible 
and invisible, to extend myself into the illimitable of 
space and to prolong myself into the infinite of time. 
Not to be all and for ever is as if not to be at least, let 
me be my whole self, and be so for ever and ever. And 
to be the whole of myself is to be everybody else. Either 
all or nothing ! 

All or nothing ! And what other meaning can the 
Shakespearean "To be or not to be" have, or that 
passage in Coriolanus where it is said of Marcius " He 
wants nothing of a god but eternity"? Eternity, 
eternity ! that is the supreme desire ! The thirst of 
eternity is what is called love among men, and whoso 
ever loves another wishes to eternalize himself in him. 
Nothing is real that is not eternal. 

From the poets of all ages and from the depths of 
their souls this tremendous vision of the flowing away of 
life like water has wrung bitter cries frorri Pindar s 
"dream of a shadow," ovaa? ovap, to Calderon s "life 
is a dream" and Shakespeare s "we are such stuff as 
dreams are made on," this last a yet more tragic sentence 
than Calderon s, for whereas the Castilian only declares 
that our life is a dream, but not that we ourselves are 
the dreamers of it, the Englishman makes us ourselves 
a dream, a dream that dreams. 

The vanity of the passing world and love are the two 
fundamental and heart-penetrating notes of true poetry. 
And they are two notes of which neither can be sounded 
without causing the other to vibrate. The feeling of the 
vanity of the passing world kindles love in us, the only 
thing that triumphs over the vain and transitory, the 
only thing that fills life again and eternalizes it. In 
appearance at any rate, for in reality . . . And love, 
above all when it struggles against destiny, overwhelms 
us with the feeling of the vanity of this world of appear 
ances and gives us a glimpse of another world, in which 
destiny is overcome and liberty is law. 



40 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE m 

Everything passes ! Such is the refrain of those who 
have drunk, lips to the spring, of the fountain of life, of 
those who have tasted of the fruit of the tree of the know 
ledge of good and evil. 

To be, to be for ever, to be without ending ! thirst of 
being, thirst of being more ! hunger of God ! thirst of 
love eternalizing and eternal ! to be for ever ! to be God ! 

" Ye shall be as gods !" we are told in Genesis that 
the serpent said to the first pair of lovers (Gen. iii. 5). 
"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of 
all men most miserable," wrote the Apostle (i Cor. 
xv. 19) ; and all religion has sprung historically from the 
cult of the dead that is to say, from the cult of 
immortality. 

The tragic Portuguese Jew of Amsterdam wrote that 
the free man thinks of nothing less than of death ; but 
this free man is a dead man, free from the impulse of 
life, for want of love, the slave of his liberty. This 
thought that I must die and the enigma of what will 
come after death is the very palpitation of my conscious 
ness. When I contemplate the green serenity of the 
fields or look into the depths of clear eyes through which 
shines a fellow-soul, my consciousness dilates, I feel the 
diastole of the soul and am bathed in the flood of the life 
that flows about me, and I believe in my future; but 
instantly the voice of mystery whispers to me, " Thou 
shalt cease to be !" the angel of Death touches me with 
his wing, and the systole of the soul floods the depths of 
my spirit with the blood of divinity. 

Like Pascal, I do not understand those who assert 
that they care not a farthing for these things, and this 
indifference " in a matter that touches themselves, their 
eternity, their all, exasperates me rather than moves me 
to compassion, astonishes and shocks me," and he who 
feels thus "is for me," as for Pascal, whose are the 
words just quoted, "a monster." 

It has been said a thousand times and in a thousand 



in THE HUNGER OF IMMORTALITY 41 

books that ancestor-worship is for the most part the 
source of primitive religions, and it may be strictly said 
that what most distinguishes man from the other animals 
is that, in one form or another, he guards his dead and 
does not give them over to the neglect of teeming mother 
earth; he is an animal that guards its dead. And from 
what does he thus guard them ? From what does he so 
futilely protect them ? The wretched consciousness 
shrinks from its own annihilation, and, just as an 
animal spirit, newly severed from the womb of the 
world, finds itself confronted with the world and knows 
itself distinct from it, so consciousness must needs 
desire to possess another life than that of the world itself. 
And so the earth would run the risk of becoming a vast 
cemetery before the dead themselves should die again. 

When mud huts or straw shelters, incapable of resist 
ing the inclemency of the weather, sufficed for the living, 
tumuli were raised for the dead, and stone was used for 
sepulchres before it was used for houses. It is the 
strong-builded houses of the dead that have withstood 
the ages, not the houses of the living ; not the temporary 
lodgings but the permanent habitations. 

This cult, not of death but of immortality, originates 
and preserves religions. In the midst of the delirium of 
destruction, Robespierre induced the Convention to 
declare the existence of the Supreme Being and " the 
consolatory principle of the immortality of the soul,* 
the Incorruptible being dismayed at the idea of having 
himself one day to turn to corruption. 

A disease ? Perhaps ; but he who pays no heed to his 
disease is heedless of his health, and man is an animal 
essentially and substantially diseased. A disease? 
Perhaps it may be, like life itself to which it is thrall, 
and perhaps the only health possible may be death ; but 
this disease is the fount of all vigorous health. From 
the depth of this anguish, from the abyss of the feeling 
of our mortality, we emerge into the light of another 



42 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE HI 

heaven, as from the depth of Hell Dante emerged to 
behold the stars once again 

e quindi uscimmo a riveder le stclle. 

Although this meditation upon mortality may soon 
induce in us a sense of anguish, it fortifies us in the end. 
Retire, reader, into yourself and imagine a slow dissolu 
tion of yourself the light dimming about you all 
things becoming dumb and soundless, enveloping you 
in silence the objects that you handle crumbling away 
between your hands the ground slipping from under 
your feet your very memory vanishing as if in a swoon 
everything melting a\vay from you into nothingness 
and you yourself also melting away the very conscious 
ness of nothingness, merely as the phantom harbourage 
of a shadow, not even remaining to you. 

I have heard it related of a poor harvester who died in 
a hospital bed, that when the priest went to anoint his 
hands with the oil of extreme unction, he refused to open 
his right hand, which clutched a few dirty coins, not 
considering that very soon neither his hand nor he him 
self would be his own any more. And so we close and 
clench, not our hand, but our heart, seeking to clutch 
the world in it. 

A friend confessed to me that, foreseeing while in the 
full vigour of physical health the near approach of a 
violent death, he proposed to concentrate his life and 
spend the few days which he calculated still remained 
to him in writing a book. Vanity of vanities ! 

If at the death of the body which sustains me, and 
which I call mine to distinguish it from the self that is 
I, my consciousness returns to the absolute unconscious 
ness from which it sprang, and if a like fate befalls all 
my brothers in humanity, then is our toil-worn human 
race nothing but a fatidical procession of phantoms, 
going from nothingness to nothingness, and humani- 
tarianism the most inhuman thing known. 



in THE HUNGER OF IMMORTALITY 43 

And the remedy is not that suggested in the quatrain 
that runs 

Cada vez que considero 
que me tengo de morir, 
tiendo la capa en el suelo 
y no me harto de dormir, 1 

No ! The remedy is to consider pur mortal destiny 
without flinching, to fasten our gaze upon the gaze of 
the Sphinx, for it is thus that the malevolence of its 
spell is discharmed. 

If we all die utterly, wherefore does everything exist ? 
Wherefore ? It is the Wherefore of the Sphinx ; it is 
the Wherefore that corrodes the marrow of the soul ; it 
is the begetter of that anguish which gives us the love 
of hope. 

Among the poetic laments of the unhappy Cowper 
there are some lines written under the oppression of 
delirium, in which, believing himself to be the mark of 
the Divine vengeance, he exclaims 

Hell might afford my miseries a shelter. 

This is the Puritan sentiment, the preoccupation with 
sin and predestination ; but read the much more terrible 
words of S^nancour, expressive of the Catholic, not the 
Protestant, despair, when he makes his Obermann say, 
" L homme est p^rissable. II se peut ; mais perissons 
en resistant, et, si le neant nous est reserve, ne faisons 
pas que ce soit une justice." And I must confess, pain 
ful though the confession be, that in the days of the 
simple faith of my childhood, descriptions of the tortures 
of hell, however terrible, never made me tremble, for I 
always felt that nothingness was much more terrifying. 
He who suffers lives, and he who lives suffering, even 
though over the portal of his abode is written " Abandon 
all hope !" loves and hopes. It is better to live in pain 

1 Each time that I consider that it is my lot to die, I spread my cloak upon 
the ground and am never surfeited with sleeping. 



44 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE m 

than to cease to be in peace. The truth is that I could 
not believe in this atrocity of Hell, of an eternity of 
punishment, nor did I see any more real hell than 
nothingness and the prospect of it. And I continue in 
the belief that if we all believed in our salvation from 
nothingness we should all be better. 

What is this joie de vivre that they talk about nowa 
days ? Our hunger for God, our thirst of immortality, 
of survival, will always stifle in us this pitiful enjoyment 
of the life that passes and abides not. It is the frenzied 
love of life, the love that would have life to be unending, 
that most often urges us to long for death. "If it is 
true that I am to die utterly," we say to ourselves, " then 
once I am annihilated the world has ended so far as I 
am concerned it is finished. Why, then, should it not 
end forthwith, so that no new consciousnesses, doomed 
to suffer the tormenting illusion of a transient and 
apparential existence, may come into being? If, the 
illusion of living being shattered, living for the mere 
sake of living or for the sake of others who are likewise 
doomed to die, does not satisfy the soul, what is the 
good of living? Our best remedy is death.* And thus 
it is that we chant the praises of the never-ending rest 
because of our dread of it, and speak of liberating death. 

Leopardi, the poet of sorrow, of annihilation, having 
lost the ultimate illusion, that of believing in his im 
mortality 

Peri ringanno estrcnio 
ctteterno io mi credei, 

spoke to his heart of Vinfinita vanitd del tutto, and per 
ceived how close is the kinship between love and death, 
and how " when love is born deep down in the heart, 
simultaneously a languid and weary desire to die is felt 
in the breast." The greater part of those who seek 
death at their own hand are moved thereto by love; it 
is the supreme longing for life, for more life, the longing 



in THE HUNGER OF IMMORTALITY 45 

to prolong and perpetuate life, that urges them to death, 
once they are persuaded of the vanity of this longing. 

The problem is tragic and eternal, and the more we 
seek to escape from it, the more it thrusts itself upon us. 
Four-and-twenty centuries ago, in his dialogue on the 
immortality of the soul, the serene Plato but was he 
serene ? spoke of the uncertainty of our dream of being 
immortal and of the risk that the dream might be vain, 
and from his own soul there escaped this profound cry 
Glorious is the risk ! /eoAo? yap 6 iclvSvvos, glorious is 
the risk that we are able to run of our souls never 
dying a sentence that was the germ of Pascal s famous 
argument of the wager. 

Faced with this risk, I am presented with arguments 
designed to eliminate it, arguments demonstrating the 
absurdity of the belief in the immortality of the soul ; 
but these arguments fail to make any impression upon 
me, for they are reasons and nothing more than reasons, 
and it is not with reasons that the heart is appeased. I 
do not want to die no ; I neither want to die nor do I 
want to want to die ; I want to live for ever and ever and 
ever. I want this " I " to live this poor " I " that I 
am and that I feel myself to be here and now, and there 
fore the problem of the duration of my soul, of my own 
soul, tortures me. 

I am the centre of my universe, the centre of the 
universe, and in my supreme anguish I cry with Michelet, 
" Mon moi, ils m arrachent mon moi !" What is a man 
profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own 
soul? (Matt. xvi. 26). Egoism, you say? There is 
nothing more universal than the individual, for what is 
the property of each is the property of all. Each man is 
worth more than the whole of humanity, nor will it do to 
sacrifice each to all save in so far as all sacrifice them 
selves to each. That which we call egoism is the prin 
ciple of psychic gravity, the necessary postulate. ** Love 
thy neighbour as thyself," we are told, the presupposi- 



46 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE HI 

tion being that each man loves himself ; and it is not 
said " Love thyself." And, nevertheless, we do not 
know how to love ourselves. 

Put aside the persistence of your own self and ponder 
what they tell you. Sacrifice yourself to your children ! 
And sacrifice yourself to them because they are yours, 
part and prolongation of yourself, and they in their turn 
will sacrifice themselves to their children, and these 
children to theirs, and so it will go on without end, a 
sterile sacrifice by which nobody profits. I came into 
the world to create my self, and what is to become of all 
our selves ? Live for the True, the Good, the Beautiful ! 
We shall see presently the supreme vanity and the 
supreme insincerity of this hypocritical attitude. 

" That art thou !" they tell me with the Upanishads. 
And I answer : Yes, I am that, if that is I and all is mine, 
and mine the totality of things. As mine I love the All, 
and I love my neighbour because he lives in me and is 
part of my consciousness, because he is like me, because 
he is mine. 

Oh, to prolong this blissful moment, to sleep, to 
eternalize oneself in it ! Here and now, in this discreet 
and diffused light, in this lake of quietude, the storm of 
the heart appeased and stilled the echoes of the world ! 
Insatiable desire now sleeps and does not even dream ; 
use and wont, blessed use and wont, are the rule of my 
eternity; my disillusions have died with my memories, 
and with my hopes my fears. 

And they come seeking to deceive us with a deceit of 
deceits, telling us that nothing is lost, that everything is 
transformed, shifts and changes, that not the least 
particle of matter is annihilated, not the least impulse of 
energy is lost, and there are some who pretend to console 
us with this ! Futile consolation ! It is not my matter 
or my energy that is the cause of my disquiet, for they 
are not mine if I myself am not mine that is, if I am not 
eternal. No, my longing is not to be submerged in the 



in THE HUNGER OF IMMORTALITY 47 

vast All, in an infinite and eternal Matter or Energy, or 
in God; not to be possessed by God, but to possess Him, 
to become myself God, yet without ceasing to be I my 
self, I who am now speaking to you. Tricks of monism 
avail us nothing ; we crave the substance and not the 
shadow of immortality. 

Materialism, you say ? Materialism ? Without doubt ; 
but either our spirit is likewise some kind of matter or it 
is nothing. I dread the idea of having to tear myself 
away from my flesh ; I dread still more the idea of having 
to tear myself away from everything sensible and 
material, from all substance. Yes, perhaps this merits 
the name of materialism ; and if I grapple myself to God 
with all my powers and all my senses, it is that He may 
carry me in His arms beyond death, looking into these 
eyes of mine with the light of His heaven when the light 
of earth is dimming in them for ever. Self-illusion ? 
Talk not to me of illusion let me live ! 

They also call this pride " stinking pride " Leopardi 
called it and they ask us who are w r e, vile earthworms, 
to pretend to immortality; in virtue of what? wherefore? 
by what right? "In virtue of what?" you ask; and 
I reply, In virtue of what do we now live? "Where 
fore?" and wherefore do we now exist? "By what 
right?" and by what right are we? To exist is just as 
gratuitous as to go on existing for ever. Do not let us 
talk of merit or of right or of the wherefore of our long 
ing, which is an end in itself, or we shall lose our reason 
in a vortex of absurdities. I do not claim any right or 
merit ; it is only a necessity ; I need it in order to live. 

And you, who are you ? you ask me ; and I reply with 
Obermann, "For the universe, nothing; for myself, 
everything!" Pride? Is it pride to want to be im 
mortal ? Unhappy men that we are ! Tis a tragic fate, 
without a doubt, to have to base the affirmation of 
immortality upon the insecure and slippery foundation 
of the desire for immortality ; but to condemn this 



48 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE in 

desire on the ground that we believe it to have been 
proved to be unattainable, without undertaking the proof, 
is merely supine. I am dreaming . . . ? Let me dream, 
if this dream is my life. Do not awaken me from it. I 
believe in the immortal origin of this yearning for im 
mortality, which is the very substance of my soul. But 
do I really believe in it . . . ? And wherefore do you 
want to be immortal ? you ask me, wherefore ? Frankly, 
I do not understand the question, for it is to ask the 
reason of the reason, the end of the end, the principle of 
the principle. 

But these are things which it is impossible to discuss. 
It is related in the book of the Acts of the Apostles 
how wherever Paul went the Jews, moved with envy, were 
stirred up to persecute him. They stoned him in 
Iconium and Lystra, cities of Lycaonia, in spite of the 
wonders that he worked therein ; they scourged him in 
Philippi of Macedonia and persecuted his brethren in 
Thessalonica and Berea. He arrived at Athens, how 
ever, the noble city of the intellectuals, over which 
brooded the sublime spirit of Plato the Plato of the 
gloriousness of the risk of immortality ; and there Paul 
disputed with Epicureans and Stoics. And some said of 
him, " What doth this babbler (aTrep/jLoXoyos) mean?" 
and others, " He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange 
gods " (Acts xvii. 18), " and they took him and brought 
him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this 
new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is ? for thou 
bringest certain strange things to our ears; we would 
know, therefore, what these things mean " (verses 19-20). 
And then follows that wonderful characterization of those 
Athenians of the decadence, those dainty connoisseurs of 
the curious, for all the Athenians and strangers which 
were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to 
tell or to hear some new thing " (verse 21). A wonderful 
stroke which depicts for us the condition of mind of those 
who had learned from the Odyssey that the gods plot and 



in THE HUNGER OF IMMORTALITY 49 

achieve the destruction of mortals in order that their 
posterity may have something to narrate ! 

Here Paul stands, then, before the subtle Athenians, 
before the grceuli, men of culture and tolerance, who 
are ready to welcome and examine every doctrine, who 
neither stone nor scourge nor imprison any man for pro 
fessing these or those doctrines here he stands where 
liberty of conscience is respected and every opinion is 
given an attentive hearing. And he raises his voice in 
the midst of the Areopagus and speaks to them as it was 
fitting to speak to the cultured citizens of Athens, and all 
listen to him, agog to hear the latest novelty. But when 
he begins to speak to them of the resurrection of the dead 
their stock of patience and tolerance comes to an end, 
and some mock him, and others say: "We will hear 
thee again of this matter !" intending not to hear him. 
And a similar thing happened to him at Cassarea when 
he came before the Roman praetor Felix, likewise a broad- 
minded and cultured man, who mitigated the hardships 
of his imprisonment, and wished to hear and did hear 
him discourse of righteousness and of temperance; but 
when he spoke of the judgement to come, Felix said, 
terrified (e/A</>o/3o9 <yev6/j,evos) : " Go thy way for this time; 
when I have a convenient season I will call for thee" 
(Acts xxiv. 22-25). And in his audience before King 
Agrippa, when Festus the governor heard him speak of 
the resurrection of the dead, he exclaimed : " Thou art 
mad, Paul; much learning hath made thee mad" 
(Acts xxvi. 24). 

Whatever of truth there may have been in Paul s dis 
course in the Areopagus, and even if there were none, it 
is certain that this admirable account plainly shows how 
far Attic tolerance goes and where the patience of the 
intellectuals ends. They all listen to you, calmly and 
smilingly, and at times they encourage you, saying : 
"That s strange!" or, "He has brains!" or "That s 
suggestive," or " How fine !" or " Pity that a thing so 

4 



50 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE in 

beautiful should not be true!" or "This makes one 
think !" But as soon as you speak to them of resurrec 
tion and life after death, they lose their patience and cut 
short your remarks and exclaim, " Enough of this ! We 
will talk about this another day !" And it is about this, 
my poor Athenians, my intolerant intellectuals, it is 
about this that I am going to talk to you here. 

And even if this belief be absurd, why is its exposition 
less tolerated than that of others much more absurd? 
Why this manifest hostility to such a belief ? Is it fear ? 
Is it, perhaps, spite provoked by inability to share it ? 

And sensible men, those who do not intend to let them 
selves be deceived, keep on dinning into our ears the 
refrain that it is no use giving way to folly and kicking 
against the pricks, for what cannot be is impossible. 
The manly attitude, they say, is to resign oneself to fate ; 
since we are not immortal, do not let us want to be so ; 
let us submit ourselves to reason without tormenting our 
selves about what is irremediable, and so making life 
more gloomy and miserable. This obsession, they add, 
is a disease. Disease, madness, reason . . . the ever 
lasting refrain ! Very well then No ! I do not submit 
to reason, and I rebel against it, and I persist in creating 
by the energy of faith my immortalizing God, and in 
forcing by my will the stars out of their courses, for if 
we had faith as a grain of mustard seed we should say 
to that mountain, " Remove hence," and it would 
remove, and nothing would be impossible to us 
(Matt. xvii. 20). 

There you have that "thief of energies," as he 1 so 
obtusely called Christ who sought to wed nihilism with 
the struggle for existence, and he talks to you about 
courage. His heart craved the eternal All while his head 
convinced him of nothingness, and, desperate and mad 
to defend himself from himself, he cursed that which he 

1 JSiietzsche. 



in THE HUNGER OF IMMORTALITY 51 

most loved. Because he could not be Christ, he blas 
phemed against Christ. Bursting with his own self, he 
wished himself unending and dreamed his theory of 
eternal recurrence, a sorry counterfeit of immortality, 
and, full of pity for himself, he abominated all pity. And 
there are some who say that his is the philosophy of 
strong men ! No, it is not. My health and my strength 
urge me to perpetuate myself. His is the doctrine of 
weaklings who aspire to be strong, but not of the strong 
who are strong. Only the feeble resign themselves to 
final death and substitute some other desire for the long 
ing for personal immortality. In the strong the zeal for 
perpetuity overrides the doubt of realizing it, and their 
superabundance of life overflows upon the other side of 
death. 

Before this terrible mystery of mortality, face to face 
with the Sphinx, man adopts different attitudes and seeks 
in various ways to console himself for having been born. 
And now it occurs to him to take it as a diversion, and 
he says to himself with Renan that this universe is a 
spectacle that God presents to Himself, and that it 
behoves us to carry out the intentions of the great Stage- 
Manager and contribute to make the spectacle the most 
brilliant and the most varied that may be. And they 
have made a religion of art, a cure for the metaphysical 
evil, and invented the meaningless phrase of art for art s 
sake. 

And it does not suffice them. If the man who tells you 
that he writes, paints, sculptures, or sings for his own 
amusement, gives his work to the public, he lies ; he lies 
if he puts his name to his writing, painting, statue, or 
song. He wishes, at the least, to leave behind a shadow 
of his spirit, something that may survive him. If the 
Imitation of Christ is anonoymous, it is because its author 
sought the eternity of the soul and did not trouble him 
self about that of the name. The man of letters who 
shall tell you that he despises fame is a lying rascal. 



52 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE in 

Of Dante, the author of those three-and-thirty vigorous 
verses (Purg. xi. 85-117) on the vanity of worldly glory, 
Boccaccio says that he relished honours and pomps more 
perhaps than suited with his conspicuous virtue. The 
keenest desire of his condemned souls is that they may be 
remembered and talked of here on earth, and this is the 
chief solace that lightens the darkness of his Inferno. 
And he himself confessed that his aim in expounding the 
concept of Monarchy was not merely that he might be of 
service to others, but that he might win for his own glory 
the palm of so great prize (De Monarchia, lib. i., cap. i.). 
What more? Even of that holy man, seemingly the 
most indifferent to worldly vanity, the Poor Little One 
of Assisi, it is related in the Legenda Trium Sociorum 
that he said : Adhuc adorabor per totum mundum! You 
will see how I shall yet be adored by all the world ! 
(II. Celano, i. i). And even of God Himself the 
theologians say that He created the world for the mani 
festation of His glory. 

When doubts invade us and cloud our faith in the 
immortality of the soul, a vigorous and painful impulse 
is given to the anxiety to perpetuate our name and fame, 
to grasp at least a shadow of immortality. And hence 
this tremendous struggle to singularize ourselves, to 
survive in some way in the memory of others and of 
posterity. It is this struggle, a thousand times more 
terrible than the struggle for life, that gives its tone, 
colour, and character to our society, in which the 
medieval faith in the immortal soul is passing away. 
Each one seeks to affirm himself, if only in appearance. 

Once the needs of hunger are satisfied and they are 
soon satisfied the vanity, the necessity for it is a neces 
sity arises of imposing ourselves upon and surviving 
in others. Man habitually sacrifices his life to his purse, 
but he sacrifices his purse to his vanity. He boasts even 
of his weaknesses and his misfortunes, for want of any 
thing better to boast of, ano! is like a child who, in order 



in THE HUNGER OF IMMORTALITY 53 

to attract attention, struts about with a bandaged finger. 
And vanity, what is it but eagerness for survival ? 

The vain man is in like case with the avaricious he 
takes the means for the end; forgetting the end he 
pursues the means for its own sake and goes no further. 
The seeming to be something, conducive to being it, 
ends by forming our objective. We need that others 
should believe in our superiority to them in order that 
we may believe in it ourselves, and upon their belief base 
our faith in our own persistence, or at least in the per 
sistence of our fame. We are more grateful to him who 
congratulates us on the skill with which we defend a 
cause than we are to him who recognizes the truth or 
the goodness of the cause itself. A rabid mania for 
originality is rife in the modern intellectual world and 
characterizes all individual effort. We would rather err 
with genius than hit the mark with the crowd. Rousseau 
has said in his mile (book iv.) : " Even though philo 
sophers should be in a position to discover the truth, 
which of them would take any interest in it ? Each one 
knows well that his system is not better founded than 
the others, but he supports it because it is his. There is 
not a single one of them who, if he came to know the true 
and the false, would not prefer the falsehood that he had 
found to the truth discovered by another. Where is the 
philosopher who would not willingly deceive mankind 
for his own glory ? Where is he who in the secret of his 
heart does not propose to himself any other object than 
to distinguish himself ? Provided that he lifts himself 
above the vulgar, provided that he outshines the bril 
liance of his competitors, what does he demand more ? 
The essential thing is to think differently from others. 
With believers he is an atheist ; with atheists he would be 
a believer." How much substantial truth there is in 
these gloomy confession of this man of painful sincerity ! 

This violent struggle for the perpetuation of our name 
extends backwards into the past, just as it aspires to 



54 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE in 

conquer the future; we contend with the dead because 
we, the living, are obscured beneath their shadow. We 
are jealous of the geniuses of former times, whose names, 
standing out like the landmarks of history, rescue the 
ages from oblivion. The heaven of fame is not very 
large, and the more there are who enter it the less is the 
share of each. The great names of the past rob us of our 
place in it ; the space which they fill in the popular 
memory they usurp from us who aspire to occupy it. 
And so we rise up in revolt against them, and hence the 
bitterness with which all those who seek after fame in the 
world of letters judge those who have already attained it 
and are in enjoyment of it. If additions continue to be 
made to the wealth of literature, there will come a day 
of sifting, and each one fears lest he be caught in the 
meshes of the sieve. In attacking the masters, irreverent 
youth is only defending itself ; the iconoclast or image- 
breaker is a Stylite who erects himself as an image, an 
icon. "Comparisons are odious," says the familiar 
adage, and the reason is that we wish to be unique. Do 
not tell Fernandez that he is one of the most talented 
Spaniards of the younger generation, for though he will 
affect to be gratified by the eulogy he is really annoyed 
by it; if, however, you tell him that he is the most 
talented man in Spain well and good ! But even that 
is not sufficient : one of the worldwide reputations would 
be more to his liking, but he is only fully satisfied with 
being esteemed the first in all countries and all ages. 
The more alone, the nearer to that unsubstantial im 
mortality, the immortality of the name, for great names 
diminish one another. 

What is the meaning of that irritation which we feel 
when we believe that we are robbed of a phrase, or a 
thought, or an image, which we believed to be our own, 
when we are plagiarized? Robbed? Can it indeed be 
ours once we have given it to the public ? Only because 
it is ours we prize it ; and we are fonder of the false money 



in THE HUNGER OF IMMORTALITY 55 

that preserves our impress than of the coin of pure gold 
from which our effigy and our legend has been effaced. 
It very commonly happens that it is when the name of a 
writer is no longer in men s mouths that he most in 
fluences his public, his mind being then disseminated 
and infused in the minds of those who have read him, 
whereas he was quoted chiefly when his thoughts and 
sayings, clashing with those generally received, needed 
the guarantee of a name. What was his now belongs to 
all, and he lives in all. But for him the garlands have 
faded, and he believes himself to have failed. He hears 
no more either the applause or the silent tremor of the 
heart of those who go on reading him. Ask any sincere 
artist which he would prefer, whether that his work 
should perish and his memory survive, or that his work 
should survive and his memory perish, and you will see 
what he will tell you, if he is really sincere. When a 
man does not work merely in order to live and carry on, 
he works in order to survive. To work for the work s 
sake is not work but play. And play? We will talk 
about that later on. 

A tremendous passion is this longing that our memory 
may be rescued, if it is possible, from the oblivion which 
overtakes others. From it springs envy, the cause, 
according to the biblical narrative, of the crime with 
which human history opened : the murder of Abel by his 
brother Cain. It was not a struggle for bread it was a 
struggle to survive in God, in the divine memory. Envy 
is a thousand times more terrible than hunger, for it is 
spiritual hunger. If what we call the problem of life, 
the problem of bread, were once solved, the earth would 
be turned into a hell by the emergence in a more violent 
form of the struggle for survival. 

For the sake of a name man is ready to sacrifice not 
only life but happiness life as a matter of course. " Let 
me die, but let my fame live !" exclaimed Rodrigo Arias 
in Las Mocedades del Cid when he fell mortally wounded 



56 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE in 

by Don Ordonez de Lara. "Courage, Girolamo, for 
you will long be remembered; death is bitter, but fame 
eternal!" cried Girolamo Olgiati, the disciple of Cola 
Montano and the murderer, together with his fellow- 
conspirators Lampugnani and Visconti, of Galeazzo 
Sforza, tyrant of Milan. And there are some who covet 
even the gallows for the sake of acquiring fame, even 
though it be an infamous fame : avidus malce jamce, as 
Tacitus says. 

And this erostratism, what is it at bottom but the long 
ing for immortality, if not for substantial and concrete 
immortality, at any rate for the shadowy immortality of 
the name ? 

And in this there are degrees. If a man despises the 
applause of the crowd of to-day, it is because he seeks to 
survive in renewed minorities for generations. " Pos 
terity is an accumulation of minorities," said Gounod. 
He wishes to prolong himself in time rather than in 
space. The crowd soon overthrows its own idols and 
the statue lies broken at the foot of the pedestal without 
anyone heeding it ; but those who win the hearts of the 
elect will long be the objects of a fervent worship in 
some shrine, small and secluded no doubt, but capable 
of preserving them from the flood of oblivion. The 
artist sacrifices the extensiveness of his fame to its 
duration ; he is anxious rather to endure for ever in some 
little corner than to occupy a brilliant second place in the 
whole universe ; he prefers to be an atom, eternal and 
conscious of himself, rather than to be for a brief moment 
the consciousness of the whole universe ; he sacrifices 
infinitude to eternity. 

And they keep on wearying our ears with this chorus 
of Pride*! stinking Pride ! Pride, to wish to leave an 
ineffaceable name ? Pride ? It is like calling the thirst 
for riches a thirst for pleasure. No, it is not so much the 
longing for pleasure that drives us poor folk to seek 
mone-y as the terror of poverty, just as it was not the 



in THE HUNGER OF IMMORTALITY 57 

desire for glory but the terror of hell that drove men in 
the Middle Ages to the cloister with its acedia. Neither 
is this wish to leave a name pride, but terror of extinc 
tion. We aim at being all because in that we see the 
only means of escaping from being nothing. We wish 
to save our memory at any rate, our memory. How 
long will it last? At most as long as the human race 
lasts. And what if we shall save our memory in God ? 

Unhappy, I know well, are these confessions ; but from 
the depth of unhappiness springs new life, and only by 
draining the lees of spiritual sorrow can we at last taste 
the honey that lies at the bottom of the cup of life. 
Anguish leads us to consolation. 

This thirst for eternal life is appeased by many, 
especially by the simple, at the fountain of religious 
faith; but to drink of this is not given to all. The 
institution whose primordial end is to protect this faith 
in the personal immortality of the soul is Catholicism ; 
but Catholicism has sought to rationalize this faith by 
converting religion into theology, by offering a philo 
sophy, and a philosophy of the thirteenth century, as a 
basis for vital belief. This and its consequences we 
will now proceed to examine. 



IV 
THE ESSENCE OF CATHOLICISM 

LET us now approach the Christian, Catholic, Pauline, 
or Athanasian solution of our inward vital problem, the 
hunger of immortality. 

Christianity sprang from the confluence of two mighty 
spiritual streams the one Judaic, the other Hellenic- 
each of which had already influenced the other, and 
Rome finally gave it a practical stamp and social 
permanence. 

It has been asserted, perhaps somewhat precipitately, 
that primitive Christianity \vas an-eschatological, that 
faith in another life after death is not clearly manifested 
in it, but rather a belief in the proximate end of the 
world and establishment of the kingdom of God, a 
belief known as chiliasm. But were they not funda 
mentally one and the same thing ? Faith in the im 
mortality of the soul, the nature of which was not per 
haps very precisely defined, may be said to be a kind of 
tacit understanding or supposition underlying the whole 
of the Gospel ; and it is the mental orientation of many of 
those who read it to-day, an orientation contrary to that 
of the Christians from among whom the Gospel sprang, 
that prevents them from seeing this. Without doubt all 
that about the second coming of Christ, when he shall 
come among the clouds, clothed with majesty and great 
power, to judge the quick and the dead, to open to some 
the kingdom of heaven and to cast others into Gehenna, 
where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, may 
be understood in a chiliastic sense ; and it is even said of 
Christ in the Gospel (Mark ix. i), that there were with 



iv THE ESSENCE OF CATHOLICISM 59 

him some who should not taste of death till they had 
seen the kingdom of God that is, that the kingdom 
should come during their generation. And in the same 
chapter, verse 10, it is said of Peter and James and John, 
who went up with Jesus to the Mount of Transfiguration 
and heard him say that he would rise again from the 
dead, that "they kept that saying within themselves, 
questioning one with another what the rising from the 
dead should mean." And at all events the Gospel was 
written when this belief, the basis and raison d etre 
of Christianity, was in process of formation. See 
Matt. xxii. 29-32; Mark xii. 24-27; Luke xvi. 22-31; 
xx. 34-37 ; John v. 24-129 ; vi. 40, 54, 58 ; viii. 51 ; xi. 25, 56 ; 
xiv. 2, 19. And, above all, that passage in Matt, xxvii. 52, 
which tells how at the resurrection of Christ ** many 
bodies of the saints which slept arose." 

And this was not a natural resurrection. No; the 
Christian faith was born of the faith that Jesus did not 
remain dead, but that God raised him up again, and 
that this resurrection was a fact; but this did not pre 
suppose a mere immortality of the soul in the philo 
sophical sense (see Harnack, Dogmengeschichte, Pro 
legomena, v. 4). For the first Fathers of the Church 
themselves the immortality of the soul was not a thing 
pertaining to the natural order ; the teaching of the 
Divine Scriptures, as Nimesius said, sufficed for its 
demonstration, and it was, according to Lactantius, a 
gift and as such gratuitous of God. But more of this 
later. 

Christianity sprang, as we have said, from two great 
spiritual streams the Judaic and the Hellenic each one 
of which had arrived on its account, if not at a precise 
definition of, at any rate at a definite yearning for, 
another life. Among the Jews faith in another life was 
neither general nor clear ; but they were led to it by faith 
in a personal and living God, the formation of which 
faith comprises all their spiritual history. 



60 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE iv 

Jahwe, the Judaic God, began by being one god among 
many others the God of the people of Israel, revealed 
among the thunders of the tempest on Mount Sinai. 
But he was so jealous that he demanded that worship 
should be paid to him alone, and it was by way of mono- 
cultism that the Jews arrived at monotheism. He was 
adored as a living force, not as a metaphysical entity, 
and he was the god of battles. But this God of social 
and martial origin, to whose genesis we shall have to 
return later, became more inward and personal in the 
prophets, and in becoming more inward and personal he 
thereby became more individual and more universal. He 
is the Jahwe who, instead of loving Israel because Israel 
is his son, takes Israel for a son because he loves him 
(Hosea xi. i). And faith in the personal God, in the 
Father of men, carries with it faith in the eternalization 
of the individual man a faith which had already dawned 
in Pharisaism even before Christ. 

Hellenic culture, on its side, ended by discovering 
death ; and to discover death is to discover the hunger of 
immortality. This longing does not appear in the 
Homeric poems, which are not initial, but final, in their 
character, marking not the start but the close of a 
civilization. They indicate the transition from the old 
religion of Nature, of Zeus, to the more spiritual religion 
of Apollo of redemption. But the popular and inward 
religion of the Eleusinian mysteries, the worship of souls 
and ancestors, always persisted underneath, "In so far 
as it is possible to speak of a Delphic theology, among 
its more important elements must be counted the belief 
in the continuation of the life of souls after death in its 
popular forms, and in the worship of the souls of the 
dead." 1 There were the Titanic and the Dionysiac 

1 Erwin Rohde, Psyche, " Seelencult und Unsterblichkeitsglaube der 
Griechen." Tubingen, 1907. Up to the present this is the leading 
work dealing with the belief of the Greeks in the immortality of the 
soul. 



iv THE ESSENCE OF CATHOLICISM 61 

elements, and it was the duty of man, according to the 
Orphic doctrine, to free himself from the fetters of the 
body, in which the soul was like a captive in a prison (see 
Rohde, Psyche, " Die Orphiker," 4). The Nietzschean 
idea of eternal recurrence is an Orphic idea. But the 
idea of the immortality of the soul was not a philosophical 
principle. The attempt of Empedocles to harmonize a 
hylozoistic system with spiritualism proved that a philo 
sophical natural science cannot by itself lead to a corro- 
boration of the axiom of the perpetuity of the individual 
soul ; it could only serve as a support to a theological 
speculation. It was by a contradiction that the first 
Greek philosophers affirmed immortality, by abandoning 
natural philosophy and intruding into theology, by 
formulating not an Apollonian but a Dionysiac and 
Orphic dogma. But " an immortality of the soul as 
such, in virtue of its own nature and condition as 
an imperishable divine force in the mortal body, was 
never an object of popular Hellenic belief" (Rohde, 
op. cit.). 

Recall the Plicedo of Plato and the neo-platonic lucu 
brations. In them the yearning for personal immortality 
already shows itself a yearning which, as it was left 
totally unsatisfied by reason, produced the Hellenic 
pessimism. For, as Pfleiderer very well observes 
(Religionsphilosophie auf geschichtliche Grundlage, 3. 
Berlin, 1896), " no people ever came upon the earth so 
serene and sunny as the Greeks in the youthful days of 
their historical existence . . . but no people changed so 
completely their idea of the value of life. The Hellenism 
which ended in the religious speculations of neo-pytha- 
gorism and neo-platonism viewed this world, which had 
once appeared to it so joyous and radiant, as an abode 
of darkness and error, and earthly existence as a period 
of trial which could never be too quickly traversed." 
Nirvana is an Hellenic idea. 

Thus Jews and Greeks each arrived independently at 



62 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE iv 

the real discovery of death a discovery which occasions, 
in peoples as in men, the entrance into spiritual puberty, 
the realization of the tragic sense of life, and it is then 
that the living God is begotten by humanity. The dis 
covery of death is that which reveals God to us, and. the 
death of the perfect man, Christ, was the supreme revela 
tion of death, being the death of the man who ought not 
to have died yet did die. 

Such a discovery that of immortality prepared as it 
was by the Judaic and Hellenic religious processes, was 
a specifically Christian discovery. And its full achieve 
ment was due above all to Paul of Tarsus, the hellenizing 
Jew and Pharisee. Paul had not personally known 
Jesus, and hence he discovered him as Christ. " It may 
be said that the theology of the Apostle Paul is, in 
general, the first Christian theology. For him it was a 
necessity ; it was, in a certain sense, his substitution for 
the lack of a personal knowledge of Jesus," says Weiz- 
sacker (Das apostolische Zeitalter der christlichen Kirche. 
Freiburg-i.-B., 1892). He did not know Jesus, but he 
felt him born again in himself, and thus he could say, 
" Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." 1 
And he preached the Cross, unto the Jews a stumbling- 
block, and unto the Greeks foolishness (i Cor. i. 23), and 
the central doctrine for the converted Apostle was that of 
the resurrection of Christ. The important thingfor him was 
that Christ had been made man and had died and had 
risen again, and not what he did in his life not his 
ethical work as a teacher, but his religious work as a 
giver of immortality. And he it was who wrote those 
immortal words : " Now if Christ be preached that He 
rose from the dead, how say some among you that there 
is no resurrection from the dead? But if there be no 
resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen ; and if 
Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your 
faith is also vain. . . . Then they also which are fallen 

1 Gal. ii. 20, 



iv THE ESSENCE OF CATHOLICISM 63 

asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we 
have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable" 
(i Cor. xv. 12-19). 

And it is possible to affirm that thenceforward he who 
does not believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ may 
be Christophile but cannot be specifically Christian. It 
is true that a Justin Martyr could say that " all those are 
Christians who live in accordance with reason, even 
though they may be deemed to be atheists, as, among 
the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus and other such"; 
but this martyr, is he a martyr that is to say a witness 
of Christianity ? No. 

And it was around this dogma, inwardly experienced 
by Paul, the dogma of the resurrection and immortality 
of Christ, the guarantee of the resurrection and immor 
tality of each believer, that the whole of Christology was 
built up. The God-man, the incarnate Word, came in 
order that man, according to his mode, might be made 
God that is, immortal. And the Christian God, the 
Father of Christ, a God necessarily anthropomorphic, is 
He who as the Catechism of Christian Doctrine which 
we were made to learn by heart at school says created 
the world for man, for each man. And the end of 
redemption, in spite of appearances due to an ethical 
deflection of a dogma properly religious, was to save us 
from death rather than from sin, or from sin in so far as 
sin implies death. And Christ died, or rather rose 
again, for me, for each one of us. And a certain 
solidarity was established between God and His creature. 
Malebranche said that the first man fell in order that 
Christ might redeem us, rather than that Christ redeemed 
us because man had fallen. 

After the death of Paul years passed, and generations 
of Christianity wrought upon this central dogma and its 
consequences in order to safeguard faith in the immor 
tality of the individual soul, and the Council of Nicsea 
came, and with it the formidable Athanasius, whose 



64 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE iv 

name is still a battle-cry, an incarnation of the popular 
faith. Athanasius was a man of little learning but of 
great faith, and above all of popular faith, devoured by 
the hunger of immortality. And he opposed Arianism, 
which, like Unitarian and Socinian Protestantism, 
threatened, although unknowingly and unintentionally, 
the foundation of that belief. For the Arians, Christ 
was first and foremost a teacher a teacher of morality, 
the wholly perfect man, and therefore the guarantee that 
we may all attain to supreme perfection ; but Athanasius 
felt that Christ cannot make us gods if he has not first 
made himself God; if his Divinity had been communi 
cated, he could not have communicated it to us. " He 
was not, therefore," he said, first man and then 
became God ; but He was first God and then became man 
in order that He might the better deify us (fleoTro^crr;) " 
(Orat. i. 39). It was not the Logos of the philosophers, 
the cosmological Logos, that Athanasius knew and 
adored; 1 and thus he instituted a separation between 
nature and revelation. The Athanasian or Nicene 
Christ, who is the Catholic Christ, is not the Cosmo- 
logical, nor even, strictly, the ethical Christ; he is the 
eternalizing, the deifying, the religious Christ. Harnack 
says of this Christ, the Christ of Nicene or Catholic 
Christology, that he is essentially docetic that is, 
apparential because the process of the divinization of 
the man in Christ was made in the interests of eschato- 
logy. But which is the real Christ ? Is it, indeed, that 
so-called historical Christ of rationalist exegesis who is 
diluted for us in a myth or in a social atom ? 

This same Harnack, a Protestant rationalist, tells us 
that Arianism or Unitarianism would have been the 
death of Christianity, reducing it to cosmology and 
ethics, and that it served only as a bridge whereby the 

1 On all relating to this question see, among others, Harnack, Dogmen- 
geschickte, ii., Teil i., Buch vii., cap. i. 



iv THE ESSENCE OF CATHOLICISM 65 

learned might pass over to Catholicism that is to say, 
from reason to faith. To this same learned historian 
of dogmas it appears to be an indication of a perverse 
state of things that the man Athanasius, who saved 
Christianity as the religion of a living communion with 
God, should have obliterated the Jesus of Nazareth, the 
historical Jesus, whom neither Paul nor Athanasius 
knew personally, nor yet Harnack himself. Among 
Protestants, this historical Jesus is subjected to the 
scalpel of criticism, while the Catholic Christ lives, the 
really historical Christ, he who lives throughout the 
centuries guaranteeing the faith in personal immortality 
and personal salvation. 

And Athanasius had the supreme audacity of faith, 
that of asserting things mutually contradictory : " The 
complete contradiction that exists in the [O/JLOOIHTIOS carried 
in its train a whole army of contradictions which in 
creased as thought advanced," says Harnack. Yes, so it 
was, and so it had to be. And he adds : " Dogma took 
leave for ever of clear thinking and tenable concepts, and 
habituated itself to the contra-rational." In truth, it 
drew closer to life, which is contra-rational and opposed 
to clear thinking. Not only are judgements of worth 
never rationalizable they are anti-rational. 

At Nicaea, then, as afterwards at the Vatican, victory 
rested with the idiots taking this word in its proper, 
primitive, and etymological sense the simple-minded, 
the rude and headstrong bishops, the representatives of 
the genuine human spirit, the popular spirit, the spirit 
that does not want to die, in spite of whatever reason may 
say, and that seeks a guarantee, the most material pos 
sible, for this desire. 

Quid ad ceternitatem ? This is the capital question. 
And the Creed ends with that phrase, resurrectionem 
mortuorum et vitam venturi sceculi the resurrection of 
the dead and the life of the world to come. In the ceme- 

5 



66 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE iv 

tery of Mallona, in my native town of Bilbao, there is a 
tombstone on which this verse is carved : 

Aunque estamos en polvo convertidos^ 
en 7Y, Senor, miestra esperanzafta, 
que tornaremos a vivir vcstidos 
con la carne y la piel que nos cubria. * 

" With the same bodies and souls that they had/ as the 
Catechism says. So much so, that it is orthodox Catholic 
doctrine that the happiness of the blessed is not perfectly 
complete until they recover their bodies. They lament 
in heaven, says our Brother Pedro Malon de Chaide of 
the Order of St. Augustine, a Spaniard and a Basque, 2 
and " this lament springs from their not being perfectly 
whole in heaven, for only the soul is there ; and although 
they cannot suffer, because they see God, in whom they 
unspeakably delight, yet with all this it appears that they 
are not wholly content. They will be so when they are 
clothed with their own bodies." 

And to this central dogma of the resurrection in Christ 
and by Christ corresponds likewise a central sacrament, 
the axis of popular Catholic piety the Sacrament of the 
Eucharist. In it is administered the body of Christ, 
which is the bread of immortality. 

This sacrament is genuinely realist dinglich, as the 
Germans would say which may without great violence 
be translated "material." It is the sacrament most 
genuinely ex opere operato, for which is substituted 
among Protestants the idealistic sacrament of the word. 
Fundamentally it is concerned with and I say it with 
all possible respect, but without wishing to sacrifice the 
expressiveness of the phrase the eating and drinking of 
God, the Eternalizer, the feeding upon Him. Little 

1 Though we are become dust, 
In thee, O Lord, our hope confides, 
That we shall live again clad 
In the flesh and skin that once covered us. 

~ Libro de la Conversion de la Magdelena, part iv., chap. ix. 



iv THE ESSENCE OF CATHOLICISM 67 

wonder then if St. Teresa tells us that when she was 
communicating in the monastery of the Incarnation and 
in the second year of her being Prioress there, on the 
octave of St. Martin, and the Father, Fr. Juan de la Cruz, 
divided the Host between her and another sister, she 
thought that it was done not because there was any want 
of Hosts, but because he wished to mortify her, "for I 
had told him how much I delighted in Hosts of a large 
size. Yet I was not ignorant that the size of the Host 
is of no moment, for I knew that our Lord is whole and 
entire in the smallest particle." Here reason pulls one 
way, feeling another. And what importance for this 
feeling have the thousand and one difficulties that arise 
from reflecting rationally upon the mystery of this sacra 
ment ? What is a divine body ? And the body, in so 
far as it is the body of Christ, is it divine? What is an 
immortal and immortalizing body ? What is substance 
separated from the accidents? Nowadays we have 
greatly refined our notion of materiality and substan 
tiality ; but there were even some among the Fathers of 
the Church to whom the immateriality of God Himself 
was not a thing so clear and definite as it is for us. And 
this sacrament of the Eucharist is the immortalizing 
sacrament par excellence, and therefore the axis of 
popular Catholic piety, and if it may be so said, the 
most specifically religious of sacraments. 

For what is specific in the Catholic religion is immor 
talization and not justification, in the Protestant sense. 
Rather is this latter ethical. It was from Kant, in spite 
of what orthodox Protestants may think of him, that 
Protestantism derived its penultimate conclusions 
namely, that religion rests upon morality, and not 
morality upon religion, as in Catholicism. 

The preoccupation of sin has never been such a matter 
of anguish, or at any rate has never displayed itself with 
such an appearance of anguish, among Catholics. The 
sacrament of Confession contributes to this. And there 



68 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE iv 

persists, perhaps, among Catholics more than among 
Protestants the substance of the primitive Judaic and 
pagan conception of sin as something material apd in 
fectious and hereditary, which is cured by baptism and 
absolution. In Adam all his posterity sinned, almost 
materially, and his sin was transmitted as a material 
disease is transmitted. Renan, whose education was 
Catholic, was right, therefore, in calling to account the 
Protestant Amiel who accused him of not giving due 
importance to sin. And, on the other hand, Pro 
testantism, absorbed in this preoccupation with justifica 
tion, which in spite of its religious guise was taken more 
in an ethical sense than anything else, ends by neutraliz 
ing and almost obliterating eschatology ; it abandons the 
Nicene symbol, falls into an anarchy of creeds, into pure 
religious individualism and a vague esthetic, ethical, or 
cultured religiosity. What we may call " other- worldli- 
ness " (Jenseitigkeit) was obliterated little by little by 
" this-worldliness " (Diesseitigkeit) ; and this in spite of 
Kant, who wished to save it, but by destroying it. To 
its earthly vocation and passive trust in God is due the 
religious coarseness of Lutheranism, which was almost 
at the point of expiring in the age of the Enlightenment, 
of the Aufklarung, and which pietism, infusing into it 
something of the religious sap of Catholicism, barely 
succeeded in galvanizing a little. Hence the exactness 
of the remarks of Oliveira Martins in his magnificent 
History of Iberian Civilisation, in which he says (book iv., 
chap, iii.) that "Catholicism produced heroes and Pro 
testantism produced societies that are sensible, happy, 
wealthy, free, as far as their outer institutions go, but 
incapable of any great action, because their religion has 
begun by destroying in the heart of man all that made 
him capable of daring and noble self-sacrifice." 

Take any of the dogmatic systems that have resulted 
from the latest Protestant dissolvent analysis that of 
Kaftan, the follower of Ritschl, for example and note 



iv THE ESSENCE OF CATHOLICISM 69 

the extent to which eschatology is reduced. And his 
master, Albrecht Ritschl, himself says: "The question 
regarding the necessity of justification or forgiveness can 
only be solved by conceiving eternal life as the direct end 
and aim of that divine operation. But if the idea of 
eternal life be applied merely to our state in the next life, 
then its content, too, lies beyond all experience, and 
cannot form the basis of knowledge of a scientific kind. 
Hopes and desires, though marked by the strongest sub 
jective certainty, are not any the clearer for that, and 
contain in themselves no guarantee of the completeness 
of what one hopes or desires. Clearness and complete 
ness of idea, however, are the conditions of comprehend 
ing anything i.e., of understanding the necessary con 
nection between the various elements of a thing, and 
between the thing and its given presuppositions. The 
Evangelical article of belief, therefore, that justification 
by faith establishes or brings with it assurance of eternal 
life, is of no use theologically, so long as this purposive 
aspect of justification cannot be verified in such experi 
ence as is possible now " (Rechtfertigung und Ver- 
sohnung, vol. iii., chap, vii., 52). All this is very 
rational, but . . . 

In the first edition of Melanchthon s Loci Communes, 
that of 1521, the first Lutheran theological work, its 
author omits all Trinitarian and Christological specula 
tions, the dogmatic basis of eschatology. And Dr. 
Hermann, professor at Marburg, the author of a book on 
the Christian s commerce with God (Der Verkehr des 
Christen mit Gott) a book the first chapter of which 
treats of the opposition between mysticism and the Chris 
tian religion, and which is, according to Harnack, the 
most perfect Lutheran manual tells us in another place, 1 
referring to this Christological (or Athanasian) specula- 

1 In his exposition of Protestant dogma in Systematische christliche 
Religion, Berlin, 1909, one of the series entitled Die Kultur der Gegenwart, 
published by P. Hinneberg. 



70 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE iv 

tion, that " the effective knowledge of God and of Christ, 
in which knowledge faith lives, is something entirely 
different. Nothing ought to find a place in Christian 
doctrine that is not capable of helping man to recognize 
his sins, to obtain the grace of God, and to serve Him 
in truth. Until that time that is to say, until Luther 
the Church had accepted much as doctrina sacra which 
cannot absolutely contribute to confer upon man liberty 
of heart and tranquillity of conscience." For my part, 
I cannot conceive the liberty of a heart or the tranquillity 
of a conscience that are not sure of their perdurability 
after death. "The desire for the soul s salvation," 
Hermann continues, " must at last have led men to the 
knowledge and understanding of the effective doctrine 
of salvation." And in his book on the Christian s 
commerce with God, this eminent Lutheran doctor is 
continually discoursing upon trust in God, peace of 
conscience, and an assurance of salvation that is not 
strictly and precisely certainty of everlasting life, but 
rather certainty of the forgiveness of sins. 

And I have read in a Protestant theologian, Ernst 
Troeltsch, that in the conceptual order Protestantism has 
attained its highest reach in music, in which art Bach 
has given it its mightiest artistic expression. This, then, 
is what Protestantism dissolves into celestial music I 1 
On the other hand we may say that the highest artistic 
expression of Catholicism, or at least of Spanish 
Catholicism, is in the art that is most material, tangible, 
and permanent for the vehicle of sounds is air in 
sculpture and painting, in the Christ of Velasquez, that 
Christ who is for ever dying, yet never finishes dying, 
in order that he may give us life. 

And yet Catholicism does not abandon ethics. No ! 
No modern religion can leave ethics on one side. But 

1 The common use of the expression musica celestial to denote " nonsense, 
something not worth listening to," lends it a satirical byplay which dis 
appears in the English rendering. J. E. C. F. 



iv THE ESSENCE OF CATHOLICISM 71 

our religion although its doctors may protest against 
this is fundamentally and for the most part a com 
promise between eschatology and ethics ; it is eschatology 
pressed into the service of ethics. What else but this is 
that atrocity of the eternal pains of hell, which agrees so 
ill with the Pauline apocatastasis ? Let us bear in mind 
those words which the Theologica Germanica, the manual 
of mysticism that Luther read, puts into the mouth of 
God: " If I must recompense your evil, I must recom 
pense it with good, for I am and have none other." And 
Christ said: " Father, forgive them, for they know not 
what they do," and there is no man who perhaps knows 
what he does. But it has been necessary, for the benefit 
of the social order, to convert religion into a kind of 
police system, and hence hell. Oriental or Greek Chris 
tianity is predominantly eschatological, Protestantism 
predominantly ethical, and Catholicism is a compromise 
between the two, although with the eschatological ele 
ment preponderating. The most authentic Catholic 
ethic, monastic asceticism, is an ethic of eschatology, 
directed to the salvation of the individual soul rather 
than to the maintenance of society. And in the cult of 
virginity may there not perhaps be a certain obscure idea 
that to perpetuate ourselves in others hinders our own 
personal perpetuation ? The ascetic morality is a nega 
tive morality. And, strictly, what is important for a 
man is not to die, whether he sins or not. It is not 
necessary to take very literally, but as a lyrical, or rather 
rhetorical, effusion, the words of our famous sonnet 

No me mueve, mi Dios, para quererte 
el cielo qne me tienes prometido, x 

and the rest that follows. 

The real sin perhaps it is the sin against the Holy 
Ghost for which there is no remission is the sin of 

1 It is not Thy promised heaven, my God, that moves me to love Thee. 
(Anonymous, sixteenth or seventeenth century. See Oxford Book of Spanish 
Verse, No. 106. ) 



72 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE iv 

heresy, the sin of thinking for oneself. The saying has 
been heard before now, here in Spain, that to be a liberal 
that is, a heretic is worse than being an assassin, a 
thief, or an adulterer. The gravest sin is not to obey 
the Church, whose infallibility protects us from reason. 

And why be scandalized by the infallibility of a man, 
of the Pope ? What difference does it make whether it 
be a book that is infallible the Bible, or a society of 
men the Church, or a single man ? Does it make any 
essential change in the rational difficulty? And since 
the infallibility of a book or of a society of men is not 
more rational than that of a single man, this supreme 
offence in the eyes of reason had to be posited. 

It is the vital asserting itself, and in order to 
assert itself it creates, with the help of its enemy, the 
rational, a complete dogmatic structure, and this the 
Church defends against rationalism, against Protes 
tantism, and against Modernism. The Church defends 
life. It stood up against Galileo, and it did right; for 
his discovery, in its inception and until it became assimi 
lated to the general body of human knowledge, tended 
to shatter the anthropomorphic belief that the universe 
was created for man. It opposed Darwin, and it did 
right, for Darwinism tends to shatter our belief that 
man is an exceptional animal, created expressly to be 
eternalized. And lastly, Pius IX., the first Pontiff to 
be proclaimed infallible, declared that he was irreconcil 
able with the so-called modern civilization. And he did 
right. 

Loisy, the Catholic ex-abbe", said : " I say simply this, 
that the Church and theology have not looked with 
favour upon the scientific movement, and that on certain 
decisive occasions, so far as it lay in their power, they 
have hindered it. I say, above all, that Catholic teach 
ing has not associated itself with, or accommodated itself 
to, this movement. Theology has conducted itself, and 
conducts itself still, as if it were self-possessed of a 



iv THE ESSENCE OF CATHOLICISM 73 

science of nature and a science of history, together with 
that general philosophy of nature and history which 
results from a scientific knowledge of them. It might 
be supposed that the domain of theology and that of 
science, distinct in principle and even as defined by the 
Vatican Council, must not be distinct in practice. 
Everything proceeds almost as if theology had nothing 
to learn from modern science, natural or historical, and 
as if by itself it had the power and the right to exercise 
a direct and absolute control over all the activities of the 
human mind " (Autour d un Petit Livre, 1903, p. 211). 

And such must needs be, and such in fact is, the 
Church s attitude in its struggle with Modernism, of 
which Loisy was the learned and leading exponent. 

The recent struggle against Kantian and fideist 
Modernism is a struggle for life. Is it indeed possible 
for life, life that seeks assurance of survival, to tolerate 
that a Loisy, a Catholic priest, should affirm that the 
resurrection of the Saviour is not a fact of the historical 
order, demonstrable and demonstrated by the testimony 
of history alone ? Read, moreover, the exposition of the 
central dogma, that of the resurrection of Jesus, in E. Le 
Roy s excellent work, Dogme et Critique, and tell me if 
any solid ground is left for our hope to build on. Do 
not the Modernists see that the question at issue is not 
so much that of the immortal life of Christ, reduced, 
perhaps, to a life in the collective Christian conscious 
ness, as that of a guarantee of our own personal resur 
rection of body as well as soul ? This new psychological 
apologetic appeals to the moral miracle, and we, like the 
Jews, seek for a sign, something that can be taken hold 
of with all the powers of the soul and with all the senses 
of the body. And with the hands and the feet and the 
mouth, if it be possible. 

But alas ! we do not get it. Reason attacks, and faith, 
which does not feel itself secure without reason, has to 
come to terms with it. And hence come those tragic con- 



74 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE iv 

tradictions and lacerations of consciousness. We need 
security, certainty, signs, and they give us motiva credi- 
bilitatis motives of credibility upon which to establish 
the rationale obsequium, and although faith precedes 
reason (fides prcecedit rationem), according to St. Augus 
tine, this same learned doctor and bishop sought to 
travel by faith to understanding (per fidem ad intel- 
lectum), and to believe in order to understand (credo ut 
intelligam). How far is this from that superb expression 
of Tertullian et sepultus resurrexit, cerium est quia 
impossibile est! " and he was buried and rose again ; it 
is certain because it is impossible! * and his sublime 
credo quia absurdum! the scandal of the rationalists. 
How far from the il faut s abetir of Pascal and from the 
"human reason loves the absurd" of our Donoso 
Cortes, which he must have learned from the great 
Joseph de Maistre ! 

And a first foundation-stone was sought in the 
authority of tradition and the revelation of the word of 
God, and the principle of unanimous consent was 
arrived at. Quod apud multos unum invenitur, non est 
erratum, sed traditum, said Tertullian ; and Lamennais 
added, centuries later, that "certitude, the principle of 
life and intelligence ... is, if I may be allowed the 
expression, a social product." 1 But here, as in so many 
cases, the supreme formula was given by that great 
Catholic, whose Catholicism was of the popular and vital 
order, Count Joseph de Maistre, when he wrote : " I do 
not believe that it is possible to show a single opinion 
of universal utility that is not true." 2 Here you have the 
Catholic hall-mark the deduction of the truth of a prin 
ciple from its supreme goodness or utility. And what 
is there of greater, of more sovereign utility, than the 
immortality of the soul? "As all is uncertain, either 
we must believe all men or none," said Lactantius; but 

1 Essai sur F indifference en maticre de religion, part iii., chap. i. 

2 Lcs Soirees de Saint- Petcrshourg, x " e entretien. 



iv THE ESSENCE OF CATHOLICISM 75 

that great mystic and ascetic, Blessed Heinrich Seuse, the 
Dominican, implored the Eternal Wisdom for one word 
affirming that He was love, and when the answer came, 
All creatures proclaim that I am love," Seuse replied, 
" Alas ! Lord, that does not suffice for a yearning soul." 
Faith feels itself secure neither with universal consent, 
nor with tradition, nor with authority. It seeks the 
support of its enemy, reason. 

And thus scholastic theology was devised, and with it 
its handmaiden ancilla theologize scholastic philo 
sophy, and this handmaiden turned against her mistress. 
Scholasticism, a magnificent cathedral, in which all the 
problems of architectonic mechanism were resolved for 
future ages, but a cathedral constructed of unbaked 
bricks, gave place little by little to what is called natural 
theology and is merely Christianity depotentialized. The 
attempt was even made, where it was possible, to base 
dogmas upon reason, to show at least that if they were 
indeed super-rational they were not contra-rational, and 
they were reinforced with a philosophical foundation of 
Aristotelian-Neoplatonic thirteenth-century philosophy. 
And such is the Thomism recommended by Leo XIII. 
And now the question is not one of the enforcement of 
dogma but of its philosophical, medieval, and Thomist 
interpretation . It is not enough to believe that in receiving 
the consecrated Host we receive the body and blood of our 
Lord Jesus Christ ; we must needs negotiate all those 
difficulties of transubstantiation and substance separated 
from accidents, and so break with the whole of the 
modern rational conception of substantiality. 

But for this, implicit faith suffices the faith of the 
coalheaver, 1 the faith of those who, like St. Teresa (Vida, 
cap. xxv. 2), do not wish to avail themselves of theology. 

1 The allusion is to the traditional story of the coalheaver whom the devil 
sought to convince of the irrationality of belief in the Trinity. The coal 
heaver took the cloak that he was wearing and folded it in three folds. 
" Here are three folds," he said, "and the cloak though threefold is yet one." 
And the devil departed baffled. J. E. C. F. 



76 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE iv 

" Do not ask me the reason of that, for I am ignorant; 
Holy Mother Church possesses doctors who will know 
how to answer you," as we were made to learn in the 
Catechism. It was for this, among other things, that 
the priesthood was instituted, that the teaching Church 
might be the depositary " reservoir instead of river," 
as Phillips Brooks said of theological secrets. "The 
work of the Nicene Creed," says Harnack (Dogmen- 
geschichte, ii. i, cap. vii. 3), " was a victory of the priest 
hood over the faith of the Christian people. The doctrine 
of the Logos had already become unintelligible to those 
who were not theologians. The setting up of the Niceno- 
Cappadocian formula as the fundamental confession of 
the Church made it perfectly impossible for the Catholic 
laity to get an inner comprehension of the Christian 
Faith, taking as their guide the form in which it was 
presented in the doctrine of the Church. The idea 
became more and more deeply implanted in men s minds 
that Christianity was the revelation of the unintelligible." 
And so, in truth, it is. 

And why was this ? Because faith that is, Life no 
longer felt sure of itself. Neither traditionalism nor the 
theological positivism of Duns Scotus sufficed for it; it 
sought to rationalize itself. And it sought to establish 
its foundation not, indeed, over against reason, where it 
really is, but upon reason that is to say, within reason 
itself. The nominalist or positivist or voluntarist posi 
tion of Scotus that which maintains that law and truth 
depend, not so much upon the essence as upon the free 
and inscrutable will of God by accentuating its supreme 
irrationality, placed religion in danger among the 
majority of believers endowed with mature reason and 
not mere coalheavers. Hence the triumph of the 
Thomist theological rationalism. It is no longer enough 
to believe in the existence of God; but the sentence of 
anathema falls on him who, though believing in it, does 
not believe that His existence is demonstrable by 



rv THE ESSENCE OF CATHOLICISM 77 

rational arguments, or who believes that up to the present 
nobody by means of these rational arguments has ever 
demonstrated it irrefutably. However, in this connec 
tion the remark of Pohle is perhaps capable of applica 
tion : " If eternal salvation depended upon mathematical 
axioms, we should have to expect that the most odious 
human sophistry would attack their universal validity as 
violently as it now attacks God, the soul, and Christ." 1 

The truth is, Catholicism oscillates between mysticism, 
which is the inward experience of the living God in 
Christ, an intransmittible experience, the danger of 
which, however, is that it absorbs our own personality in 
God, and so does not save our vital longing between 
mysticism and the rationalism which it fights against (see 
Weizsacker, op. cit.); it oscillates between religionized 
science and scientificized religion. The apocalyptic 
enthusiasm changed little by little into neo-platonic 
mysticism, which theology thrust further into the back 
ground. It feared the excesses of the imagination 
which was supplanting faith and creating gnostic extra 
vagances. But it had to sign a kind of pact with 
gnosticism and another with rationalism ; neither 
imagination nor reason allowed itself to be com 
pletely vanquished. And thus the body of Catholic 
dogma became a system of contradictions, more or less 
successfully harmonized. The Trinity was a kind of 
pact between monotheism and polytheism, and humanity 
and divinity sealed a peace in Christ, nature covenanted 
with grace, grace with free will, free will with the Divine 
prescience, and so on. And it is perhaps true, as 
Hermann says (loc. cit.), that "as soon as we develop 
religious thought to its logical conclusions, it enters into 
conflict with other ideas which belong equally to the life 
of religion." And this it is that gives to Catholicism its 
profound vital dialectic. But at what a cost ? 

1 Joseph Pohle, " Christlich Katolische Dogmatik," in Systewatische 
Christliche Religion, Berlin, 1909. Die Kultur der Gegenwart series. 



78 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE iv 

At the cost, it must needs be said, of doing violence to 
the mental exigencies of those believers in possession 
of an adult reason. It demands from them that they 
shall believe all or nothing, that they shall accept the 
complete totality of dogma or that they shall forfeit all 
merit if the least part of it be rejected. And hence the 
result, as the great Unitarian preacher Channing pointed 
out, 1 that in France and Spain there are multitudes who 
have proceeded from rejecting Popery to absolute 
atheism, because " the fact is, that false and absurd 
doctrines, when exposed, have a natural tendency to 
beget scepticism in those who received them without 
reflection. None are so likely to believe too little as those 
who have begun by believing too much." Here is, 
indeed, the terrible danger of believing too much. But 
no ! the terrible danger comes from another quarter 
from seeking to believe with the reason and not with life. 

The Catholic solution of our problem, of our unique 
vital problem, the problem of the immortality and eternal 
salvation of the individual soul, satisfies the will, and 
therefore satisfies life ; but the attempt to rationalize it 
by means of dogmatic theology fails to satisfy the reason. 
And reason has its exigencies as imperious as those of 
life. It is no use seeking to force ourselves to consider 
as super-rational what clearly appears to us to be contra- 
rational, neither is it any good wishing to become coal- 
heavers when we are not coalheavers. Infallibility, a 
notion of Hellenic origin, is in its essence a rationalistic 
category. 

Let us now consider the rationalist or scientific solu 
tion or, more properly, dissolution of our problem. 

1 " Objections to Unitarian Christianity Considered," 1816, in The Com 
plete Works of William Ellery Channing, D.D., London, 1884. 



V 
THE RATIONALIST DISSOLUTION 

THE great master of rationalist phenomenalism, David 
Hume, begins his essay "On the Immortality of the 
Soul " with these decisive words : "It appears difficult 
by the mere light of reason to prove the immortality of 
the soul. The arguments in favour of it are commonly 
derived from metaphysical, moral, or physical considera 
tions. But it is really the Gospel, and only the Gospel, 
that has brought to light life and immortality." Which 
is equivalent to denying the rationality of the belief that 
the soul of each one of us is immortal. 

Kant, whose criticism found its point of departure in 
Hume, attempted to establish the rationality of this longr 
ing for immortality and the belief that it imports; and 
this is the real origin, the inward origin, of his Critique 
of Practical Reason, and of his categorical imperative 
and of his God. But in spite of all this, the sceptical 
affirmation of Hume holds good. There is no way of 
proving the immortality of the soul rationally. There 
are, on the other hand, ways of prpving rationally its 
mortality. 

It would be not merely superfluous but ridiculous to 
enlarge here upon the extent to which the individual 
human consciousness is dependent upon the physical 
organism, pointing out how it comes to birth by slow 
degrees according as the brain receives impressions from 
the outside world, how it is temporarily suspended during 
sleep, swoons, and other accidents, and how everything 
leads us to the rational conjecture that death carries with 
it the loss of consciousness. And just as before our 

79 



8o THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE v 

birth we were not, nor have we any personal pre-natal 
memory, so after our death we shall cease to be. This 
is the rational position. 

The designation "soul" is merely a term used to 
denote the individual consciousness in its integrity and 
continuity; and that this soul undergoes change, that 
in like manner as it is integrated so it is disintegrated, is 
a thing very evident. For Aristotle it was the sub 
stantial form of the body the entelechy, but not a 
substance. And more than one modern has called it an 
epiphenomenon an absurd term. The appellation 
phenomenon suffices. 

Rationalism and by rationalism I mean the doctrine 
that abides solely by reason, by objective truth is 
necessarily materialist. And let not idealists be scan 
dalized thereby. 

The truth is it is necessary to be perfectly explicit in 
this matter that what we call materialism means for us 
nothing else but the doctrine which denies the immor 
tality of the individual soul, the persistence of personal 
consciousness after death. 

In another sense it may be said that, as we know what 
matter is no more than we know what spirit is, and as 
matter is for us merely an idea, materialism is idealism. 
In fact, and as regards our problem the most vital, the 
only really vital problem it is all the same to say that 
everything is matter as to say that everything is idea, or 
that everything is energy, or whatever you please. 
Every monist system will always seem to us materialist. 
The immortality of the soul is saved only by the dualist 
systems those which teach that human consciousness is 
something substantially distinct and different from the 
other manifestations of phenomena. And reason is 
naturally monist. For it is the function of reason to 
understand and explain the universe, and in order to 
understand and explain it, it is in no way necessary for the 
soul to be an imperishable substance. For the purpose 



v THE RATIONALIST DISSOLUTION 81 

of explaining and understanding our psychic life, for 
psychology, the hypothesis of the soul is unnecessary. 
What was formerly called rational psychology, in oppo 
sition to empirical psychology, is not psychology but 
metaphysics, and very muddy metaphysics ; neither is it 
rational, but profoundly irrational, or rather contra- 
rational. 

The pretended rational doctrine of the substantiality 
and spirituality of the soul, with all the apparatus that 
accompanies it, is born simply of the necessity which 
men feel of grounding upon reason their inexpugnable 
longing for immortality and the subsequent belief in it. 
All the sophistries which aim at proving that the soul is 
substance, simple and incorruptible, proceed from this 
source. And further, the very concept of substance, as 
it was fixed and defined by scholasticism, a concept 
which does not bear criticism, is a theological concept, 
designed expressly to sustain faith in the immortality of 
the soul. 

William James, in the third of the lectures which he 
devoted to pragmatism in the Lowell Institute in Boston, 
in December, 1906, and January, 1907* the weakest 
thing in all the work of the famous American thinker, 
an extremely weak thing indeed speaks as follows : 
" Scholasticism has taken the notion of substance from 
common sense and made it very technical and articulate. 
Few things would seem to have fewer pragmatic conse 
quences for us than substances, cut off as we are from 
every contact with them. Yet in one case scholasticism 
has proved the importance of the substance-idea by 
treating it pragmatically. I refer to certain disputes 
about the mystery of the Eucharist. Substance here 
would appear to have momentous pragmatic value. 
Since the accidents of the wafer do not change in the 
Lord s Supper, and yet it has become the very body of 

1 Pragmatism, a New Name for some Old Ways of Thinking. Popular 
lectures on philosophy by William James, 1907. 

6 



82 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE v 

Christ, it must be that the change is in the substance 
solely. The bread-substance must have been withdrawn 
and the Divine substance substituted miraculously with 
out altering the immediate sensible properties. But 
though these do not alter, a tremendous difference has 
been made no less a one than this, that we who take the 
sacrament now feed upon the very substance of Divinity. 
The substance-notion breaks into life, with tremendous 
effect, if once you allow that substances can separate 
from their accidents and exchange these latter. This is 
the only pragmatic application of the substance-idea 
with which I am acquainted ; and it is obvious that it will 
only be treated seriously by those who already believe in 
the * real presence on independent grounds." 

Now, leaving on one side the question as to whether it 
is good theology and I do not say good reasoning 
because all this lies outside the sphere of reason to con 
found the substance of the body the body, not the soul 
of Christ with the very substance of Divinity that is 
to say, with God Himself it would appear impossible 
that one so ardently desirous of the immortality of the 
soul as William James, a man whose whole philosophy 
aims simply at establishing this belief on rational 
grounds, should not have perceived that the pragmatic 
application of the concept of substance to the doctrine of the 
Eucharistic transubstantiation is merely a consequence of 
its anterior application to the doctrine of the immortality 
of the soul. As I explained in the preceding chapter, 
the Sacrament of the Eucharist is simply the reflection 
of the belief in immortality ; it is, for the believer, the 
proof, by a mystical experience, that the soul is immortal 
and will enjoy God eternally. And the concept of sub 
stance was born, above all and before all, of the concept 
of the substantiality of the soul, and the latter was 
affirmed in order to confirm faith in the persistence of 
the soul after its separation from the body. Such was at 
the same time its first pragmatic application and its 



v THE RATIONALIST DISSOLUTION 83 

origin. And subsequently we have transferred this con 
cept to external things. It is because I feel myself to be 
substance that is to say, permanent in the midst of my 
changes that I attribute substantiality to those agents 
exterior to me, which are also permanent in the midst of 
their changes just as the concept of force is born of my 
sensation of personal effort in putting a thing in motion. 

Read carefully in the first part of the Summa Theo- 
logica of St. Thomas Aquinas the first six articles of 
question Ixxv., which discuss whether the human soul is 
body, whether it is something self-subsistent, whether 
such also is the soul of the lower animals, whether the soul 
is the man, whether the soul is composed of matter and 
form, and whether it is incorruptible, and then say if all 
this is not subtly intended to support the belief that this 
incorruptible substantiality of the soul renders it capable 
of receiving from God immortality, for it is clear that as 
He created it when He implanted it in the body, as St. 
Thomas says, so at its separation from the body He could 
annihilate it. And as the criticism of these proofs has 
been undertaken a hundred times, it is unnecessary to 
repeat it here. 

Is it possible for the unforewarned reason to conclude 
that our soul is a substance from the fact that our con 
sciousness of our identity and this within very narrow 
and variable limits persists through all the changes of 
our body ? We might as well say of a ship that put out 
to sea and lost first one piece of timber, which was re 
placed by another of the same shape and dimensions, then 
lost another, and so on with all her timbers, and finally 
returned to port the same ship, with the same build, the 
same sea-going qualities, recognizable by everybody as 
the same we might as well say of such a ship that it 
had a substantial soul. Is it possible for the unfore 
warned reason to infer the simplicity of the soul from the 
fact that we have to judge and unify our thoughts ? 
Thought is not one but complex, and for the reason the 



84 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE v 

soul is nothing but the succession of co-ordinated states 
of consciousness. 

In books of psychology written from the spiritualist 
point of view, it is customary to begin the discussion of 
the existence of the soul as a simple substance, separable 
from the body, after this style : There is in me a prin 
ciple which thinks, wills, and feels. . . . Now this implies 
a begging of the question. For it is far from being an 
immediate truth that there is in me such a principle ; the 
immediate truth is that I think, will, and feel. And I 
the I that thinks, wills, and feels am immediately my 
living body with the states of consciousness which it 
sustains. It is my living body that thinks, wills, and 
feels. How? How you please. 

And they proceed to seek to establish the substantiality 
of the soul, hypostatizing the states of consciousness, and 
they begin by saying that this substance must be simple 
that is, by opposing thought to extension, after the 
manner of the Cartesian dualism. And as Balmes was 
one of the spiritualist writers who have given the clearest 
and most concise form to the argument, I will present it 
as he expounds it in the second chapter of his Curso de 
Filosofia Elemental. "The human soul is simple," he 
says, and adds : " Simplicity consists in the absence of 
parts, and the soul has none. Let us suppose that it has 
three parts A, B, C. I ask, Where, then, does thought 
reside? If in A only, then B and C are superfluous; 
and consequently the simple subject A will be the soul. 
If thought resides in A, B, and C, it follows that thought 
is divided into parts, which is absurd. What sort of a 
thing is a perception, a comparison, a judgement, a 
ratiocination, distributed among three subjects?" A 
more obvious begging of the question cannot be con 
ceived. Balmes begins by taking it for granted that the 
whole, as a whole, is incapable of making a judgement. 
He continues : * The unity of consciousness is opposed 
to the division of the soul. When we think, there is a 



v THE RATIONALIST DISSOLUTION 85 

subject which knows everything that it thinks, and this 
is impossible if parts be attributed to it. Of the thought 
that is in A, B and C will know nothing, and so in the 
other cases respectively. There will not, therefore, be 
one consciousness of the whole thought : each part will 
have its special consciousness, and there will be within 
us as many thinking beings as there are parts." The 
begging of the question continues ; it is assumed without 
any proof that a whole, as a whole, cannot perceive as 
a unit. Balmes then proceeds to ask if these parts A, 
B, and C are simple or compound, and repeats his argu 
ment until he arrives at the conclusion that the thinking 
subject must be a part which is not a whole that is, 
simple. The argument is based, as will be seen, upon 
the unity of apperception and of judgement. Subse 
quently he endeavours to refute the hypothesis of a com 
munication of the parts among themselves. 

Balmes and with him the a priori spiritualists who 
seek to rationalize faith in the immortality of the soul 
ignore the only rational explanation, which is that apper 
ception and judgement are a resultant, that perceptions 
or ideas themselves are components which agree. They 
begin by supposing something external to and distinct 
from the states of consciousness, something that is not 
the living body which supports these states, something 
that is not I but is within me. 

The soul is simple, others say, because it reflects upon 
itself as a complete whole. No ; the state of conscious 
ness A, in which I think of my previous state of con 
sciousness B, is not the same as its predecessor. Or if 
I think of my soul, I think of an idea distinct from the 
act by which I think of it. To think that one thinks and 
nothing more, is not to think. 

The soul is the principle of life, it is said. Yes; and 
similarly the category of force or energy has been con 
ceived as the principle of movement. But these are 
concepts, not phenomena, not external realities. Does 



86 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE v 

the principle of movement move ? And only that which 
moves has external reality. Does the principle of life 
live? Hume was right when he said that he never 
encountered this idea of himself that he only observed 
himself desiring or performing or feeling something. 1 
The idea of some individual thing of this inkstand in 
front of me, of that horse standing at my gate, of these 
two and not of any other individuals of the same class- 
is the fact, the phenomenon itself. The idea of myself 
is myself. 

All the efforts to substantivate consciousness, making 
it independent of extension remember that Descartes 
opposed thought to extension are but sophistical 
subtilties intended to establish the rationality of faith 
in the immortality of the soul. It is sought to give the 
value of objective reality to that which does not possess 
it to that whose reality exists only in thought. And 
the immortality that we crave is a phenomenal immor 
tality it is the continuation of this present life. 

The unity of consciousness is for scientific psychology 
the only rational psychology simply a phenomenal 
unity. No one can say what a substantial unity is. 
And, what is more, no one can say what a substance is. 
For the notion of substance is a non-phenomenal cate 
gory. It is a noumenon and belongs properly to the 
unknowable that is to say, according to the sense in 
which it is understood. But in its transcendental sense 
it is something really unknowable and strictly irrational. 
It is precisely this concept of substance that an unfore- 
warned mind reduces to a use that is very far from that 
pragmatic application to which William James referred. 

And this application is not saved by understanding it 
in an idealistic sense, according to the Berkeleyan prin 
ciple that to be is to be perceived (esse est percipi). To 

1 Treatise of Human Nature, book i., part iv. , sect. vi. , "Of Personal 
Identity" : " I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and 
never can observe anything but the perception." 



v THE RATIONALIST DISSOLUTION 87 

say that everything is idea or that everything is spirit, 
is the same as saying that everything is matter or that 
everything is energy, for if everything is idea or every 
thing spirit, and if, therefore, this diamond is idea or 
spirit, just as my consciousness is, it is not plain why the 
diamond should not endure for ever, if my consciousness, 
because it is idea or spirit, endures for ever. 

George Berkeley, Anglican Bishop of Cloyne and 
brother in spirit to the Anglican bishop Joseph Butler, 
was equally as anxious to save the belief in the immor 
tality of the soul. In the first words of the Preface to his 
Treatise concerning the Principles of Hitman Know 
ledge, he tells us that he considers that this treatise will 
be useful, "particularly to those who are tainted with 
scepticism, or want a demonstration of the existence and 
immateriality of God, or the natural immortality of the 
soul." In paragraph cxl. he lays it down that we have 
an idea, or rather a notion, of spirit, and that we know 
other spirits by means of our own, from which follows 
so in the next paragraph he roundly affirms the natural 
immortality of the soul. And here he enters upon a 
series of confusions arising from the ambiguity with 
which he invests the term notion. And after having 
established the immortality of the soul, almost as it were 
per saltum, on the ground that the soul is not passive like 
the body, he proceeds to tell us in paragraph cxlvii. that 
the existence of God is more evident than that of man. 
And yet, in spite of this, there are still some who are 
doubtful ! 

The question was complicated by making conscious 
ness a property of the soul, consciousness being some 
thing more than soul that is to say, a substantial form 
of the body, the originator of all the organic functions of 
the body. The soul not only thinks, feels, and wills, 
but moves the body and prompts its vital functions ; in the 
human soul are united the vegetative, animal, and rational 
functions. Such is the theory. But the soul separated 



88 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE v 

from the body can have neither vegetative nor animal 
functions. 

A theory, in short, which for the reason is a veritable 
contexture of confusions. 

After the Renaissance and the restoration of purely 
rational thought, emancipated from all theology, the 
doctrine of the mortality of the soul was re-established 
by the newly published writings of the second-century 
philosopher Alexander of Aphrodisias and by Pietro 
Pomponazzi and others. And in point of fact, little or 
nothing can be added to what Pomponazzi has written 
in his Tractatus de immortalitate animce. It is reason 
itself, and it serves nothing to reiterate his arguments. 

Attempts have not been wanting, however, to find an 
empirical support for belief in the immortality of the soul, 
and among these may be counted the work of Frederic 
W. H. Myers on Human Personality and its Survival 
of Bodily Death. No one ever approached more eagerly 
than myself the two thick volumes of this work in which 
the leading spirit of the Society for Psychical Research 
resumed that formidable mass of data relating to pre 
sentiments, apparitions of the dead, the phenomena of 
dreams, telepathy, hypnotism, sensorial automatism, 
ecstasy, and all the rest that goes to furnish the spiri 
tualist arsenal. I entered upon the reading of it not only 
without that temper of cautious suspicion which men of 
science maintain in investigations of this character, but 
even with a predisposition in its favour, as one who comes 
to seek the confirmation of his innermost longings ; but 
for this reason was my disillusion all the greater. In 
spite of its critical apparatus it does not differ in any 
respect from medieval miracle-mongering. There is a 
fundamental defect of method, of logic. 

And if the belief in the immortality of the soul has 
been unable to find vindication in rational empiricism, 
neither is it satisfied with pantheism. To say that every 
thing is God, and that when we die we return to God, 



v THE RATIONALIST DISSOLUTION 89 

or, more accurately, continue in Him, avails our longing 
nothing ; for if this indeed be so, then we were in God 
before we were born, and if when we die we return to 
where we were before being born, then the human soul, 
the individual consciousness, is perishable. And since 
we know very well that God, the personal and conscious 
God of Christian monotheism, is simply the provider, 
and above all the guarantor, of our immortality, pan 
theism is said, and rightly said, to be merely atheism 
disguised; and, in my opinion, undisguised. And they 
were right in calling Spinoza an atheist, for his is the 
most logical, the most rational, system of pantheism. 

Neither is the longing for immortality saved, but rather 
dissolved and submerged, by agnosticism, or the doctrine 
of the unknowable, which, when it has professed to wish 
to leave religious feelings scathless, has always been 
inspired by the most refined hypocrisy. The whole of 
the first part of Spencer s First Principles, and especially 
the fifth chapter entitled " Reconciliation " that between 
reason and faith or science and religion being understood 
is a model at the same time of philosophical super 
ficiality and religious insincerity, of the most refined 
British cant. The unknowable, if it is something more 
than the merely hitherto unknown, is but a purely nega 
tive concept, a concept of limitation. And upon this 
foundation no human feeling can be built up. 

The science of religion, on the other hand, of religion 
considered as an individual and social psychic pheno 
menon irrespective of the transcendental objective validity 
of religious affirmations, is a science which, in explain 
ing the origin of the belief that the soul is something 
that can live disjoined from the body, has destroyed the 
rationality of this belief. However much the religious 
man may repeat with Schleiermacher, " Science can 
teach thee nothing; it is for science to learn from thee," 
inwardly he thinks otherwise. 

From whatever side the matter is regarded, it is always 



go THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE v 

found that reason confronts our longing for personal 
immortality and contradicts it. And the truth is, in all 
strictness, that reason is the enemy of life. 

A terrible thing is intelligence. It tends to death as 
memory tends to stability. The living, the absolutely 
unstable, the absolutely individual, is, strictly, unintelli 
gible. Logic tends to reduce everything to identities and 
genera, to each representation having no more than one 
single and self-same content in whatever place, time, or 
relation it may occur to us. And there is nothing that 
remains the same for two successive moments of its 
existence. My idea of God is different each time that I 
conceive it. Identity, which is death, is the goal of the 
intellect. The mind seeks what is dead, for what is 
living escapes it ; it seeks to congeal the flowing stream in 
blocks of ice; it seeks to arrest it. In order to analyze a 
body it is necessary to extenuate or destroy it. In order 
to understand anything it is necessary to kill it, to lay it 
out rigid in the mind. Science is a cemetery of dead 
ideas, even though life may issue from them. Worms 
also feed upon corpses. My own thoughts, tumultuous 
and agitated in the innermost recesses of my soul, once 
they are torn from their roots in the heart, poured out 
on to this paper and there fixed in unalterable shape, are 
already only the corpses of thoughts. How, then, shall 
reason open its portals to the revelation of life ? It is a 
tragic combat it is the very essence of tragedy this 
combat of life with reason. And truth ? Is truth some 
thing that is lived or that is comprehended ? 

It is only necessary to read the terrible Parmenides of 
Plato to arrive at his tragic conclusion that ** the one is 
and is not, and both itself and others, in relation to them 
selves and one another, are and are not, and appear to 
be and appear not to be." All that is vital is irrational, 
and all that is rational is anti-vital, for reason is essen 
tially sceptical. 

The rational, in effect, is simply the relational ; reason 



v THE RATIONALIST DISSOLUTION 91 

is limited to relating irrational elements. Mathematics 
is the only perfect science, inasmuch as it adds, subtracts, 
multiplies, and divides numbers, but not real and sub 
stantial things, inasmuch as it is the most formal of the 
sciences. Who can extract the cube root of an ash-tree? 

Nevertheless we need logic, this terrible power, in 
order to communicate thoughts and perceptions and even 
in order to think and perceive, for we think with words, 
we perceive with forms. To think is to converse with 
oneself ; and speech is social, and social are thought and 
logic. But may they not perhaps possess a content, an 
individual matter, incommunicable and untranslatable ? 
And may not this be the source of their power ? 

The truth is that man, the prisoner of logic, without 
which he cannot think, has always sought to make logic 
subservient to his desires, and principally to his funda 
mental desire. He has always sought to hold fast to 
logic, and especially in the Middle Ages, in the interests 
of theology and jurisprudence, both of which based them 
selves on what was established by authority. It was not 
until very much later that logic propounded the problem 
of knowledge, the problem of its own validity, the 
scrutiny of the metalogical foundations. 

"The Western theology," Dean Stanley wrote, "is 
essentially logical in form and based on law. The 
Eastern theology is rhetorical in form and based on 
philosophy. The Latin divine succeeded to the Roman 
advocate. The Oriental divine succeeded to the Grecian 
sophist." 1 

And all the laboured arguments in support of our 
hunger of immortality, which pretend to be grounded on 
reason or logic, are merely advocacy and sophistry. 

The property and characteristic of advocacy is, in 
effect, to make use of logic in the interests of a thesis that 
is to be defended, while, on the other hand, the strictly 

1 Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, Lectures on the History of the Eastern Churchy 
lecture i., sect. iii. 



92 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE v 

scientific method proceeds from the facts, the data, pre 
sented to us by reality, in order that it may arrive, or not 
arrive, as the case may be, at a certain conclusion. What 
is important is to define the problem clearly, whence it 
follows that progress consists not seldom in undoing 
what has been done. Advocacy always supposes a 
petitio principii, and its arguments are ad probandum. 
And theology that pretends to be rational is nothing but 
advocacy. 

Theology proceeds from dogma, and dogma, 807^0., in 
its primitive and most direct sense, signifies a decree, 
something akin to the Latin placitum, that which has 
seemed to the legislative authority fitting to be law. This 
juridical concept is the starting-point of theology. For 
the theologian, as for the advocate, dogma, law, is some 
thing given a starting-point which admits of discussion 
only in respect of its application and its most exact 
interpretation. Hence it follows that the theological or 
advocatory spirit is in its principle dogmatical, while the 
strictly scientific and purely rational spirit is sceptical, 
o-KeTTTifcos that is, investigative. It is so at least in its 
principle, for there is the other sense of the term scep 
ticism, that which is most usual to-day, that of a system 
of doubt, suspicion, and uncertainty, and this has arisen 
from the theological or advocatory use of reason, from 
the abuse of dogmatism. The endeavour to apply the 
law of authority, the placitum, the dogma, to different 
and sometimes contraposed practical necessities, is what 
has engendered the scepticism of doubt. It is advocacy, 
or what amounts to the same thing, theology, that 
teaches the distrust of reason not true science, not the 
science of investigation, sceptical in the primitive and 
direct meaning of the word, which hastens towards no 
predetermined solution nor proceeds save by the testing 
of hypotheses. 

Take the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas, the 
classical monument of the theology that is, of the 



v THE RATIONALIST DISSOLUTION 93 

advocacy of Catholicism, and open it where you please. 
First comes the thesis utrum . . . whether such a thing 
be thus or otherwise ; then the objections ad primum sic 
proceditur ; next the answers to these objections sed 
contra est . . . or respondeo dicendum. . . . Pure 
advocacy ! And underlying many, perhaps most, of its 
arguments you will find a logical fallacy which may be 
expressed more scholastico by this syllogism : I do not 
understand this fact save by giving it this explanation ; 
it is thus that I must understand it, therefore this must 
be its explanation. The alternative being that I am left 
without any understanding of it at all. True science 
teaches, above all, to doubt and to be ignorant ; advocacy 
neither doubts nor believes that it does not know. It 
requires a solution. 

To the mentality that assumes, more or less con 
sciously, that we must of necessity find a solution to 
every problem, belongs the argument based on the 
disastrous consequences of a thing. Take any book of 
apologetics that is to say, of theological advocacy and 
you will see how many times you will meet with this 
phrase " the disastrous consequences of this doctrine." 
Now the disastrous consequences of a doctrine prove at 
most that the doctrine is disastrous, but not that it is 
false, for there is no proof that the true is necessarily that 
which suits us best. The identification of the true and 
the good is but a pious wish. In his Etudes sur Blaise 
Pascal , A. Vinet says : "Of the two needs that unceas 
ingly belabour human nature, that of happiness is not 
only the more universally felt and the more constantly 
experienced, but it is also the more imperious. And this 
need is not only of the senses ; it is intellectual. It is not 
only for the soul; it is for the mind that happiness is a 
necessity. Happiness forms a part of truth." This last 
proposition le bonheur fait partie de la verite" is a 
proposition of pure advocacy, but not of science or of 
pure reason. It would be better to say that truth forms 



94 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE v 

a part of happiness in a Tertullianesque sense, in the 
sense of credo quia absurdum, which means actually 
credo quia consolans I believe because it is a thing con 
soling to me. 

No, for reason, truth is that of which it can be proved 
that it is, that it exists, whether it console us or not. And 
reason is certainly not a consoling faculty. That terrible 
Latin poet Lucretius, whose apparent serenity and 
Epicurean ataraxia conceal so much despair, said that 
piety consists in the power to contemplate all things with 
a serene soul pacata posse mente omnia tueri. And it 
was the same Lucretius who wrote that religion can per 
suade us into so great evils tantum religio potuit 
suadere malorum. And it is true that religion above 
all the Christian religion has been, as the Apostle says, 
to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the intellectuals 
foolishness. 1 The Christian religion, the religion of the 
immortality of the soul, was called by Tacitus a per 
nicious superstition (exitialis superstitio), and he asserted 
that it involved a hatred of mankind (odium generis 
humani) . 

Speaking of the age in which these men lived, the 
most genuinely rationalistic age in the world s history, 
Flaubert, writing to Madame Roger des Genettes, 
uttered these pregnant words : " You are right ; we must 
speak with respect of Lucretius ; I see no one who can 
compare with him except Byron, and Byron has not his 
gravity nor the sincerity of his sadness. The melancholy 
of the ancients seems to me more profound than that of 
the moderns, who all more or less presuppose an immor 
tality on the yonder side of the black hole. But for the 
ancients this black hole was the infinite itself ; the pro 
cession of their dreams is imaged against a background 
of immutable ebony. The gods being no more and 
Christ being* not yet, there was between Cicero and Marcus 
Aurelius a unique moment in which man stood alone. 

1 i Cor. i. 23. 



v THE RATIONALIST DISSOLUTION 95 

Nowhere else do I find this grandeur ; but what renders 
Lucretius intolerable is his physics, which he gives as if 
positive. If he is weak, it is because he did not doubt 
enough ; he wished to explain, to arrive at a conclusion I" 1 

Yes, Lucretius wished to arrive at a conclusion, a 
solution, and, what is worse, he wished to find consola 
tion in reason. For there is also an anti-theological 
advocacy, and an odium anti-theologicum. 

Many, very many, men of science, the majority of those 
who call themselves rationalists, are afflicted by it. 

The rationalist acts rationally that is to say, he does 
not speak out of his part so long as he confines himself 
to denying that reason satisfies our vital hunger for im 
mortality ; but, furious at not being able to believe, he 
soon becomes a prey to the vindictiveness of the odium 
anti-theologicum, and exclaims with the Pharisees : This 
people who knoweth not the law are cursed." There is 
much truth in these words of Soloviev : * I have a forebod 
ing of the near approach of a time when Christians will 
gather together again in the Catacombs, because of the 
persecution of the faith a persecution less brutal, per 
haps, than that of Nero s day, but not less refined in its 
severity, consummated by mendacity, derision, and all 
the hypocrisies." 

The anti-theological hate, the scientificist I do not say 
scientific fury, is manifest. Consider, not the more 
detached scientific investigators, those who know how to 
doubt, but the fanatics of rationalism, and observe with 
what gross brutality they speak of faith. Vogt con 
sidered it probable that the cranial structure of the 
Apostles was of a pronounced simian character ; of the 
indecencies of Haeckel, that supreme incomprehender, 
there is no need to speak, nor yet of those of Buchner ; 
even Virchow is not free from them. And others work 
with more subtilty. There are people who seem not to 

1 Gustave Flaubert, Correspondence, troisieme serie (1854-1869). Paris, 



96 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE v 

be content with not believing that there is another life, 
or rather, with believing that there is none, but who are 
vexed and hurt that others should believe in it or even 
should wish that it might exist. And this attitude is as 
contemptible as that is worthy of respect which charac 
terizes those who, though urged by the need they have of 
it to believe in another life, are unable to believe. But 
of this most noble attitude of the spirit, the most pro 
found, the most human, and the most fruitful, the attitude 
of despair, we will speak later on. 

And the rationalists who do not succumb to the anti- 
theological fury are bent on convincing men that there 
are motives for living and consolations for having been 
born, even though there shall come a time, at the end of 
some tens or hundreds or millions of centuries, when all 
human consciousness shall have ceased to exist. And 
these motives for living and working, this thing which 
some call humanism, are the amazing products of the 
affective and emotional hollowness of rationalism and of 
its stupendous hypocrisy a hypocrisy bent on sacrificing 
sincerity to veracity, and sworn not to confess that reason 
is a dissolvent and disconsolatory power. 

Must I repeat again what I have already said about all 
this business of manufacturing culture, of progressing, 
of realizing good, truth, and beauty, of establishing 
justice on earth, of ameliorating life for those who shall 
come after us, of subserving I know not what destiny, 
and all this without our taking thought for the ultimate 
end of each one of us ? Must I again declare to you the 
supreme vacuity of culture, of science, of art, of good, of 
truth, of beauty, of justice ... of all these beautiful con 
ceptions, if at the last, in four days or in four millions of 
centuries it matters not which no human conscious 
ness shall exist to appropriate this civilization, this 
science, art, good, truth, beauty, justice, and all the rest ? 

Many and very various have been the rationalist 
devices more or less rational by means of which from 



v THE RATIONALIST DISSOLUTION 97 

the days of the Epicureans and the Stoics it has been 
sought to discover rational consolation in truth and to 
convince men, although those who sought so to do 
remained themselves unconvinced, that there are motives 
for working and lures for living, even though the human 
consciousness be destined some day to disappear. 

The Epicurean attitude, the extreme and grossest ex 
pression of which is " Let us eat and drink, for to 
morrow we die," or the Horatian carpe diem, which may 
be rendered by " Live for the day," does not differ in its 
essence from the Stoic attitude with its " Accomplish 
what the moral conscience dictates to thee, and afterward 
let it be as it may be." Both attitudes have a common 
base ; and pleasure for pleasure s sake comes to the same 
as duty for duty s sake. 

Spinoza, the most logical and consistent of atheists 
I mean of those who deny the persistence of individual 
consciousness through indefinite future time and at the 
same time the most pious, Spinoza devoted the fifth and 
last part of his Ethic to elucidating the path that leads to 
liberty and to determining the concept of happiness. 
The concept ! Concept, not feeling ! For Spinoza, who 
was a terrible intellectualist, happiness (beatitudo) is a 
concept, and the love of God an intellectual love. After 
establishing in proposition xxi. of the fifth part that 
" the mind can imagine nothing, neither can it remember 
anything that is past, save during the continuance of the 
body " which is equivalent to denying the immortality 
of the soul, since a soul which, disjoined from the body 
in which it lived, does not remember its past, is neither 
immortal nor is it a soul he goes on to affirm in proposi 
tion xxiii. that "the human mind cannot be absolutely 
destroyed with the body, but there remains of it some 
thing which is eternal," and this eternity of the mind is 
a certain mode of thinking. But do not let yourselves 
be deceived ; there is no such eternity of the individual 
mind. Everything is sub ceternitatis specie that is to 

7 



98 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE v 

say, pure illusion. Nothing could be more dreary, 
nothing more desolating, nothing more anti-vital than 
this happiness, this beatitudo, of Spinoza, that consists 
in the intellectual love of the mind towards God, which 
is nothing else but the very love with which God loves 
Himself (prop, xxxvi.). Our happiness that is to say, 
our liberty consists in the constant and eternal love of 
God towards men. So affirms the corollary to this 
thirty-sixth proposition. And all this in order to arrive 
at the conclusion, which is the final and crowning propo 
sition of the whole Ethic, that happiness is not the reward 
of virtue, but virtue itself. The everlasting refrain ! Or, 
to put it plainly, we proceed from God and to God we 
return, which, translated into concrete language, the 
language of life and feeling, means that my personal con 
sciousness sprang from nothingness, from my uncon 
sciousness, and to nothingness it will return. 

And this most dreary and desolating voice of Spinoza 
is the very voice of reason. And the liberty of which he 
tells us is a terrible liberty. And against Spinoza and 
his doctrine of happiness there is only one irresistible 
argument, the argument ad hominem. Was he happy, 
Benedict Spinoza, while, to alla,y his inner unhappiness, 
he was discoursing of happiness ? Was he free? 

In the corollary to proposition xli . of this same final and 
most tragic part of that tremendous tragedy of his Ethic, 
the poor desperate Jew of Amsterdam discourses of the 
common persuasion of the vulgar of the truth of eternal 
life. Let us hear what he says : " It would appear that 
they esteem piety and religion and, indeed, all that is re 
ferred to fortitude or strength of mind as burdens which 
they expect to lay down after death, when they hope to 
receive a reward for their servitude, not for their piety 
and religion in this life. Nor is it even this hope alone 
that leads them; the fear of frightful punishments with 
which they are menaced after death also influences them 
to live in so far as their impotence and poverty of spirit 



v THE RATIONALIST DISSOLUTION 99 

permits in conformity with the prescription of the 
Divine law. And were not this hope and this fear infused 
into the minds of men but, on the contrary, did they 
believe that the soul perished with the body, and that, 
beyond the grave, there was no other life prepared for the 
wretched who had borne the burden of piety in this they 
would return to their natural inclinations, preferring to 
accommodate everything to their own liking, and would 
follow fortune rather than reason. But all this appears 
no less absurd than it would be to suppose that a man, 
because he did not believe that he could nourish his body 
eternally with wholesome food, would saturate himself 
with deadly poisons ; or than if because believing that his 
soul was not eternal and immortal, he should therefore 
prefer to be without a soul (amens) and to live without 
reason ; all of which is so absurd as to be scarcely worth 
refuting (quce adeo absurda sunt, ut vix recenseri 
mereantur)." 

When a thing is said to be not worth refuting you may 
be sure that either it is flagrantly stupid in which case 
all comment is superfluous or it is something formid 
able, the very crux of the problem. And this it is in this 
case. Yes ! poor Portuguese Jew exiled in Holland, 
yes ! that he who is convinced without a vestige of doubt, 
without the faintest hope of any saving uncertainty, that 
his soul is not immortal, should prefer to be without a 
soul (amens), or irrational, or idiot, that he should prefer 
not to have been born, is a supposition that has nothing, 
absolutely nothing, absurd in it. Was he happy, the 
poor Jewish intellectualist definer of intellectual love and 
of happiness? For that and no other is the problem. 
" What does it profit thee to know the definition of com 
punction if thou dost not feel it?" says a Kempis. 
And what profits it to discuss or to define happiness if 
you cannot thereby achieve happiness ? Not inapposite 
in this connection is that terrible story that Diderot tells 
of a eunuch who desired to take lessons in esthetics from 



ioo THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE v 

a native of Marseilles in order that he might be better 
qualified to select the slaves destined for the harem of 
the Sultan, his master. At the end of the first lesson, a 
physiological lesson, brutally and carnally physiological, 
the eunuch exclaimed bitterly, " It is evident that I shall 
never know esthetics!" Even so, and just as eunuchs 
will never know esthetics as applied to the selection of 
beautiful women, so neither will pure rationalists ever 
know ethics, nor will they ever succeed in defining happi 
ness, for happiness is a thing that is lived and felt, not a 
thing that is reasoned about or defined. 

And you have another rationalist, one not sad or sub 
missive, like Spinoza, but rebellious, and though con 
cealing a despair not less bitter, making a hypocritical 
pretence of light-heartedness, you have Nietzsche, who 
discovered mathematically (!!!) that counterfeit of the 
immortality of the soul which is called " eternal recur 
rence," and which is in fact the most stupendous tragi 
comedy or comi-tragedy. The number of atoms or 
irreducible primary elements being finite and the universe 
eternal, a combination identical with that which at present 
exists must at some future time be reproduced, and there 
fore that which now is must be repeated an infinite num 
ber of times. This is evident, and just as I shall live 
again the life that I am now living, so I have already 
lived it before an infinite number of times, for there is an 
eternity that stretches into the past a parte ante just 
as there will be one stretching into the future a parte 
post. But, unfortunately, it happens that I remember 
none of my previous existences, and perhaps it is impos 
sible that I should remember them, for two things abso 
lutely and completely identical are but one. Instead of 
supposing that we live in a finite universe, composed of a 
finite number of irreducible primary elements, suppose 
that we live in an infinite universe, without limits in 
space which concrete infinity is not less inconceivable 
than the concrete eternity in time then it will follow that 



v THE RATIONALIST DISSOLUTION 101 

this system of ours, that of the Milky Way, is repeated an 
infinite number of times in the infinite of space, and that 
therefore I am now living an infinite number of lives, all 
exactly identical. A jest, as you see, but one not less 
comic that is to say, not less tragic than that of 
Nietzsche, that of the laughing lion. And why does the 
lion laugh ? I think he laughs with rage, because he can 
never succeed in finding consolation in the thought that 
he has been the same lion before and is destined to be 
the same lion again. 

But if Spinoza and Nietzsche were indeed both 
rationalists, each after his own manner, they were not 
spiritual eunuchs ; they had heart, feeling, and, above all, 
hunger, a mad hunger for eternity, for immortality. The 
physical eunuch does not feel the need of reproducing 
himself carnally, in the body, and neither does the 
spiritual eunuch feel the hunger for self-perpetuation. 

Certain it is that there are some who assert that reason 
suffices them, and they counsel us to desist from seeking 
to penetrate into the impenetrable. But of those who say 
that they have no need of any faith in an eternal personal 
life to furnish them with incentives to living and motives 
for action, I know not well how to think. A man blind 
from birth may also assure us that he feels no great 
longing to enjoy the world of sight nor suffers any great 
anguish from not having enjoyed it, and we must needs 
believe him, for what is wholly unknown cannot be the 
object of desire nihil volitum quin prczcognitum, there 
can be no volition save of things already known. But I 
cannot be persuaded that he who has once in his life, 
either in his youth or for some other brief space of time, 
cherished the belief in the immortality of the soul, will 
ever find peace without it. And of this sort of blindness 
from birth there are but few instances among us, and then 
only by a kind of strange aberration . For the merely and 
exclusively rational man is an aberration and nothing but 
an aberration. 



102 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE v 

More sincere, much more sincere, are those who say : 
We must not talk about it, for in talking about it we 
only waste our time and weaken our will ; let us do our 
duty here and hereafter let come what may." But this 
sincerity hides a yet deeper insincerity. May it perhaps 
be that by saying "We must not talk about it," they 
succeed in not thinking about it ? Our will is weakened ? 
And what then ? We lose the capacity for human 
action ? And what then ? It is very convenient to tell 
a man whom a fatal disease condemns to an early death, 
and who knows it, not to think about it. 

Meglio oprando obliar, senzd indagarlo, 
Questo enorme mister del universo ! 

" Better to work and to forget and not to probe into 
this vast mystery of the universe !" Carducci wrote in his 
Idilio Maremmano, the same Carducci who at the close 
of his ode Sul Monte Mario tells us how the earth, the 
mother of the fugitive soul, must roll its burden of glory 
and sorrow round the sun " until, worn out beneath the 
equator, mocked by the last flames of dying heat, the 
exhausted human race is reduced to a single man and 
woman, who, standing in the midst of dead woods, sur 
rounded by sheer mountains, livid, with glassy eyes 
watch thee, O sun, set across the immense frozen waste." 

But is it possible for us to give ourselves to any serious 
and lasting work, forgetting the vast mystery of the 
universe and abandoning all attempt to understand it? 
Is it possible to contemplate the vast All with a serene 
soul, in the spirit of the Lucretian piety, if we are con 
scious of the thought that a time must come when this All 
will no longer be reflected in any human consciousness? 

Cain, in Byron s poem, asks of Lucifer, the prince of 
the intellectuals, "Are ye happy?" and Lucifer replies, 
"We are mighty." Cain questions again, "Are ye 
happy?" and then the great Intellectual says to him: 
"No; art thou ?" And further on, this same Lucifer 
says to Adah, the sister and wife of Cain: "Choose 



v THE RATIONALIST DISSOLUTION 103 

betwixt love and knowledge since there is no other 
choice." And in the same stupendous poem, when Cain 
says that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was 
a lying tree, for " we know nothing; at least it promised 
knowledge at the price of death," Lucifer answers him : 
" It may be death leads to the highest knowledge " that 
is to say, to nothingness. 

To this word knowledge which Lord Byron uses in the 
above quotations, the Spanish ciencia, the French 
science, the German Wissenschaft, is often opposed 
the word wisdom, sabiduria, sagesse, Weisheit. 

Knowledge comes, but Wisdom lingers, and he bears a laden breast, 
Full of sad experience, moving toward the stillness of his rest, 

says another lord, Tennyson, in his Locksley Hall. And 
what is this wisdom which we have to seek chiefly in the 
poets, leaving knowledge on one side? It is well 
enough to say with Matthew Arnold in his Introduction 
to Wordsworth s poems, that poetry is reality and 
philosophy illusion ; but reason is always reason and 
reality is always reality, that which can be proved to 
exist externally to us, whether we find in it consolation 
or despair. 

I do not know why so many people were scandalized, 
or pretended to be scandalized, when Brunetiere pro 
claimed again the bankruptcy of science. For science 
as a substitute for religion and reason as a substitute 
for faith have always fallen to pieces. Science will be 
able to satisfy, and in fact does satisfy in an increasing 
measure, our increasing logical or intellectual needs, 
our desire to know and understand the truth ; but science 
does not satisfy the needs of our heart and our will, and 
far from satisfying our hunger for immortality it contra 
dicts it. Rational truth and life stand in opposition to 
one another. And is it possible that there is any other 
truth than rational truth ? 

It must remain established, therefore, that reason 
human reason within its limits, not only does not prove 



104 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE v 

rationally that the soul is immortal or that the human 
consciousness shall preserve its indestructibility through 
the tracts of time to come, but that it proves rather 
within its limits, I repeat that the individual con 
sciousness cannot persist after the death of the physical 
organism upon which it depends. And these limits, 
within which I say that human reason proves this, are 
the limits of rationality, of what is known by demonstra 
tion. Beyond these limits is the irrational, which, 
whether it be called the super-rational or the infra- 
rational or the contra-rational, is all the same thing. 
Beyond these limits is the absurd of Tertullian, the 
impossible of the cerium est, quia impossibile est. And 
this absurd can only base itself upon the most absolute 
uncertainty. 

The rational dissolution ends in dissolving reason 
itself ; it ends in the most absolute scepticism, in the 
phenomenalism of Hume or in the doctrine of absolute 
contingencies of Stuart Mill, the most consistent and 
logical of the positivists. The supreme triumph of 
reason, the analytical that is, the destructive and dis 
solvent faculty, is to cast doubt upon its own validity. 
The stomach that contains an ulcer ends by digesting 
itself ; and reason ends by destroying the immediate and 
absolute validity of the concept of truth and of the con 
cept of necessity. Both concepts are relative; there is 
no absolute truth, no absolute necessity. We call a 
concept true which agrees with the general system of all 
our concepts ; and we call a perception true which does 
not contradict the system of our perceptions. Truth is 
coherence. But as regards the whole system, the aggre 
gate, as there is nothing outside of it of which we have 
knowledge, we cannot say whether it is true or not. It 
is conceivable that the universe, as it exists in itself, out 
side of our consciousness, may be quite other than it 
appears to us, although this is a supposition that has no 
meaning for reason. And as regards necessity, is there 



v THE RATIONALIST DISSOLUTION 105 

an absolute necessity ? By necessary we mean merely 
that which is, and in so far as it is, for in another more 
transcendental sense, what absolute necessity, logical 
and independent of the fact that the universe exists, is 
there that there should be a universe or anything else 
at all ? 

Absolute relativism, which is neither more nor less 
than scepticism, in the most modern sense of the term, 
is the supreme triumph of the reasoning reason. 

Feeling does not succeed in converting consolation 
into truth, nor does reason succeed in converting truth 
into consolation. But reason going beyond truth itself, 
beyond the concept of reality itself, succeeds in plunging 
itself into the depths of scepticism. And in this abyss 
the scepticism of the reason encounters the despair of 
the heart, and this encounter leads to the discovery of 
a basis a terrible basis ! for consolation to build on. 

Let us examine it. 



VI 
IN THE DEPTHS OF THE ABYSS 

Farce unica; spes tolius orbis. TERTULLIANUS, Adversus Marcionem, 5. 

WE have seen that the vital longing for human immor 
tality finds no consolation in reason and that reason 
leaves us without incentive or consolation in life and life 
itself without real finality. But here, in the depths of 
the abyss, the despair of the heart and of the will and the 
scepticism of reason meet face to face and embrace like 
brothers. And we shall see it is from this embrace, a 
tragic that is to say, an intimately loving embrace, 
that the wellspring of life will flow, a life serious and 
terrible. Scepticism, uncertainty the position to which 
reason, by practising its analysis upon itself, upon its 
own validity, at last arrives is the foundation upon 
which the heart s despair must build up its hope. 

Disillusioned, we had to abandon the position of those 
who seek to give consolation the force of rational and 
logical truth, pretending to prove the rationality, or at 
any rate the non-irrationality, of consolation ; and we had 
to abandon likewise the position of those who seek to 
give rational truth the force of consolation and of a 
motive for life. Neither the one nor the other of these 
positions satisfied us. The one is at variance with our 
reason, the other with our feeling. These two powers 
can never conclude peace and we must needs live by their 
war. We must make of this war, of war itself, the very 
condition of our spiritual life. 

Neither does this high debate admit of that indecent 
and repugnant expedient which the more or less parlia 
mentary type of politician has devised and dubbed " a 
formula of agreement," the property of which is to render 

106 



vi IN THE DEPTHS OF THE ABYSS 107 

it impossible for either side to claim to be victorious. 
There is no place here for a time-serving compromise. 
Perhaps a degenerate and cowardly reason might bring 
itself to propose some such formula of agreement, for in 
truth reason lives by formulas; but life, which cannot 
be formulated, life which lives and seeks to live for ever, 
does not submit to formulas. Its sole formula is : all or 
nothing. Feeling does not compound its differences 
with middle terms. 

Initium sapientice timor Domini, it is said, meaning 
perhaps timor mortis, or it may be, timor vitas, which is 
the same thing. Always it comes about that the begin 
ning of wisdom is a fear. 

Is it true to say of this saving scepticism which I am 
now going to discuss, that it is doubt? It is doubt, yes, 
but it is much more than doubt. Doubt is commonly 
something very cold, of very little vitalizing force, and 
above all something rather artificial, especially since 
Descartes degraded it to the function of a method. The 
conflict between reason and life is something more than 
a doubt. For doubt is easily resolved into a comic 
element. 

The methodical doubt of Descartes is a comic doubt, a 
doubt purely theoretical and provisional that is to say, 
the doubt of a man who acts as if he doubted without 
really doubting. And because it was a stove-excogitated 
doubt, the man who deduced that he existed from the 
fact that he thought did not approve of " those turbulent 
(brouillonnes) and restless persons who, being called 
neither by birth nor by fortune to the management of 
public affairs, are perpetually devising some new reforma 
tion," and he was pained by the suspicion that there might 
be something of this kind in his own writings. No, he, 
Descartes, proposed only to " reform his own thoughts 
and to build upon ground that was wholly his." And he 
resolved not to accept anything as true when he did not 
recognize it clearly to be so, and to make a clean sweep of 



io8 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vi 

all prejudices and received ideas, to the end that he might 
construct his intellectual habitation anew. But "as it is 
not enough, before beginning to rebuild one s dwelling- 
house, to pull it down and to furnish materials and archi 
tects, or to study architecture oneself . . . but it is also 
necessary to be provided with some other wherein to lodge 
conveniently while the work is in progress," he framed for 
himself a provisional ethic une morale de provision 
the first law of which was to observe the customs of his 
country and to keep always to the religion in which, by the 
grace of God, he had been instructed from his infancy, 
governing himself in all things according to the most 
moderate opinions. Yes, exactly, a provisional religion 
and even a provisional God ! And he chose the most 
moderate opinions " because these are always the most 
convenient for practice." But it is best to proceed no 
further. 

This methodical or theoretical Cartesian doubt, this 
philosophical doubt excogitated in a stove, is not the 
doubt, is not the scepticism, is not the incertitude, that I 
am talking about here. No ! This other doubt is a pas 
sionate doubt, it is the eternal conflict between reason and 
feeling, science and life, logic and biotic. For science 
destroys the concept of personality by reducing it to a 
complex in continual flux from moment to moment that 
is to say, it destroys the very foundation of the spiritual 
and emotional life, which ranges itself unyieldingly 
against reason. 

And this doubt cannot avail itself of any provisional 
ethic, but has to found its ethic, as we shall see, on the con 
flict itself, an ethic of battle, and itself has to serve as the 
foundation of religion. And it inhabits a house which is 
continually being demolished and which continually it 
has to rebuild. Without ceasing the will, I mean the will 
never to die, the spirit of unsubmissiveness to death, 
labours to build up the house of life, and without ceasing 
the keen blasts and storm v assaults of reason beat it down. 



vi IN THE DEPTHS OF THE ABYSS 109 

And more than this, in the concrete vital problem that 
concerns us, reason takes up no position whatever. In 
truth, it does something worse than deny the immortality 
of the soul for that at any rate would be one solution it 
refuses even to recognize the problem as our vital desire 
presents it to us. In the rational and logical sense of the 
term problem, there is no such problem. This question 
of the immortality of the soul, of the persistence of the 
individual consciousness, is not rational, it falls outside 
reason. As a problem, and whatever solution it may 
receive, it is irrational. Rationally even the very pro 
pounding of the problem lacks sense. The immortality 
of the soul is as unconceivable as, in all strictness, is its 
absolute mortality. For the purpose of explaining the 
world and existence and such is the task of reason it is 
not necessary that we should suppose that our soul is 
either mortal or immortal. The mere enunciation of the 
problem is, therefore, an irrationality. 

Let us hear what our brother Kierkegaard has to say. 
" The danger of abstract thought is seen precisely in 
respect of the problem of existence, the difficulty of which 
it solves by going round it, afterwards boasting that it 
has completely explained it. It explains immortality in 
general, and it does so in a remarkable way by identifying 
it with eternity with the eternity which is essentially the 
medium of thought. But with the immortality of each 
individually existing man, wherein precisely the difficulty 
lies, abstraction does not concern itself, is not interested 
in it. And yet the difficulty of existence lies just in the 
interest of the existing being the man who exists is 
infinitely interested in existing. Abstract thought 
besteads immortality only in order that it may kill me as 
an individual being with an individual existence, and so 
make me immortal, pretty much in the same way as that 
famous physician in one of Holberg s plays, whose 
medicine, while it took away the patient s fever, took 
away his life at the same time. An abstract thinker, who 



no THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vi 

refuses to disclose and admit the relation that exists 
between his abstract thought and the fact that he is an 
existing being, produces a comic impression upon us, 
however accomplished and distinguished he may be, for 
he runs the risk of ceasing to be a man. While an 
effective man, compounded of infinitude and finitude, 
owes his effectiveness precisely to the conjunction of these 
two elements and is infinitely interested in existing, an 
abstract thinker, similarly compounded, is a double 
being, a fantastical being, who lives in the pure being of 
abstraction, and at times presents the sorry figure of a 
professor who lays aside this abstract essence as he lays 
aside his walking-stick. When one reads the Life of a 
thinker of this kind whose writings may be excellent- 
one trembles at the thought of what it is to be a man. 
And when one reads in his writings that thinking and 
being are the same thing, one thinks, remembering his 
life, that that being, which is identical with thinking, 
is not precisely the same thing as being a man " 
(Afsluttende uvidenskab elig Efterskrift, chap. iii.). 

What intense passion that is to say, what truth there 
is in this bitter invective against Hegel, prototype of the 
rationalist ! for the rationalist takes away our fever by 
taking away our life, and promises us, instead of a con 
crete, an abstract immortality, as if the hunger for 
immortality that consumes us were an abstract and not a 
concrete hunger ! 

It may indeed be said that when once the dog is dead 
there is an end to the rabies, and that after I have died I 
shall no more be tortured by this rage of not dying, and 
that the fear of death, or more properly, of nothingness, 
is an irrational fear, but . . . Yes, but . . . Eppur si 
muove! And it will go on moving. For it is the source 
of all movement ! 

I doubt, however, whether our brother Kierkegaard is 
altogether in the right, for this same abstract thinker, 
or thinker of abstractions, thinks in order that he may 



vi IN THE DEPTHS OF THE ABYSS in 

exist, that he may not cease to exist, or thinks perhaps in 
order to forget that he will have to cease to exist. This 
is the root of the passion for abstract thought. And 
possibly Hegel was as infinitely interested as Kierkegaard 
in his own concrete, individual existence, although the 
professional decorum of the state-philosopher compelled 
him to conceal the fact. 

Faith in immortality is irrational. And, notwithstand 
ing, faith, life, and reason have mutual need of one 
another. This vital longing is not properly a problem, 
cannot assume a logical status, cannot be formulated in 
propositions susceptible of rational discussion ; but it 
announces itself in us as hunger announces itself. 
Neither can the wolf that throws itself with the fury of 
hunger upon its prey or with the fury of instinct upon 
the she-wolf, enunciate its impulse rationally and as a 
logical problem. Reason and faith are two enemies, 
neither of which can maintain itself without the other. 
The irrational demands to be rationalized and reason only 
can operate on the irrational. They are compelled to 
seek mutual support and association. But association in 
struggle, for struggle is a mode of association. 

In the world of living beings the struggle for life 
establishes an association, and a very close one, not only 
between those who unite together in combat against a 
common foe, but between the combatants themselves. 
And is there any possible association more intimate than 
that uniting the animal that eats another and the animal 
that is eaten, between the devourer and the devoured? 
And if this is clearly seen in the struggle between 
individuals, it is still more evident in the struggle between 
peoples. War has always been the most effective factor 
of progress, even more than commerce. It is through 
war that conquerors and conquered learn to know each 
other and in consequence to love each other. 

Christianity, the foolishness of the Cross, the irrational 
faith that Christ rose from the dead in order to raise us 



ii2 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vi 

from the dead, was saved by the rationalistic Hellenic 
culture, and this in its turn was saved by Christianity. 
Without Christianity the Renaissance would have been 
impossible. Without the Gospel, without St. Paul, the 
peoples who had traversed the Middle Ages would have 
understood neither Plato nor Aristotle. A purely 
rationalist tradition is as impossible as a tradition purely 
religious. It is frequently disputed whether the Reforma 
tion was born as the child of the Renaissance or as a pro 
test against it, and both propositions may be said to be 
true, for the son is always born as a protest against the 
father. It is also said that it was the revived Greek 
classics that led men like Erasmus back to St. Paul and to 
primitive Christianity, which is the most irrational form 
of Christianity ; but it may be retorted that it was St. Paul, 
that it was the Christian irrationality underlying his 
Catholic theology, that led them back to the classics. 
" Christianity is what it has come to be," it has been 
said, " only through its alliance with antiquity, while 
with the Copts and Ethiopians it is but a kind of 
buffoonery. Islam developed under the influence of Per 
sian and Greek culture, and under that of the Turks it 
has been transformed into a destructive barbarism." 1 

We have emerged from the Middle Ages, from the 
medieval faith as ardent as it was at heart despairing, and 
not without its inward and abysmal incertitudes, and we 
have entered upon the age of rationalism, likewise not 
without its incertitudes. Faith in reason is exposed to 
the same rational indefensibility as all other faith. And 
we may say with Robert Browning, 

All we have gained, then, by our unbelief 
Is a life of doubt diversified by faith 
For one of faith diversified by doubt. 

( Bishop Blotigram s Apology. ) 



1 See Troeltsch, Systematische christliche Religion**^ Die Kultur der 
Gegenivart series. 



vi IN THE DEPTHS OF THE ABYSS 113 

And if, as I have said, faith, life, can only sustain 
itself by leaning upon reason, which renders it trans 
missible and above all transmissible from myself to 
myself that is to say, reflective and conscious it is none 
the less true that reason in its turn can only sustain itself 
by leaning upon faith, upon life, even if only upon faith 
in reason, faith in its availability for something more 
than mere knowing, faith in its availability for living. 
Nevertheless, neither is faith transmissible or rational, 
nor is reason vital. 

The will and the intelligence have need of one another, 
and the reverse of that old aphorism, nihil volitum quin 
prcecognitum, nothing is willed but what is previously 
known, is not so paradoxical as at first sight it may 
appear nihil cognitum quin prc&volitum, nothing is 
known but what is previously willed. Vinet, in his study 
of Cousin s book on the Pensees of Pascal, says : " The 
very knowledge of the mind as such has need of the heart. 
Without the desire to see there is no seeing ; in a great 
materialization of life and of thought there is no believing 
in the things of the spirit." We shall see presently that 
to believe is, in the first instance, to wish to believe. 

The will and the intelligence seek opposite ends : that 
we may absorb the world into ourselves, appropriate it to 
ourselves, is the aim of the will ; that we may be absorbed 
into the world, that of the intelligence. Opposite ends ? 
are they not rather one and the same ? No, they are 
not, although they may seem to be so. The intelligence 
is monist or pantheist, the will monotheist or egoist. 
The intelligence has no need of anything outside it to 
exercise itself upon ; it builds its foundation with ideas 
themselves, while the will requires matter. To know 
something is to make this something that I know myself ; 
but to avail myself of it, to dominate it, it has to remain 
distinct from myself. 

Philosophy and religion are enemies, and because they 
are enemies they have need of one another. There is no 

8 



H4 TH E TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vi 

religion without some philosophic basis, no philosophy 
without roots in religion. Each lives by its contrary. 
The history of philosophy is, strictly speaking, a history 
of religion. And the attacks which are directed against 
religion from a presumed scientific or philosophical point 
of view are merely attacks from another but opposing reli 
gious point of view. " The opposition which professedly 
exists between natural science and Christianity really 
exists between an impulse derived from natural religion 
blended with the scientific investigation of nature, and 
the validity of the Christian view of the world, 
which assures to spirit its pre-eminence over the entire 
world of nature," says Ritschl (Rechtfertgung und 
Versohnung, iii. chap. iv. 28). Now this instinct is 
the instinct of rationality itself. And the critical 
idealism of Kant is of religious origin, and it is 
in order to save religion that Kant enlarged the limits 
of reason after having in a certain sense dissolved it 
in scepticism. The system of antitheses, contradictions, 
and antinomies, upon which Hegel constructed his abso 
lute idealism, has its root and germ in Kant himself, and 
this root is an irrational root. 

We shall see later on, when we come to deal with faith, 
that faith is in its essence simply a matter of will, not of 
reason, that to believe is to wish to believe, and to believe 
in God is, before all and above all, to wish that there may 
be a God. In the same way, to believe in the immortality 
of the soul is to wish that the soul may be immortal, but 
to wish it with such force that this volition shall trample 
reason under foot and pass beyond it. But reason has 
its revenge. 

The instinct of knowing and the instinct of living, or 
rather of surviving, come into conflict. In his work on 
the Analysis of the Sensations and the Relation of the 
Physical to the Psychical, 1 Dr. E. Mach tells us that not 

1 Die Analyse der Empfindigungen und das Vcrhaltniss des Physischen 
zum Psychischen, i. , 12, note. 



vi IN THE DEPTHS OF THE ABYSS 115 

even the investigator, the savant, der Forscher, is 
exempted from taking his part in the struggle for exist 
ence, that even the roads of science lead mouth-wards, 
and that in the actual conditions of the society in which 
we live the pure instinct of ,knowing, der reine Erkennt- 
nisstrieb, is still no more than an ideal. And so it always 
will be. Primum vivere, delude philosophari, or perhaps 
better, primum supervivere or superesse. 

Every position of permanent agreement or harmony 
between reason and life, between philosophy and religion, 
becomes impossible. And the tragic history of human 
thought is simply the history of a struggle between reason 
and life reason bent on rationalizing life and forcing it 
to submit to the inevitable, to mortality; life bent on 
vitalizing reason and forcing it to serve as a support for 
its own vital desires. And this is the history of 
philosophy, inseparable from the history of religion. 

Our sense of the world of objective reality is necessarily 
subjective, human, anthropomorphic. And vitalism will 
always rise up against rationalism ; reason will always 
find itself confronted by will. Hence the rhythm of the 
history of philosophy and the alternation of periods in 
which life imposes itself, giving birth to spiritual forms, 
with those in which reason imposes itself, giving birth to 
materialist forms, although both of these classes of forms 
of belief may be disguised by other names. Neither 
reason nor life ever acknowledges itself vanquished. But 
we will return to this in the next chapter. 

The vital consequence of rationalism would be suicide. 
Kierkegaard puts it very well : " The consequence for 
existence 1 of pure thought is suicide. . . . We do not 
praise suicide but passion. The thinker, on the contrary, 
is a curious animal for a few spells during the day he is 
very intelligent, but, for the rest, he has nothing in 

1 I have left the original expression here, almost without translating it 
Existents- Consequents. It means the existential or practical, not the purely 
rational or logical, consequence. (Author s note. ) 



n6 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vi 

common with man " (Afsluttende uvidenskabelig Efter- 
skrift, chap Hi., i). 

As the thinker, in spite of all, does not cease to be a 
man, he employs reason in the interests of life, whether 
he knows it or not. Life cheats reason and reason cheats 
life. Scholastic-Aristotelian philosophy fabricated in the 
interest of life a teleologic-evolutionist system, rational in 
appearance, which might serve as a support for our vital 
longing. This philosophy, the basis of the orthodox 
Christian supernaturalism, whether Catholic or Pro 
testant, was, in its essence, merely a trick on the part of 
life to force reason to lend it its support. But reason 
supported it with such pressure that it ended by pul 
verizing it. 

I have read that the ex-Carmelite, Hyacinthe Loyson, 
declared that he could present himself before God with 
tranquillity, for he was at peace with his conscience and 
with his reason. With what conscience? If with his 
religious conscience, then I do not understand. For it 
is a truth that no man can serve two masters, and least of 
all when, though they may sign truces and armistices 
and compromises, these two are enemies because of 
their conflicting interests. 

To all this someone is sure to object that life ought to 
subject itself to reason, to which we will reply that nobody 
ought to do what he is unable to do, and life cannot sub 
ject itself to reason. " Ought, therefore can," some Kan 
tian will retort. To which we shall demur: "Cannot, 
therefore ought not." And life cannot submit itself to 
reason, because the end of life is living and not under 
standing. 

Again, there are those who talk of the religious duty of 
resignation to mortality. This is indeed the very summit 
of aberration and insincerity. But someone is sure to 
oppose the idea of veracity to that of sincerity. Granted, 
and yet the two may very well be reconciled. Veracity, 
the homage I owe to what I believe to be rational, to what 



vi IN THE DEPTHS OF THE ABYSS 117 

logically we call truth, moves me to affirm, in this case, 
that the immortality of the individual soul is a contradic 
tion, in terms, that it is something, not only irrational, 
but contra-rational ; but sincerity leads me to affirm also 
my refusal to resign myself to this previous affirmation 
and my protest against its validity. What I feel is a 
truth, at any rate as much a truth as what I see, touch, 
hear, or what is demonstrated to me nay, I believe it is 
more of a truth and sincerity obliges me not to hide 
what I feel. 

And life, quick to defend itself, searches for the weak 
point in reason and finds it in scepticism, which it 
straightway fastens upon, seeking to save itself by means 
of this stranglehold. It needs the weakness of its 
adversary. 

Nothing is sure. Everything is elusive and in the air. 
In an outburst of passion Lamennais exclaims : " But 
what ! Shall we, losing all hope, shut our eyes and plunge 
into the voiceless depths of a universal scepticism ? Shall 
we doubt that we think, that we feel, that we are ? Nature 
does not allow it ; she forces us to believe even when our 
reason is not convinced. Absolute certainty and absolute 
doubt are both alike forbidden to us. We hover in a 
vague mean between these two extremes, as between being 
and nothingness ; for complete scepticism would be the 
extinction of the intelligence and the total death of man. 
But it is not given to man to annihilate himself ; there is 
in him something which invincibly resists destruction, I 
know not what vital faith, indomitable even by his will. 
Whether he likes it or not, he must believe, because he 
must act, because he must preserve himself. His reason, 
if he listened only to that, teaching him to doubt every 
thing, itself included, would reduce him to a state of 
absolute inaction ; he would perish before even he had 
been able to prove to himself that he existed " (Essai 
sur I indifference en maticre de religion, iii c partie, 
chap. Ixvii.). 



n8 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vi 

Reason, however, does not actually lead us to absolute 
scepticism. No ! Reason does not lead me and cannot 
lead me to doubt that I exist. Whither reason does lead 
me is to vital scepticism, or more properly, to vital nega 
tion not merely to doubt, but to deny, that my con 
sciousness survives my death. Scepticism is produced by 
the clash between reason and desire. And from this 
clash, from this embrace between despair and scepticism, 
is born that holy, that sweet, that saving incertitude, 
which is our supreme consolation. 

The absolute and complete certainty, on the one hand, 
that death is a complete, definite, irrevocable annihilation 
of personal consciousness, a certainty of the same order 
as the certainty that the three angles of a triangle are 
equal to two right angles, or, on the other hand, the 
absolute and complete certainty that our personal con 
sciousness is prolonged beyond death in these present or 
in other conditions, and above all including in itself that 
strange and adventitious addition of eternal rewards and 
punishments both of these certainties alike would make 
life impossible for us. In the most secret chamber of 
the spirit of him who believes himself convinced that 
death puts an end to his personal consciousness, his 
memory, for ever, and all unknown to him perhaps, there 
lurks a shadow, a vague shadow, a shadow of shadow, of 
uncertainty, and while he says within himself, " Well, let 
us live this life that passes away, for there is no other !" 
the silence of this secret chamber speaks to him and 
murmurs, * Who knows ! . . ." He may not think he 
hears it, but he hears it nevertheless. And likewise in 
some secret place of the soul of the believer who most 
firmly holds the belief in a future life, there is a muffled 
voice, a voice of uncertainty, which whispers in the ear 
of his spirit, "Who knows! ..." These voices are 
like the humming of a mosquito when the south-west 
wind roars through the trees in the wood ; we cannot dis 
tinguish this faint humming, yet nevertheless, merged in 



vi IN THE DEPTHS OF THE ABYSS ng 

the clamour of the storm, it reaches the ear. Otherwise, 
without this uncertainty, how could we live ? 

" Is there? " " Is there not? " these are the bases 
of our inner life. There may be a rationalist who has 
never wavered in his conviction of the mortality of the 
soul, and there may be a vitalist who has never wavered 
in his faith in immortality; but at the most this would 
only prove that just as there are natural monstrosities, so 
there are those who are stupid as regards heart and 
feeling, however great their intelligence, and those who 
are stupid intellectually, however great their virtue. But, 
in normal cases, I cannot believe those who assure me 
that never, not in a fleeting moment, not in the hours of 
direst loneliness and grief, has this murmur of uncertainty 
breathed upon their consciousness. I do not understand 
those men who tell me that the prospect of the yonder 
side of death has never tormented them, that the thought 
of their own annihilation never disquiets them. For my 
part I do not wish to make peace between my heart and 
my head, between my faith and my reason I wish rather 
that there should be war between them ! 

In the ninth chapter of the Gospel according to Mark 
it is related how a man brought unto Jesus his son who 
was possessed by a dumb spirit, and wheresoever the 
spirit took him it tore him, causing him to foam and gnash 
his teeth and pine away, wherefore he sought to bring 
him to Jesus that he might cure him. And the Master, 
impatient of those who sought only for signs and wonders, 
exclaimed : " O faithless generation, how long shall I 
be with you ? how long shall I suffer you ? bring him unto 
me " (ver. 19), and they brought him unto him. And 
when the Master saw him wallowing on the ground, he 
asked his father how long it was ago since this had come 
unto him and the father replied that it was since he was 
a child. And Jesus said unto him : "If thou canst 
believe, all things are possible to him that believeth " 
(ver. 23). And then the father of the epileptic or 



120 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vi 

demoniac uttered these pregnant and immortal words : 
" Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief !" Tiicrrevco, 
Kvpte, jBoijOei rfj aTCKJila p,ov (ver. 24). 

44 Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief !" A con 
tradiction seemingly, for if he believes, if he trusts, how 
is it that he beseeches the Lord to help his lack of trust ? 
Nevertheless, it is this contradiction that gives to the 
heart s cry of the father of the demoniac its most profound 
human value. His faith is a faith that is based upon 
incertitude. Because he believes that is to say, because 
he wishes to believe, because he has need that his son 
should be cured he beseeches the Lord to help his un 
belief, his doubt that such a cure could be effected. Of 
such kind is human faith ; of such kind was the heroic 
faith that Sancho Panza had in his master, the knight 
Don Quijote de la Mancha, as I think I have shown in 
my Vida de Don Quijote y Sancho; a faith based upon 
incertitude, upon doubt. Sancho Panza was indeed a 
man, a whole and a true man, and he was not stupid, for 
only if he had been stupid would he have believed, with 
out a shadow of doubt, in the follies of his master. And 
his master himself did not believe in them without a 
shadow of doubt, for neither was Don Quixote, though 
mad, stupid. He was at heart a man of despair, as 1 
think I have shown in my above-mentioned book. And 
because he was a man of an heroical despair, the hero 
of that inward and resigned despair, he stands as the 
eternal exemplar of every man whose soul is the battle 
ground of reason and immortal desire. Our Lord Don 
Quixote is the prototype of the vitalist whose faith is 
based upon uncertainty, and Sancho is the prototype of 
the rationalist who doubts his own reason. 

Tormented by torturing doubts, August Hermann 
Francke resolved to call upon God, a God in whom he 
did not believe, or rather in whom he believed that he 
did not believe, imploring Him to take pity upon him, 
upon the poor pietist Francke, if perchance He really 



vi IN THE DEPTHS OF THE ABYSS 121 

existed. 1 And from a similar state of mind came the 
inspiration of the sonnet entitled " The Atheist s 
Prayer," which is included in my Rosario de Sonetos 
Liricos, and closes with these lines : 

Siifro yo a tu cost a, 

Dios no exisliente, pues si tu existieras 
existieria yo tambitn de veras. 2 

Yes, if God the guarantor of our personal immortality 
existed, then should we ourselves really exist. And if 
He exists not, neither do we exist. 

That terrible secret, that hidden will of God which, 
translated into the language of theology, is known as 
predestination, that idea which dictated to Luther his 
servum arbitrium, and which gives to Calvinism its tragic 
sense, that doubt of our own salvation, is in its essence 
nothing but uncertainty, and this uncertainty, allied 
with despair, forms the basis of faith. Faith, some say, 
consists in not thinking about it, in surrendering our 
selves trustingly to the arms of God, the secrets of whose 
providence are inscrutable. Yes, but infidelity also 
consists in not thinking about it. This absurd faith, this 
faith that knows no shadow of uncertainty, this faith of 
the stupid coalheaver, joins hands with an absurd 
incredulity, the incredulity that knows no shadow of 
uncertainty, the incredulity of the intellectuals who are 
afflicted with affective stupidity in order that they may 
not think about it. 

And what but uncertainty, doubt, the voice of reason, 
was that abyss, that terrible gouffre, before which Pascal 
trembled ? And it was that which led him to pronounce 
his terrible sentence, il faut s abetir need is that we 
become fools ! 

All Jansenism, the Catholic adaptation of Calvinism, 

1 Albrecht Ritschl : Geschichte des Pietiswus, ii., Abt. i., Bonn, 1884, 
p. 251. 

2 Thou art the cause of my suffering, O non-existing God, for if Thou 
didst exist, then should I also really exist. 



122 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vi 

bears the same impress. Port-Royal, which owed its 
existence to a Basque, the Abbe* de Saint-Cyran, a man 
of the same race as Inigo de Loyola and as he who writes 
these lines, always preserved deep down a sediment of 
religious despair, of the suicide of reason. Loyola also 
slew his reason in obedience. 

Our affirmation is despair, our negation is despair, 
and from despair we abstain from affirming and denying. 
Note the greater part of our atheists and you will see 
that they are atheists from a kind of rage, rage at not 
being able to believe that there is a God. They are the 
personal enemies of God. They have invested Nothing 
ness with substance and personality, and their No-God 
is an Anti-God. 

And concerning that abject and ignoble saying, " If 
there were not a God it would be necessary to invent 
Him," we shall say nothing. It is the expression of the 
unclean scepticism of those conservatives who look upon 
religion merely as a means of government and whose 
interest it is that in the other life there shall be a hell for 
those who oppose their worldly interests in this life. 
This repugnant and Sadducean phrase is worthy of the 
time-serving sceptic to whom it is attributed. 

No, with all this the deep vital sense has nothing to 
do. It has nothing to do with a transcendental police 
regimen, or with securing order and what an order ! 
upon earth by means of promises and threats of eternal 
rewards and punishments after death. All this belongs 
to a lower plane that is to say, it is merely politics, or 
if you like, ethics. The vital sense has to do with living. 

But it is in our endeavour to represent to ourselves 
what the life of the soul after death really means that 
uncertainty finds its surest foundation. This it is that 
most shakes our vital desire and most intensifies the 
dissolvent efficacy of reason. For even if by a mighty 
effort of faith we overcome that reason which tells and 
teaches us that the soul is only a function of the physical 



vi IN THE DEPTHS OF THE ABYSS 123 

organism, it yet remains for our imagination to con 
ceive an image of the immortal and eternal life of the 
soul. This conception involves us in contradictions and 
absurdities, and it may be that we shall arrive with 
Kierkegaard at the conclusion that if the mortality of the 
soul is terrible, not less terrible is its immortality. 

But when we have overcome the first, the only real 
difficulty, when we have overcome the impediment of 
reason, when we have achieved the faith, however painful 
and involved in uncertainty it may be, that our personal 
consciousness shall continue after death, what difficulty, 
what impediment, lies in the way of our imagining to 
ourselves this persistence of self in harmony with our 
desire ? Yes, we can imagine it as an eternal reju 
venescence, as an eternal growth of ourselves, and as a 
journeying towards God, towards the Universal Con 
sciousness, without ever an arrival, we can imagine it 
as ... But who shall put fetters upon the imagination, 
once it has broken the chain of the rational ? 

I know that all this is dull reading, tiresome, perhaps 
tedious, but it is all necessary. And I must repeat once 
again that we have nothing to do with a transcendental 
police system or with the conversion of God into a great 
Judge or Policeman that is to say, we are not con 
cerned with heaven or hell considered as buttresses to 
shore up our poor earthly morality, nor are we concerned 
with anything egoistic or personal. It is not I myself 
alone, it is the whole human race that is involved, it is 
the ultimate finality of all our civilization. I am but 
one, but all men are I s. 

Do you remember the end of that Song of the Wild 
Cock which Leopardi wrote in prose ? the despairing 
Leopardi, the victim of reason, who never succeeded in 
achieving belief. " A time will come," he says, " when 
this Universe and Nature itself will be extinguished. 
And just as of the grandest kingdoms and empires of 
mankind and the marvellous things achieved therein, 



124 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vi 

very famous in their own time, no vestige or memory 
remains to-day, so, in like manner, of the entire world 
and of the vicissitudes and calamities of all created things 
there will remain not a single trace, but a naked silence 
and a most profound stillness will fill the immensity of 
space. And so before ever it has been uttered or under 
stood, this admirable and fearful secret of universal 
existence will be obliterated and lost." And this they 
now describe by a scientific and very rationalistic term- 
namely, entropia. Very pretty, is it not? Spencer 
invented the notion of a primordial homogeneity, from 
which it is impossible to conceive how any heterogeneity 
could originate. Well now, this entropia is a kind of 
ultimate homogeneity, a state of perfect equilibrium. 
For a soul avid of life, it is the most like nothingness 
that the mind can conceive. 

To this point, through a series of dolorous reflections, 
I have brought the reader who has had the patience to 
follow me, endeavouring always to do equal justice to 
the claims of reason and of feeling. I have not wished 
to keep silence on matters about which others are silent ; 
I have sought to strip naked, not only my own soul, but 
the human soul, be its nature what it may, its destiny to 
disappear or not to disappear. And we have arrived at 
the bottom of the abyss, at the irreconcilable conflict 
between reason and vital feeling. And having arrived 
here, I have told you that it is necessary to accept the 
conflict as such and to live by it. Now it remains for me 
to explain to you how, according to my way of feeling, 
and even according to my way of thinking, this despair 
may be the basis of a vigorous life, of an efficacious 
activity, of an ethic, of an esthetic, of a religion and even 
of a logic. But in what follows there w r ill be as much of 
imagination as of ratiocination, or rather, much more. 

I do not wish to deceive anyone, or to offer as 
philosophy what it may be is only poetry or phantasma- 



vi IN THE DEPTHS OF THE ABYSS 125 

goria, in any case a kind of mythology. The divine 
Plato, after having discussed the immortality of the soul 
in his dialogue Phcedo (an ideal that is to say, a lying- 
immortality), embarked upon an interpretation of the 
myths which treat of the other life, remarking that it was 
also necessary to mythologize. Let us, then, mythologize. 

He who looks for reasons, strictly so called, scientific 
arguments, technically logical reflections, may refuse to 
follow me further. Throughout the remainder of these 
reflections upon the tragic sense, I am going to fish for 
the attention of the reader with the naked, unbaited hook ; 
whoever wishes to bite, let him bite, but I deceive no 
one. Only in the conclusion I hope to gather every 
thing together and to show that this religious despair 
which I have been talking about, and which is nothing 
other than the tragic sense of life itself, is, though more 
or less hidden, the very foundation of the consciousness 
of civilized individuals and peoples to-day that is to 
say, of those individuals and those peoples who do not 
suffer from stupidity of intellect or stupidity of feeling. 

And this tragic sense is the spring of heroic achieve 
ments. 

If in that which follows you shall meet with arbitrary 
apothegms, brusque transitions, inconsecutive state 
ments, veritable somersaults of thought, do not cry out 
that you have been deceived. We are about to enter 
if it be that you wish to accompany me upon a field of 
contradictions between feeling and reasoning, and we 
shall have to avail ourselves of the one as well as of the 
other. 

That which follows is not the outcome of reason but of 
life, although in order that I may transmit it to you I 
shall have to rationalize it after a fashion. The greater 
part of it can be reduced to no logical theory or system ; 
but like that tremendous Yankee poet, Walt Whitman, 
" I charge that there be no theory or school founded out 
of me " (Myself and Mine). 



126 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vi 

Neither am I the only begetter of the fancies I am 
about to set forth. By no means. They have also been 
conceived by other men, if not precisely by other thinkers, 
who have preceded me in this vale of tears, and who have 
exhibited their life and given expression to it. Their life, 
I repeat, not their thought, save in so far as it was thought 
inspired by life, thought with a basis of irrationality. 

Does this mean that in all that follows, in the efforts 
of the irrational to express itself, there is a total lack of 
rationality, of all objective value ? No ; the absolutely, 
the irrevocably irrational, is inexpressible, is intrans 
missible. But not the contra-rational. Perhaps there 
is no way of rationalizing the irrational ; but there is a 
way of rationalizing the contra-rational, and that is by 
trying to explain it. Since only the rational is intel 
ligible, really intelligible, and since the absurd, being 
devoid of sense, is condemned to be incommunicable, 
you will find that whenever we succeed in giving expres 
sion and intelligibility to anything apparently irrational 
or absurd we invariably resolve it into something rational, 
even though it be into the negation of that which we 
affirm. 

The maddest dreams of the fancy have some ground of 
reason, and who knows if everything that the imagination 
of man can conceive either has not already happened, or 
is not now happening or will not happen some time, in 
some world or another ? The possible combinations are 
perhaps infinite. It only remains to know whether all 
that is imaginable is possible. 

It may also be said, and with justice, that much of what 
I am about to set forth is merely a repetition of ideas 
which have been expressed a hundred times before and a 
hundred times refuted; but the repetition of an idea 
really implies that its refutation has not been final. And 
as I do not pretend that the majority of these fancies are 
new, so neither do I pretend, obviously, that other voices 
before mine have not spoken to the winds the same 



vi IN THE DEPTHS OF THE ABYSS 127 

laments. But when yet another voice echoes the same 
eternal lament it can only be inferred that the same grief 
still dwells in the heart. 

And it comes not amiss to repeat yet once again the 
same eternal lamentations that were already old in the 
days of Job and Ecclesiastes, and even to repeat them 
in the same words, to the end that the devotees of progress 
may see that there is something that never dies. Whoso 
ever repeats the " Vanity of vanities " of Ecclesiastes or 
the lamentations of Job, even though without changing a 
letter, having first experienced them in his soul, per 
forms a work of admonition. Need is to repeat without 
ceasing the memento mori. 

" But to what end?" you will ask. Even though it be 
only to the end that some people should be irritated and 
should see that these things are not dead and, so long as 
men exist, cannot die ; to the end that they should be 
convinced that to-day, in the twentieth century, all the 
bygone centuries and all of them alive, are still subsist 
ing. When a supposed error reappears, it must be, 
believe me, that it has not ceased to be true in part, just 
as when one who was dead reappears, it must be that he 
was not wholly dead. 

Yes, I know well that others before me have felt what 
I feel and express ; that many others feel it to-day, 
although they keep silence about it. Why do I not keep 
silence about it too? Well, for the very reason that 
most of those who feel it are silent about it; and yet, 
though they are silent, they obey in silence that inner 
voice. And I do not keep silence about it because it is 
for many the thing which must not be spoken, the 
abomination of abominations infandum and I believe 
that it is necessary now and again to speak the thing 
which must not be spoken. But if it leads to nothing? 
Even if it should lead only to irritating the devotees of 
progress, those who believe that truth is consolation, it 
would lead to not a little. To irritating them and making 



128 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vi 

them say : Poor fellow ! if he would only use his intelli 
gence to better purpose ! . . . Someone perhaps will 
add that I do not know what I say, to which I shall reply 
that perhaps he may be right and being right is such a 
little thing ! but that I feel what I say and I know what 
I feel and that suffices me. And that it is better to be 
lacking in reason than to have too much of it. 

And the reader who perseveres in reading me will also 
see how out of this abyss of despair hope may arise, and 
how this critical position may be the well-spring of 
human, profoundly human, action and effort, and of 
solidarity and even of progress. He will see its prag 
matic justification. And he will see how, in order to 
work, and to work efficaciously and morally, there is no 
need of either of these two conflicting certainties, either 
that of faith or that of reason, and how still less is there 
any need this never under any circumstances to shirk 
the problem of the immortality of the soul, or to distort 
it idealistically that is to say, hypocritically. The 
reader will see how this uncertainty, with the suffering 
that accompanies it, and the fruitless struggle to escape 
from it, may be and is a basis for action and morals. 

And in the fact that it serves as a basis for action and 
morals, this feeling of uncertainty and the inward 
struggle between reason on the one hand and faith and 
the passionate longing for eternal life on the other, should 
find their justification in the eyes of the pragmatist. But 
it must be clearly stated that I do not adduce this prac 
tical consequence in order to justify the feeling, but 
merely because I encounter it in my inward experience. 
I neither desire to seek, nor ought I to seek, any justifica 
tion for this state of inward struggle and uncertainty and 
longing; it is a fact and that suffices. And if anyone 
finding himself in this state, in the depth of the abyss, 
fails to find there motives for and incentives to life and 
action, and concludes by committing bodily or spiritual 
suicide, whether he kills himself or he abandons all 



vi IN THE DEPTHS OF THE ABYSS 129 

co-operation with his fellows in human endeavour, it will 
not be I who will pass censure upon him. And apart 
from the fact that the evil consequences of a doctrine, or 
rather those which we call evil, only prove, I repeat, that 
the doctrine is disastrous for our desires, but not that it 
is false in itself, the consequences themselves depend not 
so much upon the doctrine as upon him who deduces 
them. The same principle may furnish one man with 
grounds for action and another man with grounds for 
abstaining from action, it may lead one man to direct his 
effort towards a certain end and another man towards a 
directly opposite end. For the truth is that our doctrines 
are usually only the justification a posteriori of our con 
duct, or else they are our way of trying to explain that 
conduct to ourselves. 

Man, in effect, is unwilling to remain in ignorance of 
the motives of his own conduct. And just as a man who 
has been led to perform a certain action by hypnotic sug 
gestion will afterwards invent reasons which would 
justify it and make it appear logical to himself and others, 
being unaware all the time of the real cause of his action, 
so every man for since " life is a dream " every man 
is in a condition of hypnotism seeks to find reasons 
for his conduct. And if the pieces on a chessboard were 
endowed with consciousness, they would probably have 
little difficulty in ascribing their moves to freewill that 
is to say, they would claim for them a finalist rationality. 
And thus it comes about that every philosophic theory 
serves to explain and justify an ethic, a doctrine of con 
duct, which has its real origin in the inward moral feel 
ing of the author of the theory. But he who harbours 
this feeling may possibly himself have no clear conscious 
ness of its true reason or cause. 

Consequently, if my reason, which is in a certain 
sense a part of the reason of all my brothers in humanity 
in time and space, teaches me this absolute scepticism 
in respect of what concerns my longing for never- 

9 



130 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vi 

ending life, I think that I can assume that my feeling 
of life, which is the essence of life itself, my vitality, 
my boundless appetite for living and my abhorrence 
of dying, my refusal to submit to death that it is this 
which suggests to me the doctrines with which I try 
to counter-check the working of the reason. Have 
these doctrines an objective value? someone will ask 
me, and I shall answer that I do not understand what 
this objective value of a doctrine is. I will not say that 
the more or less poetical and unphilosophical doctrines 
that I am about to set forth are those which make me 
live; but I will venture to say that it is my longing to 
live and to live for ever that inspires these doctrines within 
me. And if by means of them I succeed in strengthening 
and sustaining this same longing in another, perhaps 
when it was all but dead, then I shall have performed a 
man s work and, above all, I shall have lived. In a word, 
be it with reason or without reason or against reason, I 
am resolved not to die. And if, when at last I die out, 
I die out altogether, then I shall not have died out of 
myself that is, I shall not have yielded myself to death, 
but my human destiny will have killed me. Unless I 
come to lose my head, or rather my heart, I will not 
abdicate from life life will be wrested from me. 

To have recourse to those ambiguous words, 
" optimism " and " pessimism," does not assist us in 
any way, for frequently they express the very contrary of 
what those who use them mean to express. To ticket a 
doctrine with the label of pessimism is not to impugn its 
validity, and the so-called optimists are not the most 
efficient in action. I believe, on the contrary, that many 
of the greatest heroes, perhaps the greatest of all, have 
been men of despair and that by despair they have accom 
plished their mighty works. Apart from this, however, 
and accepting in all their ambiguity these denominations 
of optimism and pessimism, that there exists a certain 
transcendental pessimism which may be the begetter of 



vi IN THE DEPTHS OF THE ABYSS 131 

a temporal and terrestrial optimism, is a matter that I 
propose to develop in the following part of this treatise. 

Very different, well I know, is the attitude of our pro 
gressives, the partisans of " the central current of contem 
porary European thought"; but I cannot bring myself 
to believe that these individuals do not voluntarily close 
their eyes to the grand problem of existence and that, in 
endeavouring to stifle this feeling of the tragedy of life, 
they themselves are not living a lie. 

The foregoing reflections are a kind of practical sum 
mary of the criticism developed in the first six chapters 
of this treatise, a kind of definition of the practical posi 
tion to which such a criticism is capable of leading who 
soever will not renounce life and will not renounce reason 
and who is compelled to live and act between these upper 
and nether millstones which grind upon the soul. The 
reader who follows me further is now aware that I am 
about to carry him jnto the region of the imagination, of 
imagination not destitute of reason, for without reason 
nothing subsists, but of imagination founded on feeling. 
And as regards its truth, the real truth, that which is 
independent of ourselves, beyond the reach of our logic 
and of our heart of this truth who knows aught ? 



VII 

LOVE, SUFFERING, PITY, AND 
PERSONALITY 

CAIN : Let me, or happy or unhappy, learn 

To anticipate my immortality. 
LUCIFER : Thou didst before I came upon thee. 
CAIN : How ? 

LUCIFER : By suffering. 

BYRON : Cain, Act II., Scene I. 

THE most tragic thing in the world and in life, readers 
and brothers of mine, is love. Love is the child of 
illusion and the parent of disillusion ; love is consolation 
in desolation ; it is the sole medicine against death, for 
it is death s brother. 

Fratelli, a un tempo stesso, A more e Morte 
Ingenerd la sorte, 

as Leopardi sang. 

Love seeks with fury, through the medium of the 
beloved, something beyond, and since it finds it not, it 
despairs. 

Whenever we speak of love there is always present in 
our memory the idea of sexual love, the love between 
man and woman, whose end is the perpetuation of the 
human race upon the earth. Hence it is that we never 
succeed in reducing love either to a purely intellectual 
or to a purely volitional element, putting aside that part 
in it which belongs to the feeling, or, if you like, to the 
senses. For, in its essence, love is neither idea nor 
volition; rather it is desire, feeling; it is something 

132 



vii LOVE, SUFFERING, PITY 133 

carnal in spirit itself. Thanks to love, we feel all that 
spirit has of flesh in it. 

Sexual love is the generative type of every other love. 
In love and by love we seek to perpetuate ourselves, and 
we perpetuate ourselves on the earth only on condition 
that we die, that we yield up our life to others. The 
humblest forms of animal life, the lowest of living 
beings, multiply by dividing themselves, by splitting 
into two, by ceasing to be the unit which they previously 
formed. 

But when at last the vitality of the being that multi 
plies itself by division is exhausted, the species must 
renew the source of life from time to time by means of 
the union of two wasting individuals, by means of what 
is called, among protozoaria, conjugation. They unite 
in order to begin dividing again with more vigour. 
And every act of generation consists in a being s ceasing 
to be what it was, either wholly or in part, in a splitting up, 
in a partial death . To live is to give oneself, to perpetuate 
oneself, and to perpetuate oneself and to give oneself is 
to die. The supreme delight of begetting is perhaps 
nothing but a foretaste of death, the eradication of our 
own vital essence. We unite with another, but it is to 
divide ourselves ; this most intimate embrace is only a 
most intimate sundering. In its essence, the delight of 
sexual love, the genetic spasm, is a sensation of resur 
rection, of renewing our life in another, for only in others 
can we renew our life and so perpetuate ourselves. 

Without doubt there is something tragically destructive 
in the essence of love, as it presents itself to us in its 
primitive animal form, in the unconquerable instinct which 
impels the male and the female to mix their being in a 
fury of conjunction. The same impulse that joins their 
bodies, separates, in a certain sense, their souls ; they 
hate one another, while they embrace, no less than they 
love, and above all they contend with one another, they 
contend for a third life, which as yet is without life. Love 



134 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vn 

is a contention, and there are animal species in which the 
male maltreats the female in his union with her, and other 
in which the female devours the male after being fertilized 
by him. 

It has been said that love is a mutual selfishness ; and, 
in fact, each one of the lovers seeks to possess the other, 
and in seeking his own perpetuation through the instru 
mentality of the other, though without being at the time 
conscious of it or purposing it, he thereby seeks his own 
enjoyment. Each one of the lovers is an immediate 
instrument of enjoyment and a mediate instrument of 
perpetuation, for the other. And thus they are tyrants 
and slaves, each one at once the tyrant and slave of the 
other. 

Is there really anything strange in the fact that the 
deepest religious feeling has condemned carnal love and 
exalted virginity ? Avarice, said the Apostle, is the root 
of all evil, and the reason is because avarice takes riches, 
which are only a means, for an end ; and therein lies the 
essence of sin, in taking means for ends, in not recogniz 
ing or in disesteeming the end. And since it takes 
enjoyment for the end, whereas it is only the means, and 
not perpetuation, which is the true end, what is carnal 
love but avarice ? And it is possible that there are some 
who preserve their virginity in order the better to per 
petuate themselves, and in order to perpetuate something 
more human than the flesh. 

For it is the suffering flesh, it is suffering, it is death, 
that lovers perpetuate upon the earth. Love is at once 
the brother, son, and father of death, which is its sister, 
mother, and daughter. And thus it is that in the depth 
of love there is a depth of eternal despair, out of which 
spring hope and consolation. For out of this carnal and 
primitive love of which I have been speaking, out of this 
love of the whole body with all its senses, which is the 
animal origin of human society, out of this loving-fond 
ness, rises spiritual and sorrowful love. 



viz LOVE, SUFFERING, PITY 135 

This other form of love, this spiritual love, is born of 
sorrow, is born of the death of carnal love, is born also 
of the feeling of compassion and protection which parents 
feel in the presence of a stricken child. Lovers never 
attain to a love of self abandonment, of true fusion of 
soul and not merely of body, until the heavy pestle of 
sorrow has bruised their hearts and crushed them in the 
same mortar of suffering. Sensual love joined their 
bodies but disjoined their souls ; it kept their souls 
strangers to one another ; but of this love is begotten a 
fruit of their flesh a child. And perchance this child, 
begotten in death, falls sick and dies. Then it comes to 
pass that over the fruit of their carnal fusion and spiritual 
separation and estrangement, their bodies now separated 
and cold with sorrow but united by sorrow their souls, 
the lovers, the parents, join in an embrace of despair, 
and then is born, of the death of the child of their flesh, 
the true spiritual love. Or rather, when the bond of 
flesh which united them is broken, they breathe with a 
sigh of relief. For men love one another with a spiritual 
love only when they have suffered the same sorrow 
together, when through long days they have ploughed 
the stony ground bowed beneath the common yoke of a 
common grief. It is then that they know one another 
and feel one another, and feel with one another in their 
common anguish, they pity one another and love one 
another. For to love is to pity; and if bodies are united 
by pleasure, souls are united by pain. 

And this is felt with still more clearness and force in 
the seeding, the taking root, and the blossoming of one 
of those tragic loves which are doomed to contend with 
the diamond-hard laws of Destiny one of those loves 
which are born out of due time and season, before or 
after the moment, or out of the normal mode in which 
the world, which is custom, would have been willing to 
welcome them. The more barriers Destin} and the 
world and its law interpose between the lovers, the 



136 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vn 

stronger is the impulse that urges them towards one 
another, and their happiness in loving one another turns 
to bitterness, and their unhappiness in not being able to 
love freely and openly grows heavier, and they pity one 
another from the bottom of their hearts ; and this com 
mon pity, which is their common misery and their 
common happiness, gives fire and fuel to their love. 
And they suffer their joy, enjoying their suffering. And 
they establish their love beyond the confines of the world, 
and the strength of this poor love suffering beneath the 
yoke of Destiny gives them intuition of another world 
where there is no other law than the liberty of love 
another world where there are no barriers because there 
is no flesh. For nothing inspires us more with hope and 
faith in another world than the impossibility of our love 
truly fructifying in this world of flesh and of appearances. 

And what is maternal love but compassion for the 
weak, helpless, defenceless infant that craves the mother s 
milk and the comfort of her breast? And woman s love 
is all maternal. 

To love with the spirit is to pity, and he who pities 
most loves most. Men aflame with a burning charity 
towards their neighbours are thus enkindled because they 
have touched the depth of their own misery, their own 
apparentiality, their own nothingness, and then, turning 
their newly opened eyes upon their fellows, they have 
seen that they also are miserable, apparential, condemned 
to nothingness, and they have pitied them and loved 
them. 

Man yearns to be loved, or, what is the same thing, to 
be pitied. Man wishes others to feel and share his hard 
ships and his sorrows. The roadside beggar s exhibition 
of his sores and gangrened mutilations is something more 
than a device to extort alms from the passer-by. True 
alms is pity rather than the pittance that alleviates the 
material hardships of life. The beggar shows little 
gratitude for alms thrown to him by one who hurries past 



vii LOVE, SUFFERING, PITY 137 

with averted face ; he is more grateful to him who pities 
him but does not help than to him who helps but does 
not pity, although from another point of view he may 
prefer the latter. Observe with what satisfaction he 
relates his woes to one who is moved by the story of them. 
He desires to be pitied, to be loved. 

Woman s love, above all, as I have remarked, is always 
compassionate in its essence maternal. Woman yields 
herself to the lover because she feels that his desire makes 
him suffer. Isabel had compassion upon Lorenzo, Juliet 
upon Romeo, Francesca upon Paolo. Woman seems to 
say : " Come, poor one, thou shalt not suffer so for my 
sake!" And therefore is her love more loving and 
purer than that of man, braver and more enduring. 

Pity, then, is the essence of human spiritual love, of 
the love that is conscious of being love, of the love that 
is not purely animal, of the love, in a word, of a rational 
person. Love pities, and pities most when it loves most. 

Reversing the terms of the adage nihil volitum quin 
prcecognitum, I have told you that nihil cognitum quin 
prcevolitum, that we know nothing save what we have 
first, in one way or another, desired ; and it may even be 
added that we can know nothing well save what we love, 
save what we pity. 

As love grows, this restless yearning to pierce to the 
uttermost and to the innermost, so it continually em 
braces all that it sees, and pities all that it embraces. 
According as you turn inwards and penetrate more 
deeply into yourself, you will discover more and more 
your own emptiness, that you are not all that you are 
not, that you are not what you would wish to be, that 
you are, in a word, only a nonentity. And in touching 
your own nothingness, in not feeling your permanent 
base, in not reaching your own infinity, still less your 
own eternity, you will have a whole-hearted pity for 
yourself, and you will burn with a sorrowful love for 
yourself a love that will consume your so-called self- 



138 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vn 

love, which is merely a species of sensual self-delecta 
tion, the self-enjoyment, as it were, of the flesh of your 
soul. 

Spiritual self-love, the pity that one feels for oneself, 
may perhaps be called egotism; but nothing could be 
more opposed to ordinary egoism. For this love or pity 
for yourself, this intense despair, bred of the conscious 
ness that just as before you were born you were not, so 
after your death you will cease to be, will lead you to pity 
that is, to love all your fellows and brothers in this 
world of appearance, these unhappy shadows who pass 
from nothingness to nothingness, these sparks of con 
sciousness which shine for a moment in the infinite and 
eternal darkness. And this compassionate feeling for 
other men, for your fellows, beginning with those most 
akin to you, those with whom you live, will expand into 
a universal pity for all living things, and perhaps even 
for things that have not life but merely existence. That 
distant star which shines up there in the night will some 
day be quenched and will turn to dust and will cease to 
shine and cease to exist. And so, too, it will be with the 
whole of the star-strewn heavens. Unhappy heavens ! 

And if it is grievous to be doomed one day to cease to 
be, perhaps it would be more grievous still to go on 
being always oneself, and no more than oneself, without 
being able to be at the same time other, without being 
able to be at the same time everything else, without 
being able to be all. 

If you look at the universe as closely and as inwardly 
as you are able to look that is to say, if you look within 
yourself ; if you not only contemplate but feel all things 
in your own consciousness, upon which all things have 
traced their painful impression you will arrive at the 
abyss of the tedium, not merely of life, but of something 
more : at the tedium of existence, at the bottomless pit 
of the vanity of vanities. And thus you will come to 
pity all things; you will arrive at universal love. 



vii LOVE, SUFFERING, PITY 139 

In order to love everything, in order to pity every 
thing, human and extra-human, living and non-living, 
you must feel everything within yourself, you must per 
sonalize everything. For everything that it loves, every 
thing that it pities, love personalizes. We only pity- 
that is to say, we only love that which is like ourselves 
and in so far as it is like ourselves, and the more like it 
is the more we love; and thus our pity for things, and 
with it our love, grows in proportion as we discover in 
them the likenesses which they have with ourselves. Or, 
rather, it is love itself, which of itself tends to grow, that 
reveals these resemblances to us. If I am moved to pity 
and love the luckless star that one day will vanish from 
the face of heaven, it is because love, pity, makes me feel 
that it has a consciousness, more or less dim, which 
makes it suffer because it is no more than a star, and a 
star that is doomed one day to cease to be. For all con 
sciousness is consciousness of death and of suffering. 

Consciousness (conscientia) is participated knowledge, 
is co-feeling, and co-feeling is corn-passion. Love per 
sonalizes all that it loves. Only by personalizing it can 
we fall in love with an idea. And when love is so great 
and so vital, so strong and so overflowing, that it loves 
everything, then it personalizes everything and discovers 
that the total All, that the Universe, is also a Person 
possessing a Consciousness, a Consciousness which in its 
turn suffers, pities, and loves, and therefore is conscious 
ness. And this Consciousness of the Universe, which 
love, personalizing all that it loves, discovers, is what we 
call God. And thus the soul pities God and feels itself 
pitied by Him ; loves Him and feels itself loved by Him, 
sheltering its misery in the bosom of the eternal and 
infinite misery, which, in eternalizing itself and infinitiz- 
ing itself, is the supreme happiness itself. 

God is, then, the personalization of the All ; He is the 
eternal and infinite Consciousness of the Universe- 
Consciousness taken captive by matter and struggling to 



140 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vn 

free himself from it. We personalize the All in order to 
save ourselves from Nothingness ; and the only mystery 
really mysterious is the mystery of suffering. 

Suffering is the path of consciousness, and by it living 
beings arrive at the possession of self-consciousness. 
For to possess consciousness of oneself, to possess per 
sonality, is to know oneself and to feel oneself distinct 
from other beings, and this feeling of distinction is only 
reached through an act of collision, through suffering 
more or less severe, through the sense of one s own 
limits. Consciousness of oneself is simply consciousness 
of one s own limitation. I feel myself when I feel that I 
am not others ; to know and to feel the extent of my being 
is to know at what point I cease to be, the point beyond 
which I no longer am. 

And how do we know that we exist if we do not suffer, 
little or much ? How can we turn upon ourselves, 
acquire reflective consciousness, save by suffering ? 
When we enjoy ourselves we forget ourselves, forget that 
we exist ; we pass over into another, an alien being, we 
alienate ourselves. And we become centred in ourselves 
again, we return to ourselves, only by suffering. 

Nessim maggior dolore 
che ricordarsi del tempo felice 
nella miseria 

are the words that Dante puts into the mouth of Francesca 
da Rimini (Inferno, v., 121-123); but if there is no greater 
sorrow than the recollection in adversity of happy bygone 
days, there is, on the other hand, no pleasure in remem 
bering adversity in days of prosperity. 

" The bitterest sorrow that man can know is to aspire 
to do much and to achieve nothing" (vroXXa (ppoveoira 
/^Sez/o? ^pareW) so Herodotus relates that a Persian said 
to a Theban at a banquet (book ix., chap. xvi.). And it 
is true. With knowledge and desire we can embrace 
everything, or almost everything ; with the will nothing, 



viz LOVE, SUFFERING, PITY 141 

or almost nothing. And contemplation is not happiness 
no ! not if this contemplation implies impotence. And 
out of this collision between our knowledge and our 
power pity arises. 

We pity what is like ourselves, and the greater and 
clearer our sense of its likeness with ourselves, the greater 
our pity. And if we may say that this likeness provokes 
our pity, it may also be maintained that it is our reservoir 
of pity, eager to diffuse itself over everything, that makes 
us discover the likeness of things with ourselves, the 
common bond that unites us with them in suffering. 

Our own struggle to acquire, preserve, and increase 
our own consciousness makes us discover in the en 
deavours and movements and revolutions of all things a 
struggle to acquire, preserve, and increase consciousness, 
to which everything tends. Beneath the actions of those 
most akin to myself, of my fellow-men, I feel or, rather, 
I co-feel a state of consciousness similar to that which 
lies beneath my own actions. On hearing my brother 
give a cry of pain, my own pain awakes and cries in the 
depth of my consciousness. And in the same way I feel 
the pain of animals, and the pain of a tree when one of its 
branches is being cut off, and I feel it most when my 
imagination is alive, for the imagination is the faculty of 
intuition, of inward vision. 

Proceeding from ourselves, from our own human con 
sciousness, the only consciousness which we feel from 
within and in which feeling is identical with being, we 
attribute some sort of consciousness, more or less dim, 
to all living things, and even to the stones themselves, for 
they also live. And the evolution of organic beings is 
simply a struggle to realize fullness of consciousness 
through suffering, a continual aspiration to be others 
without ceasing to be themselves, to break and yet to 
preserve their proper limits. 

And this process of personalization or subjectivization 
of everything external, phenomenal, or objective, is none 



142 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vn 

other than the vital process of philosophy in the contest 
of life against reason and of reason against life. We 
have already indicated it in the preceding chapter, and 
we must now confirm it by developing it further. 

Giovanni Baptista Vico, with his profound esthetic 
penetration into the soul of antiquity, saw that the spon 
taneous philosophy of man was to make of himself the 
norm of the universe, guided by theinstinto d y animazione . 
Language, necessarily anthropomorphic, mythopeic, 
engenders thought. " Poetic wisdom, which was the 
primitive wisdom of paganism," says Vico in his Scienza 
Nuova, " must have begun with a metaphysic, not 
reasoned and abstract, like that of modern educated men, 
but felt and imagined, such as must have been that of 
primitive men. This was their own poetry, which with 
them was inborn, an innate faculty, for nature had 
furnished them with such feelings and such imaginations, 
a faculty born of the ignorance of causes, and therefore 
begetting a universal sense of wonder, for knowing 
nothing they marvelled greatly at everything. This 
poetry had a divine origin, for, while they invented the 
causes of things out of their own imagination, at the same 
time they regarded these causes with feelings of wonder 
as gods. In this way the first men of the pagan peoples, 
as children of the growing human race, fashioned things 
out of their ideas. . . . This nature of human things 
has bequeathed that eternal property which Tacitus 
elucidated with a fine phrase when he said, not without 
reason, that men in their terror fingunt simul creduntque. 

And then, passing from the age of imagination, Vico 
proceeds to show us the age of reason, this age of ours 
in which the mind, even the popular mind, is too remote 
from the senses, " with so many abstractions of which all 
languages are full," an age in which " the ability to con 
ceive an immense image of such a personage as we call 
sympathetic Nature is denied to us, for though the phrase 
Dame Nature may be on our lips, there is nothing in our 



vii LOVE, SUFFERING, PITY 143 

minds that corresponds with it, our minds being occupied 
with the false, the non-existent." " To-day," Vico con 
tinues, " it is naturally impossible for us to enter into the 
vast imagination of these primitive men." But is this 
certain ? Do not we continue to live by the creations of 
their imagination, embodied for ever in the language 
with which we think, or, rather, the language which 
thinks in us ? 

It was in vain that Kant declared that human thought 
had already emerged from the age of theology and was 
now emerging from the age of metaphysics into the age 
of positivism ; the three ages coexist, and although 
antagonistic they lend one another mutual support. 
High-sounding positivism, whenever it ceases to deny 
and begins to affirm something, whenever it becomes 
really positive, is nothing but metaphysics ; and meta 
physics, in its essence, is always theology, and theology 
is born of imagination yoked to the service of life, of life 
with its craving for immortality. 

Our feeling of the world, upon which is based our 
understanding of it, is necessarily anthropomorphic and 
mythopeic. When rationalism dawned with Thales of 
Miletus, this philosopher abandoned Oceanus and Thetis, 
gods and the progenitors of gods, and attributed the 
origin of things to water; but this water was a god 
in disguise. Beneath nature (fyva-is) and the world 
(#007x09), mythical and anthropomorphic creations 
throbbed with life. They were implicated in the structure 
of language itself. Xenophon tells us (Memorabilia, 
i., i., 6-g) that among phenomena Socrates distinguished 
between those which were within the scope of human 
study and those which the gods had reserved for them 
selves, and that he execrated the attempt of Anaxagoras 
to explain everything rationally. His contemporary, 
Hippocrates, regarded diseases as of divine origin, and 
Plato believed that the sun and stars were animated gods 
with their souls (Philebus, cap. xvi., Laws, x.), and 



144 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vn 

only permitted astronomical investigation so long as it 
abstained from blasphemy against these gods. And 
Aristotle in his Physics tells us that Zeus rains not in 
order that the corn may grow, but by necessity 
(ef avdp xys;}. They tried to mechanize and rationalize 
God, but God rebelled against them. 

And what is the concept of God, a concept continually 
renewed because springing out of the eternal feeling of 
God in man, but the eternal protest of life against reason, 
the unconquerable instinct of personalization ? And 
what is the notion of substance itself but the objectiviza- 
tion of that which is most subjective that is, of the will 
or consciousness ? For consciousness, even before it 
knows itself as reason, feels itself, is palpable to itself, is 
most in harmony with itself, as will, and as will not to 
die. Hence that rhythm, of which we spoke, in the 
history of thought. Positivism inducted us into an age 
of rationalism that is to say, of materialism, mechanism, 
or mortalism ; and behold now the return of vitalism, of 
spiritualism. What was the effort of pragmatism but 
an effort to restore faith in the human finality of the 
universe? What is the effort of a Bergson, for example, 
especially in his work on creative evolution, but an 
attempt to redintegrate the personal God and eternal con 
sciousness ? Life never surrenders. 

And it avails us nothing to seek to repress this mytho- 
peic or anthropomorphic process and to rationalize our 
thought, as if we thought only for the sake of thinking 
and knowing, and not for the sake of living. The very 
language with which we think prevents us from so doing. 
Language, the substance of thought, is a system of meta 
phors with a mythic and anthropomorphic base. And to 
construct a purely rational philosophy it would be neces 
sary to construct it by means of algebraic formulas or to 
create a new language for it, an inhuman language 
that is to say, one inapt for the needs of life as indeed 
Dr. Richard Avenarius, professor of philosophy at 



vii LOVE, SUFFERING, PITY 145 

Zurich, attempted to do in his Critique of Pure Experi 
ence (Kritik der reinen Erfahrung), in order to avoid 
preconceptions. And this rigorous attempt of Avenarius, 
the chief of the critics of experience, ends strictly in pure 
scepticism. He himself says at the end of the Prologue 
to the work above mentioned : " The childish confidence 
that it is granted to us to discover truth has long since 
disappeared; as we progress we become aware of the 
difficulties that lie in the way of its discovery and of the 
limitation of our powers. And what is the end? . . . 
If we could only succeed in seeing clearly into ourselves ! 

Seeing clearly ! seeing clearly ! Clear vision would be 
only attainable by a pure thinker who used algebra in 
stead of language and was able to divest himself of his 
own humanity that is to say, by an unsubstantial, 
merely objective being : a no-being, in short. In spite of 
reason we are compelled to think with life, and in spite 
of life we are compelled to rationalize thought. 

This animation, this personification, interpenetrates 
our very knowledge. "Who is it that sends the rain? 
Who is it that thunders?" old Strepsiades asks of 
Socrates in The Clouds of Aristophanes, and the philo 
sopher replies: "Not Zeus, but the clouds." "But," 
questions Strepsiades, "who but Zeus makes the clouds 
sweep along?" to which Socrates answers : "Not a bit 
of it; it is atmospheric whirligig." "Whirligig?" 
muses Strepsiades; " I never thought of that that Zeus 
is gone and that Son Whirligig rules now in his stead." 
And so the old man goes on personifying and animating 
the whirlwind, as if the whirlwind were now a king, not 
without consciousness of his kingship. And in exchang 
ing a Zeus for a whirlwind God for matter, for example 
we all do the same thing. And the reason is because 
philosophy does not work upon the objective reality 
which we perceive \vith the senses, but upon the complex 
of ideas, images, notions, perceptions, etc., embodied in 
language and transmitted to us with our language by our 

TO 



146 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vn 

ancestors. That which we call the world, the objective 
world, is a social tradition. It is given to us ready made. 

Man does not submit to being, as consciousness, alone 
in the Universe, nor to being merely one objective 
phenomenon the more. He wishes to save his vital or 
passional subjectivity by attributing life, personality, 
spirit, to the whole Universe. In order to realize his 
wish he has discovered God and substance; God and 
substance continually reappear in his thought cloaked in 
different disguises. Because we are conscious, we feel 
that we exist, which is quite another thing from knowing 
that we exist, and we wish to feel the existence of every 
thing else; we wish that of all the other individual things 
each one should also be an " I." 

The most consistent, although the most incongruous 
and vacillating, idealism, that of Berkeley, who denied 
the existence of matter, of something inert and extended 
and passive, as the cause of our sensations and the sub 
stratum of external phenomena, is in its essence nothing 
but an absolute spiritualism or dynamism, the supposi 
tion that every sensation comes to us, causatively, from 
another spirit that is, from another consciousness. And 
his doctrine has a certain affinity with those of Schopen 
hauer and Hartmann. The former s doctrine of the Will 
and the latter s doctrine of the Unconscious are already 
implied in the Berkeleyan theory that to be is to be per 
ceived. To which must be added : and to cause others 
to perceive what is. Thus the old adage operari sequitur 
esse (action follows being) must be modified by saying 
that to be is to act, and only that which acts the active 
exists, and in so far as it acts. 

As regards Schopenhauer, there is no need to endeavour 
to show that the will, which he posits as the essence of 
things, proceeds from consciousness. And it is only 
necessary to read his book on the Will in Nature to see 
how he attributed a certain spirit and even a certain per 
sonality to the plants themselves. And this doctrine of 



vii LOVE, SUFFERING, PITY 147 

his carried him logically to pessimism, for the true 
property and most inward function of the will is to suffer. 
The will is a force which feels itself that is, which 
suffers. And, someone will add, which enjoys. But 
the capacity to enjoy is impossible without the capacity 
to suffer ; and the faculty of enjoyment is one with that 
of pain. Whosoever does not suffer does not enjoy, just 
as whosoever is insensible to cold is insensible to heat. 

And it is also quite logical that Schopenhauer, who 
deduced pessimism from the voluntarist doctrine or 
doctrine of universal personalization, should have 
deduced from both of these that the foundation of morals 
is compassion. Only his lack of the social and historical 
sense, his inability to feel that humanity also is a person, 
although a collective one, his egoism, in short, prevented 
him from feeling God, prevented him from individualiz 
ing and personalizing the total and collective Will the 
Will of the Universe. 

On the other hand, it is easy to understand his aver 
sion from purely empirical, evolutionist, or transformist 
doctrines, such as those set forth in the works of Lamarck 
and Darwin which came to his notice. Judging Darwin s 
theory solely by an extensive extract in The Times, he 
described it, in a letter to Adam Louis von Doss (March i, 
1860), as " downright empiricism " (platter Empirismus). 
In fact, for a voluntarist like Schopenhauer, a theory so 
sanely and cautiously empirical and rational as that of 
Darwin left out of account the inward force, the essential 
motive, of evolution. For what is, in effect, the hidden 
force, the ultimate agent, which impels organisms to 
perpetuate themselves and to fight for their persistence 
and propagation ? Selection, adaptation, heredity, these 
are only external conditions. This inner, essential force 
has been called will on the supposition that there exists 
also in other beings that which we feel in ourselves as a 
feeling of will, the impulse to be everything, to be others 
as well as ourselves yet without ceasing to be what we are. 



148 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vn 

And it may be said that this force is the divine in us, that 
it is God Himself who works in us because He suffers 
in us. 

And sympathy teaches us to discover this force, this 
aspiration towards consciousness, in all things. It 
moves and activates the most minute living creatures ; 
it moves and activates, perhaps, the very cells of our 
own bodily organism, which is a confederation, more or 
less solidary, of living beings ; it moves the very globules 
of our blood. Our life is composed of lives, our vital 
aspiration of aspirations existing perhaps in the limbo 
of subconsciousness. Not more absurd than so many 
other dreams which pass as valid theories is the belief 
that our cells, our globules, may possess something akin 
to a rudimentary cellular, globular consciousness or basis 
of consciousness. Or that they may arrive at possessing 
such consciousness. And since we have given a loose 
rein to the fancy, we may fancy that these cells may com 
municate with one another, and that some of them may 
express their belief that they form part of a superior 
organism endowed with a collective personal conscious 
ness. And more than once in the history of human 
feeling this fancy has been expressed in the surmisal of 
some philosopher or poet that we men are a kind of 
globules in the blood of a Supreme Being, who possesses 
his own personal collective consciousness, the conscious 
ness of the Universe. 

Perhaps the immense Milky Way which on clear 
nights we behold stretching across the heavens, this vast 
encircling ring in which our planetary system is itself 
but a molecule, is in its turn but a cell in the Universe, 
in the Body of God. All the cells of our body combine 
and co-operate in maintaining and kindling by their 
activity our consciousness, our soul ; and if the con 
sciousness or the souls of all these cells entered com 
pletely into our consciousness, into the composite whole, 
if I possessed consciousness of all that happens in my 



vii LOVE, SUFFERING, PITY 149 

bodily organism, I should feel the universe happening 
within myself, and perhaps the painful sense of my 
limitedness would disappear. And if all the conscious 
ness of all beings unite in their entirety in the universal 
consciousness, this consciousness that is to say, God 
is all. 

In every instant obscure consciousnesses, elementary 
souls, are born and die within us, and their birth and 
death constitute our life. And their sudden and violent 
death constitutes our pain. And in like manner, in the 
heart of God consciousnesses are born and die but do 
they die? and their births and deaths constitute His life. 

If there is a Universal and Supreme Consciousness, I 
am an idea in it; and is it possible for any idea in this 
Supreme Consciousness to be completely blotted out ? 
After I have died, God will go on remembering me, and 
to be remembered by God, to have my consciousness 
sustained by the Supreme Consciousness, is not that, 
perhaps, to be? 

And if anyone should say that God has made the 
universe, it may be rejoined that so also our soul has 
made our body as much as, if not more than, it has been 
made by it if, indeed, there be a soul. 

When pity, love, reveals to us the whole universe 
striving to gain, to preserve, and to enlarge its con 
sciousness, striving more and more to saturate itself 
with consciousness, feeling the pain of the discords 
which are produced within it, pity reveals to us the like 
ness of the whole universe with ourselves; it reveals to 
us that it is human, and it leads us to discover our Father 
in it, of whose flesh we are flesh ; love leads us to per 
sonalize the whole of which we form a part. 

To say that God is eternally producing things is 
fundamentally the same as saying that things are 
eternally producing God. And the belief in a personal 
and spiritual God is based on the belief in our own per 
sonality and spirituality. Because we feel ourselves to 



150 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vn 

be consciousness, we feel God to be consciousness that 
is to say, a person ; and because we desire ardently that 
our consciousness shall live and be independently of the 
body, we believe that the divine person lives and exists 
independently of the universe, that his state of conscious 
ness is ad extra. 

No doubt logicians will come forward and confront us 
with the evident rational difficulties which this involves ; 
but we have already stated that, although presented 
under logical forms, the content of all this is not strictly 
rational. Every rational conception of God is in itself 
contradictory. Faith in God is born of love for God 
we believe that God exists by force of wishing that He 
may exist, and it is born also, perhaps, of God s love for 
us. Reason does not prove to us that God exists, but 
neither does it prove that He cannot exist. 

But of this conception of faith in God as the per 
sonalization of the universe we shall have more to say 
presently. 

And recalling what has been said in another part of 
this work, we may say that material things, in so far as 
they are known to us, issue into knowledge through the 
agency of hunger, and out of hunger issues the sensible 
or material universe in which we conglomerate these 
things ; and that ideal things issue out of love, and out 
of love issues God, in whom we conglomerate these ideal 
things as in the Consciousness of the Universe. It is 
social consciousness, the child of love, of the instinct of 
perpetuation, that leads us to socialize everything, to see 
society in everything, and that shows us at last that all 
Nature is really an infinite Society. For my part, the 
feeling that Nature is a society has taken hold of me 
hundreds of times in walking through the woods, 
possessed with a sense of solidarity with the oaks, a 
sense of their dim awareness of my presence. 

Imagination, which is the social sense, animates 
the inanimate and anthropomorphizes everything; it 



vii LOVE, SUFFERING, PITY 151 

humanizes everything and even makes everything 
identical with man. 1 And the work of man is to super- 
naturalize Nature that is to say, to make it divine by 
making it human, to help it to become conscious of itself, 
in short. The action of reason, on the other hand, is 
to mechanize or materialize. 

And just as a fruitful union is consummated between 
the individual who is, in a certain sense, a society 
and society, which is also an individual the two being 
so inseparable from one another that it is impossible to 
say where the one begins and the other ends, for they 
are rather two aspects of a single essence so also the 
spirit, the social element, which by relating us to others 
makes us conscious, unites with matter, the individual 
and individualizing element ; similarly, reason or intelli 
gence and imagination embrace in a mutually fruitful 
union, and the Universe merges into one with God. 

Is all this true ? And what is truth ? I in my turn 
will ask, as Pilate asked not, however, only to turn 
away and wash my hands, without waiting for an answer. 

Is truth in reason, or above reason, or beneath reason, 
or outside of reason, in some way or another ? Is only 
the rational true ? May there not be a reality, by its very 
nature, unattainable by reason, and perhaps, by its very 
nature, opposed to reason ? And how can we know this 
reality if reason alone holds the key to knowledge? 

Our desire of living, our need of life, asks that that 
may be true which urges us to self-preservation and self- 
perpetuation, which sustains man and society; it asks 
that the true water may be that which assuages our thirst, 
and because it assuages it, that the true bread may be 
that which satisfies our hunger, because it satisfies it. 

The senses are devoted to the service of the instinct of 
preservation, and everything that satisfies this need of 
preserving ourselves, even though it does not pass 

1 To do lo humaniza, y aun lo huinana. 



152 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vn 

through the senses, is nevertheless a kind of intimate 
penetration of reality in us. Is the process of assimilat 
ing nutriment perhaps less real than the process of know 
ing the nutritive substance? It may be said that to eat 
a loaf of bread is not the same thing as seeing, touching, 
or tasting it ; that in the one case it enters into our body, 
but not therefore into our consciousness. Is this true? 
Does not the loaf of bread that I have converted into my 
flesh and blood enter more into my consciousness than 
the other loaf which I see and touch, and of which I say : 
4 This is mine"? And must I refuse objective reality 
to the bread that I have thus converted into my flesh and 
blood and made mine when I only touch it ? 

There are some who live by air without knowing it. 
In the same way, it may be, we live by God and in God 
in God the spirit and consciousness of society and of 
the whole Universe, in so far as the Universe is also a 
society. 

God is felt only in so far as He is lived ; and man does 
not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth 
out of the mouth of God (Matt. iv. 4; Deut. viii. 3). 

And this personalization of the all, of the Universe, to 
which we are led by love, by pity, is the personalization 
of a person who embraces and comprehends within him 
self the other persons of which he is composed. 

The only way to give finality to the world is to give it 
consciousness. For where there is no consciousness there 
is no finality, finality presupposing a purpose. And, as 
we shall see, faith in God is based simply upon the vital 
need of giving finality to existence, of making it answer 
to a purpose. We need God, not in order to understand 
the why, but in order to feel and sustain the ultimate 
wherefore, to give a meaning to the Universe. 

And neither ought we to be surprised by the affirma 
tion that this consciousness of the Universe is composed 
and integrated by the consciousnesses of the beings 
which form the Universe, by the consciousnesses of all 



vii LOVE, SUFFERING, PITY 153 

the beings that exist, and that nevertheless it remains a 
personal consciousness distinct from those which com 
pose it. Only thus is it possible to understand how in 
God we live, move, and have our being. That great 
visionary, Emanuel Swedenborg, saw or caught a 
glimpse of this in his book on Heaven and Hell (De 
Coelo et Inferno, Hi.), when he tells us : " An entire 
angelic society appears sometimes in the form of a single 
angel, which also it hath been granted me by the Lord 
to see. When the Lord Himself appears in the midst of 
the angels, He doth not appear as encompassed by a 
multitude, but as a single being in angelic form. Hence 
it is that the Lord in the Word is called an angel, and 
likewise that an entire society is so called. Michael, 
Gabriel, and Raphael are nothing but angelical societies, 
which are .so named from their functions." 

May we not perhaps live and love that is, suffer and 
pity in this all-enveloping Supreme Person we, all the 
persons who suffer and pity and all the beings that strive to 
achieve personality, toacquire consciousness of their suffer 
ing and their limitation ? And are we not, perhaps, ideas 
of this total Grand Consciousness, which by thinking of 
us as existing confers existence upon us ? Does not our 
existence consist in being perceived and felt by God ? 
And, further on, this same visionary tells us, under the 
form of images, that each angel, each society of angels, 
and the whole of heaven comprehensively surveyed, 
appear in human form, and in virtue of this human form 
the Lord rules them as one man. 

" God does not think, He creates ; He does not exist, He 
is eternal," wrote Kierkegaard (Afslutende uvidens- 
kabelige Efterskrift) ; but perhaps it is more exact to say 
with Mazzini, the mystic of the Italian city, that "God 
is great because His thought is action " (Ai giovani 
d Italia), because with Him to think is to create, and He 
gives existence to that which exists in His thought by the 
mere fact of thinking it, and the impossible is the un- 



154 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vn 

thinkable by God. Is it not written in the Scriptures 
that God creates with His word that is to say, with His 
thought and that by this, by His Word, He made every 
thing that exists? And what God has once made does 
He ever forget ? May it not be that all the thoughts that 
have ever passed through the Supreme Consciousness 
still subsist therein ? In Him, who is eternal, is not all 
existence eternalized? 

Our longing to save consciousness, to give personal 
and human finality to the Universe and to existence, is 
such that even in the midst of a supreme, an agonizing 
and lacerating sacrifice, we should still hear the voice 
that assured us that if our consciousness disappears, it is 
that the infinite and eternal Consciousness may be en 
riched thereby, that our souls may serve as nutriment to 
the Universal Soul. Yes, I enrich God, because before 
I existed He did not think of me as existing, because I 
am one more one more even though among an infinity 
of others who, having really lived, really suffered, and 
really loved, abide in His bosom. It is the furious long 
ing to give finality to the Universe, to make it conscious 
and personal, that has brought us to believe in God, to 
wish that God may exist, to create God, in a word. To 
create Him, yes ! This saying ought not to scandalize 
even the most devout theist. For to believe in God is, in 
a certain sense, to create Him, although He first creates 
us. 1 It is He who in us is continually creating Himself. 

We have created God in order to save the Universe 
from nothingness, for all that is not consciousness and 
eternal consciousness, conscious of its eternity and 
eternally conscious, is nothing more than appearance. 
There is nothing truly real save that which feels, suffers, 
pities, loves, and desires, save consciousness ; there is 
nothing substantial but consciousness. And we need 

1 In the translation it is impossible to retain the play upon the verbs crear, 
to create, and creer, to believe : " Porque creer en Dios es en cierto modo 
crearle, atmque El nos cree antes" J. E. C. F. 



vii LOVE, SUFFERING, PITY 155 

God in order to save consciousness ; not in order to think 
existence, but in order to live it ; not in order to know the 
wh,y and how of it, but in order to feel the wherefore 
of it. Love is a contradiction if there is no God. 

Let us now consider this idea of God, of the logical 
God or the Supreme Reason, and of the vital God or the 
God of the heart that is, Supreme Love. 



V11I 
FROM GOD TO GOD 

To affirm that the religious sense is a sense of divinity 
and that it is impossible without some abuse of the 
ordinary usages of human language to speak of an 
atheistic religion, is not, I think, to do violence to the 
truth; although it is clear that everything will depend 
upon the concept that we form of God, a concept which 
in its turn depends upon the concept of divinity. 

Our proper procedure, in effect, will be to begin with 
this sense of divinity, before prefixing to the concept of 
this quality the definite article and the capital letter and 
so converting it into " the Divinity " that is, into 
God. For man has not deduced the divine from God, 
but rather he has reached God through the divine. 

In the course of these somewhat wandering but at the 
same time urgent reflections upon the tragic sense of life, 
I have already alluded to the timor fecit deos of Statius 
with the object of limiting and correcting it. It is not 
my intention to trace yet once again the historical pro 
cesses by which peoples have arrived at the consciousness 
and concept of a personal God like the God of 
Christianity. And I say peoples and not isolated indi 
viduals, for if there is any feeling or concept that is truly 
collective and social it is the feeling and concept of God, 
although the individual subsequently individualizes it. 
Philosophy may, and in fact does, possess an individual 
origin ; theology is necessarily collective. 

Schleiermacher s theory, which attributes the origin, 
or rather the essence, of the religious sense to the 

156 



VIII 



FROM GOD TO GOD 157 



immediate and simple feeling of dependency, appears to 
be the most profound and exact explanation. Primitive 
man, living in society, feels himself to be dependent 
upon the mysterious forces invisibly environing him ; he 
feels himself to be in social communion, not only with 
beings like himself, his fellow-men, but with the whole 
of Nature, animate and inanimate, which simply means, 
in other words, that he personalizes everything. Not 
only does he possess a consciousness of the world, but 
he imagines that the world, like himself, possesses con 
sciousness also. Just as a child talks to his doll or his 
dog as if it understood what he was saying, so the 
savage believes that his fetich hears him when he speaks 
to it, and that the angry storm-cloud is aware of him and 
deliberately pursues him. For the newly born mind of 
the primitive natural man has not yet wholly severed 
itself from the cords which still bind it to the womb of 
Nature, neither has it clearly marked out the boundary 
that separates dreaming from waking, imagination from 
reality. 

The divine, therefore, was not originally something 
objective, but was rather the subjectivity of conscious 
ness projected exteriorly, the personalization of the 
world. The concept of divinity arose out of the feeling 
of divinity, and the feeling of divinity is simply the dim 
and nascent feeling of personality vented upon the out 
side world. And strictly speaking it is not possible to 
speak of outside and inside, objective and subjective, 
when no such distinction was actually felt ; indeed it is 
precisely from this lack of distinction that the feeling and 
concept of divinity proceed. The clearer our conscious 
ness of the distinction between the objective and the sub 
jective, the more obscure is the feeling of divinity in us. 

It has been said, and very justly so it would appear, 
that Hellenic paganism was not so much polytheistic as 
pantheistic. I do not know that the belief in a multitude 
of gods, taking the concept of God in the sense in which 



158 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vm 

we understand it to-day, has ever really existed in any 
human mind. And if by pantheism is understood the 
doctrine, not that everything and each individual thing 
is God a proposition which I find unthinkable but 
that everything is divine, then it may be said without 
any great abuse of language that paganism was 
pantheistic. Its gods not only mixed among men but 
intermixed with them ; they begat gods upon mortal 
women and upon goddesses mortal men begat demi-gods. 
And if demi-gods, that is, demi-men, were believed to 
exist, it was because the divine and the human were 
viewed as different aspects of the same reality. The 
divinization of everything was simply its humanization. 
To say that the sun was a god was equivalent to saying 
that it was a man, a human consciousness, more or less, 
aggrandized and sublimated. And this is true of all 
beliefs from fetichism to Hellenic paganism. 

The real distinction between gods and men consisted 
in the fact that the former were immortal. A god came 
to be identical with an immortal man and a man was 
deified, reputed as a god, when it was deemed that at 
his death he had not really died. Of certain heroes it 
was believed that they were alive in the kingdom of the 
dead. And this is a point of great importance in esti 
mating the value of the concept of the divine. 

In those republics of gods there was always some pre 
dominating god, some real monarch. It was through 
the agency of this divine monarchy that primitive peoples 
were led from monocultism to monotheism. Hence 
monarchy and monotheism are twin brethren. Zeus, 
Jupiter, was in process of being converted into an only 
god, just as Jahwe , originally one god among many 
others, came to be converted into an only god, first the 
god of the people of Israel, then the god of humanity, 
and finally the god of the whole universe. 

Like monarchy, monotheism had a martial origin. 
"It is only on the march and in time of war," says 



viii FROM GOD TO GOD 159 

Robertson Smith in The Prophets of Israel, 1 " that a 
nomad people feels any urgent need of a central authority, 
and so it came about that in the first beginnings of 
national organization, centring in the sanctuary of the 
ark, Israel was thought of mainly as the host of Jehovah. 
The very name of Israel is martial, and means God (El) 
fighteth, and Jehovah in the Old Testament is lahwe 
(^ebaoth the Jehovah of the armies of Israel. It was on 
the battlefield that Jehovah s presence was most clearly 
realized; but in primitive nations the leader in time of 
war is also the natural judge in time of peace." 

God, the only God, issued, therefore, from man s sense 
of divinity as a warlike, monarchical and social God. He 
revealed himself to the people as a whole, not to the 
individual. He was the God of a people and he jealously 
exacted that worship should be rendered to him alone. 
The transition from this monocultism to monotheism 
was effected largely by the individual action, more 
philosophical perhaps than theological, of the prophets. 
It was, in fact, the individual activity of the prophets 
that individualized the divinity. And above all by 
making the divinity ethical. 

Subsequently reason that is, philosophy took posses 
sion of this God who had arisen in the human conscious 
ness as a consequence of the sense of divinity in man, and 
tended to define him and convert him into an idea. For 
to define a thing is to idealize it, a process which necessi 
tates the abstraction from it of its incommensurable or 
irrational element, its vital essence. Thus the God of 
feeling, the divinity felt as a unique person and con 
sciousness external to us, although at the same time 
enveloping and sustaining us, was converted into the 
idea of God. 

The logical, rational God, the ens summum, the 
primum movens, the Supreme Being of theological 
philosophy, the God who is reached by the three famous 

1 Lecture I., p. 36. London, 1895, Black. 



160 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vm 

ways of negation, eminence and causality, vice nega- 
tionis, eminentice, causalitatis, is nothing but an idea of 
God, a dead thing. The traditional and much debated 
proofs of his existence are, at bottom, merely a vain 
attempt to determine his essence ; for as Vinet has very 
well observed, existence is deduced from essence ; and to 
say that God exists, without saying what God is and how 
he is, is equivalent to saying nothing at all. 

And this God, arrived at by the methods of eminence 
and negation or abstraction of finite qualities, ends by be 
coming an unthinkable God, a pure idea, a God of whom, 
by the very fact of his ideal excellence, we can say that 
he is nothing, as indeed he has been defined by Scotus 
Erigena : Deus propter excellentiam non inmerito nihil 
vocatur. Or in the words of the pseudo-Dionysius the 
Areopagite, in his fifth Epistle, " The divine darkness is 
the inaccessible light in which God is said to dwell." 
The anthropomorphic God, the God who is felt, in being 
purified of human, and as such finite, relative and tem 
poral, attributes, evaporates into the God of deism or of 
pantheism. 

The traditional so-called proofs of the existence of God 
all refer to this God-Idea, to this logical God, the God 
by abstraction, and hence they really prove nothing, or 
rather, they prove nothing more than the existence of this 
idea of God. 

In my early youth, when first I began to be puzzled 
by these eternal problems, I read in a book, the author of 
which I have no wish to recall, 1 this sentence : " God is 
the great X placed over the ultimate barrier of human 
knowledge; in the measure in which science advances, 
the barrier recedes." And I wrote in the margin, " On 
this side of the barrier, everything is explained without 
Him ; on the further side, nothing is explained, either 

1 No quiero acordarme, a phrase that is always associated in Spanish 
literature with the opening sentence of Don Quijote : En tin lugar de la 
Mancha de cuyo nombre no qiiiero acordarme. J. E. C. F. 



viii FROM GOD TO GOD 161 

with Him or without Him ; God therefore is superfluous." 
And so far as concerns the God-Idea, the God of the 
proofs, I continue to be of the same opinion. Laplace 
is said to have stated that he had not found the hypothesis 
of God necessary in order to construct his scheme of the 
origin of the Universe, and it is very true. In no way 
whatever does the idea of God help us to understand 
better the existence, the essence and the finality of the 
Universe. 

That there is a Supreme Being, infinite, absolute and 
eternal, whose existence is unknown to us, and who has 
created the Universe, is not more conceivable than that 
the material basis of the Universe itself, its matter, is 
eternal and infinite and absolute. We do not understand 
the existence of the world one whit the better by telling 
ourselves that God created it. It is a begging of the 
question, or a merely verbal solution, intended to cover 
up our ignorance. In strict truth, we deduce the exist 
ence of the Creator from the fact that the thing created 
exists, a process which does not justify rationally His 
existence. You cannot deduce a necessity from a fact, 
or else everything were necessary. 

And if from the nature of the Universe we pass to 
what is called its order, which is supposed to necessitate 
an Ordainer, we may say that order is what there is, and 
we do not conceive of any other. This deduction of 
God s existence from the order of the Universe implies a 
transition from the ideal to the real order, an outward 
projection of our mind, a supposition that the rational 
explanation, of a thing produces the thing itself. Human 
art, instructed by Nature, possesses a conscious creative 
faculty, by means of which it apprehends the process of 
creation, and we proceed to transfer this conscious and 
artistic creative faculty to the consciousness of an artist- 
creator, but from what nature he in his turn learnt his 
art we cannot tell. 

The traditional analogy of the watch and the watch- 

ii 



162 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vm 

maker is inapplicable to a Being absolute, infinite and 
eternal. It is, moreover, only another way of explain 
ing nothing. For to say that the world is as it is and not 
otherwise because God made it so, while at the same time 
we do not know for what reason He made it so, is to say 
nothing. And if we knew for what reason God made it 
so, then God is superfluous and the reason itself suffices. 
If everything were mathematics, if there were no 
irrational element, we should not have had recourse to 
this explanatory theory of a Supreme Ordainer, who is 
nothing but the reason of the irrational, and so merely 
another cloak for our ignorance. And let us not discuss 
here that absurd proposition that, if all the type in a 
printing-press were printed at random, the result could 
not possibly be the composition of Don Quixote. Some 
thing would be composed which would be as good as 
Don Quixote for those who would have to be content 
with it and would grow in it and would form part of it. 

In effect, this traditional supposed proof of God s 
existence resolves itself fundamentally into hyposta- 
tizing or substantivating the explanation or reason of a 
phenomenon ; it amounts to saying that Mechanics is the 
cause of movement, Biology of life, Philology of lan 
guage, Chemistry of bodies, by simply adding the capital 
letter to the science and converting it into a force dis 
tinct from the phenomena from which we derive it and 
distinct from our mind which effects the derivation. But 
the God who is the result of this process, a God who is 
nothing but reason hypostatized and projected towards 
the infinite, cannot possibly be felt as something living 
and real, nor yet be conceived of save as a mere idea 
which will die with us. 

The question arises, on the other hand, whether a thing 
the idea of which has been conceived but which has no 
real existence, does not exist because God wills that it 
should not exist, or whether God does not will it to exist 
because, in fact, it does not exist ; and, with regard to the 



viii FROM GOD TO GOD 163 

impossible, whether a thing is impossible because God 
wills it so, or whether God wills it so because, in itself 
and by the very fact of its own inherent absurdity, it is 
impossible. God has to submit to the logical law of con 
tradiction, and He cannot, according to the theologians, 
cause two and two to make either more or less than four. 
Either the law of necessity is above Him or He Himself 
is the law of necessity. And in the moral order the ques 
tion arises whether falsehood, or homicide, or adultery, 
are wrong because He has so decreed it, or whether He 
has so decreed it because they are wrong. If the former, 
then God is a capricious and unreasonable God, who 
decrees one law when He might equally well have decreed 
another, or, if the latter, He obeys an intrinsic nature 
and essence which exists in things themselves indepen 
dently of Him that is to say, independently of His 
sovereign will; and if this is the case, if He obeys the 
innate reason of things, this reason, if we could but know 
it, would suffice us. without any further need of God, and 
since we do not know it, God explains nothing. This 
reason would be above God. Neither is it of any avail 
to say that this reason is God Himself, the supreme 
reason of things. A reason of this kind, a necessary 
reason, is not a personal something. It is will that 
gives personality. And it is because of this problem of 
the relations between God s reason, necessarily neces 
sary, and His will, necessarily free, that the logical and 
Aristotelian God will always be a contradictory God. 

The scholastic theologians never succeeded in dis 
entangling themselves from the difficulties in which they 
found themselves involved when they attempted to recon 
cile human liberty with divine prescience and with the 
knowledge that God possesses of the free and contingent 
future; and that is strictly the reason why the rational 
God is wholly inapplicable to the contingent, for the 
notion of contingency is fundamentally the same as the 
notion of irrationality. The rational God is necessarily 



164 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vm 

necessary in His being and in His working ; in every single 
case He cannot do other than the best, and a number of 
different things cannot all equally be the best, for among 
infinite possibilities there is only one that is best accom 
modated to its end, just as among the infinite number of 
lines that can be drawn from one point to another, there 
is only one straight line. And the rational God, the 
God of reason, cannot but follow in each case the straight 
line, the line that leads most directly to the end pro 
posed, a necessary end, just as the only straight line that 
leads to it is a necessary line. And thus for the divinity 
of God is substituted His necessity. And in the neces 
sity of God, His free will that is to say, His conscious 
personality perishes. The God of our heart s desire, 
the God who shall save our soul from nothingness, must 
needs be an arbitrary God. 

Not because He thinks can God be God, but because He 
works, because He creates ; He is not a contemplative but 
an active God. A God-Reason, a theoretical or contem 
plative God, such as is this God of theological rationalism, 
is a God that is diluted in His own contemplation. With 
this God corresponds, as we shall see, the beatific vision, 
understood as the supreme expression of human felicity. 
A quietist God, in short, as reason, by its very essence, 
is quietist. 

There remains the other famous proof of God s exist 
ence, that of the supposed unanimous consent in a belief 
in Him among all peoples. But this proof is not strictly 
rational, neither is it an argument in favour of the rational 
God who explains the Universe, but of the God of the 
heart, who makes us live. We should be justified in 
calling it a rational proof only on the supposition that 
we believed that reason was identical with a more or less 
unanimous agreement among all peoples, that it corre 
sponded with the verdict of a universal suffrage, only on 
the supposition that we held that vox populi, which is 
said to be vox Dei, was actually the voice of reason. 



viii FROM GOD TO GOD 165 

Such was, indeed, the belief of Lamennais, that tragic 
and ardent spirit, who affirmed that life and truth were 
essentially one and the same thing would that they 
were ! and that reason was one, universal, everlasting 
and holy (Essai sur I indifference, partie iv., chap. viii.). 
He invoked the ant omnibus credendum est aut nemini 
of Lactantius we must believe all or none and the say 
ing of Heraclitus that every individual opinion is fallible, 
and that of Aristotle that the strongest proof consists in 
the general agreement of mankind, and above all that 
of Pliny (Paneg. Trajani, Ixii.), to the effect that one man 
cannot deceive all men or be deceived by all nemo 
omnes, neminem omnes fefellerunt. Would that it were 
so ! And so he concludes with the dictum of Cicero (De 
natura deorum, lib. iii., cap. ii., 5 and 6), that we must 
believe the tradition of our ancestors even though they 
fail to render us a reason maioribus autem nostris, etiam 
nulla ratione reddita credere. 

Let us suppose that this belief of the ancients in the 
divine interpenetration of the whole of Nature is uni 
versal and constant, and that it is, as Aristotle calls it, an 
ancestral dogma (ndTpios Sofa) (Metaphysica, lib. vii., 
cap. vii.); this would prove only that there is a motive 
impelling peoples and individuals that is to say, all or 
almost all or a majority of them to believe in a God. But 
may it not be that there are illusions and fallacies rooted in 
human nature itself ? Do not all peoples begin by believ 
ing that the sun turns round the earth? And do we not 
all naturally incline to believe that which satisfies our 
desires ? Shall we say with Hermann 1 that, " if there is 
a God, He has not left us without some indication of 
Himself, and it is His will that we should find Him." 

A pious desire, no doubt, but we cannot strictly call it 
a reason, unless we apply to it the Augustinian sentence, 

1 W. Hermann, Christlich systematische Dogtnatik, in the volume entitled 
Systematise he christliehe Religion. Die Kultur dcr Gegemvart series, 
published by P. Hinneberg. 



166 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vin 

but which again is not a reason, " Since thou seekestMe, 
it must be that thou hast found Me," believing that God 
is the cause of our seeking Him. 

This famous argument from the supposed unanimity 
of mankind s belief in God, the argument which with a 
sure instinct was seized upon by the ancients, is in its 
essence identical with the so-called moral proof which 
Kant employed in his Critique of Practical Reason, 
transposing its application from mankind collectively to 
the individual, the proof which he derives from our con 
science, or rather from our feeling of divinity. It is not 
a proof strictly or specifically rational, but vital ; it cannot 
be applied to the logical God, the ens summum, the essen 
tially simple and abstract Being, the immobile and im 
passible prime mover, the God-Reason, in a word, but 
to the biotic God, to the Being essentially complex and 
concrete, to the suffering God who suffers and desires in 
us and with us, to the Father of Christ who is only to be 
approached through Man, through His Son (John xiv. 6), 
and whose revelation is historical, or if you like, 
anecdotical, but not philosophical or categorical. 

The unanimous consent of mankind (let us suppose 
the unanimity) or, in other words, this universal longing 
of all human souls who have arrived at the consciousness 
of their humanity, which desires to be the end and mean 
ing of the Universe, this longing, which is nothing but 
that very essence of the soul which consists in its effort 
to persist eternally and without a break in the continuity 
of consciousness, leads us to the human, anthropomorphic 
God, the projection of our consciousness to the Conscious 
ness of the Universe ; it leads us to the God who confers 
human meaning and finality upon the Universe and who 
is not the ens summum, the primum movens, nor the 
Creator of the Universe, nor merely the Idea-God. It 
leads us to the living, subjective God, for He is simply 
subjectivity objectified or personality universalized He 
is more than a mere idea, and He is will rather than 



viii FROM GOD TO GOD 167 

reason. God is Love that is, Will. Reason, the 
Word, derives from Him, but He, the Father, is, above 
all, Will. 

There can be no doubt whatever," Ritschl says 
(Rechtfertigung und Versohnung, iii., chap, v.), " that a 
very imperfect view was taken of God s spiritual person 
ality in the older theology, when the functions of know 
ing and willing alone were employed to illustrate it. 
Religious thought plainly ascribes to God affections of 
feeling as well. The older theology, however, laboured 
under the impression that feeling and emotion were 
characteristic only of limited and created personality ; it 
transformed, e.g., the religious idea of the Divine 
blessedness into eternal self-knowledge, and that of the 
Divine wrath into a fixed purpose to punish sin." Yes, 
this logical God, arrived at by the via negationis, was a 
God who, strictly speaking, neither loved nor hated, 
because He neither enjoyed nor suffered, an inhuman 
God, and His justice was a rational or mathematical 
justice that is, an injustice. 

The attributes of the living God, of the Father of 
Christ, must be deduced from His historical revelation in 
the Gospel and in the conscience of every Christian 
believer, and not from metaphysical reasonings which 
lead only to the Nothing-God of Scotus Erigena, to the 
rational or pantheistic God, to the atheist God in short, 
to the de-personalized Divinity. 

Not by the way of reason, but only by the way of love 
and of suffering, do we come to the living God, the human 
God. Reason rather separates us from Him. We can 
not first know Him in order that afterwards we may love 
Him; we must begin by loving Him, longing for Him, 
hungering after Him, before knowing Him. The know 
ledge of God proceeds from the love of God, and this 
knowledge has little or nothing of the rational in it. For 
God is indefinable. To seek to define Him is to seek to 
confine Him within the limits of our mind that is to say, 



168 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vm 

to kill Him. In so far as we attempt to define Him, 
there rises up before us Nothingness. 

The idea of God, formulated by a theodicy that claims 
to be rational, is simply an hypothesis, like the hypothesis 
of ether, for example. 

Ether is, in effect, a merely hypothetical entity, valuable 
only in so far as it explains that which by means of it we 
endeavour to explain light, electricity or universal 
gravitation and only in so far as these facts cannot be 
explained in any other way. In like manner the idea 
of God is also an hypothesis, valuable only in so far as 
it enables us to explain that which by means of it we 
endeavour to explain the essence and existence of the 
Universe and only so long as these cannot be explained 
in any other way. And since in reality we explain the 
Universe neither better nor worse with this idea than 
without it, the idea of God, the supreme petitio principii, 
is valueless. 

But if ether is nothing but an hypothesis explanatory 
of light, air, on the other hand, is a thing that is directly 
felt ; and even though it did not enable us to explain the 
phenomenon of sound, we should nevertheless always be 
directly aware of it, and, above all, of the lack of it in 
moments of suffocation or air-hunger. And in the same 
way God Himself, not the idea of God, may become a 
reality that is immediately felt; and even though the idea 
of Him does not enable us to explain either the existence 
or the essence of the Universe, we have at times the direct 
feeling of God, above all in moments of spiritual suffoca 
tion. And this feeling mark it well, for all that is tragic 
in it and the \vhole tragic sense of life is founded upon 
this this feeling is a feeling of hunger for God, of the 
lack of God. To believe in God is, in the first instance, 
as we shall see, to wish that there may be a God, to be 
unable to live without Him. 

So long as I pilgrimaged through the fields of reason 
in search of God, I could not find Him, for I was not 



VIII 



FROM GOD TO GOD 169 



deluded by the idea of God, neither could I take an idea 
for God, and it was then, as I wandered among the 
wastes of rationalism, that I told myself that we ought 
to seek no other consolation than the truth, meaning 
thereby reason, and yet for all that I was not comforted. 
But as I sank deeper and deeper into rational scepticism 
on the one hand and into heart s despair on the other, 
the hunger for God awoke within me, and the suffocation 
of spirit made me feel the want of God, and with the want 
of Him, His reality. And I wished that there might be 
a God, that God might exist. And God does not exist, 
but rather super-exists, and He is sustaining our exist 
ence, existing us (existiendonos). 

God, who is Love, the Father of Love, is the son of 
love in us. There are men of a facile and external habit 
of mind, slaves of reason, that reason which externalizes 
us, who think it a shrewd comment to say that so far 
from God having made man in His image and likeness, 
it is rather man who has made his gods or his God in his 
own image and likeness, 1 and so superficial are they that 
they do not pause to consider that if the second of these 
propositions be true, as in fact it is, it is owing to the fact 
that the first is not less true. God and man, in effect, 
mutually create one another ; God creates or reveals Him 
self in man and man creates himself in God. God is 
His own maker, Deus ipse se facit, said Lactantius 
(Divinarum Institutionum, ii., 8), and we may say that 
He is making Himself continually both in man and by 
man. And if each of us, impelled by his love, by his 
hunger for divinity, creates for himself an image of God 
according to his own desire, and if according to His 
desire God creates Himself for each of us, then there is 
a collective, social, human God, the resultant of all the 
human imaginations that imagine Him. For God is 

1 Dicu a fait Fhonime a son image, mats Phomme k lui a Inert rendu, 
Voltaire. J. E. C. F. 



170 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vm 

and reveals Himself in collectivity. And God is the 
richest and most personal of human conceptions. 

The Master of divinity has bidden us be perfect as our 
Father who is in heaven is perfect (Matt. v. 48), and in 
the sphere of thought and feeling our perfection consists 
in the zeal with which we endeavour to equate our imagina 
tion with the total imagination of the humanity of which 
in God we form a part. 

The logical theory of the opposition between the exten 
sion and the comprehension of a concept, the one 
increasing in the ratio in which the other diminishes, is 
well known. The concept that is most extensive and at 
the same time least comprehensive is that of being or of 
thing, which embraces everything that exists and pos 
sesses no other distinguishing quality than that of being ; 
while the concept that is most comprehensive and least 
extensive is that of the Universe, which is only applicable 
to itself and comprehends all existing qualities. And the 
logical or rational God, the God obtained by way of 
negation, the absolute entity, merges, like reality itself, 
into nothingness; for, as Hegel pointed out, pure being 
and pure nothingness are identical. And the God of the 
heart, the God who is felt, the God of living men, is the 
Universe itself conceived as personality, is the conscious 
ness of the Universe. A God universal and personal, 
altogether different from the individual God of a rigid 
metaphysical monotheism. 

I must advert here once again to my view of the oppo 
sition that exists between individuality and personality, 
notwithstanding the fact that the one demands the other. 
Individuality is, if I may so express it, the continent 
or thing which contains, personality the content or 
thing contained, or I might say that my personality 
is in a certain sense my comprehension, that which 
I comprehend or embrace within myself which is in a 
certain way the whole Universe and that my indi 
viduality is my extension ; the one my infinite, the other 



vni FROM GOD TO GOD 171 

my finite. A hundred jars of hard earthenware are 
strongly individualized, but it is possible for them to be 
all equally empty or all equally full of the same homo 
geneous liquid, whereas two bladders of so delicate a 
membrane as to admit of the action of osmosis and 
exosmosis may be strongly differentiated and contain 
liquids of a very mixed composition. And thus a man, 
in so far as he is an individual, may be very sharply 
detached from others, a sort of spiritual crustacean, and 
yet be very poor in differentiating content. And further, 
it is true on the other hand that the more personality a 
man has and the greater his interior richness and the 
more he is a society within himself, the less brusquely 
he is divided from his fellows. In the same way the 
rigid God of deism, of Aristotelian monotheism, the 
ens summum, is a being in whom individuality, or rather 
simplicity, stifles personality. Definition kills him, for 
to define is to impose boundaries, it is to limit, and it is 
impossible to define the absolutely indefinable. This 
God lacks interior richness ; he is not a society in him 
self. And this the vital revelation obviated by the 
belief in the Trinity, which makes God a society and even 
a family in himself and no longer a pure individual. The 
God of faith is personal ; He is a person because He 
includes three persons, for personality is not sensible of 
itself in isolation. An isolated person ceases to be a 
person, for whom should he love ? And if he does not 
love, he is not a person. Nor can a simple being love 
himself without his love expanding him into a compound 
being. 

It was because God was felt as a Father that the belief 
in the Trinity arose. For a God-Father cannot be a 
single, that is, a solitary, God. A father is always the 
father of a family. And the fact that God was felt as a 
father acted as a continual incentive to conceive Him not 
merely anthropomorphically that is to say, as a man, 
but andromorphically, as a male, avrjp. In the 



172 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vin 

popular Christian imagination, in effect, God the Father 
is conceived of as a male. And the reason is that man, 
homo, av6pa)7ros, as we know him, is necessarily either a 
male, vir, avrjp, or a female, mulier, <yvvrj. And to these 
may be added the child, who is neuter. And hence in 
order to satisfy imaginatively this necessity of feeling 
God as a perfect man that is, as a family arose the cult 
of the God-Mother, the Virgin Mary, and the cult of the 
Child Jesus. 

The cult of the Virgin, Mariolatry, which, by the 
gradual elevation of the divine element in the Virgin has 
led almost to her deification, answers merely to the 
demand of the feeling that God should be a perfect man, 
that God should include in His nature the feminine 
element. The progressive exaltation of the Virgin Mary, 
the work of Catholic piety, having its beginning in the 
expression Mother of God, Oeoro/cos, deipara, has cul 
minated in attributing to her the status of co-redeemer 
and in the dogmatic declaration of her conception with 
out the stain of original sin. Hence she now occupies a 
position between Humanity and Divinity and nearer 
Divinity than Humanity. And it has been surmised that 
in course of time she may perhaps even come to be 
regarded as yet another personal manifestation of the 
Godhead. 

And yet this might not necessarily involve the conver 
sion of the Trinity into a Quaternity. If irvev/jLa, in 
Greek, spirit, instead of being neuter had been feminine, 
who can say that the Virgin Mary might not already 
have become an incarnation or humanization of the Holy 
Spirit ? That fervent piety which always knows how to 
mould theological speculation in accordance with its own 
desires would have found sufficient warranty for such a 
doctrine in the text of the Gospel, in Luke s narrative 
of the Annunciation where the angel Gabriel hails Mary 
with the words, " The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee," 
ayiov eTTeXevcreraL eirl ere (Luke i. 35). And thus 



vin FROM GOD TO GOD 173 

a dogmatic evolution would have been effected parallel 
to that of the divinization of Jesus, the Son, and his 
identification with the Word. 

In any case the cult of the Virgin, of the eternal 
feminine, or rather of the divine feminine, of the divine 
maternity, helps to complete the personalization of God 
by constituting Him a family. 

In one of my books (Vida de Don Quijote y Sancho, 
part ii., chap. Ixvii.) I have said that " God was and is, 
in our mind, masculine. In His mode of judging and 
condemning men, He acts as a male, not as a human 
person above the limitation of sex ; He acts as a father. 
And to counterbalance this, the Mother element was 
required, the Mother who always forgives, the Mother 
whose arms are always open to the child when he flies 
from the frowning brow or uplifted hand of the angry 
father; the Mother in whose bosom we seek the dim, 
comforting memory of that warmth and peace of our pre 
natal unconsciousness, of that milky sweetness that 
soothed our dreams of innocence ; the Mother who knows 
no justice but that of forgiveness, no law but that of love. 
Our weak and imperfect conception of God as a God 
with a long beard and a voice of thunder, of a God who 
promulgates laws and pronounces dooms, of a God who 
is the Master of a household, a Roman Paterfamilias, 
required counterpoise and complement, and since funda 
mentally we are unable to conceive of the personal and 
living God as exalted above human and even masculine 
characteristics, and still less as a neutral or hermaphro 
dite God, we have recourse to providing Him with a 
feminine God, and by the side of the God-Father we 
have placed the Goddess-Mother, she who always for 
gives, because, since she sees with love-blind eyes, she 
sees always the hidden cause of the fault and in that 
hidden cause the only justice of forgiveness. ..." 

And to this I must now add that not only are we unable 
to conceive of the full and living God as masculine 



174 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vm 

simply, but we are unable to conceive of Him as 
individual simply, as the projection of a solitary I, an 
unsocial I, an I that is in reality an abstract I. My living 
I is an I that is really a We ; my living personal I lives 
only in other, of other, and by other I s ; I am sprung 
from a multitude of ancestors, I carry them within me in 
extract, and at the same time I carry within me, poten 
tially, a multitude of descendants, and God, the projec 
tion of my I to the infinite or rather I, the projection of 
God to the finite must also be multitude. Hence, in 
order to save the personality of God that is to say, in 
order to save the living God faith s need the need of 
the feeling and the imagination of conceiving Him and 
feeling Him as possessed of a certain internal multiplicity. 
This need the pagan feeling of a living divinity 
obviated by polytheism. It is the agglomeration of its 
gods, the republic of them, that really constitutes its 
Divinity. The real God of Hellenic paganism is not so 
much Father Zeus (Jupiter) as the whole society of gods 
and demi-gods. Hence the solemnity of the invocation 
of Demosthenes when he invoked all the gods and all the 
goddesses : TO?? #eot9 eir^o^tat 7rao~t KOI Trdaats. And when 
the rationalizers converted the term god, 0eo9, which is 
properly an adjective, a quality predicated of each one 
of the gods, into a substantive, and added the definite 
article to it, they produced the god, o #609, the dead and 
abstract god of philosophical rationalism, a substantivized 
quality and therefore void of personality. For the mascu 
line concrete god (el dios) is nothing but the neuter 
abstract divine quality (to divino). Now the transition 
from feeling the divinity in all things to substantiating 
it and converting the Divinity into God, cannot be 
achieved without feeling undergoing a certain risk. 
And the Aristotelian God, the God of the logical proofs, 
is nothing more than the Divinity, a concept and not a 
living person who can be felt and with whom through 
love man can communicate. This God is merely a sub- 



viii FROM GOD TO GOD 175 

stantivized adjective ; He is a constitutional God who 
reigns but does not govern, and Knowledge is His con 
stitutional charter. 

And even in Greco-Latin paganism itself the tendency 
towards a living monotheism is apparent in the fact that 
Zeus was conceived of and felt as a father, Zev? Trarrjp, 
as Homer calls him, the Ju-piter or Ju-pater of the Latins, 
and as a father of a whole widely extended family of gods 
and goddesses who together with him constituted the 
Divinity. 

The conjunction of pagan polytheism with Judaic 
monotheism, which had endeavoured by other means to 
save the personality of God, gave birth to the feeling of 
the Catholic God, a God who is a society, as the pagan 
God of whom I have spoken was a society, and who at 
the same time is one, as the God of Israel finally became 
one. Such is the Christian Trinity, whose deepest sense 
rationalistic deism has scarcely ever succeeded in under 
standing, that deism, which though more or less im 
pregnated with Christianity, always remains Unitarian or 
Socinian. 

And the truth is that we feel God less as a superhuman 
consciousness than as the actual consciousness of the 
whole human race, past, present, and future, as the col 
lective consciousness of the whole race, and still more, 
as the total and infinite consciousness which embraces 
and sustains all consciousnesses, infra-human, human, 
and perhaps, super-human. The divinity that there is 
in everything, from the lowest that is to say, from the 
least conscious of living forms, to the highest, including 
our own human consciousness, this divinity we feel to be 
personalized, conscious of itself, in God. And this 
gradation of consciousnesses, this sense of the gulf 
between the human and the fully divine, the universal, 
consciousness, finds its counterpart in the belief in angels 
with their different hierarchies, as intermediaries between 
our human consciousness and that of God. And these 



176 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vm 

gradations a faith consistent with itself must believe to be 
infinite, for only by an infinite number of degrees is it 
possible to pass from the finite to the infinite. 

Deistic rationalism conceives God as the Reason of 
the Universe, but its logic compels it to conceive Him as 
an impersonal reason that is to say, as an idea while 
deistic vitalism feels and imagines God as Consciousness, 
and therefore as a person or rather as a society of persons. 
The consciousness of each one of us, in effect, is a society 
of persons; in me there are various I s and even the I s 
of those among whom I live, live in me. 

The God of deistic rationalism, in effect, the God of the 
logical proofs of His existence, the ens realissimum and 
the immobile prime mover, is nothing more than a 
Supreme Reason, but in the same sense in which we can 
call the law of universal gravitation the reason of the 
falling of bodies, this law being merely the explanation 
of the phenomenon. But will anyone say that that which 
we call the law of universal gravitation, or any other 
law or mathematical principle, is a true and independent 
reality, that it is an angel, that it is something which 
possesses consciousness of itself and others, that it is a 
person ? No, it is nothing but an idea without any reality 
outside of the mind of him who conceives it. And simi 
larly this God-Reason either possesses consciousness of 
himself or he possesses no reality outside the mind that 
conceives him. And if he possesses consciousness of 
himself, he becomes a personal reason, and then all the 
value of the traditional proofs disappears, for these proofs 
only proved a reason, but not a supreme consciousness. 
Mathematics prove an order, a constancy, a reason in the 
series of mechanical phenomena, but they do not prove 
that this reason is conscious of itself. This reason is a 
logical necessity, but the logical necessity does not prove 
the teleological or finalist necessity. And where there 
is no finality there is no personality, there is no con 
sciousness. 



vin FROM GOD TO GOD 177 

The rational God, therefore that is to say, the God 
who is simply the Reason of the Universe and nothing 
more consummates his own destruction, is destroyed in 
our mind in so far as he is such a God, and is only born 
again in us when we feel him in our heart as a living 
person, as Consciousness, and no longer merely as the 
impersonal and objective Reason of the Universe. If 
we wish for a rational explanation of the construction of 
a machine, all that we require to know is the mechanical 
science of its constructor ; but if we would have a reason 
for the existence of such a machine, then, since it is 
the work not of Nature but of man, we must suppose a 
conscious, constructive being. But the second part of 
this reasoning is not applicable to God, even though it 
be said that in Him the mechanical science and the 
mechanician, by means of which the machine was con 
structed, are one and the same thing. From the rational 
point of view this identification is merely a begging of 
the question. And thus it is that reason destroys this 
Supreme Reason, in so far as the latter is a person. 

The human reason, in effect, is a reason that is based 
upon the irrational, upon the total vital consciousness, 
upon will and feeling; our human reason is not a reason 
that can prove to us the existence of a Supreme Reason, 
which in its turn would have to be based upon the 
Supreme Irrational, upon the Universal Consciousness. 
And the revelation of this Supreme Consciousness in our 
feeling and imagination, by love, by faith, by the process 
of personalization, is that which leads us to believe in the 
living God. 

And this God, the living God, your God, our God, is 
in me, is in you, lives in us, and we live and move and 
have our being in Him. And He is in us by virtue of the 
hunger, the longing, which we have for Him, He is Him 
self creating the longing for Himself. And He is the 
God of the humble, for in the words of the Apostle, God 
chose the foolish things of the world to confound the 

12 



178 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vin 

wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the 
things which are mighty (i Cor. i. 27). And God is in 
each one of us in the measure in which each one feels 
Him and loves Him. "If of two men," says Kierke 
gaard, " one prays to the true God without sincerity of 
heart, and the other prays to an idol with all the passion 
of an infinite yearning, it is the first who really prays to 
an idol, while the second really prays to God." It would 
be better to say that the true God is He to whom man 
truly prays and whom man truly desires. And there 
may even be a truer revelation in superstition itself than 
in theology. The venerable Father of the long beard 
and white locks who appears among the clouds carrying 
the globe of the world in his hand is more living and 
more real than the ens realissimum of theodicy. 

Reason is an analytical, that is, a dissolving force, 
whenever it transfers its activity from the form of 
intuitions, whether those of the individual instinct of 
preservation or those of the social instinct of perpetuation, 
and applies it to the essence and matter of them. Reason 
orders the sensible perceptions which give us the material 
world ; but when its analysis is exercised upon the reality 
of the perceptions themselves, it dissolves them and 
plunges us into a world of appearances, a world of 
shadows without consistency, for outside the domain of 
the formal, reason is nihilist and annihilating. And it 
performs the same terrible office when we withdraw it 
from its proper domain and apply it to the scrutiny of 
the imaginative intuitions which give us the spiritual 
world. For reason annihilates and imagination com 
pletes, integrates or totalizes ; reason by itself alone kills, 
and it is imagination that gives life. If it is true that 
imagination by itself alone, in giving us life without limit, 
leads us to lose our identity in the All and also kills us 
as individuals, it kills us by excess of life. Reason, the 
head, speaks to us the word Nothing ! imagination, the 
heart, the word All ! and between all and nothing, by 



viii FROM GOD TO GOD 179 

the fusion of the all and the nothing within us, we live 
in God, who is All, and God lives in us who, without 
Him, are nothing-. Reason reiterates, Vanity of vanities ! 
all is vanity ! And imagination answers, Plenitude of 
plenitudes ! all is plenitude ! And thus we live the 
vanity of plenitude or the plenitude of vanity. 

And so deeply rooted in the depths of man s being is 
this vital need of living a w orld 1 illogical, irrational, 
personal or divine, that those who do not believe in 
God, or believe that they do not believe in Him, be 
lieve nevertheless in some little pocket god or even 
devil of their own, or in an omen, or in a horseshoe 
picked up by chance on the roadside and carried about 
with them to bring them good luck and defend them 
from that very reason whose loyal and devoted henchmen 
they imagine themselves to be. 

The God whom we hunger after is the God to whom 
we pray, the God of the Pater Noster, of the Lord s 
Prayer; the God whom we beseech, before all and above 
all, and whether we are aware of it or not, to instil faith 
into us, to make us believe in Him, to make Himself in 
us, the God to whom we pray that His name may be 
hallowed and that His will may be done His will, not 
His reason on earth as it is in heaven; but feeling that 
His will cannot be other than the essence of our will, the 
desire to persist eternally. 

And such a God is the God of love how He is it profits 
us not to ask, but rather let each consult his own heart 
and give his imagination leave to picture Him in the 
remoteness of the Universe, gazing down upon him with 
those myriad eyes of His that shine in the night-darkened 
heavens. He in whom you believe, reader, Fie is your 
God, He who has lived with you and within you, who 
was born with you, who was a child when you were a 
child, who became a man according as you became a 
man, who will vanish when you yourself vanish, and who 



i8o THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vm 

is your principle of continuity in the spiritual life, for 
He is the principle of solidarity among all men and in 
each man and between men and the Universe, and He 
is, as you are, a person. And if you believe in God, 
God believes in you, and believing in you He creates 
you continually. For in your essence you are nothing 
but the idea that God possesses of you but a living idea, 
because the idea of a God who is living and conscious of 
Himself, of a God-Consciousness, and apart from what 
you are in the society of God you are nothing. 

How to define God ? Yes, that is our longing. That 
was the longing of the man Jacob, when, after wrestling 
all the night until the breaking of the day with that divine 
visitant, he cried, "Tell me, I pray thee, thy name!" 
(Gen. xxxii. 29). Listen to the words of that great 
Christian preacher, Frederick William Robertson, in a 
sermon preached in Trinity Chapel, Brighton, on the 
loth of June, 1849: "And this is our struggle the 
struggle. Let any true man go down into the deeps of 
his own being, and answer us what is the cry that comes 
from the most real part of his nature? Is it the cry for 
daily bread ? Jacob asked for that in his first communing 
with God preservation, safety. Is it even this to be 
forgiven our sins ? Jacob had a sin to be forgiven, and 
in that most solemn moment of his existence he did not 
say a syllable about it. Or is it this Hallowed be 
Thy name ? No, my brethren. Out of our frail and 
yet sublime humanity, the demand that rises in the 
earthlier hours of our religion may be this * Save my 
soul ; but in the most unearthly moments it is this Tell 
me thy name. We move through a world of mystery; 
and the deepest question is, What is the being that is 
ever near, sometimes felt, never seen ; that which has 
haunted us from childhood with a dream of something 
surpassingly fair, which has never yet been realized ; 
that which sweeps through the soul at times as a desola 
tion, like the blast from the wings of the Angel of Death, 



VIII 



FROM GOD TO GOD 181 



leaving us stricken and silent in our loneliness ; that 
which has touched us in our tenderest point, and the 
flesh has quivered with agony, and our mortal affections 
have shrivelled up with pain ; that which comes to us in 
aspirations of nobleness and conceptions of superhuman 
excellence ? Shall we say It or He ? What is It ? Who 
is He? Those anticipations of Immortality and God 
what are they ? Are they the mere throbbings of my own 
heart, heard and mistaken for a living something beside 
me ? Are they the sound of my own wishes, echoing 
through the vast void of Nothingness? or shall I call 
them God, Father, Spirit, Love ? A living Being within 
me or outside me? Tell me Thy name, thou awful 
mystery of Loveliness ! This is the struggle of all 
earnest life." 1 

Thus Robertson. To which I must add this comment, 
that Tell me thy name ! is essentially the same as Save 
my soul ! We ask Him His name in order that He may 
save our soul, that He may save the human soul, that 
He may save the human finality of the Universe. And 
if they tell us that He is called He, that He is the ens 
realissimum or the Supreme Being or any other meta 
physical name, we are not contented, for we know that 
every metaphysical name is an X, and we go on asking 
Him His name. And there is only one name that 
satisfies our longing, and that is the name Saviour, Jesus. 
God is the love that saves. As Browning said in his 
Christmas Eve and Easter Day, 

For the loving worm within its clod, 
Were diviner than a loveless God 
Amid his worlds, I will dare to say. 

The essence of the divine is Love, Will that personalizes 
and eternalizes, that feels the hunger for eternity and 
infinity. 

It is ourselves, it is our eternity that we seek in God, 

1 Sermons, by the Rev. Frederick W. Robertson. First series, sermon iii., 
"Jacob s Wrestling." Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubnerand Co., London, 1898. 



182 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vm 

it is our divinization. It was Browning again who said, 
in Saul, 

Tis the weakness in strength that I cry for ! my flesh that I seek 
In the Godhead ! 

But this God who saves us, this personal God, the Con 
sciousness of the Universe who envelops and sustains our 
consciousnesses, this God who gives human finality to 
the whole creation does He exist ? Have we proofs of 
His existence? 

This question leads in the first place to an enquiry into 
the meaning of this notion of existence. What is it to 
exist and in what sense do we speak of things as not 
existing ? 

In its etymological signification to exist is to be out 
side of ourselves, outside of our mind : ex-sister e. But 
is there anything outside of our mind, outside of our 
consciousness which embraces the sum of the known ? 
Undoubtedly there is. The matter of knowledge comes 
to us from without. And what is the mode of this 
matter? It is impossible for us to know, for to know is 
to clothe matter with form, and hence we cannot know 
the formless as formless. To do so would be tantamount 
to investing chaos with order. 

This problem of the existence of God, a problem that 
is rationally insoluble, is really identical with the problem 
of consciousness, of the ex-sistentia and not of the 
in-sistentia of consciousness, it is none other than the 
problem of the substantial existence of the soul, the 
problem of the perpetuity of the human soul, the problem 
of the human finality of the Universe itself. To believe 
in a living and personal God, in an eternal and universal 
consciousness that knows and loves us, is to believe that 
the Universe exists for man. For man, or for a con 
sciousness of the same order as the human consciousness, 
of the same nature, although sublimated, a consciousness 
that is capable of knowing us, in the depth of whose 
being our memory may live for ever. 



VIII 



FROM GOD TO GOD 183 



Perhaps, as I have said before, by a supreme and 
desperate effort of resignation we might succeed in 
making the sacrifice of our personality provided that we 
knew that at our death it would go to enrich a Supreme 
Personality; provided that we knew that the Universal 
Soul was nourished by our souls and had need of them. 
We might perhaps meet death with a desperate resigna 
tion or with a resigned despair, delivering up our soul to 
the soul of humanity, bequeathing to it our work, the 
work that bears the impress of our person, if it were cer 
tain that this humanity were destined to bequeath its soul 
in its turn to another soul, when at long last conscious 
ness shall have become extinct upon this desire-tormented 
Earth. But is it certain? 

And if the soul of humanity is eternal, if the human 
collective consciousness is eternal, if there is a Conscious 
ness of the Universe, and if this Consciousness is eternal, 
why must our own individual consciousness yours, 
reader, mine be not eternal ? 

In the vast all of the Universe, must there be this unique 
anomaly a consciousness that knows itself, loves itself 
and feels itself, joined to an organism which can only 
live within such and such degrees of heat, a merely 
transitory phenomenon ? No, it is not mere curiosity 
that inspires the wish to know whether or not the stars 
are inhabited by living organisms, by consciousnesses 
akin to our own, and a profound longing enters into that 
dream that our souls shall pass from star to star through 
the vast spaces of the heavens, in an infinite series of 
transmigrations. The feeling of the divine makes us 
wish and believe that everything is animated, that con 
sciousness, in a greater or less degree, extends through 
everything. We wish not only to save ourselves, but 
to save the world from nothingness. And therefore God. 
Such is His finality as we feel it. 

What would a universe be without any consciousness 
capable of reflecting it and knowing it? What would 



184 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE vin 

objectified reason be without will and feeling? For us 
it would be equivalent to nothing a thousand times 
more dreadful than nothing. 

If such a supposition is reality, our life is deprived of 
sense and value. 

It is not, therefore, rational necessity, but vital anguish 
that impels us to believe in God. And to believe in 
God I must reiterate it yet again is, before all and 
above all, to feel a hunger for God, a hunger for divinity, 
to be sensible of His lack and absence, to wish that God 
may exist. And it is to wish to save the human finality 
of the Universe. For one might even come to resign 
oneself to being absorbed by God, if it be that our con 
sciousness is based upon a Consciousness, if conscious 
ness is the end of the Universe. 

" The wicked man hath said in his heart, There is no 
God." And this is truth. For in his head the righteous 
man may say to himself, God does not exist ! But only 
the wicked can say it in his heart. Not to believe that 
there is a God or to believe that there is not a God, is 
one thing ; to resign oneself to there not being a God is 
another thing, and it is a terrible and inhuman thing ; 
but not to wish that there be a God exceeds every other 
moral monstrosity ; although, as a matter of fact, those 
who deny God deny Him because of their despair at not 
finding Him. 

And now reason once again confronts us with the 
Sphinx-like question the Sphinx, in effect, is reason- 
Does God exist? This eternal and eternalizing person 
who gives meaning and I will add, a human meaning, 
for there is none other to the Universe, is it a substantial 
something, existing independently of our consciousness, 
independently of our desire? Here we arrive at the 
insoluble, and it is best that it should be so. Let it suffice 
for reason that it cannot prove the impossibility of His 
existence. 

To believe in God is to long for His existence and, 



viii FROM GOD TO GOD 185 

further, it is to act as if He existed ; it is to live by this 
longing and to make it the inner spring of our action. 
This longing or hunger for divinity begets hope, hope 
begets faith, and faith and hope beget charity. Of this 
divine longing is born our sense of beauty, of finality, of 
goodness. 

Let us see how this may be. 



IX 
FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY 

Sanctius ac reverentius visum de actis deorum credere quam scire. 
TACITUS : Germania, 34. 

THE road that leads us to the living God, the God of the 
heart, and that leads us back to Him when we have left 
Him for the lifeless God of logic, is the road of faith, not 
of rational or mathematical conviction. 

And what is faith ? 

This is the question propounded in the Catechism of 
Christian Doctrine that was taught us at school, and the 
answer runs : Faith is believing what we have not seen. 

This, in an essay written some twelve years ago, I 
amended as follows : " Believing what we have not seen, 
no ! but creating what we do not see." And I have 
already told you that believing in God is, in the first 
instance at least, wishing that God may be, longing for 
the existence of God. 

The theological virtue of faith, according to the 
Apostle Paul, whose definition serves as the basis of the 
traditional Christian disquisitions upon it, is " the sub 
stance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not 
seen," eKTn^o^vwv vTroo-racris, Trpay/jbd-rcov eXe7%o? ov 
/3\e7ro/j,eva)v (Heb. xi. i). 

The substance, or rather the support and basis, of 
hope, the guarantee of it. That which connects, or, 
rather than connects, subordinates, faith to hope. And 
in fact we do not hope because we believe, but rather we 
believe because we hope. It is hope in God, it is the 
ardent longing that there may be a God who guarantees 
the eternity of consciousness, that leads us to believe in 
Him. 

186 



ix FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY 187 

But faith, which after all is something compound, 
comprising a cognitive, logical, or rational element 
together with an affective, biotic, sentimental, and strictly 
irrational element, is presented to us under the form of 
knowledge. And hence the insuperable difficulty of 
separating it from some dogma or other. Pure faith, free 
from dogmas, about which I wrote a great deal years ago, 
is a phantasm. Neither is the difficulty overcome by 
inventing the theory of faith in faith itself. Faith needs 
a matter to work upon . 

Believing is a form of knowing, even if it be no more 
than a knowing and even a formulating of our vital long 
ing. In ordinary language the term "believing," how 
ever, is used in a double and even a contradictory sense. 
It may express, on the one hand, the highest degree of 
the mind s conviction of the truth of a thing, and, on the 
other hand, it may imply merely a weak and hesitating 
persuasion of its truth. For if in one sense believing 
expresses the firmest kind of assent we are capable of 
giving, the expression " I believe that it is so, although 
I am not sure of it," is nevertheless common in ordinary 
speech. 

And this agrees with what we have said above with 
respect to uncertainty as the basis of faith. The most 
robust faith, in so far as it is distinguished from all other 
knowledge that is not pistic or of faith faithful, as we 
might say is based on uncertainty. And this is because 
faith, the guarantee of things hoped for, is not so much 
rational adhesion to a theoretical principle as trust in a 
person who assures us of something. Faith supposes an 
objective, personal element. We do not so much believe 
something as believe someone who promises us or assures 
us of this or the other thing. We believe in a person and 
in God in so far as He is a person and a personalization 
of the Universe. 

This personal or religious element in faith is evident. 
Faith, it is said, is in itself neither theoretical knowledge 



i88 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE ix 

nor rational adhesion to a truth, nor yet is its essence 
sufficiently explained by defining it as trust in God. 
Seeberg says of faith that it is " the inward submission to 
the spiritual authority of God, immediate obedience. 
And in so far as this obedience is the means of attaining 
a rational principle, faith is a personal conviction." 1 

The faith which St. Paul defined, TTIO-TLS in Greek, is 
better translated as trust, confidence. The word pistis is 
derived from the verb TrelOw, which in its active voice 
means to persuade and in its middle voice to trust in 
someone, to esteem him as worthy of trust, to place con 
fidence in him, to obey. And fidare se, to trust, is 
derived from the root fid whence fides, faith, and also 
confidence. The Greek root jruO and the Latin fid are 
twin brothers. In the root of the word faith" itself, 
therefore, there is implicit the idea of confidence, of sur 
render to the will of another, to a person. Confidence is 
placed only in persons. We trust in Providence, which 
we conceive as something personal and conscious, not in 
Fate, which is something impersonal. And thus it is in 
the person who tells us the truth, in the person who gives 
us hope, that we believe, not directly and immediately in 
truth itself or in hope itself. 

And this personal or rather personifying element in 
faith extends even to the lowest forms of it, for it is this 
that produces faith in pseudo-revelation, in inspiration, 
in miracle. There is a story of a Parisian doctor, who, 
when he found that a quack-healer was drawing away his 
clientele, removed to a quarter of the city as distant as 
possible from his former abode, where he was totally 
unknown, and here he gave himself out as a quack-healer 
and conducted himself as such. When he was denounced 
as an illegal practitioner he produced his doctor s certi 
ficate, and explained his action more or less as follows : 
" I am indeed a doctor, but if I had announced myself as 

1 Reinold Seeberg, Christliche-protestantische Ethik in Systematische 
chrislliche Religion, in Die Kultur der Gegcmuart series. 



ix FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY 189 

such I should not have had as large a clientele as I have 
as a quack-healer. Now that all my clients know that I 
have studied medicine, however, and that I am a properly 
qualified medical man, they will desert me in favour of 
some quack who can assure them that he has never 
studied, but cures simply by inspiration." And true it 
is that a doctor is discredited when it is proved that he has 
never studied medicine and possesses no qualifying- 
certificate, and that a quack is discredited when it is proved 
that he has studied and is a qualified practitioner. For 
some believe in science and in study, while others believe 
in the person, in inspiration, and even in ignorance. 

" There is one distinction in the world s geography 
which comes immediately to our minds when we thus 
state the different thoughts and desires of men con 
cerning their religion. We remember how the whole 
world is in general divided into two hemispheres 
upon this matter. One half of the world the great 
dim East is mystic. It insists upon not seeing any 
thing too clearly. Make any one of the great ideas of 
life distinct and clear, and immediately it seems to the 
Oriental to be untrue. He has an instinct which tells 
him that the vastest thoughts are too vast for the human 
mind, and that if they are made to present themselves in 
forms of statement which the human mind can compre 
hend, their nature is violated and their strength is lost. 

" On the other hand, the Occidental, the man of the 
West, demands clearness and is impatient with mystery. 
He loves a definite statement as much as his brother of 
the East dislikes it. He insists on knowing what the 
eternal and infinite forces mean to his personal life, how 
they will make him personally happier and better, almost 
how they will build the house over his head, and cook the 
dinner on his hearth. This is the difference between the 
East and the West, between man on the banks of the 
Ganges and man on the banks of the Mississippi. Plenty 
of exceptions, of course, there are mystics in Boston and 



190 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE ix 

St. Louis, hard-headed men of facts in Bombay and Cal 
cutta. The two great dispositions cannot be shut off 
from one another by an ocean or a range of mountains. 
In some nations and places as, for instance, among the 
Jews and in our own New England they notably com 
mingle. But in general they thus divide the world 
between them. The East lives in the moonlight of 
mystery, the West in the sunlight of scientific fact. 
The East cries out to the Eternal for vague impulses. 
The West seizes the present with light hands, and will 
not let it go till it has furnished it with reasonable, 
intelligible motives. Each misunderstands, distrusts, 
and in large degree despises the other. But the two 
hemispheres together, and not either one by itself, make 
up the total world." Thus, in one of his sermons, 
spoke the great Unitarian preacher Phillips Brooks, late 
Bishop of Massachusetts (The Mystery of Iniquity and 
Other Sermons, sermon xvi.). 

We might rather say that throughout the whole world, 
in the East as well as in the West, rationalists seek 
definition and believe in the concept, while vitalists 
seek inspiration and believe in the person. The former 
scrutinize the Universe in order that they may wrest its 
secrets from it ; the latter pray to the Consciousness of 
the Universe, strive to place themselves in immediate 
relationship with the Soul of the World, with God, in 
order that they may find the guarantee or substance of 
what they hope for, which is not to die, and the evidence 
of what they do not see. 

And since a person is a will, and will always has 
reference to the future, he who believes, believes in what 
is to come that is, in what he hopes for. We do not 
believe, strictly speaking, in what is or in what was, 
except as the guarantee, as the substance, of what will 
be. For the Christian, to believe in the resurrection of 
Christ that is to say, in tradition and in the Gospel, 
which assure him that Christ has risen, both of them 



ix FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY 191 

personal forces is to believe that he himself will one 
day rise again by the grace of Christ. And even scien 
tific faith for such there is refers to the future and is 
an act of trust. The man of science believes that at a 
certain future date an eclipse of the sun will take place ; 
he believes that the laws which have governed the world 
hitherto will continue to govern it. 

To believe, I repeat, is to place confidence in some 
one, and it has reference to a person. I say that I know 
that there is an animal called the horse, and that it has 
such and such characteristics, because I have seen it; 
and I say that I believe in the existence of the giraffe or 
the ornithorhyncus, and that it possesses such and such 
qualities, because I believe those who assure me that 
they have seen it. And hence the element of uncer 
tainty attached to faith, for it is possible that a person 
may be deceived or that he may deceive us. 

But, on the other hand, this personal element in belief 
gives it an effective and loving character, and above all, in 
religious faith, a reference to what is hoped for. Perhaps 
there is nobody who would sacrifice his life for the sake of 
maintaining that the three angles of a triangle are to 
gether equal to two right angles, for such a truth does not 
demand the sacrifice of our life; but, on the other hand, 
there are many who have lost their lives for the sake of 
maintaining their religious faith. Indeed it is truer to 
say that martyrs make faith than that faith makes 
martyrs. For faith is not the mere adherence of the 
intellect to an abstract principle ; it is not the recognition 
of a theoretical truth, a process in which the will merely 
sets in motion our faculty of comprehension ; faith is an 
act of the will it is a movement of the soul towards a 
practical truth, towards a person, towards something 
that makes us not merely comprehend life, but that 
makes us live. 1 

Faith makes us live by showing us that life, although 

1 Cj. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, secunda secundae, qucestio iv. , art. 2. 



192 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE ix 

it is dependent upon reason, has its well-spring and 
source of power elsewhere, in something supernatural 
and miraculous. Cournot the mathematician, a man of 
singularly well-balanced and scientifically equipped 
mind, has said that it is this tendency towards the super 
natural and miraculous that gives life, and that when it 
is lacking, all the speculations of the reason lead to 
nothing but affliction of spirit (Traite de I enchamement 
des idees fondamentales dans les sciences et dans 
I histoire, 329). And in truth we wish to live. 

But, although we have said that faith is a thing of the 
will, it would perhaps be better to say that it is will 
itself the will not to die, or, rather, that it is some other 
psychic force distinct from intelligence, will, and feel 
ing. We should thus have feeling, knowing, willing, 
and believing or creating. For neither feeling, nor 
intelligence, nor will creates ; they operate upon a 
material already given, upon the material given them 
by faith. Faith is the creative power in man. But 
since it has a more intimate relation with the will than 
with any other of his faculties, we conceive it under the 
form of volition. It should be borne in mind, however, 
that wishing to believe that is to say, wishing to create 
is not precisely the same as believing or creating, 
although it is its starting-point. 

Faith, therefore, if not a creative force, is the fruit of 
the will, and its function is to create. Faith, in a certain 
sense, creates its object. And faith in God consists in 
creating God ; and since it is God who gives us faith in 
Himself, it is God who is continually creating Himself 
in us. Therefore St. Augustine said: "I will seek 
Thee, Lord, by calling upon Thee, and I will call upon 
Thee by believing in Thee. My faith calls upon Thee, 
Lord, the faith which Thou hast given me, with which 
Thou hast inspired me through the Humanity of Thy 
Son, through the ministry of Thy preacher" (Confes 
sions, book i., chap. i.). The power of creating God in 



ix FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY 193 

our own image and likeness, of personalizing- the 
Universe, simply means that we carry God within us, as 
the substance of what we hope for, and that God is con 
tinually creating us in His own image and likeness. 

And we create God that is to say, God creates Him 
self in us by compassion, by love. To believe in God 
is to love Him, and in our love to fear Him; and we 
begin by loving Him even before knowing Him, and by 
loving Him we come at last to see and discover Him in 
all things. 

Those who say that they believe in God and yet 
neither love nor fear Him, do not in fact believe in Him 
but in those who have taught them that God exists, and 
these in their turn often enough do not believe in Him 
either. Those who believe that they believe in God, but 
without any passion in their heart, without anguish of 
mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an 
element of despair even in their consolation, believe only 
in the God-Idea, not in God Himself. And just as 
belief in God is born of love, so also it may be born of 
fear, and even of hate, and of such kind was the belief 
of Vanni Fucci, the thief, whom Dante depicts insulting 
God with obscene gestures in Hell (Inf., xxv., 1-3). For 
the devils also believe in God, and not a few atheists. 

Is it not perhaps a mode of believing in God, this 
fury with which those deny and even insult Him, who, 
because they cannot bring themselves to believe in Him, 
wish that He may not exist? Like those who believe, 
they, too, wish that God may exist ; but being men of a 
weak and passive or of an evil disposition, in whom 
reason is stronger than will, they feel themselves caught 
in the grip of reason and haled along in their own 
despite, and they fall into despair, and because of their 
despair they deny, and in their denial they affirm and 
create the thing that they deny, and God reveals Himself 
in them, affirming Himself by their very denial of Him. 

But it will be objected to all this that to demonstrate 

13 



194 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE ix 

that faith creates its own object is to demonstrate that 
this object is an object for faith alone, that outside faith 
it has no objective reality ; just as, on the other hand, to 
maintain that faith is necessary because it affords con 
solation to the masses of the people, or imposes a whole 
some restraint upon them, is to declare that the object 
of faith is illusory. What is certain is that for thinking 
believers to-day, faith is, before all and above all, wish 
ing that God may exist. 

Wishing that God may exist, and acting and feeling 
as if He did exist. And desiring God s existence and act 
ing conformably with this desire, is the means whereby 
we create God that is, whereby God creates Himself 
in us, manifests Himself to us, opens and reveals Him 
self to us. For God goes out to meet him who seeks 
Him with love and by love, and hides Himself from him 
who searches for Him with the cold and loveless reason. 
God wills that the heart should have rest, but not the 
head, reversing the order of the physical life in which 
the head sleeps and rests at times while the heart wakes 
and works unceasingly. And thus knowledge without 
love leads us away from God; and love, even without 
knowledge, and perhaps better without it, leads us to 
God, and through God to wisdom. Blessed are the 
pure in heart, for they shall see God ! 

And if you should ask me how I believe in God that 
is to say, how God creates Himself in me and reveals 
Himself to me my answer may, perhaps, provoke your 
smiles or your laughter, or it may even scandalize you. 

I believe in God as I believe in my friends, because I 
feel the breath of His affection, feel His invisible and 
intangible hand, drawing me, leading me, grasping me; 
because I possess an inner consciousness of a particular 
providence and of a universal mind that marks out for 
me the course of my own destiny. And the concept of 
law it is nothing but a concept after all ! tells me 
nothing and teaches me nothing. 



ix FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY 195 

Once and again in my life I have seen myself sus 
pended in a trance over the abyss ; once and again I 
have found myself at the cross-roads, confronted by a 
choice of ways and aware that in choosing one I should 
be renouncing all the others for there is no turning 
back upon these roads of life; and once and again in 
such unique moments as these I have felt the impulse of 
a mighty power, conscious, sovereign, and loving. 
And then, before the feet of the wayfarer, opens out the 
way of the Lord. 

It is possible for a man to feel the Universe calling to 
him and guiding him as one person guides and calls to 
another, to hear within him its voice speaking without 
words and saying: " Go and preach to all peoples!" 
How do you know that the man you see before you 
possesses a consciousness like you, and that an animal 
also possesses such a consciousness, more or less dimly, 
but not a stone ? Because the man acts towards you like a 
man, like a being made in your likeness, and because the 
stone does not act towards you at all, but suffers you to 
act upon it. And in the same way I believe that the 
Universe possesses a certain consciousness like myself, 
because its action towards me is a human action, and I 
feel that it is a personality that environs me. 

Here is a formless mass ; it appears to be a kind of 
animal ; it is impossible to distinguish its members ; I 
only see two eyes, eyes which gaze at me with a human 
gaze, the gaze of a fellow-being, a gaze which asks for 
pity ; and I hear it breathing. I conclude that in this 
formless mass there is a consciousness. In just such a 
way and none other, the starry-eyed heavens gaze down 
upon the believer, with a superhuman, a divine, gaze, a 
gaze that asks for supreme pity and supreme love, and in 
the serenity of the night he hears the breathing of God, 
and God touches him in his heart of hearts and reveals 
Himself to him. It is the Universe, living, suffering, 
loving, and asking for love. 



196 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE ix 

From loving little trifling material things, which 
lightly come and lightly go, having no deep root in our 
affections, we come to love the more lasting things, the 
things which our hands cannot grasp ; from loving goods 
we come to love the Good ; from loving beautiful things 
we come to love Beauty ; from loving the true we come to 
love the Truth ; from loving pleasures we come to love 
Happiness; and, last of all, we come to love Love. We 
emerge from ourselves in order to penetrate further into 
our supreme I ; individual consciousness emerges from 
us in order to submerge itself in the total Consciousness 
of which we form a part, but without being dissolved in 
it. And God is simply the Love that springs from 
universal suffering and becomes consciousness. 

But this, it will be said, is merely to revolve in an iron 
ring, for such a God is not objective. And at this point 
it may not be out of place to give reason its due and to 
examine exactly what is meant by a thing existing, being 
objective. 

What is it, in effect, to exist ? and when do we say that 
a thing exists? A thing exists when it is placed outside 
us, and in such a way that it shall have preceded our 
perception of it and be capable of continuing to subsist 
outside us after we have disappeared. But have I any 
certainty that anything has preceded me or that any 
thing must survive me? Can my consciousness know 
that there is anything outside it? Everything that I 
know or can know is within my consciousness. We will 
not entangle ourselves, therefore, in the insoluble 
problem of an objectivity outside our perceptions. 
Things exist in so far as they act. To exist is 
to act. 

But now it will be said that it is not God, but the idea 
of God, that acts in us. To which we shall reply that it 
is sometimes God acting by His idea, but still very often 
it is rather God acting in us by Himself. And the retort 
will be a demand for proofs of the objective truth of the 



ix FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY 197 

existence of God, since we ask for signs. And we shall 
have to answer with Pilate : What is truth ? 

And having asked this question, Pilate turned away 
without waiting for an answer and proceeded to wash his 
hands in order that he might exculpate himself for 
having allowed Christ to be condemned to death. And 
there are many who ask this question, What is truth? 
but without any intention of waiting for the answer, and 
solely in order that they may turn away and wash their 
hands of the crime of having helped to kill and eject God 
from their own consciousness or from the consciousness 
of others. 

What is truth ? There are two kinds of truth the 
logical or objective, the opposite of which is error, and 
the moral or subjective, the opposite of which is false 
hood. And in a previous essay I have endeavoured to 
show that error is the fruit of falsehood. 1 

Moral truth, the road that leads to intellectual truth, 
which also is moral, inculcates the study of science, 
which is over and above all a school of sincerity and 
humility. Science teaches us, in effect, to submit our 
reason to the truth and to know and judge of things as 
they are that is to say, as they themselves choose to 
be and not as we would have them be. In a religiously 
scientific investigation, it is the data of reality them 
selves, it is the perceptions which we receive from the 
outside world, that formulate themselves in our mind as 
laws it is not we ourselves who thus formulate them. 
It is the numbers themselves which in our mind create 
mathematics. Science is the most intimate school of 
resignation and humility, for it teaches us to bow before 
the seemingly most insignificant of facts. And it is the 
gateway of religion ; but within the temple itself its func 
tion ceases. 

1 " Qu es Verdad? ("What is truth?"), published in La Espaiia 
Moderna, March, 1906, vol. 207 (reprinted in the edition of collected 
nsayos, vol. vi., Madrid, 1918) 



ig8 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE ix 

And just as there is logical truth, opposed to error, 
and moral truth, opposed to falsehood, so there is also 
esthetic truth or verisimilitude, which is opposed to 
extravagance, and religious truth or hope, which is 
opposed to the inquietude of absolute despair. For 
esthetic verisimilitude, the expression of which is 
sensible, differs from logical truth, the demonstration of 
which is rational ; and religious truth, the truth of faith, 
the substance of things hoped for, is not equivalent to 
moral truth, but superimposes itself upon it. He who 
affirms a faith built upon a basis of uncertainty does not 
and cannot lie. 

And not only do we not believe with reason, nor yet 
above reason nor below reason, but we believe against 
reason. Religious faith, it must be repeated yet again, is 
not only irrational, it is contra-rational. Kierkegaard 
says : " Poetry is illusion before knowledge ; religion illu 
sion after knowledge. Between poetry and religion the 
worldly wisdom of living plays its comedy. Every 
individual who does not live either poetically or re 
ligiously is a fool " (Afsluttende uvidenskabelig Efter- 
skrift, chap, iv., sect. 2a, 2). The same writer tells us 
that Christianity is a desperate sortie (salida). Even so, 
but it is only by the very desperateness of this sortie that 
we can win through to hope, to that hope whose vitaliz 
ing illusion is of more force than all rational knowledge, 
and which assures us that there is always something that 
cannot be reduced to reason. And of reason the same 
may be said as was said of Christ : that he who is not 
with it is against it. That which is not rational is contra- 
rational ; and such is hope. 

By this circuitous route we always arrive at hope in 
the end. 

To the mystery of love, which is the mystery of suffer 
ing, belongs a mysterious form, and this form is time. 
We join yesterday to to-morrow with links of longing, 
and the now is, strictly, nothing but the endeavour of 



ix FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY 199 

the before to make itself the after ; the present is simply 
the determination of the past to become the future. The 
now is a point which, if not sharply articulated, vanishes ; 
and, nevertheless, in this point is all eternity, the sub 
stance of time. 

Everything that has been can be only as it was, and 
everything that is can be only as it is; the possible is 
always relegated to the future, the sole domain of liberty, 
wherein imagination, the creative and liberating energy, 
the incarnation of faith, has space to roam at large. 

Love ever looks and tends to the future, for its work 
is the work of our perpetuation ; the property of love is 
to hope, and only upon hopes does it nourish itself. And 
thus when love sees the fruition of its desire it becomes 
sad, for it then discovers that what it desired was not its 
true end, and that God gave it this desire merely as a 
lure to spur it to action ; it discovers that its end is further 
on, and it sets out again upon its toilsome pilgrimage 
through life, revolving through a constant cycle of illu 
sions and disillusions. And continually it transforms 
its frustrated hopes into memories, and from these 
memories it draws fresh hopes. From the subterranean 
ore of memory we extract the jewelled visions of our 
future; imagination shapes our remembrances into 
hopes. And humanity is like a young girl full of long 
ings, hungering for life and thirsting for love, who 
weaves her days with dreams, and hopes, hopes ever, 
hopes without ceasing, for the eternal and predestined 
lover, for him who, because he was destined for her from 
the beginning, from before the dawn of her remotest 
memory, from before her cradle-days, shall live with her 
and for her into the illimitable future, beyond the 
stretch of her furthest hopes, beyond the grave itself. 
And for this poor lovelorn humanity, as for the girl ever 
awaiting her lover, there is no kinder wish than that 
when the winter of life shall come it may find the sweet 
dreams of its spring changed into memories sweeter still, 



200 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE ix 

and memories that shall burgeon into new hopes. In 
the days when our summer is over, what a flow of calm 
felicity, of resignation to destiny, must come from re 
membering hopes which have never been realized and 
which, because they have never been realized, preserve 
their pristine purity. 

Love hopes, hopes ever and never wearies of hoping ; 
and love of God, our faith in God, is, above all, hope in 
Him. For God dies not, and he who hopes in God shall 
live for ever. And our fundamental hope, the root and 
stem of all our hopes, is the hope of eternal life. 

And if faith is the substance of hope, hope in its turn 
is the form of faith. Until it gives us hope, our faith is 
a formless faith, vague, chaotic, potential ; it is but the 
possibility of believing, the longing to believe. But we 
must needs believe in something, and \ve believe in what 
we hope for, we believe in hope. We remember the 
past, we know the present, we only believe in the future. 
To believe what we have not seen is to believe what we 
shall see. Faith, then, I repeat once again, is faith in 
hope; we believe what we hope for. 

Love makes us believe in God, in whom we hope and 
from whom we hope to receive life to come ; love makes 
us believe in that which the dream of hope creates for us. 

Faith is our longing for the eternal, for God ; and 
hope is God s longing, the longing of the eternal, of the 
divine in us, which advances to meet our faith and uplifts 
us. Man aspires to God by faith and cries to Him : " I 
believe give me, Lord, wherein to believe!" And 
God, the divinity in man, sends him hope in another life 
in order that he may believe in it. Hope is the reward 
of faith. Only he who believes truly hopes; and only 
he who truly hopes believes. We only believe what we 
hope, and we only hope what we believe. 

It was hope that called God by the name of Father; 
and this name, so comforting yet so mysterious, is still 
bestowed upon Him by hope. The father gave us life 



ix FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY 201 

and gives bread wherewith to sustain it, and we ask 
the father to preserve our life for us. And if Christ 
was he who, with the fullest heart and purest mouth, 
named with the name of Father his Father and ours, if 
the noblest feeling of Christianity is the feeling of the 
Fatherhood of God, it is because in Christ the human 
race sublimated its hunger for eternity. 

It may perhaps be said that this longing of faith, that 
this hope, is more than anything else an esthetic feeling. 
Possibly the esthetic feeling enters into it, but without 
completely satisfying it. 

We seek in art an image of eternalization. If for a 
brief moment our spirit finds peace and rest and assuage 
ment in the contemplation of the beautiful, even though 
it finds therein no real cure for its distress, it is because 
the beautiful is the revelation of the eternal, of the 
divine in things, and beauty but the perpetuation of 
momentaneity. Just as truth is the goal of rational 
knowledge, so beauty is the goal of hope, which is per 
haps in its essence irrational. 

Nothing is lost, nothing wholly passes away, for in 
some way or another everything is perpetuated ; and 
everything, after passing through time, returns to 
eternity. The temporal world has its roots in eternity, 
and in eternity yesterday is united with to-day and to 
morrow. The scenes of life pass before us as in a cine 
matograph show, but on the further side of time the film 
is one and indivisible. 

Physicists affirm that not a single particle of matter 
nor a single tremor of energy is lost, but that each is 
transformed and transmitted and persists. And can it 
be that any form, however fugitive it may be, is lost ? 
We must needs believe believe and hope ! that it is 
not, but that somewhere it remains archived and per 
petuated, and that there is some mirror of eternity in 
which, without losing themselves in one another, all 
the images that pass through time are received. Every 



202 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE ix 

impression that reaches me remains stored up in my 
brain even though it may be so deep or so weak that it is 
buried in the depths of my subconsciousness ; but from 
these depths it animates my life ; and if the whole of my 
spirit, the total content of my soul, were to awake to 
full consciousness, all these dimly perceived and for 
gotten fugitive impressions would come to life again, 
including even those which I had never been aware of. 
I carry within me everything that has passed before me, 
and I perpetuate it with myself, and it may be that it all 
goes into my germs, and that all my ancestors live un- 
diminished in me and will continue so to live, united 
with me, in my descendants. And perhaps I, the whole 
I, with all this universe of mine, enter into each one of 
my actions, or, at all events, that which is essential in 
me enters into them that which makes me myself, my 
individual essence. 

And how is this individual essence in each several 
thing that which makes it itself and not another 
revealed to us save as beauty ? What is the beauty of 
anything but its eternal essence, that which unites its 
past with its future, that element of it that rests and 
abides in the womb of eternity ? or, rather, what is it but 
the revelation of its divinity ? 

And this beauty, which is the root of eternity, is re 
vealed to us by love ; it is the supreme revelation of the 
love of God and the token of our ultimate victory over 
time. It is love that reveals to us the eternal in us and 
in our neighbours. 

Is it the beautiful, the eternal, in things, that awakens 
and kindles our love for them, or is it our love for things 
that reveals to us the beautiful, the eternal, in them ? 
Is not beauty perhaps a creation of love, in the same way 
and in the same sense that the sensible world is a creation 
of the instinct of preservation and the supersensible world 
of that of perpetuation ? Is not beauty, and together with 
beauty eternity, a creation of love ? * Though our outward 



ix FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY 203 

man perish," says the Apostle, " yet the inward man is 
renewed day by day" (2 Cor. iv. 16). The man of 
passing appearances perishes and passes away with 
them ; the man of reality remains and grows. " For our 
light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for 
us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" 
(ver. 17). Our suffering causes us anguish, and this 
anguish, bursting because of its own fullness, seems to 
us consolation. " While we look not at the things which 
are seen, but at the things which are not seen : for the 
things which are seen are temporal ; but the things which 
are not seen are eternal " (ver. 18). 

This suffering gives hope, which is the beautiful in 
life, the supreme beauty, or the supreme consolation. 
And since love is full of suffering, since love is compas 
sion and pity, beauty springs from compassion and is 
simply the temporal consolation that compassion seeks. 
A tragic consolation ! And the supreme beauty is that 
of tragedy. The consciousness that everything passes 
away, that we ourselves pass away, and that everything 
that is ours and everything that environs us passes away, 
fills us with anguish, and this anguish itself reveals to us 
the consolation of that which does not pass away, of the 
eternal, of the beautiful. 

And this beauty thus revealed, this perpetuation of 
momentaneity, only realizes itself practically, only lives 
through the work of charity. Hope in action is charity, 
and beauty in action is goodness. 

Charity, which eternalizes everything it loves, and in 
giving us the goodness of it brings to light its hidden 
beauty, has its root in the love of God, or, if you like, 
in charity towards God, in pity for God. Love, pity, 
personalizes everything, we have said; in discovering 
the suffering in everything and in personalizing every 
thing, it personalizes the Universe itself as well for the 
Universe also suffers and it discovers God to us. For 



204 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE ix 

God is revealed to us because He suffers and because we 
suffer; because He suffers He demands our love, and 
because we suffer He gives us His love, and He covers 
our anguish with the eternal and infinite anguish. 

This was the scandal of Christianity among Jews and 
Greeks, among Pharisees and Stoics, and this, which 
was its scandal of old, the scandal of the Cross, is still 
its scandal to-day, and will continue to be so, even 
among Christians themselves the scandal of a God who 
becomes man in order that He may suffer and die and 
rise again, because He has suffered and died, the scandal 
of a God subject to suffering and death. And this truth 
that God suffers a truth that appals the mind of man- 
is the revelation of the very heart of the Universe and of 
its mystery, the revelation that God revealed to us when 
He sent His Son in order that he might redeem us by 
suffering and dying. It was the revelation of the divine 
in suffering, for only that which suffers is divine. 

And men made a god of this Christ who suffered, and 
through him they discovered the eternal essence of a 
living, human God that is, of a God who suffers it 
is only the dead, the inhuman, that does not suffer a 
God who loves and thirsts for love, for pity, a God who 
is a person. Whosoever knows not the Son will never 
know the Father, and the Father is only known through 
the Son ; whosoever knows not the Son of Man he who 
suffers bloody anguish and the pangs of a breaking heart, 
whose soul is heavy within him even unto death, who 
suffers the pain that kills and brings to life again will 
never know the Father, and can know nothing of the 
suffering God. 

He who does not suffer, and who does not suffer 
because he does not live, is that logical and frozen ens 
realissimum, the primum movens, that impassive entity, 
which because of its impassivity is nothing but a pure 
idea. The category does not suffer, but neither does it 
live or exist as a person. And how is the world to derive 



ix FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY 205 

its origin and life from an impassive idea ? Such a 
world would be but the idea of the world. But the world 
suffers, and suffering is the sense of the flesh of reality ; 
it is the spirit s sense of its mass and substance; it is the 
self s sense of its own tangibility ; it is immediate reality. 

Suffering is the substance of life and the root of per 
sonality, for it is only suffering that makes us persons. 
And suffering is universal, suffering is that which unites 
all us living beings together; it is the universal or divine 
blood that flows through us all. That which we call 
will, what is it but suffering ? 

And suffering has its degrees, according to the depth 
of its penetration, from the suffering that floats upon the 
sea of appearances to the eternal anguish, the source of 
the tragic sense of life, which seeks a habitation in the 
depths of the eternal and there awakens consolation ; 
from the physical suffering that contorts our bodies to 
the religious anguish that flings us upon the bosom of 
God, there to be watered by the divine tears. 

Anguish is something far deeper, more intimate, and 
more spiritual than suffering. We are wont to feel the 
touch of anguish even in the midst of that which we call 
happiness, and even because of this happiness itself, to 
which we cannot resign ourselves and before which we 
tremble. The happy who resign themselves to their 
apparent happiness, to a transitory happiness, seem to 
be as men without substance, or, at any rate, men who 
have not discovered this substance in themselves, who 
have not touched it. Such men are usually incapable of 
loving or of being loved, and they go through life with 
out really knowing either pain or bliss. 

There is no true love save in suffering, and in this 
world we have to choose either love, which is suffering, 
or happiness. And love leads us to no other happiness 
than that of love itself and its tragic consolation of 
uncertain hope. The moment love becomes happy and 
satisfied, it no longer desires and it is no longer love. 



206 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE ix 

The satisfied, the happy, do not love; they fall asleep 
in habit, near neighbour to annihilation. To fall into a 
habit is to begin to cease to be. Man is the more man 
that is, the more divine the greater his capacity for 
suffering, or, rather, for anguish. 

At our coming into the world it is given to us to choose 
between love and happiness, and we wish poor fools ! 
for both : the happiness of loving and the love of happi 
ness. But we ought to ask for the gift of love and not 
of happiness, and to be preserved from dozing away into 
habit, lest we should fall into a fast sleep, a sleep with 
out waking, and so lose our consciousness beyond power 
of recovery. We ought to ask God to make us conscious 
of ourselves in ourselves, in our suffering. 

What is Fate, what is Fatality, but the brotherhood of 
love and suffering ? What is it but that terrible mystery 
in virtue of which love dies as soon as it touches the 
happiness towards which it reaches out, and true happi 
ness dies with it ? Love and suffering mutually engender 
one another, and love is charity and compassion, and the 
love that is not charitable and compassionate is not love. 
Love, in a word, is resigned despair. 

That which the mathematicians call the problem of 
maxima and minima, which is also called the law of 
economy, is the formula for all existential that is, 
passional activity. In material mechanics and in 
social mechanics, in industry and in political economy, 
every problem resolves itself into an attempt to obtain 
the greatest possible resulting utility with the least 
possible effort, the greatest income with the least ex 
penditure, the most pleasure with the least pain. And 
the terrible and tragic formula of the inner, spiritual life 
is either to obtain the most happiness with the least love, 
or the most love with the least happiness. And it is 
necessary to choose between the one and the other, and 
to know that he who approaches the infinite of love, the 
love that is infinite, approaches the zero of happiness, 



ix FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY 207 

the supreme anguish. And in reaching this zero he is 
beyond the reach of the misery that kills. " Be not, 
and thou shalt be mightier than aught that is," said 
Brother Juan de los Angeles in one of his Didlogos de la 
conquista del reino de Dios (Dial. iii. 8). 

And there is something still more anguishing than 
suffering. A man about to receive a much-dreaded blow 
expects to have to suffer so severely that he may even 
succumb to the suffering, and when the blow falls he 
feels scarcely any pain ; but afterwards, when he has 
come to himself and is conscious of his insensibility, he 
is seized with terror, a tragic terror, the most terrible of 
all, and choking with anguish he cries out : " Can it be 
that I no longer exist?" Which would you find most 
appalling to feel such a pain as would deprive you of 
your senses on being pierced through with a white-hot 
iron, or to see yourself thus pierced through without 
feeling any pain ? Have you never felt the horrible 
terror of feeling yourself incapable of suffering and of 
tears ? Suffering tells us that we exist ; suffering tells 
us that those whom we love exist ; suffering tells us that 
the world in which we live exists; and suffering tells us 
that God exists and suffers ; but it is the suffering of 
anguish, the anguish of surviving and being eternal. 
Anguish discovers God to us and makes us love 
Him. 

To believe in God is to love Him, and to love Him is 
to feel Him suffering, to pity Him. 

It may perhaps appear blasphemous to say that God 
suffers, for suffering implies limitation. Nevertheless, 
God, the Consciousness of the Universe, is limited by the 
brute matter in which He lives, by the unconscious, from 
which He seeks to liberate Himself and to liberate us. 
And we, in our turn, must seek to liberate Him. God 
suffers in each and all of us, in each and all of the con 
sciousnesses imprisoned in transitory matter, and we all 
suffer in Him. Religious anguish is but the divine 



208 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE ix 

suffering, the feeling that God suffers in me and that I 
suffer in Him. 

The universal suffering is the anguish of all in seeking 
to be all else but without power to achieve it, the anguish 
of each in being he that he is, being at the same time all 
that he is not, and being so for ever. The essence of a 
being is not only its endeavour to persist for ever, as 
Spinoza taught us, but also its endeavour to universalize 
itself ; it is the hunger and thirst for eternity and infinity. 
Every created being tends not only to preserve itself in 
itself, but to perpetuate itself, and, moreover, to invade 
all other beings, to be others without ceasing to be itself, 
to extend its limits to the infinite, but without breaking 
them. It does not wish to throw dow r n its walls and 
leave everything laid flat, common and undefended, con 
founding and losing its own individuality, but it wishes 
to carry its walls to the extreme limits of creation and to 
embrace everything within them. It seeks the maxi 
mum of individuality with the maximum also of per 
sonality ; it aspires to the identification of the Universe 
with itself ; it aspires to God. 

And this vast I, \vithin which each individual I seeks 
to put the Universe what is it but God ? And because 
I aspire to God, I love Him ; and this aspiration of mine 
towards God is my love for Him, and just as I suffer in 
being He, He also suffers in being I, and in being each 
one of us. 

I am well aware that in spite of my warning that I am 
attempting here to give a logical form to a system of 
a-logical feelings, I shall be scandalizing not a few of 
my readers in speaking of a God who suffers, and in 
applying to God Himself, as God, the passion of Christ. 
The God of so-called rational theology excludes in effect 
all suffering. And the reader will no doubt think that 
this idea of suffering can have only a metaphorical value 
when applied to God, similar to that which is supposed 
to attach to those passages in the Old Testament which 



ix FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY 209 

describe the human passions of the God of Israel. For 
anger, wrath, and vengeance are impossible without 
suffering. And as for saying that God suffers through 
being bound by matter, I shall be told that, in the words 
of Plotinus (Second Ennead, ix., 7), the Universal Soul 
cannot be bound by the very thing namely, bodies or 
matter which is bound by It. 

Herein is involved the whole problem of the origin of 
evil, the evil of sin no less than the evil of pain, for if 
God does not suffer, He causes suffering ; and if His life, 
since God lives, is not a process of realizing in Himself a 
total consciousness which is continually becoming fuller 
that is to say, which is continually becoming more 
and more God it is a process of drawing all things 
towards Himself, of imparting Himself to all, of con 
straining the consciousness of each part to enter into the 
consciousness of the All, which is He Himself, until at 
last He comes to be all in all irdwra ev vracrt, according 
to the expression of St. Paul, the first Christian mystic. 
We will discuss this more fully, however, in the next 
chapter on the apocatastasis or beatific union. 

For the present let it suffice to say that there is a vast 
current of suffering urging living beings towards one 
another, constraining them to love one another and to 
seek one another, and to endeavour to complete one 
another, and to be each himself and others at the same 
time. In God everything lives, and in His suffering 
everything suffers, and in loving God we love His 
creatures in Him, just as in loving and pitying His 
creatures we love and pity God in them. No single soul 
can be free so long as there is anything enslaved in God s 
world, neither can God Himself, who lives in the soul of 
each one of us, be free so long as our soul is not free. 

My most immediate sensation is the sense and love of 
my own misery, my anguish, the compassion I feel for 
myself, the love I bear for myself. And when this com 
passion is vital and superabundant, it overflows from me 

14 



210 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE ix 

upon others, and from the excess of my own compassion 
I come to have compassion for my neighbours. My 
own misery is so great that the compassion for myself 
which it awakens within me soon overflows and reveals 
to me the universal misery. 

And what is charity but the overflow of pity ? What 
is it but reflected pity that overflows and pours itself out 
in a flood of pity for the woes of others and in the 
exercise of charity ? 

When the overplus of our pity leads us to the con 
sciousness of God within us, it fills us with so great 
anguish for the misery shed abroad in all things, that we 
have to pour our pity abroad, and this we do in the 
form of charity. And in this pouring abroad of our pity 
we experience relief and the painful sweetness of good 
ness. This is what Teresa de Jesus, the mystical doctor, 
called " sweet-tasting suffering " (dolor sabroso), and she 
knew also the lore of suffering loves. It is as when one 
looks upon some thing of beauty and feels the necessity 
of making others sharers in it. P or the creative im 
pulse, in which charity consists, is the work of suffering 
love. 

We feel, in effect, a satisfaction in doing good when 
good superabounds within us, when we are swollen with 
pity ; and we are swollen with pity when God, filling our 
soul, gives us the suffering sensation of universal life, 
of the universal longing for eternal divinization. For 
we are not merely placed side by side with others in the 
world, having no common root with them, neither is their 
lot indifferent to us, but their pain hurts us, their 
anguish fills us with anguish, and we feel our com 
munity of origin and of suffering even without knowing 
it. Suffering, and pity which is born of suffering, are 
what reveal to us the brotherhood of every existing thing 
that possesses life and more or less of consciousness. 
" Brother Wolf " St. Francis of Assisi called the poor 
wolf that feels a painful hunger for the sheep, and feels, 



ix FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY 211 

too, perhaps, the pain of having to devour them; and 
this brotherhood reveals to us the Fatherhood of God, 
reveals to us that God is a Father and that He exists. 
And as a Father He shelters our common misery. 

Charity, then, is the impulse to liberate myself and all 
my felfows from suffering, and to liberate God, who 
embraces us all. 

Suffering is a spiritual thing. It is the most imme 
diate revelation of consciousness, and it may be that our 
body was given us simply in order that suffering might 
be enabled to manifest itself. A man who had never 
known suffering, either in greater or less degree, would 
scarcely possess consciousness of himself. The child 
first cries at birth when the air, entering into his lungs 
and limiting him, seems to say to him : You have to 
breathe me in order that you may live ! 

We must needs believe with faith, whatever counsels 
reason may give us, that the material or sensible world 
which the senses create for us exists solely in order to 
embody and sustain that other spiritual or imaginable 
world which the imagination creates for us. Conscious 
ness tends to be ever more and more consciousness, to 
intensify its consciousness, to acquire full consciousness 
of its complete self, of the whole of its content. We 
must needs believe with faith, whatever counsels reason 
may give us, that in the depths of our own bodies, in 
animals, in plants, in rocks, in everything that lives, in 
all the Universe, there is a spirit that strives to know 
itself, to acquire consciousness of itself, to be itself for 
to be oneself is to know oneself to be pure spirit ; and 
since it can only achieve this by means of the body, by 
means of matter, it creates and makes use of matter at 
the same time that it remains the prisoner of it. The 
face can only see itself when portrayed in the mirror, 
but in order to see itself it must remain the prisoner of 
the mirror in which it sees itself, and the image which 
it sees therein is as the mirror distorts it; and if the 



212 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE ix 

mirror breaks, the image is broken ; and if the mirror is 
blurred, the image is blurred. 

Spirit finds itself limited by the matter in which it has 
to live and acquire consciousness of itself, just as 
thought is limited by the word in which as a social 
medium it is incarnated. Without matter there is no 
spirit, but matter makes spirit suffer by limiting it. And 
suffering is simply the obstacle which matter opposes to 
spirit ; it is the clash of the conscious with the uncon 
scious. 

Suffering is, in effect, the barrier which unconscious 
ness, matter, sets up against consciousness, spirit ; it is 
the resistance to will, the limit which the visible universe 
imposes upon God ; it is the wall that consciousness runs 
up against when it seeks to extend itself at the expense 
of unconsciousness ; it is the resistance which uncon 
sciousness opposes to its penetration by consciousness. 

Although in deference to authority we may believe, we 
do not in fact know, that we possess heart, stomach, or 
lungs so long as they do not cause us discomfort, suffer 
ing, or anguish. Physical suffering, or even discom 
fort, is what reveals to us our own internal core. And 
the same is true of spiritual suffering and anguish, for 
we do not take account of the fact that we possess a soul 
until it hurts us. 

Anguish is that which makes consciousness return 
upon itself. He who knows no anguish knows what he 
does and what he thinks, but he does not truly know that 
he does it and that he thinks it. He thinks, but he does 
not think that he thinks, and his thoughts are as if they 
were not his. Neither does he properly belong to him 
self. For it is only anguish, it is only the passionate 
longing never to die, that makes a human spirit master 
of itself. 

Pain, which is a kind of dissolution, makes us discover 
our internal core; and in the supreme dissolution, which 
is death, we shall, at last, through the pain of annihila- 



ix FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY 213 

tion, arrive at the core of our temporal core at God, 
whom in our spiritual anguish we breathe and learn to 
love. 

Even so must we believe with faith, whatever counsels 
reason may give us. 

The origin of evil, as many discovered of old, is 
nothing other than what is called by another name the 
inertia of matter, and, as applied to the things of the 
spirit, sjoth. And not without truth has it been said 
that sloth is the mother of all vices, not forgetting that 
the supreme sloth is that of not longing madly for 
immortality. 

Consciousness, the craving for more, more, always 
more, hunger of eternity and thirst of infinity, appetite 
for God these are never satisfied. Each consciousness 
seeks to be itself and to be all other consciousnesses 
without ceasing to be itself : it seeks to be God. And 
matter, unconsciousness, tends to be less and less, tends 
to be nothing, its thirst being a thirst for repose. Spirit 
says : I wish to be ! and matter answers : I wish not 
to be! 

And in the order of human life, the individual would 
tend, under the sole instigation of the instinct of 
preservation, the creator of the material world, to 
destruction, to annihilation, if it were not for society, 
which, in implanting in him the instinct of perpetuation, 
the creator of the spiritual world, lifts and impels him 
towards the All, towards immortalization. And every 
thing that man does as a mere individual, opposed to 
society, for the sake of his own preservation, and at the 
expense of society, if need be, is bad; and everything 
that he does as a social person, for the sake of the society 
in which he himself is included, for the sake of its per 
petuation and of the perpetuation of himself in it, is 
good. And many of those who seem to be the greatest 
egoists, trampling everything under their feet in their 
zeal to bring their work to a successful issue, are in 



214 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE ix 

reality men whose souls are aflame and overflowing with 
charity, for they subject and subordinate their petty 
personal I to the social I that has a mission to accomplish. 

He who would tie the working of love, of spiritualiza- 
tion, of liberation, to transitory and individual forms, 
crucifies God in matter ; he crucifies God who makes the 
ideal subservient to his own temporal interests or worldly 
glory. And such a one is a deicide. 

The work of charity, of the love of God, is to endeavour 
to liberate God from brute matter, to endeavour to give 
consciousness to everything, to spiritualize or univer 
salize everything ; it is to dream that the very rocks may 
find a voice and work in accordance with the spirit of this 
dream ; it is to dream that everything that exists may 
become conscious, that the Word may become life. 

We have but to look at the eucharistic symbol to see 
an instance of it. The Word has been imprisoned in a 
piece of material bread, and it has been imprisoned 
therein to the end that we may eat it, and in eating it 
make it our own, part and parcel of our body in which 
the spirit dwells, and that it may beat in our heart and 
think in our brain and be consciousness. It has been 
imprisoned in this bread in order that, after being buried 
in our body, it may come to life again in our spirit. 

And we must spiritualize everything. And this we 
shall accomplish by giving our spirit, which grows the 
more the more it is distributed, to all men and to all 
things. And we give our spirit when we invade other 
spirits and make ourselves the master of them. 

All this is to be believed with faith, whatever counsels 
reason may give us. 

And now we are about to see what practical conse 
quences all these more or less fantastical doctrines may 
have in regard to logic, to esthetics, and, above all, to 
ethics their religious concretion, in a word. And 
perhaps then they will gain more justification in the eyes 



ix FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY 215 

of the reader who, in spite of my warnings, has hitherto 
been looking 1 for the scientific or even philosophic 
development of an irrational system. 

I think it may not be superfluous to recall to the reader 
once again what I said at the conclusion of the sixth 
chapter, that entitled "In the Depths of the Abyss"; 
but -we now approach the practical or pragmatical part 
of this treatise. First, however, we must see how the 
religious sense may become concrete in the hopeful 
vision of another life. 



X 

RELIGION, THE MYTHOLOGY OF THE 
BEYOND AND THE APOCATASTASIS 

Kal yap facts Kai /utiXto-Ta Trptirei /j.^\\ovra tx Lffe airodrj/JLetv SiacrKotrelv re /cat 
fj.vdo\oyeiv irepl rijs a7ro5?7/u as r/?s ^xet, Troiav riva O.VTIJV oio/j.e6a elvai. PLATO : 
Phcedo. 

RELIGION is founded upon faith, hope, and charity, which 
in their turn are founded upon the feeling of divinity and 
of God. Of faith in God is born our faith in men, of 
hope in God hope in men, and of charity or piety 
towards God for as Cicero said, 1 est enim pietas iustitia 
adversum deos charity towards men. In God is 
resumed not only Humanity, but the whole Universe, 
and the Universe spiritualized and penetrated with con 
sciousness, for as the Christian Faith teaches, God shall 
at last be all in all. St. Teresa said, and Miguel de 
Molinos repeated with a harsher and more despairing 
inflection, that the soul must realize that nothing exists 
but itself and God. 

And this relation with God, this more or less intimate 
union with Him, is what we call religion. 

What is religion? In what does it differ from the 
religious sense and how are the two related? Every 
man s definition of religion is based upon his own inward 
experience of it rather than upon his observation of it in 
others, nor indeed is it possible to define it without in 
some way or another experiencing it. Tacitus said 
(Hist. v. 4), speaking of the Jews, that they regarded as 
profane everything that the Romans held to be sacred, 

1 DC natura deorurn, lib. i., cap. 41. 
216 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 217 

and that what was sacred to them was to the Romans 
impure : profana illic omnia quce apud nos sacra, 
rursum conversa apud illos quce nobis incesta. There 
fore he, the Roman, describes the Jews as a people 
dominated by superstition and hostile to religion, gens 
superstitioni obnoxia, religionibus adversa, while as 
regards Christianity, with which he was very imperfectly 
acquainted, scarcely distinguishing it from Judaism, he 
deemed it to be a pernicious superstition, existialis super- 
stitio, inspired by a hatred of mankind, odium generis 
humani (Ab excessu Aug., xv., 44). And there have 
been many others who have shared his opinion. But 
where does religion end and superstition begin, or 
perhaps rather we should say at what point does super 
stition merge into religion? What is the criterion by 
means of which we discriminate between them ? 

It would be of little profit to recapitulate here, even 
summarily, the principal definitions, each bearing the 
impress of the personal feeling of its definer, which have 
been given of religion. Religion is better described than 
defined and better felt than described. But if there is 
any one definition that latterly has obtained acceptance, 
it is that of Schleiermacher, to the effect that religion 
consists in the simple feeling of a relationship of depen 
dence upon something above us and a desire to establish 
relations with this mysterious power. Nor is there much 
amiss with the statement of W. Hermann 1 that the reli 
gious longing of man is a desire for truth concerning his 
human existence. And to cut short these extraneous 
citations, I will end with one from the judicious and per 
spicacious Cournot : "Religious manifestations are the 
necessary consequence of man s predisposition to believe 
in the existence of an invisible, supernatural and 
miraculous world, a predisposition which it has been pos 
sible to consider sometimes as a reminiscence of an 
anterior state, sometimes as an intimation of a future 

1 Op. cit. 



218 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

destiny " (Traite de V enchamement des idees fonda- 
mentales dans les sciences et dans I histoire, 396). And 
it is this problem of human destiny, of eternal life, or of 
the human finality of the Universe or of God, that we 
have now reached. All the highways of religion lead up 
to this, for it is the very essence of all religion. 

Beginning with the savage s personalization of the 
whole Universe in his fetich, religion has its roots in the 
vital necessity of giving human finality to the Universe, 
to God, and this necessity obliges it, therefore, to attribute 
to the Universe, to God, consciousness of self and of 
purpose. And it may be said that religion is simply 
union with God, each one interpreting God according to 
his own sense of Him. God gives transcendent meaning 
and finality to life ; but He gives it relatively to each one 
of us who believe in Him. And thus God is for man as 
much as man is for God, for God in becoming man, in 
becoming human, has given Himself to man because of 
His love of him. 

And this religious longing for union with God is a 
longing for a union that cannot be consummated in 
science or in art, but only in life. " He who possesses 
science and art, has religion ; he who possesses neither 
science nor art, let him get religion," said Goethe in one 
of his frequent accesses of paganism. And yet in spite 
of what he said, he himself, Goethe . , . ? 

And to wish that we may be united with God is not to 
wish that we may be lost and submerged in Him, for this 
loss and submersion of self ends at last in the complete 
dissolution of self in the dreamless sleep of Nirvana ; it is 
to wish to possess Him rather than to be possessed by 
Him. When his disciples, amazed at his saying that it 
was impossible for a rich man to enter into the kingdom 
of heaven, asked Jesus who then could be saved, the 
Master replied that with men it was impossible but not 
with God; and then said Peter, " Behold, we have for 
saken all and followed thee; what shall we have there- 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 219 

fore ?" And the reply of Jesus was, not that they should 
be absorbed in the Father, but that they should sit upon 
twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel 
(Matt. xix. 23-26). 

It was a Spaniard, and very emphatically a Spaniard, 
Miguel de Molinos, who said in his Guia Espiritual 1 that 
" he who would attain to the mystical science must 
abandon and be detached from five things : first, from 
creatures ; second, from temporal things ; third, from 
the very gifts of the Holy Spirit; fourth, from himself; 
and fifth, he must be detached even from God." And he 
adds that " this last is the completest of all, because that 
soul only that knows how to be so detached is that which 
attains to being lost in God, and only the soul that attains 
to being so lost succeeds in finding itself." Emphatically 
a true Spaniard, Molinos, and truly Spanish is this 
paradoxical expression of quietism or rather of nihilism 
for he himself elsewhere speaks of annihilation and not 
less Spanish, nay, perhaps even more Spanish, were the 
Jesuits who attacked him, upholding the prerogatives of 
the All against the claims of Nothingness. For religion 
is not the longing for self-annihilation, but for self-com 
pletion, it is the longing not for death but for life. " The 
eternal religion of the inward essence of man . . . the 
individual dream of the heart, is the worship of his own 
being, the adoration of life," as the tortured soul of 
Flaubert was intimately aware (Par les champs et par Us 
greves, vii.). 

When at the beginning of the so-called modern age, at 
the Renaissance, the pagan sense of religion came to 
life again, it took concrete form in the knightly ideal with 
its codes of love and honour. But it was a paganism 
Christianized, baptized. " Woman la donna was the 
divinity enshrined within those savage breasts. Who- 

1 Guia Espiritual que desembaraza al alma y la conduce por el interior 
camino para akanzar laperfeda contemplation y el rico tesoro de la paz interior, 
book iii., chap, xviii., 185. 



220 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

soever will investigate the memorials of primitive times 
will find this ideal of woman in its full force and purity ; 
the Universe is woman. And so it was in Germany, in 
France, in Provence, in Spain, in Italy, at the beginning 
of the modern age. History was cast in this mould; 
Trojans and Romans were conceived as knights-errant, 
and so too were Arabs, Saracens, Turks, the Sultan and 
Saladin. ... In this universal fraternity mingle 
angels, saints, miracles and paradise, strangely blended 
with the fantasy and voluptuousness of the Oriental 
world, and all baptized in the name of Chivalry." Thus, 
in his Storia della Letteratura italiana, ii., writes 
Francesco de Sanctis, and in an earlier passage he informs 
us that for that breed of men "in paradise itself the 
lover s delight was to look upon his lady Madonna 
and that he had no desire to go thither if he might not 
go in his lady s company." What, in fact, was Chivalry 
which Cervantes, intending to kill it, afterwards puri 
fied and Christianized in Don Quixote but a real though 
distorted religion, a hybrid between paganism and 
Christianity, whose gospel perhaps was the legend of 
Tristan and Iseult? And did not even the Christianity 
of the mystics those knights-errant of the spirit pos 
sibly reach its culminating-point in the worship of the 
divine woman, the Virgin Mary ? What else was the 
Mariolatry of a St. Bonaventura, the troubadour of 
Mary ? And this sentiment found its inspiration in love 
of the fountain of life, of that which saves us from death. 
But as the Renaissance advanced men turned from the 
religion of woman to the religion of science ; desire, the 
foundation of which was curiosity, ended in curiosity, in 
eagerness to taste of the fruit of the tree of good and evil. 
Europe flocked to the University of Bologna in search of 
learning. Chivalry was succeeded by Platonism. Men 
sought to discover the mystery of the world and of life. 
But it was really in order to save life, which they had also 
sought to save in the worship of woman. Human con- 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 221 

sciousness sought to penetrate the Universal Conscious 
ness, but its real object, whether it was aware of it or not, 
was to save itself. 

For the truth is that we feel and imagine the Universal 
Consciousness and in this feeling and imagination reli 
gious experience consists simply in order that thereby 
we may save our own individual consciousnesses. And 
how? 

Once again I must repeat that the longing for the 
immortality of the soul, for the permanence, in some form 
or another, of our personal and individual consciousness, 
is as much of the essence of religion as is the longing 
that there may be a God. The one does not exist apart 
from the other, the reason being that fundamentally they 
are one and the same thing. But as soon as we attempt 
to give a concrete and rational form to this longing for 
immortality and permanence, to define it to ourselves, 
we encounter even more difficulties than we encountered 
in our attempt to rationalize God. 

The universal consent of mankind has again been 
invoked as a means of justifying this immortal longing 
for immortality to our own feeble reason. Permanere 
animos arbitratur consensu nationum omnium, said 
Cicero, echoing the opinion of the ancients (Tuscul. 
Qucest., xvi., 36). But this same recorder of his own 
feelings confessed that, although when he read the argu 
ments in favour of the immortality of the soul in the 
Phcedo of Plato he was compelled to assent to them, as 
soon as he put the book aside and began to revolve the 
problem in his own mind, all his previous assent melted 
away, assentio omnis ilia illabitur (cap. xi., 25). And 
what happened to Cicero happens to us all, and it 
happened likewise to Swedenborg, the most daring 
visionary of the other world. Swedenborg admitted that 
he who discourses of life after death, putting aside all 
erudite notions concerning the soul and its mode of union 
with the body, believes that after death he shall live in a 



222 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

glorious joy and vision, as a man among angels ; but 
when he begins to reflect upon the doctrine of the union 
of the soul with the body, or upon the hypothetical 
opinion concerning the soul, doubts arise in him as to 
whether the soul is thus or otherwise, and when these 
doubts arise, his former idea is dissipated (De coelo et 
inferno, 183). Nevertheless, as Cournot says, "it is 
the destiny that awaits me, me or my person, that moves, 
perturbs and consoles me, that makes me capable of 
abnegation and sacrifice, whatever be the origin, the 
nature or the essence of this inexplicable bond of union, 
in the absence of which the philosophers are pleased to 
determine that my person must disappear" (Traite", etc., 

297)- 

Must we then embrace the pure and naked faith in an 
eternal life without trying to represent it to ourselves? 
This is impossible ; it is beyond our power to bring our 
selves or accustom ourselves to do so. And never 
theless there are some who call themselves Christians 
and yet leave almost altogether on one side this 
question of representation. Take any work of theology 
informed by the most enlightened that is, the most 
rationalistic and liberal Protestantism ; take, for 
instance, the Dogmatik of Dr. Julius Kaftan, and of 
the 668 pages of which the sixth edition, that of 1909, 
consists, you will find only one, the last, that is devoted to 
this problem. And in this page, after affirming that 
Christ is not only the beginning and middle but also the 
end and consummation of History, and that those who 
are in Christ will attain to fullness of life, the eternal life 
of those who are in Christ, not a single word as to what 
that life may be. Half a dozen words at most about 
eternal death, that is, hell, " for its existence is demanded 
by the moral character of faith and of Christian hope." 
Its moral character, eh ? not its religious character, for I 
am not aware that the latter knows any such exigency. 
And all this inspired by a prudent agnostic parsimony. 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 223 

Yes, the prudent, the rational, and, some will say, the 
pious, attitude, is not to seek to penetrate into mysteries 
that are hidden from our knowledge, not to insist upon 
shaping a plastic representation of eternal glory, such as 
that of the Divina Commedia. True faith, true Christian 
piety, we shall be told, consists in resting upon the con 
fidence that God, by the grace of Christ, will, in some way 
or another, make us live in Him, in His Son ; that, as our 
destiny is in His almighty hands, we should surrender 
ourselves to Him, in the full assurance that He will do 
with us what is best for the ultimate end of life, of spirit 
and of the universe. Such is the teaching that has 
traversed many centuries, and was notably prominent in 
the period between Luther and Kant. 

And nevertheless men have not ceased endeavouring to 
imagine to themselves what this eternal life may be, nor 
will they cease their endeavours so long as they are men 
and not merely thinking machines. There are books of 
theology or of what passes for theology full of dis 
quisitions upon the conditions under which the blessed 
dead live in paradise, upon their mode of enjoyment, upon 
the properties of the glorious body, for without some form 
of body the soul cannot be conceived. 

And to this same necessity, the real necessity of form 
ing to ourselves a concrete representation of what this 
other life may be, must in great part be referred the 
indestructible vitality of doctrines such as those of 
spiritualism, metempsychosis, the transmigration of souls 
from star to star, and the like ; doctrines which as often 
as they are pronounced to be defeated and dead, are found 
to have come to life again, clothed in some more or less 
new form. And it is merely supine to be content to 
ignore them and not to seek to discover their permanent 
and living essence. Man will never willingly abandon 
his attempt to form a concrete representation of the other 
life. 

But is an eternal and endless life after death indeed 



224 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

thinkable? How can we conceive the life of a dis 
embodied spirit ? How can we conceive such a spirit ? 
How can w r e conceive a pure consciousness, without a 
corporal organism ? Descartes divided the world into 
thought and extension, a dualism which was imposed 
upon him by the Christian dogma of the immortality of 
the soul. But is extension, is matter, that which thinks 
and is spiritualized, or is thought that which is extended 
and materialized? The weightiest questions of meta 
physics arise practically out of our desire to arrive at an 
understanding of the possibility of our immortality from 
this fact they derive their value and cease to be merely the 
idle discussions of fruitless curiosity. For the truth is 
that metaphysics has no value save in so far as it attempts 
to explain in what way our vital longing can or cannot be 
realized. And thus it is that there is and always will be 
a rational metaphysic and a vital metaphysic, in peren 
nial conflict with one another, the one setting out from 
the notion of cause, the other from the notion of 
substance. 

And even if we were to succeed in imagining personal 
immortality, might we not possibly feel it to be some 
thing no less terrible than its negation? " Calypso was 
inconsolable at the departure of Ulysses ; in her sorrow 
she w r as dismayed at being immortal," said the gentle, 
the mystical Fenelon at the beginning of his Telemaque. 
Was it not a kind of doom that the ancient gods, no less 
than the demons, were subject to the deprivation of the 
power to commit suicide ? 

When Jesus took Peter and James and John up into a 
high mountain and was transfigured before them, his 
raiment shining as white as snow, and Moses and Elias 
appeared and talked with him, Peter said to the Master : 
"Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make 
three tabernacles ; one for thee and one for Moses and one 
for Elias," for he wished to eternalize that moment. And 
as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 225 

them that they should tell no man what they had seen 
until the Son of Man should have risen from the dead. 
And they, keeping this saying to themselves, questioned 
one with another what this rising from the dead should 
mean, as men not understanding the purport of it. And 
it was after this that Jesus met the father whose son was 
possessed with a dumb spirit and who cried out to him, 
" Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief " (Mark ix.). 

Those three apostles did not understand what this 
rising from the dead meant. Neither did those Sadducees 
who asked the Master whose wife she should be in the 
resurrection who in this life had had seven husbands 
(Matt, xxii.) ; and it was then that Jesus said that God is 
not the God of the dead, but of the living. And the 
other life is not, in fact, thinkable to us except under the 
same forms as those of this earthly and transitory life. 
Nor is the mystery at all clarified by that metaphor of the 
grain and the wheat that it bears, with which Paul 
answers the question, "How are the dead raised up, 
and with what body do they come ?" (i Cor. xv. 35). 

How can a human soul live and enjoy God eternally 
without losing its individual personality that is to say, 
without losing itself ? What is it to enjoy God ? What 
is eternity as opposed to time ? Does the soul change or 
does it not change in the other life ? If it does not 
change, how does it live ? And if it changes, how does 
it preserve its individuality through so vast a period of 
time ? For though the other life may exclude space, it 
cannot exclude time, as Cournot observes in the work 
quoted above. 

If there is life in heaven there is change. Swedenborg 
remarked that the angels change, because the delight of 
the celestial life would gradually lose its value if they 
always enjoyed it in its fullness, and because angels, like 
men, love themselves, and he who loves himself experi 
ences changes of state ; and he adds further that at times 
the angels are sad, and that he, Swedenborg, discoursed 

15 



22 6 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

with some when they were sad (De Coelo et Inferno, 
158, 1 60). In any case, it is impossible for us to con* 
ceive life without change, change of growth or of diminu 
tion, of sadness or of joy, of love or of hate. 

In effect, an eternal life is unthinkable and an eternal 
life of absolute felicity, of beatific vision, is more un 
thinkable still. 

And what precisely is this beatific vision ? We 
observe in the first place that it is called vision and not 
action, something passive being therefore presupposed. 
And does not this beatific vision suppose loss of personal 
consciousness? A saint in heaven, says Bossuet, is a 
being who is scarcely sensible of himself, so completely 
is he possessed by God and immerged in His glory. . . . 
Our attention cannot stay on the saint, because one finds 
him outside of himself, and subject by an unchangeable 
love to the source of his being and his happiness (Duculte 
qui est du a Dieu). And these are the words of Bossuet, 
the antiquietist. This loving vision of God supposes an ab 
sorption in Him. He who in a state of blessedness enjoys 
God in His fullness must perforce neither think of him 
self, nor remember himself, nor have any consciousness 
of himself, but be in perpetual ecstasy (eWraoY?) outside 
of himself, in a condition of alienation. And the 
ecstasy that the mystics describe is a prelude of this 
vision. 

He who sees God shall die, say the Scriptures 
(Judg. xiii. 22) ; and may it not be that the eternal vision 
of God is an eternal death, a swooning away of the per 
sonality ? But St. Teresa, in her description of the last 
state of prayer, the rapture, transport, flight, or ecstasy 
of the soul, tells us that the soul is borne as upon a 
cloud or a mighty eagle, "but you see yourself car 
ried away and know not whither," and it is "with 
delight," and " if you do not resist, the senses are not 
lost, at least I was so much myself as to be able to per 
ceive that I was being lifted up " that is to say, without 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 227 

losing consciousness. And God " appears to be not con 
tent with thus attracting the soul to Himself in so real a 
way, but wishes to have the body also, though it be 
mortal and of earth so foul." " Ofttimes the soul is 
absorbed or, to speak more correctly, the Lord absorbs 
it in Himself; and when He has held it thus for a 
moment, the will alone remains in union with Him " 
not the intelligence alone. We see, therefore, that it is 
not so much vision as a union of the will, and meanwhile, 
" the understanding and memory are distraught . . . 
like one who has slept long and dreamed and is hardly 
yet awake." It is "a soft flight, a delicious flight, a 
noiseless flight." And in this delicious flight the con 
sciousness of self is preserved, the awareness of distinc 
tion from God with whom one is united. And one is 
raised to this rapture, according to the Spanish mystic, 
by the contemplation of the Humanity of Christ that is 
to say, of something concrete and human ; it is the vision 
of the living God, not of the idea of God. And in the 
28th chapter she tells us that " though there were nothing 
else to delight the sight in heaven but the great beauty 
of the glorified bodies, that would be an excessive bliss, 
particularly the vision of the Humanity of Jesus Christ 
our Lord. . . ." This vision," she continues, 
" though imaginary, I did never see with my bodily eyes, 
nor, indeed, any other, but only with the eyes of the 
soul." And thus it is that in heaven the soul does not 
see God only, but everything in God, or rather it sees 
that everything is God, for God embraces all things. 
And this idea is further emphasized by Jacob Bohme. 
The saint tells us in the Moradas Setimas (vii. 2) that 
" this secret union takes place in the innermost centre of 
the soul, where God Himself must dwell." And she 
goes on to say that "the soul, I mean the spirit of the 
soul, is made one with God . . . " ; and this union may 
be likened to " two wax candles, the tips of which touch 
each other so closely that there is but one light ; or again, 



228 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

the wick, the wax, and the light become one, but the one 
candle can again be separated from the other, and the two 
candles remain distinct ; or the wick may be withdrawn 
from the wax." But there is another more intimate 
union, and this is " like rain falling from heaven into a 
river or stream, becoming one and the same liquid, so 
that the river and the rain-water cannot be divided ; or it 
resembles a streamlet flowing into the sea, which cannot 
afterwards be disunited from it ; or it may be likened to 
a room into which a bright light enters through two win 
dows though divided when it enters, the light becomes 
one and the same." And what difference is there 
between this and the internal and mystical silence of 
Miguel de Molinos, the third and most perfect degree of 
which is the silence of thought ? (Guia Espiritual, 
book i., chap, xvii., 128). Do we not here very 
closely approach the view that " nothingness is the 
way to attain to that high state of a mind reformed " ? 
(book iii., chap, xx., 196). And what marvel is it 
that Amiel in his Journal Intime should twice have 
made use of the Spanish word nada, nothing, doubtless 
because he found none more expressive in any other 
language ? And nevertheless, if we read our mystical 
doctor, St. Teresa, with care, we shall see that the 
sensitive element is never excluded, the element of 
delight that is to say, the element of personal con 
sciousness. The soul allows itself to be absorbed in 
God in order that it may absorb Him, in order that it 
may acquire consciousness of its own divinity. 

A beatific vision, a loving contemplation in which the 
soul is absorbed in God and, as it were, lost in Him, 
appears either as an annihilation of self or as a pro 
longed tedium to our natural way of feeling. And hence 
a certain feeling which we not infrequently observe and 
which has more than once expressed itself in satires, not 
altogether free from irreverence or perhaps impiety, with 
reference to the heaven of eternal glory as a place of 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 229 

eternal boredom. And it is useless to despise feelings 
such as these, so wholly natural and spontaneous. 

It is clear that those who feel thus have failed to take 
note of the fact that man s highest pleasure consists in 
acquiring and intensifying consciousness. Not the 
pleasure of knowing, exactly, but rather that of learning. 
In knowing a thing we tend to forget it, to convert it, if 
the expression may be allowed, into unconscious know 
ledge. Man s pleasure, his purest delight, is allied with 
the act of learning, of getting at the truth of things, of 
acquiring knowledge with differentiation. And hence 
the famous saying of Lessing which I have already 
quoted. There is a story told of an ancient Spaniard 
who accompanied Vasco Nunez de Balboa when he 
climbed that peak in Darien from which both the Atlantic 
and the Pacific are visible. On beholding the two 
oceans the old man fell on his knees and exclaimed, " I 
thank Thee, God, that Thou didst not let me die without 
having seen so great a wonder." But if this man had 
stayed there, very soon the wonder would have ceased to 
be wonderful, and with the wonder the pleasure, too, 
would have vanished. His joy was the joy of discovery. 
And perhaps the joy of the beatific vision may be not 
exactly that of the contemplation of the supreme Truth, 
whole and entire (for this the soul could not endure), 
but rather that of a continual discovery of the Truth, of 
a ceaseless act of learning involving an effort which keeps 
the sense of personal consciousness continually active. 

It is difficult for us to conceive a beatific vision of 
mental quiet, of full knowledge and not of gradual appre 
hension, as in any way different from a kind of Nirvana, 
a spiritual diffusion, a dissipation of energy in the essence 
of God, a return to unconsciousness induced by the 
absence of shock, of difference in a word, of activity. 

May it not be that the very condition which makes our 
eternal union with God thinkable destroys our longing? 
What difference is there between being absorbed by God 



230 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

and absorbing Him in ourself ? Is it the stream that is 
lost in the sea or the sea that is lost in the stream ? It is 
all the same. 

Our fundamental feeling is our longing not to lose the 
sense of the continuity of our consciousness, not to break 
the concatenation of our memories, the feeling of our 
own personal concrete identity, even though we may be 
gradually being absorbed in God, enriching Him. Who 
at eighty years of age remembers the child that he 
was at eight, conscious though he may be of the 
unbroken chain connecting the two ? And it may be 
said that the problem for feeling resolves itself into the 
question as to whether there is a God, whether there is 
a human finality to the Universe. But what is finality? 
For just as it is always possible to ask the why of every 
why, so it is also always possible to ask the wherefore 
of every wherefore. Supposing that there is a God, 
then wherefore God? For Himself, it will be said. 
And someone is sure to reply : What is the difference 
between this consciousness and no-consciousness ? But 
it will always be true, as Plotinus has said (Enn., ii., 
ix., 8), that to ask why God made the world is the same 
as to ask why there is a soul. Or rather, not why, but 
wherefore (8ta TL). 

For him who places himself outside himself, in an 
objective hypothetical position which is as much as to 
say in an inhuman position the ultimate wherefore is 
as inaccessible and strictly, as absurd as the ultimate 
why. What difference in effect does it make if there is 
not any finality ? What logical contradiction is involved 
in the Universe not being destined to any finality, either 
human or superhuman ? What objection is there in 
reason to there being no other purpose in the sum of 
things save only to exist and happen as it does exist and 
happen ? For him who places himself outside himself, 
none ; but for him who lives and suffers and desires 
within himself for him it is a question of life or death. 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 231 

Seek, therefore, thyself ! But in rinding oneself, 
does not one find one s own nothingness? "Having 
become a sinner in seeking himself, man has become 
wretched in finding himself," said Bossuet (Traite de la 
Concupiscence, chap. xi.). " Seek thyself " begins 
with " Know thyself." To which Carlyle answers 
(Past and Present, book iii., chap xi.) : " The latest 
Gospel in this world is, Know thy work and do it. 
Know thyself : long enough has that poor self of 
thine tormented thee ; thou wilt never get to * know it, 
I believe ! Think it not thy business, this of knowing 
thyself ; thou art an unknowable individual : know what 
thou canst work at; and work at it, like a Hercules. 
That will be thy better plan." 

Yes, but what I work at, will not that too be lost 
in the end? And if it be lost, wherefore should I 
work at it? Yes, yes, it may be that to accomplish 
my work and what is my work? without thinking 
about myself, is to love God. And what is it to love 
God? 

And on the other hand, in loving God in myself, am 
I not loving myself more than God, am I not loving 
myself in God? 

What we really long for after death is to go on living 
this life, this same mortal life, but without its ills, with 
out its tedium, and without death. Seneca, the Spaniard, 
gave expression to this in his Consolatio ad Marciam 
(xxvi.); what he desired was to live this life again: 
ista moliri. And what Job asked for (xix. 25-7) was to 
see God in the flesh, not in the spirit. And what but 
that is the meaning of that comic conception of eternal 
recurrence which issued from the tragic soul of poor 
Nietzsche, hungering for concrete and temporal im 
mortality ? 

And this beatific vision which is the primary Catholic 
solution of the problem, how can it be realized, I ask 
again, without obliteration of the consciousness of self ? 



232 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

Will it not be like a sleep in which we dream without 
knowing what we dream ? Who would wish for an 
eternal life like that? To think without knowing that 
we think is not to be sensible of ourselves, it is not to 
be ourselves. And is not eternal life perhaps eternal 
consciousness, not only seeing God, but seeing that we 
see Him, seeing ourselves at the same time and our 
selves as distinct from Him? He who sleeps lives, but 
he has no consciousness of himself ; and would anyone 
wish for an eternal sleep? When Circe advised Ulysses 
to descend to the abode of the dead in order to consult 
the soothsayer Teiresias, she told him that Teiresias 
alone among the shades of the dead was possessed of 
understanding, for all the others flitted about like 
shadows (Odyssey, x., 487-495). And can it be said 
that the others, apart from Teiresias, had really over 
come death ? Is it to overcome death to flit about like 
shadows without understanding? 

And on the other hand, may we not imagine that 
possibly this earthly life of ours is to the other life what 
sleep is to waking ? May not all our life be a dream 
and death an awakening? But an awakening to what? 
And supposing that everything is but the dream of God 
and that God one day will awaken ? Will He remember 
His dream ? 

Aristotle, the rationalist, tells in his Ethics of the 
superior happiness of the contemplative life, ^09 
6ewpr)TiKos ; and all rationalists are wont to place happi 
ness in knowledge. And the conception of eternal 
happiness, of the enjoyment of God, as a beatific vision, 
as knowledge and comprehension of God, is a thing of 
rationalist origin, it is the kind of happiness that corre 
sponds with the God-Idea of Aristotelianism. But the 
truth is that, in addition to vision, happiness demands 
delight, and this is a thing which has very little to do 
with rationalism and is only attainable when we feel 
ourselves distinct from God. 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 233 

Our Aristotelian Catholic theologian, the author of 
the endeavour to rationalize Catholic feeling, St. Thomas 
Aquinas, tells us in his Summa (prima secundce partis, 
quczstio iv., art. i) that "delight is requisite for happi 
ness. For delight is caused by the fact of desire resting 
in attained good. Hence, since happiness is nothing 
but the attainment of the Sovereign Good, there cannot 
be happiness without concomitant delight." But where 
is the delight of him who rests ? To rest, requiescere 
is not that to sleep and not to possess even the con 
sciousness that one is resting? " Delight is caused by 
the vision of God itself," the theologian continues. But 
does the soul feel itself distinct from God? The 
delight that accompanies the activity of the understand 
ing does not impede, but rather strengthens that 
activity," he says later on. Obviously! for what 
happiness were it else? And in order to save delecta 
tion, delight, pleasure, which, like pain, has always 
something material in it, and which we conceive of only 
as existing in a soul incarnate in a body, it was neces 
sary to suppose that the soul in a state of blessedness 
is united with its body. Apart from some kind of body, 
how is delight possible ? The immortality of the pure 
soul, without some sort of body or spirit-covering, is 
not true immortality. And at bottom, what we long for 
is a prolongation of this life, this life and no other, this 
life of flesh and suffering, this life which we imprecate 
at times simply because it comes to an end. The 
majority of suicides would not take their lives if they 
had the assurance that they would never die on this 
earth. The self-slayer kills himself because he will not 
wait for death. 

When in the thirty-third canto of the Paradiso, Dante 
relates how he attained to the vision of God, he tells us 
that just as a man who beholds somewhat in his sleep 
retains on awakening nothing but the impression of the 
feeling in his mind, so it was with him, for when the 



234 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

vision had all but passed away the sweetness that sprang 
from it still distilled itself in his heart. 

Cotal son to, che quasi tutta cessa 
mia visions ed ancor mi distilla 
nel cuor lo dulce che nacque da essa 

like snow that melts in the sun 

cost la neve al sol si disigilla. 

That is to say, that the vision, the intellectual content, 
passes, and that which remains is the delight, the pas- 
sione impressa, the emotional, the irrational in a word, 
the corporeal. 

What we desire is not merely spiritual felicity, not 
merely vision, but delight, bodily happiness. The 
other happiness, the rationalist beatitude, the happiness 
of being submerged in understanding, can only 
I will not say satisfy or deceive, for I do not believe that 
it ever satisfied or deceived even a Spinoza. At the con 
clusion of his Ethic, in propositions xxxv. and xxxvi. of 
the fifth part, Spinoza affirms that God loves Himself 
with an infinite intellectual love ; that the intellectual 
love of the mind towards God is the selfsame love with 
which God loves Himself, not in so far as He is infinite, 
but in so far as He can be manifested through the 
essence of the human mind, considered under the form 
of eternity that is to say, that the intellectual love of 
the mind towards God is part of the infinite love with 
which God loves Himself. And after these tragic, these 
desolating propositions, we are told in the last proposi 
tion of the whole book, that which closes and crowns 
this tremendous tragedy of the Ethic, that happiness is 
not the reward of virtue, but virtue itself, and that our 
repression of our desires is not the cause of our enjoy 
ment of virtue, but rather because we find enjoyment in 
virtue we are able to repress our desires. Intellectual 
love! intellectual love! what is this intellectual love? 
Something of the nature of a red flavour, or a bitter 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 235 

sound, or an aromatic colour, or rather something of 
the same sort as a love-stricken triangle or an enraged 
ellipse a pure metaphor, but a tragic metaphor. And 
a metaphor corresponding tragically with that saying 
that the heart also has its reasons. Reasons of the 
heart ! loves of the head ! intellectual delight 1 delicious 
intellection ! tragedy, tragedy, tragedy ! 

And nevertheless there is something which may be 
called intellectual love, and that is the love of under 
standing, that which Aristotle meant by the contem 
plative life, for there is something of action and of love 
in the act of understanding, and the beatific vision is the 
vision of the total truth. Is there not perhaps at the 
root of every passion something of curiosity ? Did not 
our first parents, according to the Biblical story, fall 
because of their eagerness to taste of the fruit of the tree 
of the knowledge of good and evil, and to be as gods, 
knowers of this knowledge? The vision of God that 
is to say, the vision of the Universe itself, in its soul, in 
its inmost essence would not that appease all our long 
ing? And this vision can fail to satisfy only men of a 
gross mind who do not perceive that the greatest joy of 
man is to be more man that is, more God and that 
man is more God the more consciousness he has. 

And this intellectual love, which is nothing but the 
so-called platonic love, is a means to dominion and 
possession. There is, in fact, no more perfect dominion 
than knowledge ; he who knows something, possesses 
it. Knowledge unites the knower with the known. " I 
contemplate thee and in contemplating thee I make thee 
mine " such is the formula. And to know God, what 
can that be but to possess Him? He who knows God 
is thereby himself God. 

In La Degradation de I energie (iv e partie, 
chap, xviii., 2) B. Brunhes relates a story concerning 
the great Catholic mathematician Cauchy, communicated 
to him by M. Sarrau, who had it from Pere Gratry. 



236 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

While Cauchy and Pere Gratry were walking in the 
gardens of the Luxembourg, their conversation turned 
upon the happiness which those in heaven would have 
in knowing at last, without any obscurity or limitation, 
the truths which they had so long and so laboriously 
sought to investigate on earth. In allusion to the study 
which Cauchy had made of the mechanistic theory of 
the reflection of light, Pere Gratry threw out the sug 
gestion that one of the greatest intellectual joys of the 
great geometrician in the future life would be to pene 
trate into the secret of light. To which Cauchy replied 
that it did not appear to him to be possible to know more 
about this than he himself already knew, neither could 
he conceive how the most perfect intelligence could 
arrive at a clearer comprehension of the mystery of 
reflection than that manifested in his own explanation 
of it, seeing that he had furnished a mechanistic theory 
of the phenomenon. " His piety," Brunhes adds, " did 
not extend to a belief that God Himself could have 
created anything different or anything better." 

From this narrative two points of interest emerge. 
The first is the idea expressed in it as to what contem 
plation, intellectual love, or beatific vision, may mean 
for men of a superior order of intelligence, men whose 
ruling passion is knowledge; and the second is the 
implicit faith shown in the mechanistic explanation of 
the world. 

This mechanistic tendency of the intellect coheres with 
the well-known formula, " Nothing is created, nothing 
is lost, everything is transformed " a formula by 
means of which it has been sought to interpret the 
ambiguous principle of the conservation of energy, for 
getting that practically, for us, for men, energy is 
utilizable energy, and that this is continually being lost, 
dissipated by the diffusion of heat, and degraded, its 
tendency being to arrive at a dead-level and homo 
geneity. That which has value, and more than value, 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 237 

reality, for us, is the differential, which is the qualita 
tive ; pure, undifferentiated quantity is for us as if it did 
not exist, for it does not act. And the material 
Universe, the body of the Universe, would appear to 
be gradually proceeding unaffected by the retarding 
action of living organisms or even by the conscious 
action of man towards a state of perfect stability, of 
homogeneity (vide Brunhes, op. cit.). For, while spirit 
tends towards concentration, material energy tends 
towards diffusion. 

And may not this have an intimate relation with our 
problem ? May there not be a connection between this 
conclusion of scientific philosophy with respect to a 
final state of stability and homogeneity and the mystical 
dream of the apocatastasis ? May not this death of the 
body of the Universe be the final triumph of its spirit, 
of God ? 

It is manifest that there is an intimate relation between 
the religious need of an eternal life after death and the 
conclusions always provisional at which scientific 
philosophy arrives with respect to the probable future of 
the material or sensible Universe. And the fact is that 
just as there are theologians of God and the immortality 
of the soul, so there are also those whom Brunhes calls 
(op. cit., chap, xxvi., 2) theologians of monism, and 
whom it would perhaps be better to call atheologians, 
people who pertinaciously adhere to the spirit of a priori 
affirmation ; and this becomes intolerable, Brunhes adds, 
when they harbour the pretension of despising theology. 
A notable type of these gentlemen may be found in 
Haeckel, who has succeeded in solving the riddles of 
Nature ! 

These atheologians have seized upon the principle of 
the conservation of energy, the " Nothing is created, 
nothing is lost, everything is transformed " formula, 
the theological origin of which is seen in Descartes, and 
have made use of it as a means whereby we are able to 



238 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

dispense with God. " The world built to last," Brunhes 
comments, " resisting 1 all wear and tear, or rather auto 
matically repairing the rents that appear in it what a 
splendid theme for oratorical amplification ! But these 
same amplifications which served in the seventeenth 
century to prove the wisdom of the Creator have been 
used in our days as arguments for those who presume to 
do without Him." It is the old story : so-called 
scientific philosophy, the origin and inspiration of which 
is fundamentally theological or religious, ending in an 
atheology or irreligion, which is itself nothing else but 
theology and religion. Let us call to mind the comments 
of Ritschl upon this head, already quoted in this work. 

To-day the last word of science, or rather of scientific 
philosophy, appears to be that, by virtue of the degrada 
tion of energy, of the predominance of irreversible 
phenomena, the material, sensible world is travelling 
towards a condition of ultimate levelness, a kind of final 
homogeneity. And this brings to our mind the 
hypothesis, not only so much used but abused by 
Spencer, of a primordial homogeneity, and his fan 
tastic theory of the instability of the homogeneous. An 
instability that required the atheological agnosticism of 
Spencer in order to explain the inexplicable transition 
from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous. For how, 
without any action from without, can any heterogeneity 
emerge from perfect and absolute homogeneity ? But 
as it was necessary to get rid of every kind of creation, 
" the unemployed engineer turned metaphysician," as 
Papini called him, invented the theory of the instability 
of the homogeneous, which is more . . . what shall I 
say ? more mystical, and even more mythological if you 
like, than the creative action of God. 

The Italian positivist, Roberto Ardigo, was nearer 
the mark when, objecting to Spencer s theory, he said 
that the most natural supposition was that things always 
were as they are now, that always there have been 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 239 

worlds in process of formation, in the nebulous stage, 
worlds completely formed and worlds in process of dis 
solution ; that heterogeneity, in short, is eternal. 
Another way, it will be seen, of not solving the riddle. 

Is this perhaps the solution ? But in that case the 
Universe would be infinite, and in reality we are unable 
to conceive a Universe that is both eternal and limited 
such as that which served as the basis of Nietzsche s 
theory of eternal recurrence. If the Universe must be 
eternal, if within it and as regards each of its component 
worlds, periods in which the movement is towards homo 
geneity, towards the degradation of energy, must 
alternate with other periods in which the movement 
is towards heterogeneity, then it is necessary that 
the Universe should be infinite, that there should be 
scope, always and in each world, for some action coming 
from without. And, in fact, the body of God cannot be 
other than eternal and infinite. 

But as far as our own world is concerned, its gradual 
levelling-down or, we might say, its death appears 
to be proved. And how will this process affect the fate 
of our spirit ? Will it wane with the degradation of the 
energy of our world and return to unconsciousness, or 
will it rather grow according as the utilizable energy 
diminishes and by virtue of the very efforts that it 
makes to retard this degradation and to dominate 
Nature ? for this it is that constitutes the life of the spirit. 
May it be that consciousness and its extended support 
are two powers in contraposition, the one growing at 
the expense of the other ? 

The fact is that the best of our scientific work, the best 
of our industry (that part of it I mean and it is a large 
part that does not tend to destruction), is directed 
towards retarding this fatal process of the degradation 
of energy. And organic life, the support of our con 
sciousness, is itself an effort to avoid, so far as it is 
possible, this fatal period, to postpone it. 



240 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

It is useless to seek to deceive ourselves with pagan 
paeans in praise of Nature, for as Leopardi, that 
Christian atheist, said with profound truth in his stupen 
dous poem La Ginestra, Nature " gives us life like a 
mother, but loves us like a step-mother." The origin 
of human companionship was opposition to Nature ; it 
was horror of impious Nature that first linked men 
together in the bonds of society. It is human society, 
in effect, the source of reflective consciousness and of the 
craving for immortality, that inaugurates the state of 
grace upon the state of Nature ; and it is man who, by 
humanizing and spiritualizing Nature by his industry, 
supernaturalizes her. 

In two amazing sonnets which he called Redemption, 
the tragic Portuguese poet, Antero de Quental, 
embodied his dream of a spirit imprisoned, not in atoms 
or ions or crystals, but as is natural in a poet in the 
sea, in trees, in the forest, in the mountains, in the wind, 
in all material individualities and forms; and he 
imagines that a day may come when all these captive 
souls, as yet in the limbo of existence, will awaken to 
consciousness, and, emerging as pure thought from 
the forms that imprisoned them, they will see these 
forms, the creatures of illusion, fall away and dissolve 
like a baseless vision. It is a magnificent dream of the 
penetration of everything by consciousness. 

May it not be that the Universe, our Universe who 
knows if there are others ? began with a zero of spirit 
and zero is not the same as nothing and an infinite of 
matter, and that its goal is to end with an infinite of 
spirit and a zero of matter ? Dreams ! 

May it be that everything has a soul and that this 
soul begs to be freed? 

Oh tierras de Alvargonzdlez, 
en el corazon de Espana, 
tierras pobres, tierras trisfes, 
tan tristes que tienen alma! 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 241 

sings our poet Antonio Machado in his Campos de 
Castillo,. 1 Is the sadness of the field in the fields them 
selves or in us who look upon them ? Do they not 
suffer ? But what can an individual soul in a world of 
matter actually be ? Is it the rock or the mountain that 
is the individual ? Is it the tree ? 

And nevertheless the fact always remains that spirit 
and matter are at strife. This is the thought that 
Espronceda expressed when he wrote : 

Ayui, para vivir en santa calnia, 
o sobra la materia, o sobra el alma. 2 

And is there not in the history of thought, or of 
human imagination if you prefer it, something that 
corresponds to this process of the reduction of matter, in 
the sense of a reduction of everything to consciousness ? 

Yes, there is, and its author is the first Christian mystic, 
St. Paul of Tarsus, the Apostle of the Gentiles, he who 
because he had never with his bodily eyes looked upon 
the face of the fleshly and mortal Christ, the ethical Christ, 
created within himself an immortal and religious Christ 
he who was caught up into the third heaven and there 
beheld secret and unspeakable things (2 Cor. xii.). And 
this first Christian mystic dreamed also of a final triumph 
of spirit, of consciousness, and this is what in theology 
is technically called the apocatastasis or restitution. 

In i Cor. xv. 26-28 he tells us that " the last enemy 
that shall be destroyed is death, for he hath put all things 
under his feet. But when he saith all things are put 
under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did 
put all things under him. And when all things shall be 
subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be 

1 O land of Alvargonzalez, 
In the heart of Spain, 
Sad land, poor land, 
So sad that it has a soul ! 

2 To living a life of blessed quiet here on earth, 
Either matter or soul is a hindrance. 

16 



242 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

subject unto him that put all things under him, that God 
may be all in all " : iva y 6 deos Trdvra ev Traoriv that is to 
say, that the end is that God, Consciousness, will end by 
being all in all. 

This doctrine is completed by Paul s teaching, in his 
Epistle to the Ephesians, with regard to the end of the 
whole history of the world. In this Epistle, as you 
know, he represents Christ by whom " were all things 
created, that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible 
and invisible " (Col. i. 16) as the head over all things 
(Eph. i. 22), and in him, in this head, we all shall be 
raised up that we may live in the communion of saints 
and that we " may be able to comprehend with all saints 
what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, 
and to know the love of Christ, which passeth know 
ledge " (Eph. iii. 18, 19). And this gathering of us 
together in Christ, who is the head and, as it were, the 
compendium, of Humanity, is what the Apostle calls the 
gathering or collecting together or recapitulating of all 
things in Christ, avaKefya\aia>cracr6ai ra Trdvra ev Xpi(TT(p. 
And this recapitulation dvaKefya^alcovis, anacefaleosis 
the end of the world s history and of the human race, is 
merely another aspect of the apocatastasis. The apoca- 
tastasis, God s coming to be all in all, thus resolves itself 
into the anacefaleosis, the gathering together of all things 
in Christ, in Humanity Humanity therefore being the 
end of creation. And does not this apocatastasis, this 
humanization or divinization of all things, do away with 
matter? But if matter, which is the principle of indi- 
viduation, the scholastic principium individuationis, is 
once done away with, does not everything return to pure 
consciousness, which, in its pure purity, neither knows 
itself nor is it anything that can be conceived or felt? 
And if matter be abolished, what support is there left for 
spirit ? 

Thus a different train of thought leads us to the same 
(iifficulties, the same unthinkabilities. 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 243 

It may be said, on the other hand, that theapocatastasis, 
God s coming to be all in all, presupposes that there was 
a time when He was not all in all. The supposition that 
all being s shall attain to the enjoyment of God implies 
the supposition that God shall attain to the enjoyment of 
all beings, for the beatific vision is mutual, and God is 
perfected in being better known, and His being is 
nourished and enriched with souls. 

Following up the track of these wild dreams, we might 
imagine an unconscious God, slumbering in matter, and 
gradually wakening into consciousness of everything, 
consciousness of His own divinity ; we might imagine the 
whole Universe becoming conscious of itself as a whole 
and becoming conscious of each of its constituent con 
sciousnesses, becoming God. But in that case, how did 
this unconscious God begin? Is He not matter itself? 
God would thus be not the beginning but the end of the 
Universe; but can that be the end which was not the 
beginning ? Or can it be that outside time, in eternity, 
there is a difference between beginning and end ? " The 
soul of all things cannot be bound by that very thing 
that is, matter which it itself has bound," says Plotinus 
(Enn. ii., ix. 7). Or is it not rather the Consciousness of 
the Whole that strives to become the consciousness of 
each part and to make each partial consciousness con 
scious of itself that is, of the total consciousness? Is 
not this universal soul a monotheist or solitary God who 
is in process of becoming a pantheist God ? And if it is 
not so, if matter and pain are alien to God, wherefore, it 
will be asked, did God create the world ? For what pur 
pose did He make matter and introduce pain? Would 
it not have been better if He had not made anything? 
What added glory does He gain by the creation of angels 
or of men whose fall He must punish with eternal tor 
ment ? Did He perhaps create evil for the sake of 
remedying it? Or was redemption His design, redemp 
tion complete and absolute, redemption of all things and 



244 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

of all men ? For this hypothesis is neither more rational 
nor more pious than the other. 

In so far as we attempt to represent eternal happiness 
to ourselves, we are confronted by a series of questions to 
which there is no satisfactory that is, rational answer, 
and it matters not whether the supposition from which we 
start be monotheist, or pantheist, or even panentheist. 

Let us return to the Pauline apocatastasis. 

Is it not possible that in becoming all in all God com 
pletes Himself, becomes at last fully God, an infinite con 
sciousness embracing all consciousnesses ? And what is 
an infinite consciousness ? Since consciousness sup 
poses limitation, or rather since consciousness is con 
sciousness of limitation, of distinction, does it not thereby 
exclude infinitude ? What value has the notion of infini 
tude applied to consciousness ? What is a consciousness 
that is all consciousness, without anything outside it that 
is not consciousness? In such a case, of what is con 
sciousness the consciousness ? Of its content ? Or may 
it not rather be that, starting from chaos, from absolute 
unconsciousness, in the eternity of the past, we con 
tinually approach the apocatastasis or final apotheosis 
without ever reaching it? 

May not this apocatastasis, this return of all things to 
God, be rather an ideal term to which we unceasingly 
approach some of us with fleeter step than others but 
which we are destined never to reach ? May not the 
absolute and perfect eternal happiness be an eternal hope, 
which would die if it were to be realized ? Is it possible 
to be happy without hope? And there is no place for 
hope when once possession has been realized, for hope, 
desire, is killed by possession. May it not be, I say, 
that all souls grow without ceasing, some in a greater 
measure than others, but all having to pass some time 
through the same degree of growth, whatever that degree 
may be, and yet without ever arriving at the infinite, at 
God, to whom they continually approach ? Is not eternal 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 245 

happiness an eternal hope, with its eternal nucleus of 
sorrow in order that happiness shall not be swallowed up 
in nothingness ? 

Follow more questions to which there is no answer. 
" He shall be all in all," says the Apostle. But will His 
mode of being in each one be different or will it be the 
same for all alike ? Will not God be wholly in one of the 
damned ? Is He not in his soul ? Is He not in what is 
called hell ? And in what sense is He in hell ? 

Whence arise new problems, those relating to the 
opposition between heaven and hell, between eternal 
happiness and eternal unhappiness. 

May it not be that in the end all shall be saved, includ 
ing Cain and Judas and Satan himself, as Origen s de 
velopment of the Pauline apocatastasis led him to hope? 

When our Catholic theologians seek to justify ration 
ally or in other words, ethically the dogma of the 
eternity of the pains of hell, they put forward reasons so 
specious, ridiculous, and childish, that it would appear 
impossible that they should ever have obtained currency. 
For to assert that since God is infinite, an offence com 
mitted against Him is infinite also and therefore demands 
an eternal punishment, is, apart from the inconceivability 
of an infinite offence, to be unaware that, in human ethics, 
if not in the human police system, the gravity of the 
offence is measured not by the dignity of the injured 
person but by the intention of the injurer, and that to 
speak of an infinite culpable intention is sheer nonsense, 
and nothing else. In this connection those words which 
Christ addressed to His Father are capable of applica 
tion : " Father, forgive them, for they know not what 
they do," and no man who commits an offence against 
God or his neighbour knows what he does. In human 
ethics, or if you like in human police regulations that 
which is called penal law and is anything but law 1 
eternal punishment is a meaningless phrase. 

1 Eso que Hainan derecho penal, y que es todo menos derecho. 



246 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

" God is just and punishes us; that is all we need to 
know ; as far as we are concerned the rest is merely 
curiosity." Such was the conclusion of Lamennais 
(Essai, etc., iv e partie, chap, vii.), an opinion shared by 
many others. Calvin also held the same view. But is 
there anyone who is content with this ? Pure curiosity ! 
to call this load that wellnigh crushes our heart pure 
curiosity ! 

May we not say, perhaps, that the evil man is 
annihilated because he wished to be annihilated, or that 
he did not wish strongly enough to eternalize himself 
because he was evil ? May we not say that it is not 
believing in the other life that makes a man good, but 
rather that being good makes him believe in it? And 
what is being good and being evil? These states per 
tain to the sphere of ethics, not of religion : or, rather, 
does not the doing good though being evil pertain to 
ethics, and the being good though doing evil to religion ? 

Shall we not perhaps be told, on the other hand, that 
if the sinner suffers an eternal punishment, it is because 
he does not cease to sin ? for the damned sin without 
ceasing. This, however, is no solution of the problem, 
which derives all its absurdity from the fact that punish 
ment has been conceived as vindictiveness or vengeance, 
not as correction, has been conceived after the fashion of 
barbarous peoples. And in the same way hell has been 
conceived as a sort of police institution, necessary in 
order to put fear into the world. And the worst of it is 
that it no longer intimidates, and therefore will have to 
be shut up. 

But, on the other hand, as a religious conception and 
veiled in mystery, why not although the idea revolts our 
feelings an eternity of suffering ? why not a God who is 
nourished by our suffering ? Is our happiness the end of 
the Universe ? or may we possibly sustain with our suffer 
ing some alien happiness ? Let us read again in the 
Eumenides of that terrible tragedian, ^Eschylus, those 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 247 

choruses of the Furies in which they curse the new gods 
for overturning the ancient laws and snatching Orestes 
from their hands impassioned invectives against the 
Apollinian redemption. Does not redemption tear man, 
their captive and plaything, from the hands of the gods, 
who delight and amuse themselves in his sufferings, like 
children, as the tragic poet says, torturing beetles ? And 
let us remember the cry, " My God, my God, why hast 
thou forsaken me?" 

Yes, why not an eternity of suffering? Hell is an 
eternalization of the soul, even though it be an eternity 
of pain. Is not pain essential to life ? 

Men go on inventing theories to explain what they call 
the origin of evil. And why not the origin of good? Why 
suppose that it is good that is positive and original, and 
evil that is negative and derivatory ? " Everything that 
is, in so far as it is, is good," St. Augustine affirmed. 
But why? What does " being good " mean? Good is 
good for something, conducive to an end, and to say that 
everything is good is equivalent to saying that everything 
is making for its end. But what is its end ? Our desire 
is to eternalize ourselves, to persist, and we call good 
everything that conspires to this end and bad everything 
that tends to lessen or destroy our consciousness. We 
suppose that human consciousness is an end and not a 
means to something else which may not be consciousness, 
whether human or superhuman. 

All metaphysical optimism, such as that of Leibnitz, 
and all metaphysical pessimism, such as that of Schopen 
hauer, have no other foundation than this. For Leibnitz 
this world is the best because it conspires to perpetuate 
consciousness, and, together with consciousness, will, 
because intelligence increases will and perfects it, because 
the end of man is the contemplation of God ; while for 
Schopenhauer this world is the worst of all possible 
worlds, because it conspires to destroy will, because intel 
ligence, representation, nullifies the will that begot it. 



248 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 

And similarly Franklin, who believed in another life, 
asserted that he was willing to live this life over again, 
the life that he had actually lived, " from its beginning 
to the end"; while Leopardi, who did not believe in 
another life, asserted that nobody would consent to live 
his life over again. These two views of life are not 
merely ethical, but religious ; and the feeling of moral 
good, in so far as it is a teleological value, is of religious 
origin also. 

And to return to our interrogations : Shall not all be 
saved, shall not all be made eternal, and eternal not in 
suffering but in happiness, those whom we call good and 
those whom we call bad alike ? 

And as regards this question of good and evil, does 
not the malice of him who judges enter in ? Is the bad 
ness in the intention of him who does the deed or is it 
not rather in that of him who judges it to be bad? But 
the terrible thing is that man judges himself, creates 
himself his own judge. 

Who then shall be saved? And now the imagination 
puts forth another possibility neither more nor less 
rational than all those which have just been put forward 
interrogatively and that is that only those are saved 
who have longed to be saved, that only those are eternal 
ized who have lived in an agony of hunger for eternity 
and for eternalization. He who desires never to die and 
believes that he shall never die in the spirit, desires it 
because he deserves it, or rather, only he desires personal 
immortality who carries his immortality within him. 
The man who does not long passionately, and with a 
passion that triumphs over all the dictates of reason, 
for his own immortality, is the man who does not deserve 
it, and because he does not deserve it he does not long 
for it. And it is no injustice not to give a man that 
which he does not know how to desire, for " ask, and it 
shall be given you." It may be that to each will be 
given that which he desired. And perhaps the sin 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 249 

against the Holy Ghost for which, according to the 
Evangelist, there is no remission is none other than that 
of not desiring God, not longing to be made eternal. 

As is your sort of mind 
So is your sort of search ; you ll find 
What you desire, and that s to be 
A Christian, 

said Robert Browning in Christmas Eve and Easter Day. 

In his Inferno Dante condemned the Epicureans, those 
who did not believe in another life, to something more 
terrible than the not having it, and that is the conscious 
ness of not having it, and this he expressed in plastic 
form by picturing them shut up in their tombs for all 
eternity, without light, without air, without fire, without 
movement, without life (Inferno, x., 10-15). 

What cruelty is there in denying to a man that which 
he did not or could not desire ? In the sixth book of his 
dEneid (426-429) the gentle Virgil makes us hear the 
plaintive voices and sobbing of the babes who weep upon 
the threshold of Hades, 

Continue audits voces, vagitus et ingens, 
Infantiimque animce flentes in limine primo, 

unhappy in that they had but entered upon life and never 
known the sweetness of it, and whom, torn from their 
mothers breasts, a dark day had cut off and drowned in 
bitter death 

Quos dulcis vita exsortes et ab ubere raptos 
Abstulit atra dies et funere mersit acerbo. 

But what life did they lose, if they neither knew life nor 
longed for it ? And yet is it true that they never longed 
for it? 

It may be said that others craved life on their behalf, 
that their parents longed for them to be eternal to the end 
that they might be gladdened by them in paradise. And 
so a fresh field is opened up for the imagination namely, 



250 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

the consideration of the solidarity and representivity of 
eternal salvation. 

There are many, indeed, who imagine the human race 
as one being, a collective and solidary individual, in 
whom each member may represent or may come to repre 
sent the total collectivity ; and they imagine salvation as 
something collective. As something collective also, 
merit, and as something collective sin, and redemption. 
According to this mode of feeling and imagining, either 
all are saved or none is saved; redemption is total and 
it is mutual ; each man is his neighbour s Christ. 

And is there not perhaps a hint of this in the popular 
Catholic belief with regard to souls in purgatory, the 
belief that the living may devote suffrages and apply 
merits to the souls of their dead ? This sense of the trans 
mission of merits, both to the living and the dead, is 
general in popular Catholic piety. 

Nor should it be forgotten that in the history of man s 
religious thought there has often presented itself the idea 
of an immortality restricted to a certain number of the 
elect, spirits representative of the rest and in a certain 
sense including them ; an idea of pagan derivation for 
such were the heroes and demi-gods which sometimes 
shelters itself behind the pronouncement that there are 
many that are called and few that are chosen. 

Recently, while I was engaged upon this essay, there 
came into my hands the third edition of the Dialogue sur 
la vie et sur la mort, by Charles Bonnefon, a book in 
which imaginative conceptions similar to those that I 
have been setting forth find succinct and suggestive ex 
pression. The soul cannot live without the body, 
Bonnefon says, nor the body without the soul, and thus 
neither birth nor death has any real existence strictly 
speaking, there is no body, no soul, no birth, no death, 
all of which are abstractions and appearances, but only a 
thinking life, of which we form part and which can 
neither be born nor die. Hence he is led to deny human 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 251 

individuality and to assert that no one can say " I am " 
but only " we are," or, more correctly, " there is in us." 
It is humanity, the species, that thinks and loves in us. 
And souls are transmitted in the same way that bodies 
are transmitted. " The living thought or the thinking 
life which we are will find itself again immediately in a 
form analogous to that which was our origin and corre 
sponding with our being in the womb of a pregnant 
woman." Each of us, therefore, has lived before and 
will live again, although he does not know it. If 
humanity is gradually raised above itself, when the last 
man dies, the man who will contain all the rest of man 
kind in himself, who shall say that he may not have 
arrived at that higher order of humanity such as exists 
elsewhere, in heaven ? . . . As we are all bound 
together in solidarity, we shall all, little by little, gather 
the fruits of our travail." According to this mode of 
imagining and thinking, since nobody is born, nobody 
dies, no single soul has finished its struggle but many 
times has been plunged into the midst of the human 
struggle " ever since the type of embryo corresponding 
with the same consciousness was represented in the suc 
cession of human phenomena." It is obvious that since 
Bonnefon begins by denying personal individuality, he 
leaves out of account our real longing, which is to save 
our individuality ; but on the other hand, since he, 
Bonnefon, is a personal individual and feels this longing, 
he has recourse to the distinction between the called and 
the chosen, and to the idea of representative spirits, and 
he concedes to a certain number of men this representa 
tive individual immortality. Of these elect he says that 
" they will be somewhat more necessary to God than we 
ourselves." And he closes this splendid dream by sup 
posing that " it is not impossible that we shall arrive by 
a series of ascensions at the supreme happiness, and that 
our life shall be merged in the perfect Life as a drop of 
water in the sea. Then we shall understand," he con- 



252 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

tinues, " that everything was necessary, that every 
philosophy and every religion had its hour of truth, and 
that in all our wanderings and errors and in the darkest 
moments of our history we discerned the light of the 
distant beacon, and that we were all predestined to par 
ticipate in the Eternal Light. And if the God whom we 
shall find again possesses a body and we cannot con 
ceive a living God without a body we, together with 
each of the myriads of races that the myriads of suns 
have brought forth, shall be the conscious cells of his 
body. If this dream should be fulfilled, an ocean of love 
would beat upon our shores and the end of every life 
would be to add a drop of water to this ocean s infinity." 
And what is this cosmic dream of Bonnefon s but the 
plastic representation of the Pauline apocatastasis ? 

Yes, this dream, which has its origin far back in the 
dawn of Christianity, is fundamentally the same as the 
Pauline anacefaleosis, the fusion of all men in Man, in 
the whole of Humanity embodied in a Person, who is 
Christ, and the fusion not only of all men but of all 
things, and the subsequent subjection of all things to 
God, in order that God, Consciousness, may be all in all. 
And this supposes a collective redemption and a society 
beyond the grave. 

In the middle of the eighteenth century, two pietists of 
Protestant origin, Johann Jakob Moser and Friedrich 
Christoph Oetinger, gave a new force and value to the 
Pauline anacefaleosis. Moser " declared that his 
religion consisted not in holding certain doctrines to be 
true and in living a virtuous life conformably therewith, 
but in being reunited to God through Christ. But this 
demands the thorough knowledge a knowledge that 
goes on increasing until the end of life of one s own 
sins and also of the mercy and patience of God, the 
transformation of all natural feelings, the appropriation 
of the atonement wrought by the death of Christ, the 
enjoyment of peace with God in the permanent witness 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 253 

of the Holy Spirit to the remission of sins, the ordering 
of life according to the pattern of Christ, which is the 
fruit of faith alone, the drawing near to God and the 
intercourse of the soul with Him, the disposition to die 
in grace and the joyful expectation of the Judgement 
which will bestow blessedness in the more intimate 
enjoyment of God and in the commerce with all the 
saints " (Ritschl, Geschichte des Pietismus, vol. iii., 
43). The commerce with all the saints that is to say, 
the eternal human society. And for his part, Oetinger 
considers eternal happiness not as the contemplation of 
God in His infinitude, but, taking the Epistle to the 
Ephesians as his authority, as the contemplation of God 
in the harmony of the creature with Christ. The com 
merce with all the saints was, according to him, essential 
to the content of eternal happiness. It was the realiza 
tion of the kingdom of God, which thus comes to be the 
kingdom of Man. And in his exposition of these doc 
trines of the two pietists, Ritschl confesses (op. cit., iii., 
46) that both witnesses have with these doctrines con 
tributed something to Protestantism that is of like value 
with the theological method of Spener, another pietist. 

We see, therefore, that the Christian, mystical, inward 
longing ever since St. Paul, has been to give human 
finality, or divine finality, to the Universe, to save 
human consciousness, and to save it by converting all 
humanity into a person. This longing is expressed in 
the anacefaleosis, the gathering together of all things, all 
things in earth and in heaven, the visible and the 
invisible, in Christ, and also in the apocatastasis, the 
return of all things to God, to consciousness, in order 
that God may be all in all. And does not God s being 
all in all mean that all things shall acquire consciousness 
and that in this consciousness everything that has hap 
pened will come to life again, and that everything that 
has existed in time will be eternalized? And within the 
all, all individual consciousnesses, those which have 



254 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

been, those that are, and those that will be, and as they 
have been, as they are, and as they will be, will exist in 
a condition of society and solidarity. 

But does not this awakening to consciousness of every 
thing that has been, necessarily involve a fusion of the 
identical, an amalgamation of like things? In this con 
version of the human race into a true society in Christ, a 
communion of saints, a kingdom of heaven, will not 
individual differences, tainted as they are with deceit 
and even with sin, be obliterated, and in the perfect 
society will that alone remain of each man which was 
the essential part of him ? Would it not perhaps result, 
according to Bonnefon s supposition, that this conscious 
ness that lived in the twentieth century in this corner of 
this earth would feel itself to be the same with other such 
consciousnesses as have lived in other centuries and 
perhaps in other worlds? 

And how can we conceive of an effective and real 
union, a substantial and intimate union, soul with soul, 
of all those who have been ? 

If any two creatures grew into one 

They would do more than the world has done, 

said Browning in The Flight of the Duchess ; and Christ 
has told us that where two or three are gathered together 
in His name, there is He in the midst of them. 

Heaven, then, so it is believed by many, is society, a 
more perfect society than that of this world ; it is human 
society fused into a person. And there are not wanting 
some who believe that the tendency of all human progress 
is the conversion of our species into one collective being 
with real consciousness is not perhaps an individual 
human organism a kind of confederation of cells ? and 
that when it shall have acquired full consciousness, all 
those who have existed will come to life again in it. 

Heaven, so many think, is society. Just as no one 
can live in isolation, so no one can survive in isolation. 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 255 

No one can enjoy God in heaven who sees his brother 
suffering in hell, for the sin and the merit were common 
to both. We think with the thoughts of others and we 
feel with the feelings of others. To see God when God 
shall be all in all is to see all things in God and to live 
in God with all things. 

This splendid dream of the final solidarity of mankind 
is the Pauline anacefaleosis and apocatastasis. We 
Christians, said the Apostle (i Cor. xii. 27) are the body 
of Christ, members of Him, flesh of His flesh and bone 
of His bone (Eph. v. 30), branches of the vine. 

But in this final solidarization, in this true and supreme 
Christination of all creatures, what becomes of each 
individual consciousness? what becomes of Me, of this 
poor fragile I, this I that is the slave of time and space, 
this I which reason tells me is a mere passing accident, 
but for the saving of which I live and suffer and hope 
and believe ? Granting that the human finality of the 
Universe is saved, that consciousness is saved, would I 
resign myself to make the sacrifice of this poor I, by 
which and by which alone I know this finality and this 
consciousness ? 

And here, facing this supreme religious sacrifice, we 
reach the summit of the tragedy, the very heart of it 
the sacrifice of our own individual consciousness upon 
the altar of the perfected Human Consciousness, of the 
Divine Consciousness. 

But is there really a tragedy ? If we could attain to a 
clear vision of this anacefaleosis, if we could succeed in 
understanding and feeling that we were going to enrich 
Christ, should we hesitate for a moment in surrendering 
ourselves utterly to Him ? Would the stream that flows 
into the sea, and feels in the freshness of its waters the 
bitterness of the salt of the ocean, wish to flow back to its 
source ? would it wish to return to the cloud which drew 
its life from the sea ? is not its joy to feel itself absorbed ? 

And yet . , , 



256 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

Yes, in spite of everything, this is the climax of the 
tragedy. 

And the soul, my soul at least, longs for something 
else, not absorption, not quietude, not peace, not appease 
ment, it longs ever to approach and never to arrive, it 
longs for a never-ending longing, for an eternal hope 
which is eternally renewed but never wholly fulfilled. 
And together with all this, it longs for an eternal lack 
of something and an eternal suffering. A suffering, a 
pain, thanks to which it grows without ceasing in con 
sciousness and in longing. Do not write upon the gate 
of heaven that sentence which Dante placed over the 
threshold of hell, Lasciate ogni speranza! Do not 
destroy time ! Our life is a hope which is continually 
converting itself into memory and memory in its turn 
begets hope. Give us leave to live ! The eternity that 
is like an eternal present, without memory and without 
hope, is death. Thus do ideas exist, but not thus do men 
live. Thus do ideas exist in the God-Idea, but not thus 
can men live in the living God, in the God-Man. 

An eternal purgatory, then, rather than a heaven of 
glory ; an eternal ascent. If there is an end of all suffer 
ing, however pure and spiritualized we may suppose it to 
be, if there is an end of all desire, what is it that makes 
the blessed in paradise go on living? If in paradise 
they do not suffer for want of God, how shall they love 
Him? And if even there, in the heaven of glory, while 
they behold God little by little and closer and closer, yet 
without ever wholly attaining to Him, there does not 
always remain something more for them to know and 
desire, if there does not always remain a substratum of 
doubt, how shall they not fall asleep ? 

Or, to sum up, if in heaven there does not remain 
something of this innermost tragedy of the soul, what 
sort of a life is that ? Is there perhaps any greater joy 
than that of remembering misery and to remember it is 
to feel it in time of felicity ? Does not the prison 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 257 

haunt the freed prisoner ? Does he not miss his former 
dreams of liberty ? 

Mythological dreams ! it will be said. And I have not 
pretended that they are anything else. But has not the 
mythological dream its content of truth ? Are not dream 
and myth perhaps revelations of an inexpressible truth, 
of an irrational truth, of a truth that cannot be proven ? 

Mythology ! Perhaps ; but, as in the days of Plato, 
we must needs mythologize when we come to deal with 
the other life. But we have just seen that whenever we 
seek to give a form that is concrete, conceivable, or in 
other words, rational, to our primary, primordial, and 
fundamental longing for an eternal life conscious of itself 
and of its personal individuality, esthetic, logical, and 
ethical absurdities are multiplied and there is no way of 
conceiving the beatific vision and the apocatastasis that 
is free from contradictions and inconsistencies. 

And nevertheless ! . . . 

Nevertheless, yes, we must needs long for it, however 
absurd it may appear to us; nay, more, we must needs 
believe in it, in some way or another, in order that we 
may live. In order that we may live, eh? not in order 
that we may understand the Universe. We must needs 
believe in it, and to believe in it is to be religious. 
Christianity, the only religion which we Europeans of 
the twentieth century are really capable of feeling, is, as 
Kierkegaard said, a desperate sortie (Afsluttende 
uvidenskabelig Efterskrift, ii., i., cap. i.), a sortie which 
can be successful only by means of the martyrdom of 
faith, which is, according to this same tragic thinker, the 
crucifixion of reason. 

Not without reason did he who had the right to do so 
speak of the foolishness of the cross. Foolishness, with 
out doubt, foolishness. And the American humorist, 
Oliver Wendell Holmes, was not altogether wide of the 
mark in making one of the characters in his ingenious 

17 



258 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE x 

conversations say that he thought better of those who 
were confined in a lunatic asylum on account of religious 
mania than of those who, while professing the same 
religious principles, kept their wits and appeared to enjoy 
life very well outside of the asylums. 1 But those who 
are at large, are they not really, thanks to God, mad 
too ? Are there not mild madnesses, which not only 
permit us to mix with our neighbours without danger to 
society, but which rather enable us to do so, for by means 
of them we are able to attribute a meaning and finality 
to life and society themselves ? 

And after all, what is madness and how can we 
distinguish it from reason, unless we place ourselves 
outside both the one and the other, which for us is 
impossible? 

Madness perhaps it is, and great madness, to seek to 
penetrate into the mystery of the Beyond; madness to 
seek to superimpose the self-contradictory dreams of our 
imagination upon the dictates of a sane reason. And a 
sane reason tells us that nothing can be built up without 
foundations, and that it is not merely an idle but a sub 
versive task to fill the void of the unknown with fantasies. 
And nevertheless . . . 

We must needs believe in the other life, in the eternal 
life beyond the grave, and in an individual and personal 
life, in a life in which each one of us may feel his con 
sciousness and feel that it is united, without being con 
founded, with all other consciousnesses in the Supreme 
Consciousness, in God ; we must needs believe in that 
other life in order that we may live this life, and endure 
it, and give it meaning and finality. And we must needs 
believe in that other life, perhaps, in order that we may 
deserve it, in order that we may obtain it, for it may be 
that he neither deserves it nor will obtain it who does not 
passionately desire it above reason and, if need be, 
against reason. 

1 The Autocrat of the Breakfast -table. 



x MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND 259 

And above all, we must feel and act as if an endless 
continuation of our earthly life awaited us after death ; 
and if it be that nothingness is the fate that awaits us we 
must not, in the words of Obermann, so act that it shall 
be a just fate. 

And this leads us directly to the examination of the 
practical or ethical aspect of our sole problem. 



XI 
THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 

L homme est perissable. II se peut ; mais perissons en resistant, et, si le 
ne"ant nous est reserve, ne faisons pas que ce soil une justice. SENANCOUR : 
Obermann, lettre xc. 

SEVERAL times in the devious course of these essays I 
have defined, in spite of my horror of definitions, my 
own position with regard to the problem that I have been 
examining; but I know there will always be some dis 
satisfied reader, educated in some dogmatism or other, 
who will say : " This man comes to no conclusion, he 
vacillates now he seems to affirm one thing and then its 
contrary he is full of contradictions I can t label him. 
What is he?" Just this one who affirms contraries, a 
man of contradiction and strife, as Jeremiah said of 
himself ; one who says one thing with his heart and the 
contrary with his head, and for whom this conflict is the 
very stuff of life. And that is as clear as the water that 
flows from the melted snow upon the mountain tops. 

I shall be told that this is an untenable position, that a 
foundation must be laid upon which to build our action 
and our works, that it is impossible to live by contradic 
tions, that unity and clarity are essential conditions of 
life and thought, and that it is necessary to unify thought. 
And this leaves us as we were before. For it is precisely 
this inner contradiction that unifies my life and gives it 
its practical purpose. 

Or rather it is the conflict itself, it is this self-same 
passionate uncertainty, that unifies my action and makes 
me live and work. 

260 



xi THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 261 

We think in order that we may live, I have said ; but 
perhaps it were more correct to say that we think because 
we live, and the form of our thought corresponds with 
that of our life. Once more I must repeat that our 
ethical and philosophical doctrines in general are usually 
merely the justification a posteriori of our conduct, of 
our actions. Our doctrines are usually the means we 
seek in order to explain and justify to others and to our 
selves our own mode of action. And this, be it observed, 
not merely for others, but for ourselves. The man who 
does not really know why he acts as he does and not 
otherwise, feels the necessity of explaining to himself 
the motive of his action and so he forges a motive. What 
we believe to be the motives of our conduct are usually 
but the pretexts for it. The very same reason which one 
man may regard as a motive for taking care to prolong 
his life may be regarded by another man as a motive for 
shooting himself. 

Nevertheless it cannot be denied that reasons, ideas, 
have an influence upon human actions, and sometimes 
even determine them, by a process analogous to that of 
suggestion upon a hypnotized person, and this is so 
because of the tendency in every idea to resolve itself into 
action an idea being simply an inchoate or abortive act. 
It was this notion that suggested to Fouillee his theory 
of idea-forces. But ordinarily ideas are forces which we 
accommodate to other forces, deeper and much less 
conscious. 

But putting all this aside for the present, what I wish 
to establish is that uncertainty, doubt, perpetual wrest 
ling with the mystery of our final destiny, mental despair, 
and the lack of any solid and stable dogmatic foundation, 
may be the basis of an ethic. 

He who bases or thinks that he bases his conduct his 
inward or his outward conduct, his feeling or his action 
upon a dogma or theoretical principle which he deems 
incontrovertible, runs the risk of becoming a fanatic, 



262 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE xi 

and moreover, the moment that this dogma is weakened 
or shattered, the morality based upon it gives way. If 
the earth that he thought firm begins to rock, he himself 
trembles at the earthquake, for we do not all come up 
to the standard of the ideal Stoic who remains undaunted 
among the ruins of a world shattered into atoms. Happily 
the stuff that is underneath a man s ideas will save him. 
For if a man should tell you that he does not defraud or 
cuckold his best friend only because he is afraid of hell, 
you may depend upon it that neither would he do so even 
if he were to cease to believe in hell, but that he would 
invent some other excuse instead. And this is all to the 
honour of the human race. 

But he who believes that he is sailing, perhaps without 
a set course, on an unstable and sinkable raft, must not 
be dismayed if the raft gives way beneath his feet and 
threatens to sink. Such a one thinks that he acts, not 
because he deems his principle of action to be true, but 
in order to make it true, in order to prove its truth, in 
order to create his own spiritual world. 

My conduct must be the best proof, the moral proof, 
of my supreme desire ; and if I do not end by convincing 
myself, within the bounds of the ultimate and irre 
mediable uncertainty, of the truth of what I hope for, 
it is because my conduct is not sufficiently pure. Virtue, 
therefore, is not based upon dogma, but dogma upon 
virtue, and it is not faith that creates martyrs but martyrs 
who create faith. There is no security or repose so far 
as security and repose are obtainable in this life, so essen 
tially insecure and unreposeful save in conduct that is 
passionately good. 

Conduct, practice, is the proof of doctrine, theory. 
" If any man will do His will the will of Him that 
sent me," said Jesus, " he shall know of the doctrine, 
whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself 
(John vii. 17); and there is a well-known saying of 
Pascal : " Begin by taking holy water and you will end 



xi THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 263 

by becoming a believer." And pursuing a similar train 
of thought, Johann Jakob Moser, the pietist, was of the 
opinion that no atheist or naturalist had the right to 
regard the Christian religion as void of truth so long as 
he had not put it to the proof by keeping its precepts 
and commandments (Ritschl, Geschichte des Pietismus, 
book vii., 43). 

What is our heart s truth, anti-rational though it be? 
The immortality of the human soul, the truth of the 
persistence of our consciousness without any termination 
whatsoever, the truth of the human finality of the 
Universe. And what is its moral proof? We may 
formulate it thus : Act so that in your own judgement 
and in the judgement of others you may merit eternity, 
act so that you may become irreplaceable, act so that you 
may not merit death. Or perhaps thus : Act as if you 
were to die to-morrow, but to die in order to survive and 
be eternalized. The end of morality is to give personal, 
human finality to the Universe; to discover the finality 
that belongs to it if indeed it has any finality and to 
discover it by acting. 

More than a century ago, in 1804, in Letter XC of that 
series that constitutes the immense monody of his Ober- 
mann, Senancour wrote the words which I have put at 
the head of this chapter and of all the spiritual 
descendants of the patriarchal Rousseau, Senancour 
was the most profound and the most intense ; of all the 
men of heart and feeling that France has produced, not 
excluding Pascal, he was the most tragic. " Man is 
perishable. That may be; but let us perish resisting, 
and if it is nothingness that awaits us, do not let us so 
act that it shall be a just fate." Change this sentence 
from its negative to the positive form " And if it is 
nothingness that awaits us, let us so act that it shall be 
an unjust fate " and you get the firmest basis of action 
for the man who cannot or will not be a dogmatist. 

That which is irreligious and demoniacal, that which 



264 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE xi 

incapacitates us for action and leaves us without any ideal 
defence against our evil tendencies, is the pessimism 
that Goethe puts into the mouth of Mephistopheles when 
he makes him say, " All that has achieved existence 
deserves to be destroyed " (denn alles was ensteht ist 
wert dass es zugrunde geht). This is the pessimism 
which we men call evil, and not that other pessimism 
that consists in lamenting what it fears to be true and 
struggling against this fear namely, that everything is 
doomed to annihilation in the end. Mephistopheles 
asserts that everything that exists deserves to be destroyed, 
annihilated, but not that everything will be destroyed or 
annihilated ; and we assert that everything that exists 
deserves to be exalted and eternalized, even though no 
such fate is in store for it. The moral attitude is the 
reverse of this. 

Yes, everything deserves to be eternalized, absolutely 
everything, even evil itself, for that which we call evil 
would lose its evilness in being eternalized, because it 
would lose its temporal nature. For the essence of evil 
consists in its temporal nature, in its not applying itself 
to any ultimate and permanent end. 

And it might not be superfluous here to say something 
about that distinction, more overlaid with confusion than 
any other, between what we are accustomed to call 
optimism and pessimism, a confusion not less than that 
which exists with regard to the distinction between 
individualism and socialism. Indeed, it is scarcely pos 
sible to form a clear idea as to what pessimism really is. 

I have just this very day read in the Nation (July 6, 
1912) an article, entitled "A Dramatic Inferno," that 
deals with an English translation of the works of Strind- 
berg, and it opens with the following judicious observa 
tions : " If there were in the world a sincere and total 
pessimism, it would of necessity be silent. The despair 
which finds a voice is a social mood, it is the cry of 
misery which brother utters to brother when both are 



xi THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 265 

stumbling through a valley of shadows which is peopled 
with comrades. In its anguish it bears witness to 
something that is good in life, for it presupposes sym 
pathy. . . . The real gloom, the sincere despair, is 
dumb and blind; it writes no books, and feels no impulse 
to burden an intolerable universe with a monument more 
lasting than brass." Doubtless there is something of 
sophistry in this criticism, for the man who is really in 
pain weeps and even cries aloud, even if he is alone and 
there is nobody to hear him, simply as a means of 
alleviating his pain, although this perhaps may be a 
result of social habits. But does not the lion, alone in 
the desert, roar if he has an aching tooth ? But apart 
from this, it cannot be denied that there is a substance 
of truth underlying these remarks. The pessimism that 
protests and defends itself cannot be truly said to be 
pessimism. And, in truth, still less is it pessimism to 
hold that nothing ought to perish although all things 
may be doomed to annihilation, while on the other hand 
it is pessimism to affirm that all things ought to be 
annihilated even though nothing may perish. 

Pessimism, moreover, may possess different values. 
There is a eudemonistic or economic pessimism, that 
which denies happiness; there is an ethical pessimism, 
that which denies the triumph of moral good ; and there 
is a religious pessimism, that which despairs of the 
human finality of the Universe, of the eternal salvation 
of the individual soul. 

All men deserve to be saved, but, as I have said in the 
previous chapter, he above all deserves immortality who 
desires it passionately and even in the face of reason. 
An English writer, H. G. Wells, who has taken upon 
himself the role of the prophet (a thing not uncommon in 
his country), tells us in Anticipations that "active and 
capable men of all forms of religious profession tend in 
practice to disregard the question of immortality 
altogether." And this is because the religious professions 



266 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE xi 

of these active and capable men to whom Wells refers are 
usually simply a lie, and their lives are a lie, too, if they 
seek to base them upon religion. But it may be that at 
bottom there is not so much truth in what Wells asserts as 
he and others imagine. These active and capable men live 
in the midst of a society imbued with Christian prin 
ciples, surrounded by institutions and social feelings 
that are the product of Christianity, and faith in the 
immortality of the soul exists deep down in their own 
souls like a subterranean river, neither seen nor heard, 
but watering the roots of their deeds and their motives. 

It must be admitted that there exists in truth no more 
solid foundation for morality than the foundation of the 
Catholic ethic. The end of man is eternal happiness, 
which consists in the vision and enjoyment of God in 
scecula sceculorum. Where it errs, however, is in the 
choice of the means conducive to this end; for to make 
the attainment of eternal happiness dependent upon 
believing or not believing in the Procession of the Holy 
Ghost from the Father and the Son and not from the 
Father alone, or in the Divinity of Jesus, or in the theory 
of the Hypostatic Union, or even in the existence of 
God, is, as a moment s reflection will show, nothing less 
than monstrous. A human God and that is the only 
kind of God we are able to conceive would never reject 
him who was unable to believe in Him with his head, 
and it is not in his head but in his heart that the wicked 
man says that there is no God, which is equivalent to 
saying that he wishes that there may not be a God. If 
any belief could be bound up with the attainment of 
eternal happiness it would be the belief in this happiness 
itself and in the possibility of it. 

And what shall we say of that other proposition of the 
king of pedants, to the effect that we have not come into 
the world to be happy but to fulfil our duty (Wir sind 
nicht auf der Welt, um glilcklich zu sein, sondern um 
unsere Schuldigkeit zu tun) ? If we are in the world for 



xi THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 267 

something (um etivas), whence can this for be derived 
but from the very essence of our own will, which asks for 
happiness and not duty as the ultimate end? And if it 
is sought to attribute some other value to this for, an 
objective value, as some Sadducean pedant would say, 
then it must be recognized that the objective reality, that 
which would remain even though humanity should dis 
appear, is as indifferent to our duty as to our happiness, 
is as little concerned with our morality as with our 
felicity. I am not aware that Jupiter, Uranus, or Sirius 
would allow their course to be affected by the fact that 
we are or are not fulfilling our duty any more than by the 
fact that we are or are not happy. 

Such considerations must appear to these pedants to 
be characterized by a ridiculous vulgarity and a dilettante 
superficiality. (The intellectual world is divided into 
two classes dilettanti on the one hand, and pedants on 
the other.) What choice, then, have we? The modern 
man is he who resigns himself to the truth and is content 
to be ignorant of the synthesis of culture witness what 
Windelband says on this head in his study of the fate 
of Holderlin (Praeludien, i.). Yes, these men of culture 
are resigned, but there remain a few poor savages like 
ourselves for whom resignation is impossible. We do 
not resign ourselves to the idea of having one day to 
disappear, and the criticism of the great Pedant does not 
console us. 

The quintessence of common sense was expressed by 
Galileo Galilei when he said: " Some perhaps will say 
that the bitterest pain is the loss of life, but I say that 
there are others more bitter ; for whosoever is deprived of 
life is deprived at the same time of the power to lament, 
not only this, but any other loss whatsoever." Whether 
Galileo was conscious or not of the humour of this sen 
tence I do not know, but it is a tragic humour. 

But, to turn back, I repeat that if the attainment of 
eternal happiness could be bound up with any particular 



268 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE xi 

belief, it would be with the belief in the possibility of its 
realization. And yet, strictly speaking, not even with 
this. The reasonable man says in his head, " There is 
no other life after this," but only the wicked says it in 
his heart. But since the wicked man is possibly only a 
man who has been driven to despair, will a human God 
condemn him because of his despair ? His despair alone 
is misfortune enough. 

But in any event let us adopt the Calderonian formula 
in La Vida es Sueno : 

Que estoy sonando y qtie quiero 
obrar hacer bten, pues no se pierde 
el hacer bien aim en suenos*- 

But are good deeds really not lost ? Did Calderon know ? 
And he added : 

Acudanios a lo elerno 
que es lafama vividora 
donde ni dttermen las dichas 
no las grandezas reposan. 2 

Is it really so ? Did Calderon know ? 

Calderon had faith, robust Catholic faith ; but for him 
who lacks faith, for him who cannot believe in what 
Don Pedro Calderon de la Barca believed, there always 
remains the attitude of Obermann. 

If it is nothingness that awaits us, let us make an injus 
tice of it ; let us fight against destiny, even though with 
out hope of victory ; let us fight against it quixotically. 

And not only do we fight against destiny in longing 
for what is irrational, but in acting in such a way that 
we make ourselves irreplaceable, in impressing our seal 
and mark upon others, in acting upon our neighbours in 
order to dominate them, in giving ourselves to them in 
order that we may eternalize ourselves so far as we can. 

1 Act II., Scene 4 : "I am dreaming and I wish to act rightly, for good 
deeds are not lost, though they be wrought in dreams." 

2 Act III., Scene 10 : " Let us aim at the eternal, the glory that does not 
wane, where bliss slumbers not and where greatness does not repose. " 



xi THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 269 

Our greatest endeavour must be to make ourselves 
irreplaceable; to make the theoretical fact if this ex 
pression does not involve a contradiction in terms the 
fact that each one of us is unique and irreplaceable, that 
no one else can fill the gap that will be left when we die, 
a practical truth. 

For in fact each man is unique and irreplaceable ; there 
cannot be any other I ; each one of us our soul, that is, 
not our life is worth the whole Universe. I say the 
spirit and not the life, for the ridiculously exaggerated 
value which those attach to human life who, not really 
believing in the spirit that is to say, in their personal 
immortality tirade against war and the death penalty, 
for example, is a value which they attach to it precisely 
because they do not really believe in the spirit of which 
life is the servant. For life is of use only in so far as it 
serves its lord and master, spirit, and if the master 
perishes with the servant, neither the one nor the other 
is of any great value. 

And to act in such a way as to make our annihilation 
an injustice, in such a way as to make our brothers, our 
sons, and our brothers sons, and their sons sons, feel 
that we ought not to have died, is something that is 
within the reach of all. 

The essence of the doctrine of the Christian redemp 
tion is in the fact that he who suffered agony and death 
was the unique man that is, Man, the Son of Man, or 
the Son of God ; that he, because he was sinless, did not 
deserve to have died ; and that this propitiatory divine 
victim died in order that he might rise again and that 
he might raise us up from the dead, in order that he 
might deliver us from death by applying his merits to 
us and showing us the way of life. And the Christ who 
gave himself for his brothers in humanity with an 
absolute self-abnegation is the pattern for our action to 
shape itself on. 

All of us, each one of us, can and ought to determine 



270 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE xi 

to give as much of himself as he possibly can nay, to 
give more than he can, to exceed himself, to go beyond 
himself, to make himself irreplaceable, to give himself 
to others in order that he may receive himself back again 
from them. And each one in his own civil calling or 
office. The word office, officium, means obligation, 
debt, but in the concrete, and that is what it always 
ought to mean in practice. We ought not so much to 
try to seek that particular calling which we think most 
fitting and suitable for ourselves, as to make a calling of 
that employment in which chance, Providence, or our 
own will has placed us. 

Perhaps Luther rendered no greater service to Christian 
civilization than that of establishing the religious value 
of the civil occupation, of shattering the monastic and 
medieval idea of the religious calling, an idea involved in 
the mist of human passions and imaginations and the 
cause of terrible life tragedies. If we could but enter into 
the cloister and examine the religious vocation of those 
whom the self-interest of their parents had forced as 
children into a novice s cell and who had suddenly 
awakened to the life of the world if indeed they ever do 
awake ! or of those whom their own self-delusions had 
led into it ! Luther saw this life of the cloister at close 
quarters and suffered it himself, and therefore he was 
able to understand and feel the religious value of the 
civil calling, to which no man is bound by perpetual vows. 

All that the Apostle said in the fourth chapter of his 
Epistle to the Ephesians with regard to the respective 
functions of Christians in the Church must be transferred 
and applied to the civil or non-ecclesiastical life, for 
to-day among ourselves the Christian whether he know 
it or not, and whether he like it or not is the citizen, and 
just as the Apostle exclaimed, " I am a Roman citizen !" 
each one of us, even the atheist, might exclaim " I am a 
Christian!" And this demands the civilizing, in the 
sense of dis-ecclesiasticizing, of Christianity, which was 



xi THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 271 

Luther s task, although he himself eventually became the 
founder of a Church. 

There is a common English phrase, " the right man in 
the right place." To which we might rejoin, " Cobbler, 
to thy last!" Who knows what is the post that suits 
him best and for which he is most fitted ? Does a man 
himself know it better than others or do they know it 
better than he? Who can measure capacities and 
aptitudes? The religious attitude, undoubtedly, is to 
endeavour to make the occupation in which we find our 
selves our vocation, and only in the last resort to change 
it for another. 

This question of the proper vocation is possibly the 
gravest and most deep-seated of social problems, that 
which is at the root of all the others. That which is 
known par excellence as the social question is perhaps 
not so much a problem of the distribution of wealth, of 
the products of labour, as a problem of the distribution of 
avocations, of the modes of production. It is not apti 
tude a thing impossible to ascertain without first putting 
it to the test and not always clearly indicated in a man, for 
with regard to the majority of callings a man is not born 
but made it is not special aptitude, but rather social, 
political, and customary reasons that determine a man s 
occupation. At certain times and in certain countries it 
is caste and heredity ; at other times and in other places, 
the guild or corporation ; in later times machinery in 
almost all cases necessity ; liberty scarcely ever. And 
the tragedy of it culminates in those occupations, pander 
ing to evil, in which the soul is sacrificed for the sake of 
the livelihood, in which the workman works with the 
consciousness, not of the uselessness merely, but of the 
social perversity, of his work, manufacturing the poison 
that will kill him, the weapon, perchance, with which his 
children will be murdered. This, and not the question 
of wages, is the gravest problem. 

I shall never forget a scene of which I was a witness 



272 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE xi 

that took place on the banks of the river that flows through 
Bilbao, my native town. A workman was hammering at 
something in a shipwright s yard, working without put 
ting his heart into his work, as if he lacked energy or 
worked merely for the sake of getting a wage, when 
suddenly a woman s voice was heard crying, " Help ! 
help!" A child had fallen into the river. Instantly 
the man was transformed. With an admirable energy, 
promptitude, and sang-froid he threw off his clothes and 
plunged into the water to rescue the drowning infant. 

Possibly the reason why there is less bitterness in the 
agrarian socialist movement than in that of the towns is 
that the field labourer, although his wages and his 
standard of living are no better than those of the miner 
or artisan, has a clearer consciousness of the social value 
of his work. Sowing corn is a different thing from 
extracting diamonds from the earth. 

And it may be that the greatest social progress consists 
in a certain indifferentiation of labour, in the facility for 
exchanging one kind of work for another, and that other 
not perhaps a more lucrative, but a nobler one for there 
are degrees of nobility in labour. But unhappily it is 
only too seldom that a man who keeps to one occupation 
without changing is concerned with making a religious 
vocation of it, or that the man who changes his occupa 
tion for another does so from any religious motive. 

And do you not know cases in which a man, justifying 
his action on the ground that the professional organism 
to which he belongs and in which he works is badly 
organized and does not function as it ought, will evade 
the strict performance of his duty on the pretext that he 
is thereby fulfilling a higher duty ? Is not this insistence 
upon the literal carrying out of orders called dis- 
ciplinarianism, and do not people speak disparagingly of 
bureaucracy and the Pharisaism of public officials ? And 
cases occur not unlike that of an intelligent and studious 
militarv officer who should discover the deficiencies of 



xi THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 273 

his country s military organization and denounce them to 
his superiors and perhaps to the public thereby fulfilling 
his duty and who, when on active service, should refuse 
to carry out an operation which he was ordered to under 
take, believing that there was but scant probability of 
success or rather certainty of failure, so long as these 
deficiencies remained unremedied. He would deserve to 
be shot. And as for this question of Pharisaism . . . 

And there is always a way of obeying an order while 
yet retaining the command, a way of carrying out what 
one believes to be an absurd operation while correcting 
its absurdity, even though it involve one s own death. 
When in my bureaucratic capacity I have come across 
some legislative ordinance that has fallen into desuetude 
because of its manifest absurdity, I have always 
endeavoured to apply it. There is nothing worse than a 
loaded pistol which nobody uses left lying in some corner 
of the house; a child finds it, begins to play with it, and 
kills its own father. Laws that have fallen into desuetude 
are the most terrible of all laws, when the cause of the 
desuetude is the badness of the law. 

And these are not groundless suppositions, and least 
of all in our country. For there are many who, while 
they go about looking out for I know not what ideal 
that is to say, fictitious duties and responsibilities neg 
lect the duty of putting their whole soul into the imme 
diate and concrete business which furnishes them with a 
living ; and the rest, the immense majority, perform their 
task perfunctorily, merely for the sake of nominally com 
plying with their duty para cumplir, a terribly immoral 
phrase in order to get themselves out of a difficulty, to 
get the job done, to qualify for their wages without earn 
ing them, whether these wages be pecuniary or otherwise. 

Here you have a shoemaker who lives by making shoes, 
and makes them with just enough care and attention to 
keep his clientele together without losing custom. 
Another shoemaker lives on a somewhat higher spiritual 

18 



274 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE xi 

plane, for he has a proper love for his work, and out of 
pride or a sense of honour strives for the reputation of 
being the best shoemaker in the town or in the kingdom, 
even though this reputation brings him no increase of 
custom or profit, but only renown and prestige. But 
there is a still higher degree of moral perfection in this 
business of shoemaking, and that is for the shoemaker to 
aspire to become for his fellow-townsmen the one and 
only shoemaker, indispensable and irreplaceable, the 
shoemaker who looks after their footgear so well that they 
will feel a definite loss when he dies when he is " dead 
to them," not merely " dead 5)1 and they will feel that 
he ought not to have died. And this will result from the 
fact that in working for them he was anxious to spare 
them any discomfort and to make sure that it should not 
be any preoccupation with their feet that should prevent 
them from being at leisure to contemplate the higher 
truths ; he shod them for the love of them and for the 
love of God in them he shod them religiously. 

I have chosen this example deliberately, although it 
may perhaps appear to you somewhat pedestrian. For 
the fact is that in this business of shoemaking, the 
religious, as opposed to the ethical, sense is at a very 
low ebb. 

Working men group themselves in associations, they 
form co-operative societies and unions for defence, they 
fight very justly and nobly for the betterment of their 
class ; but it is not clear that these associations have any 
great influence on their moral attitude towards their work. 
They have succeeded in compelling employers to employ 
only such workmen, and no others, as the respective unions 
shall designate in each particular case ; but in the selection 
of those designated they pay little heed to their technical 
fitness. Often the employer finds it almost impossible to 
dismiss an inefficient workman on account of his ineffi 
ciency, for his fellow-workers take his part. Their work, 

1 " Se les muera," y no solo " se muera." 



xi THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 275 

moreover, is often perfunctory, performed merely as a 
pretext for receiving a wage, and instances even occur 
when they deliberately mishandle it in order to injure 
their employer. 

In attempting to justify this state of things, it may be 
said that the employers are a hundred times more blame 
worthy than the workmen, for they are not concerned to 
give a better wage to the man who does better work, or 
to foster the general education and technical proficiency 
of the workman, or to ensure the intrinsic goodness of 
the article produced. The improvement of the product 
which, apart from reasons of industrial and mercantile 
competition, ought to be in itself and for the good of the 
consumers, for charity s sake, the chief end of the busi 
ness is not so regarded either by employers or employed, 
and this is because neither the one nor the other have any 
religious sense of their social function. Neither of them 
seek to make themselves irreplaceable. The evil is 
aggravated when the business takes the unhappy form of 
the impersonal limited company, for where there is no 
longer any personal signature there is no longer any of 
that pride which seeks to give the signature prestige, a 
pride which in its way is a substitute for the craving for 
eternalization. With the disappearance of the concrete 
individuality, the basis of all religion, the religious sense 
of the business calling disappears also. 

And what has been said of employers and workmen 
applies still more to members of the liberal professions 
and public functionaries. There is scarcely a single ser 
vant of the State who feels the religious bearing of his 
official and public duties. Nothing could be more un 
satisfactory, nothing more confused, than the feeling 
among our people with regard to their duties towards the 
State, and this sense of duty is still further obliterated by 
the attitude of the Catholic Church, whose action so far 
as the State is concerned is in strict truth anarchical. It 
is no uncommon thing to find among its ministers 



276 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE xi 

upholders of the moral lawfulness of smuggling and con 
traband as if in disobeying the legally constituted 
authority the smuggler and contrabandist did not sin 
against the Fourth Commandment of the law of God, 
which in commanding us to honour our father and 
mother commands us to obey all lawful authority in so 
far as the ordinances of such authority are not contrary 
(and the levying of these contributions is certainly not 
contrary) to the law of God. 

There are many who, since it is written "In the sweat 
of thy face shalt thou eat bread," regard work as a 
punishment, and therefore they attribute merely an 
economico-political, or at best an esthetic, value to the 
work of everyday life. For those who take this view 
and it is the view principally held by the Jesuits the 
business of life is twofold : there is the inferior and 
transitory business of winning a livelihood, of winning 
bread for ourselves and our children in an honourable 
manner and the elasticity of this honour is well known ; 
and there is the grand business of our salvation, of win 
ning eternal glory. This inferior or worldly business 
is to be undertaken not only so as to permit us, without 
deceiving or seriously injuring our neighbours, to live 
decently in accordance with our social position, but also 
so as to afford us the greatest possible amount of time 
for attending to the other main business of our life. 
And there are others who, rising somewhat above this 
conception of the work of our civil occupation, a concep 
tion which is economical rather than ethical, attain to 
an esthetic conception and sense of it, and this involves 
endeavouring to acquire distinction and renown in our 
occupation, the converting of it into an art for art s sake, 
for beauty s sake. But it is necessary to rise still higher 
than this, to attain to an ethical sense of our civil calling, 
to a sense which derives from our religious sense, from 
our hunger of eternalization. To work at our ordinary 
civil occupation, with eyes fixed on God, for the love of 



xi THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 277 

God, which is equivalent to saying for the love of our 
eternalization, is to make of this work a work of 
religion. 

That saying, " In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat 
bread," does not mean that God condemned man to 
work, but to the painfulness of it. It would have been 
no condemnation to have condemned man to work itself, 
for work is the only practical consolation for having 
been born. And, for a Christian, the proof that God 
did not condemn man to work itself consists in the say 
ing of the Scripture that, before the Fall, while he was 
still in a state of innocence, God took man and put him 
in the garden " to dress it and to keep it " (Gen. ii. 15). 
And how, in fact, w r ould man have passed his time in 
Paradise if he had had no work to do in keeping it in 
order ? And may it not be that the beatific vision itself 
is a kind of work ? 

And even if work were our punishment, we ought to 
strive to make it, the punishment itself, our consolation 
and our redemption ; and if we must needs embrace some 
cross or other, there is for each one of us no better cross 
than the cross of our own civil calling. For Christ did 
not say, " Take up my cross and follow me," but " Take 
up thy cross and follow me " : every man his own cross, 
for the Saviour s cross the Saviour alone can bear. And 
the imitation of Christ, therefore, does not consist in 
that monastic ideal so shiningly set forth in the book 
that commonly bears the name of a Kempis, an ideal 
only applicable to a very limited number of persons and 
therefore anti-Christian ; but to imitate Christ is to take 
up each one his own cross, the cross of his own civil 
occupation civil and not merely religious as Christ 
took up his cross, the cross of his calling, and to embrace 
it and carry it, looking towards God and striving to 
make each act of this calling a true prayer. In making 
shoes and because he makes them a man can gain 
heaven, provided that the shoemaker strives to be per- 



278 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE xi 

feet, as a shoemaker, as our Father in heaven is 
perfect. 

Fourier, the socialist dreamer, dreamed of making 
work attractive in his phalansteries by the free choice of 
vocations and in other ways. There is no other way 
than that of liberty. Wherein consists the charm of the 
game of chance, which is a kind of work, if not in the 
voluntary submission of the player to the liberty of 
Nature that is, to chance ? But do not let us lose our 
selves in a comparison between work and play. 

And the sense of making ourselves irreplaceable, of 
not meriting death, of making our annihilation, if it is 
annihilation that awaits us, an injustice, ought to impel 
us not only to perform our own occupation religiously, 
from love of God and love of our eternity and eternaliza- 
tion, but to perform it passionately, tragically if you 
like. It ought to impel us to endeavour to stamp others 
with our seal, to perpetuate ourselves in them and in 
their children by dominating them, to leave on all things 
the imperishable impress of our signature. The most 
fruitful ethic is the ethic of mutual imposition. 

Above all, we must recast in a positive form the nega 
tive commandments which we have inherited from the 
Ancient Law. Thus where it is written, " Thou shalt 
not lie!" let us understand, "Thou shalt always speak 
the truth, in season and out of season !" although it is 
we ourselves, and not others, who are judges in each 
case of this seasonableness. And for " Thou shalt not 
kill!" let us understand, "Thou shalt give life and 
increase it !" And for " Thou shalt not steal !" let us 
say, "Thou shalt increase the general wealth!" And 
for "Thou shalt not commit adultery!" "Thou shalt 
give children, healthy, strong, and good, to thy country 
and to heaven!" And thus with all the other com 
mandments. 

He who does not lose his life shall not find it. Give 
yourself then to others, but in order to give yourself to 



xi THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 279 

them, first dominate them. For it is not possible to 
dominate except by being dominated. Everyone 
nourishes himself upon the flesh of that which he 
devours. In order that you may dominate your neigh 
bour you must know and love him. It is by attempting 
to impose my ideas upon him that I become the recipient 
of his ideas. To love my neighbour is to wish that he 
may be like me, that he may be another I that is to say, 
it is to wish that I may be he ; it is to wish to obliterate 
the division between him and me, to suppress the evil. 
My endeavour to impose myself upon another, to be and 
live ir. him and by him, to make him mine which is the 
same as making myself his is that which gives religious 
meaning to human collectivity, to human solidarity. 

The feeling of solidarity originates in myself ; since I 
am a society, I feel the need of making myself master of 
human society ; since I am a social product, I must 
socialize myself, and from myself I proceed to God 
who is I projected to the All and from God to each of 
my neighbours. 

My immediate first impulse is to protest against the 
inquisitor and to prefer the merchant who comes to offer 
me his wares. But when my impressions are clarified 
by reflection, I begin to see that the inquisitor, when he 
acts from a right motive, treats me as a man, as an end 
in myself, and if he molests me it is from a charitable 
wish to save my soul ; while the merchant, on the other 
hand, regards me merely as a customer, as a means to an 
end, and his indulgence and tolerance is at bottom 
nothing but a supreme indifference to my destiny. 
There is much more humanity in the inquisitor. 

Similarly there is much more humanity in war than 
in peace. Non-resistance to evil implies resistance to 
good, and to take the offensive, leaving the defensive 
out of the question, is perhaps the divinest thing in 
humanity. War is the school of fraternity and the bond 
of love ; it is war that has brought peoples into touch 



280 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE xi 

with one another, by mutual aggression and collision, 
and has been the cause of their knowing and loving one 
another. Human love knows no purer embrace, or one 
more fruitful in its consequences, than that between 
victor and vanquished on the battlefield. And even the 
purified hate that springs from war is fruitful. War is, 
in its strictest sense, the sanctification of homicide; Cain 
is redeemed as a leader of armies. And if Cain had not 
killed his brother Abel, perhaps he would have died by 
the hand of Abel. God revealed Himself above all in 
war; He began by being the God of battles; and one of 
the greatest services of the Cross is that, in the form 
of the sword-hilt, it protects the hand that wields the 
sword. 

The enemies of the State say that Cain, the fratiicide, 
was the founder of the State. And we must accept the 
fact and turn it to the glory of the State, the child of 
war. Civilization began on the day on which one man, 
by subjecting another to his will and compelling him to 
do the work of two, was enabled to devote himself to the 
contemplation of the world and to set his captive upon 
works of luxury. It was slavery that enabled Plato to 
speculate upon the ideal republic, and it was war that 
brought slavery about. Not without reason was Athena 
the goddess of war and of wisdom. But is there any 
need to repeat once again these obvious truths, which, 
though they have continually been forgotten, are con 
tinually rediscovered? 

And the supreme commandment that arises out of love 
towards God, and the foundation of all morality, is this : 
Yield yourself up entirely, give your spirit to the end 
that you may save it, that you may eternalize it. Such 
is the sacrifice of life. 

The individual qua individual, the wretched captive of 
the instinct of preservation and of the senses, cares only 
about preserving himself, and all his concern is that 
others should not force their way into his sphere, should 



xi THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 281 

not disturb him, should not interrupt his idleness; and 
in return for their abstention or for the sake of example 
he refrains from forcing himself upon them, from inter 
rupting their idleness, from disturbing them, from 
taking possession of them. " Do not do unto others 
what you would not have them do unto you," he trans 
lates thus : I do not interfere with others let them not 
interfere with me. And he shrinks and pines and 
perishes in this spiritual avarice and this repellent ethic 
of anarchic individualism : each one for himself. And 
as each one is not himself, he can hardly live for 
himself. 

But as soon as the individual feels himself in society, 
he feels himself in God, and kindled by the instinct of 
perpetuation he glows with love towards God, and with 
a dominating charity he seeks to perpetuate himself in 
others, to perennialize his spirit, to eternalize it, to 
unnail God, and his sole desire is to seal his spirit upon 
other spirits and to receive their impress in return. He 
has shaken off the yoke of his spiritual sloth and avarice. 
Sloth, it is said, is the mother of all the vices ; and in 
fact sloth does engender two vices avarice and envy 
which in their turn are the source of all the rest. Sloth 
is the weight of matter, in itself inert, within us, and this 
sloth, while it professes to preserve us by economizing 
our forces, in reality attenuates us and reduces us to 
nothing. 

In man there is either too much matter or too much 
spirit, or to put it better, either he feels a hunger for 
spirit that is, for eternity or he feels a hunger for 
matter that is, submission to annihilation. When 
spirit is in excess and he feels a hunger for yet more of 
it, he pours it forth and scatters it abroad, and in scatter 
ing it abroad he amplifies it with that of others ; and on 
the contrary, when a man is avaricious of himself and 
thinks that he will preserve himself better by withdraw 
ing within himself, he ends by losing all he is like the 



282 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE xi 

man who received the single talent : he buried it in order 
that he might not lose it, and in the end he was bereft 
of it. For to him that hath shall be given, but from 
him that hath but a little shall be taken away even the 
little that he hath. 

Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is per 
fect, we are bidden, and this terrible precept terrible 
because for us the infinite perfection of the Father is 
unattainable must be our supreme rule of conduct. 
Unless a man aspires to the impossible, the possible 
that he achieves will be scarcely worth the trouble of 
cichieving. It behoves us to aspire to the impossible, to 
the absolute and infinite perfection, and to say to the 
Father, " Father, I cannot help Thou my impotence." 
And He acting in us will achieve it for us. 

And to be perfect is to be all, it is to be myself and 
to be all else, it is to be humanity, it is to be the Universe. 
And there is no other way of being all but to give oneself 
to all, and when all shall be in all, all will be in each one 
of us. The apocatastasis is more than a mystical dream : 
it is a rule of action, it is a beacon beckoning us to high 
exploits. 

And from it springs the ethic of invasion, of domina 
tion, of aggression, of inquisition if you like. For true 
charity is a kind of invasion it consists in putting my 
spirit into other spirits, in giving them my suffering as 
the food and consolation for their sufferings, in awaken 
ing their unrest with my unrest, in sharpening their hunger 
for God with my hunger for God. It is not charity to 
rock and lull our brothers to sleep in the inertia and 
drowsiness of matter, but rather to awaken them to the 
uneasiness and torment of spirit. 

To the fourteen works of mercy which we learnt in the 
Catechism of Christian Doctrine there should some 
times be added yet another, that of awakening the sleeper. 
Sometimes, at any rate, and surely when the sleeper 
sleeps on the brink of a precipice, it is much more merciful 



xi THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 283 

to awaken him than to bury him after he is dead let us 
leave the dead to bury their dead. It has been well said, 
" Whosoever loves thee dearly will make thee weep," 
and charity often causes weeping. " The love that does 
not mortify does not deserve so divine a name," said that 
ardent Portuguese apostle, Fr. Thome 1 de Jesus, 1 who 
was also the author of this ejaculation " O infinite fire, 
O eternal love, who weepest when thou hast naught to 
embrace and feed upon and many hearts to burn !" He 
who loves his neighbour burns his heart, and the heart, 
like green wood, in burning groans and distils itself in 
tears. 

And to do this is generosity, one of the two mother 
virtues which are born when inertia, sloth, is overcome. 
Most of our miseries come from spiritual avarice. 

The cure for suffering which, as we have said, is the 
collision of consciousness with unconsciousness is not 
to be submerged in unconsciousness, but to be raised to 
consciousness and to suffer more. The evil of suffering 
is cured by more suffering, by higher suffering. Do not 
take opium, but put salt and vinegar in the soul s wound, 
for when you sleep and no longer feel the suffering, you 
are not. And to be, that is imperative. Do not then 
close your eyes to the agonizing Sphinx, but look her in 
the face and let her seize you in her mouth and crunch you 
with her hundred thousand poisonous teeth and swallow 
you. And when she has swallowed you, you will know 
the sweetness of the taste of suffering. 

The way thereto in practice is by the ethic of mutual 
imposition. Men should strive to impose themselves 
upon one another, to give their spirits to one another, 
to seal one another s souls. 

There is matter for thought in the fact that the 
Christian ethic has been called an ethic of slaves. By 
whom ? By anarchists ! It is anarchism that is an 
ethic of slaves, for it is only the slave that chants the 

1 Trabalhos de Jesus, part i. 



284 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE xi 

praises of anarchical liberty. Anarchism, no ! but 
panarchism; not the creed of " Nor God nor master!" 
but that of " All gods and all masters !" all striving to 
become gods, to become immortal, and achieving this 
by dominating others. 

And there are so many ways of dominating. There is 
even a passive way, or one at least that is apparently 
passive, of fulfilling at times this law of life. Adapta 
tion to environment, imitation, putting oneself in 
another s place, sympathy, in a word, besides being a 
manifestation of the unity of the species, is a mode of 
self-expansion, of being another. To be conquered, or 
at least to seem to be conquered, is often to conquer ; to 
take what is another s is a way of living in him. 

And in speaking of domination, I do not mean the 
domination of the tiger. The fox also dominates by 
cunning, and the hare by flight, and the viper by poison, 
and the mosquito by its smallness, and the squid by the 
inky fluid with which it darkens the water and under 
cover of which it escapes. And no one is scandalized at 
this, for the same universal Father who gave its fierce 
ness, its talons, and its jaws to the tiger, gave cunning 
to the fox, swift feet to the hare, poison to the viper, 
diminutiveness to the mosquito, and its inky fluid to the 
squid. And nobleness or ignobleness does not consist 
in the weapons we use, for every species and even every 
individual possesses its own, but rather in the way in 
which we use them, and above all in the cause in which 
we wield them. 

And among the weapons of conquest must be included 
the weapon of patience and of resignation, but a 
passionate patience and a passionate resignation, con 
taining within itself an active principle and antecedent 
longings. You remember that famous sonnet of Milton 
Milton, the great fighter, the great Puritan disturber 
of the spiritual peace, the singer of Satan who, when 
he considered how his light was spent and that one talent 



xi THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 285 

which it is death to hide lodged with him useless, heard 
the voice of Patience saying to him, 

God doth not need 

Either man s work, or his own gifts ; who best 
Bear his mild yoke, they serve Him best : his state 
Is kingly ; thousands at his bidding speed, 
And post o er land and ocean without rest ; 
They also serve who only stand and wait. 

They also serve who only stand and wait yes, but it 
is when they wait for Him passionately, hungeringly, 
full of longing for immortality in Him. 

And we must impose ourselves, even though it be by 
our patience. " My cup is small, but I drink out of my 
cup," said the egoistical poet of an avaricious people. 1 
No, out of mv cup all drink, for I wish all to drink out 
of it ; I offer it to them, and my cup grows according to 
the number of those who drink out of it, and all, in put 
ting it to their lips, leave in it something of their spirit. 
And while they drink out of my cup, I also drink out of 
theirs. For the more I belong to myself, and the more 
I am myself, the more I belong to others ; out of the full 
ness of myself I overflow upon my brothers, and as I 
overflow upon them they enter into me. 

"Be ye perfect, as your Father is perfect," we are 
bidden, and our Father is perfect because He is Himself 
and because He is in each one of His children who live 
and move and have their being in Him. And the end 
of perfection is that we all may be one (John xvii. 21), 
all one body in Christ (Rom. xii. 5), and that, at the last, 
when all things are subdued unto the Son, the Son him 
self may be subject to Him that put all things under 
him, that God may be all in all. And this is to make the 
Universe consciousness, to make Nature a society, and 
a human society. And then shall we be able confidently 
to call God Father. 

1 De Musset. 



286 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE xi 

I am aware that those who say that ethics is a science 
will say that all this commentary of mine is nothing but 
rhetoric; but each man has his own language and his 
own passion that is to say, each man who knows what 
passion is and as for the man who knows it not, nothing 
will it avail him to know science. 

And the passion that finds its expression in this 
rhetoric, the devotees of ethical science call egotism. 
But this egotism is the only true remedy for egoism, 
spiritual avarice, the vice of preserving and reserving 
oneself and of not striving to perennialize oneself by 
giving oneself. 

II Be not, and ye shall be mightier than all that is," 
said Fr. Juan de los Angeles in one of his Didlogos de la 
Conquista del Reina de Dios (Dial., iii., 8) ; but what does 
this " Be not " mean ? May it not mean paradoxically 
and such a mode of expression is common with the 
mystics the contrary of that which, at a first and literal 
reading, it would appear to mean ? Is not the whole 
ethic of submission and quietism an immense paradox, 
or rather a great tragic contradiction ? Is not the 
monastic, the strictly monastic, ethic an absurdity ? And 
by the monastic ethic I mean that of the solitary Car 
thusian, that of the hermit, who flees from the world 
perhaps carrying it with him nevertheless in order that 
he may live quite alone with a God who is lonely as 
himself ; not that of the Dominican inquisitor who 
scoured Provence in search of Albigensian hearts to 
burn. 

Let God do it all," someone will say; but if man 
folds his arms, God will go to sleep. 

This Carthusian ethic and that scientific ethic which is 
derived from ethical science oh, this science of ethics ! 
rational and rationalistic ethics ! pedantry of pedantry, 
all is pedantry ! yes, this perhaps is egoism and cold 
ness of heart. 

There are some who say that they isolate themselves 



xi THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 287 

with God in order that they may the better work out 
their salvation, their redemption ; but since sin is collec 
tive, redemption must be collective also. * The 
religious is the determination of the whole, and every 
thing outside this is an illusion of the senses, and that is 
why the greatest criminal is at bottom innocent, a good- 
natured man and a saint " (Kierkegaard, Afsluttende, 
etc., ii., ii., cap. iv., sect. 2, a). 

Are we to understand, on the other hand, that men 
seek to gain the other, the eternal life, by renouncing 
this the temporal life? If the other life is anything, it 
must be a continuation of this, and only as such a con 
tinuation, more or less purified, is it mirrored in our 
desire ; and if this is so, such as is this life of time, so will 
be the life of eternity. 

" This world and the other are like the two wives of 
one husband if he pleases one he makes the other 
envious," said an Arab thinker, quoted by Windelband 
(Das Heilige, in vol. ii. of Prdludien) ; but such a 
thought could only have arisen in the mind of one who 
had failed to resolve the tragic conflict between his spirit 
and the world in a fruitful warfare, a practical contradic 
tion. "Thy kingdom come" to us; so Christ taught 
us to pray to the Father, not " May we come to Thy 
kingdom"; and according to the primitive Christian 
belief the eternal life was to be realized on this earth itself 
and as a continuation of the earthly life. We were made 
men and not angels in order that we might seek our 
happiness through the medium of this life, and the Christ 
of the Christian Faith became, not an angelic, but a 
human, being, redeeming us by taking upon himself a 
real and effective body and not an appearance of one 
merely. And according to this same Faith, even the 
highest of the angelical hierarchy adore the Virgin, the 
supreme symbol of terrestrial Humanity. The angelical 
ideal, therefore, is not the Christian ideal, and still less 
is it the human ideal, nor can it be. An angel, more- 



288 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE xi 

over, is a neutral being, without sex and without 
country. 

It is impossible for us to feel the other life, the eternal 
life, I have already repeated more than once, as a life of 
angelical contemplation; it must be a life of action. 
Goethe said that " man must believe in immortality, 
since in his nature he has a right to it." And he added : 
The conviction of our persistence arises in me from 
the concept of activity. If I work without ceasing to 
the end, Nature is obliged (so ist die Natur verpflichtet) 
to provide me with another form of existence, since my 
actual spirit can bear no more." Change Nature to 
God, and you have a thought that remains Christian in 
character, for the first Fathers of the Church did not 
believe that the immortality of the soul was a natural 
gift that is to say, something rational but a divine 
gift of grace. And that which is of grace is usually, in 
its essence, of justice, since justice is divine and 
gratuitous, not natural. And Goethe added : " I could 
begin nothing with an eternal happiness before me, unless 
new tasks and new difficulties were given me to over 
come." And true it is that there is no happiness in a 
vacuity of contemplation. 

But may there not be some justification for the morality 
of the hermit, of the Carthusian, the ethic of the 
Thebaid? Might we not say, perhaps, that it is neces 
sary to preserve these exceptional types in order that 
they may stand as everlasting patterns for mankind ? Do 
not men breed racehorses, which are useless for any prac 
tical kind of work, but which preserve the purity of the 
breed and become the sires of excellent hackneys and 
hunters ? Is there not a luxury of ethics, not less justifi 
able than any other sort of luxury ? But, on the other 
hand, is not all this substantially esthetics, and not ethics, 
still less religion ? May not the contemplative, medieval, 
monastic ideal be esthetical, and not religious nor even 
ethical ? And after all, those of the seekers after soli- 



xi THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 289 

tude who have related to us their conversation when they 
were alone with God have performed an eternalizing 
work, they have concerned themselves with the souls of 
others. And by this alone, that it has given us an 
Eckhart, a Seuse, a Tauler, a Ruysbroek, a Juan de la 
Cruz, a Catherine of Siena, an Angela of Foligno, a 
Teresa de Jesus, is the cloister justified. 

But the chief of our Spanish Orders are the Predica- 
dores, founded by Domingo de Guzman for the aggres 
sive work of extirpating heresy ; the Company of Jesus, 
a militia with the world as its field of operations (which 
explains its history) ; the order of the Escuelas Pias, also 
devoted to a work of an aggressive or invasive nature, 
that of instruction. I shall certainly be reminded that 
the reform of the contemplative Order of the Carmelites 
which Teresa de Jesus undertook was a Spanish work. 
Yes, Spanish it was, and in it men sought liberty. 

It was, in fact, the yearning for liberty, for inward liberty, 
which, in the troubled days of the Inquisition, led many 
choice spirits to the cloister. They imprisoned themselves 
in order that they might be more free. Is it not a fine 
thing that a poor nun of San Jose* can attain to sovereignty 
over the whole earth and the elements ?" said St. Teresa 
in her Life. It was the Pauline yearning for liberty, 
the longing to shake off the bondage of the external law, 
which was then very severe, and, as Maestro Fray Luis 
de Leon said, very stubborn. 

But did they actually find liberty in the cloister? It 
is very doubtful if they did, and to-day it is impossible. 
For true liberty is not to rid oneself of the external law ; 
liberty is consciousness of the law. Not he who has 
shaken off the yoke of the law is free, but he who has 
made himself master of the law. Liberty must be sought 
in the midst of the world, which is the domain of the law, 
and of sin, the offspring of the law. That which we 
must be freed from is sin, which is collective. 

Instead of renouncing the world in order that we may 



2 go THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE xi 

dominate it and who does not know the collective 
instinct of domination of those religious Orders whose 
members renounce the world? what we ought to do is 
to dominate the world in order that we may be able to 
renounce it. Not to seek poverty and submission, but to 
seek wealth in order that we may use it to increase human 
consciousness, and to seek power for the same end. 

It is curious that monks and anarchists should be at 
enmity with each other, when fundamentally they both 
profess the same ethic and are related by close ties of 
kinship. Anarchism tends to become a kind of atheistic 
monachism and a religious, rather than an ethical or 
economico-social, doctrine. The one party starts from 
the assumption that man is naturally evil, born in original 
sin, and that it is through grace that he becomes good, 
if indeed he ever does become good ; and the other from 
the assumption that man is naturally good and is subse 
quently perverted by society. And these two theories 
really amount to the same thing, for in both the 
individual is opposed to society, as if the individual had 
preceded society and therefore were destined to survive 
it. And both ethics are ethics of the cloister. 

And the fact that guilt is collective must not actuate 
me to throw mine upon the shoulders of others, but 
rather to take upon myself the burden of the guilt of 
others, the guilt of all men ; not to merge and sink my 
guilt in the total mass of guilt, but to make this total 
guilt my own ; not to dismiss and banish my own guilt, 
but to open the doors of my heart to the guilt of all men, 
to centre it within myself and appropriate it to myself. 
And each one of us ought to help to remedy the guilt, 
and just because others do not do so. The fact that 
society is guilty aggravates the guilt of each member 
of it. " Someone ought to do it, but why should I ? is 
the ever re-echoed phrase of weak-kneed amiability. 
Someone ought to do it, so why not I ? is the 
cry of some earnest servant of man, eagerly forward 



xi THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 291 

springing to face some perilous duty. Between these 
two sentences lie whole centuries of moral evolution." 
Thus spoke Mrs. Annie Besant in her autobiography. 
Thus spoke theosophy. 

The fact that society is guilty aggravates the guilt of 
each one, and he is most guilty who most is sensible of 
the guilt. Christ, the innocent, since he best knew the 
intensity of the guilt, was in a certain sense the most 
guilty. In him the culpability, together with the divinity, 
of humanity arrived at the consciousness of itself. Many 
are wont to be amused when they read how, because of 
the most trifling faults, faults at which a man of the 
world would merely smile, the greatest saints counted 
themselves the greatest sinners. But the intensity of 
the fault is not measured by the external act, but by the 
consciousness of it, and an act for which the conscience 
of one man suffers acutely makes scarcely any impres 
sion on the conscience of another. And in a saint, con 
science may be developed so fully and to such a degree 
of sensitiveness that the slightest sin may cause him 
more remorse than his crime causes the greatest criminal. 
And sin rests upon our consciousness of it, it is in him 
who judges and in so far as he judges. When a man 
commits a vicious act believing in good faith that he 
is doing a virtuous action, we cannot hold him morally 
guilty, while on the other hand that man is guilty 
who commits an act which he believes to be wrong, 
even though in itself the act is indifferent or perhaps 
beneficent. The act passes away, the intention remains, 
and the evil of the evil act is that it corrupts the inten 
tion, that in knowingly doing wrong a man is predis 
posed to go on doing it, that it blurs the conscience. 
And doing evil is not the same as being evil. Evil blurs 
the conscience, and not only the moral conscience but 
the general, psychical consciousness. And everything 
that exalts and expands consciousness is good, while that 
which depresses and diminishes it is evil. 



292 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE xi 

And here we might raise the question which, according 
to Plato, was propounded by Socrates, as to whether 
virtue is knowledge, which is equivalent to asking whether 
virtue is rational. 

The ethicists those who maintain that ethics is a 
science, those whom the reading of these divagations will 
provoke to exclaim, " Rhetoric, rhetoric, rhetoric!"- 
would appear to think that virtue is the fruit of know 
ledge, of rational study, and that even mathematics help 
us to be better men. I do not know, but for my part I 
feel that virtue, like religion, like the longing never to 
die and all these are fundamentally the same thing is 
the fruit of passion. 

But, I shall be asked, What then is passion ? I do 
not know, or rather, I know full well, because I feel it, 
and since I feel it there is no need for me to define it to 
myself. Nay, more ; I fear that if I were to arrive at a 
definition of it, I should cease to feel it and to possess 
it. Passion is like suffering, and like suffering it creates 
its object. It is easier for the fire to find something to 
burn than for something combustible to find the fire. 

That this may appear empty and sophistical well I 
know. And I shall also be told that there is the science 
of passion and the passion of science, and that it is in the 
moral sphere that reason and life unite together. 

I do not know, I do not know, I do not know. . . . 
And perhaps I may be saying fundamentally the same 
thing, although more confusedly, that my imaginary 
adversaries say, only more clearly, more definitely, and 
more rationally, those adversaries whom I imagine in 
order that I may have someone to fight. I do not know, 
I do not know. . . . But what they say freezes me and 
sounds to me as though it proceeded from emptiness of 
feeling. 

And, returning to our former question, Is virtue know 
ledge ? Is knowledge virtue ? For they are two dis 
tinct questions. Virtue may be a science, the science of 



xi THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 293 

acting rightly, without every other science being there 
fore virtue. The virtue of Machiavelli is a science, and 
it cannot be said that his virtu is always moral virtue. 
It is well known, moreover, that the cleverest and the 
most learned men are not the best. 

No, no, no ! Physiology does not teach us how to 
digest, nor logic how to discourse, nor esthetics how to 
feel beauty or express it, nor ethics how to be good. And 
indeed it is well if they do not teach us how to be hypo 
crites ; for pedantry, whether it be the pedantry of logic, 
or of esthetics, or of ethics, is at bottom nothing but 
hypocrisy. 

Reason perhaps teaches certain bourgeois virtues, but 
it does not make either heroes or saints. Perhaps the 
saint is he who does good not for good s sake, but for 
God s sake, for the sake of eternalization. 

Perhaps, on the other hand, culture, or as I should say 
Culture oh, this culture ! which is primarily the work 
of philosophers and men of science, is a thing which 
neither heroes nor saints have had any share in the 
making of. For saints have concerned themselves very 
little with the progress of human culture ; they have con 
cerned themselves rather with the salvation of the 
individual souls of those amongst whom they lived. Of 
what account in the history of human culture is our 
San Juan de la Cruz, for example that fiery little monk, 
as culture, in perhaps somewhat uncultured phrase, has 
called him compared with Descartes ? 

All those saints, burning with religious charity towards 
their neighbours, hungering for their own and others 
eternalization, who went about burning hearts, inquisi 
tors, it may be what have all those saints done for the 
progress of the science of ethics ? Did any of them dis 
cover the categorical imperative, like the old bachelor of 
Konigsberg, who, if he was not a saint, deserved to 
be one? 

The son of a famous professor of ethics, one who 



294 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE xi 

scarcely ever opened his lips without mentioning the 
categorical imperative, was lamenting to me one day the 
fact that he lived in a desolating dryness of spirit, in a 
state of inward emptiness. And I was constrained to 
answer him thus : " My friend, your father had a sub 
terranean river flowing through his spirit, a fresh cur 
rent fed by the beliefs of his early childhood, by hopes 
in the beyond ; and while he thought that he was nourish 
ing his soul with this categorical imperative or some 
thing of that sort, he was in reality nourishing it with 
those waters which had their spring in his childish days. 
And it may be that to you he has given the flower of his 
spirit, his rational doctrines of ethics, but not the root, 
not the subterranean source, not the irrational sub 
stratum." 

How was it that Krausism took root here in Spain, 
while Kantism and Hegelianism did not, although the 
two latter systems are much more profound, morally and 
philosophically, than the first ? Because in transplant 
ing the first, its roots were transplanted with it. The 
philosophical thought of a people or a period is, as it 
were, the flower, the thing that is external and above 
ground; but this flower, or fruit if you prefer it, draws 
its sap from the root of the plant, and this root, which is 
in and under the ground, is the religious sense. The 
philosophical thought of Kant, the supreme flower of the 
mental evolution of the Germanic people, has its roots in 
the religious feeling of Luther, and it is not possible for 
Kantism, especially the practical part of it, to take root 
and bring forth flower and fruit in peoples who have not 
undergone the experience of the Reformation and who 
perhaps were incapable of experiencing it. Kantism 
is Protestant, and we Spaniards are fundamentally 
Catholic. And if Krause struck some roots here more 
numerous and more permanent than is commonly sup 
posed it is because Krause had roots in pietism, and 
pietism, as Ritschl has demonstrated in his Geschichte 



xi THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM 295 

des Pietismus, has specifically Catholic roots and may 
be described as the irruption, or rather the persistence, 
of Catholic mysticism in the heart of Protestant 
rationalism. And this explains why not a few Catholic 
thinkers in Spain became followers of Krause. 

And since we Spaniards are Catholic whether we 
know it or not, and whether we like it or not and 
although some of us may claim to be rationalists or 
atheists, perhaps the greatest service we can render to 
the cause of culture, and of what is of more value than 
culture, religiousness if indeed they are not the same 
thing is in endeavouring to formulate clearly to our 
selves this subconscious, social, or popular Catholicism 
of ours. And that is what I have attempted to do in this 
work. 

What I call the tragic sense of life in men and peoples 
is at any rate our tragic sense of life, that of Spaniards 
and the Spanish people, as it is reflected in my conscious 
ness, which is a Spanish consciousness, made in Spain. 
And this tragic sense of life is essentially the Catholic 
sense of it, for Catholicism, and above all popular 
Catholicism, is tragic. The people abhors comedy. 
When Pilate the type of the refined gentleman, the 
superior person, the esthete, the rationalist if you like 
proposes to give the people comedy and mockingly pre 
sents Christ to them, saying, " Behold the man!" the 
people mutinies and shouts " Crucify him ! Crucify 
him !" The people does not want comedy but tragedy. 
And that which Dante, the great Catholic, called the 
Divine Comedy, is the most tragical tragedy that has 
ever been written. 

And as I have endeavoured in these essays to exhibit 
the soul of a Spaniard, and therewithal the Spanish soul, 
I have curtailed the number of quotations from Spanish 
writers, while scattering with perhaps too lavish a hand 
those from the writers of other countries. For all human 
souls are brother-souls. 



296 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE xi 

And there is one figure, a comically tragic figure, a 
figure in which is revealed all that is profoundly tragic 
in the human comedy, the figure of Our Lord Don 
Quixote, the Spanish Christ, who resumes and includes 
in himself the immortal soul of my people. Perhaps 
the passion and death of the Knight of the Sorrowful 
Countenance is the passion and death of the Spanish 
people, its death and resurrection. And there is a 
Quixotesque philosophy and even a Quixotesque meta- 
physic, there is a Quixotesque logic, and also a 
Quixotesque ethic and a Quixotesque religious sense 
the religious sense of Spanish Catholicism. This is the 
philosophy, this is the logic, this is the ethic, this is the 
religious sense, that I have endeavoured to outline, to 
suggest rather than to develop, in this work. To develop 
it rationally, no ; the Quixotesque madness does not 
submit to scientific logic. 

And now, before concluding and bidding my readers 
farewell, it remains for me to speak of the role that is 
reserved for Don Quixote in the modern European tragi 
comedy. 

Let us see, in the next and last essay, what this may be. 



CONCLUSION 

DON QUIXOTE IN THE CONTEMPORARY 
EUROPEAN TRAGI-COMEDY 

" A voice crying in the wilderness !" ISA. xl. 3. 

NEED is that I bring to a conclusion, for the present at 
any rate, these essays that threaten to become like a tale 
that has no ending. They have gone straight from my 
hands to the press in the form of a kind of improvization 
upon notes collected during a number of years, and in 
writing each essay I have not had before me any of those 
that preceded it. And thus they will go forth full of 
inward contradictions apparent contradictions, at any 
rate like life and like me myself. 

My sin, if any, has been that I have embellished them 
to excess with foreign quotations, many of which will 
appear to have been dragged in with a certain degree of 
violence. But I will explain this another time. 

A few years after Our Lord Don Quixote had jour 
neyed through Spain, Jacob Bohme declared in his 
Aurora (chap xi., 142) that he did not write a story or 
history related to him by others, but that he himself had 
had to stand in the battle, which he found to be full of 
heavy strivings, and wherein he was often struck down 
to the ground like all other men ; and a little further on 
( 152) he adds : " Although I must become a spectacle 
of scorn to the world and the devil, yet my hope is in 
God concerning the life to come; in Him will I venture 
to hazard it and not resist or strive against the Spirit. 
Amen." And like this Quixote of the German intel 
lectual world, neither will I resist the Spirit. 

297 



298 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 

And therefore I cry with the voice of one crying in the 
wilderness, and I send forth my cry from this University 
of Salamanca, a University that arrogantly styled itself 
omnium scientiarum princeps, and which Carlyle called 
a stronghold of ignorance and which a French man of 
letters recently called a phantom University ; I send it 
forth from this Spain " the land of dreams that become 
realities, the rampart of Europe, the home of the 
knightly ideal," to quote from a letter which the Ameri 
can poet Archer M. Huntington sent me the other day 
from this Spain which was the head and front of the 
Counter-Reformation in the sixteenth century. And 
well they repay her for it ! 

In the fourth of these essays I spoke of the essence 
of Catholicism. And the chief factors in de-essentialis- 
ing it that is, in de-Catholicizing Europe have been 
the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Revolution, 
which for the ideal of an eternal, ultra-terrestrial life, 
have substituted the ideal of progress, of reason, of 
science, or, rather, of Science with the capital letter. 
And last of all, the dominant ideal of to-day, comes 
Culture. 

And in the second half of the nineteenth century, an 
age essentially unphilosophical and technical, dominated 
by a myopic specialism and by historical materialism, 
this ideal took a practical form, not so much in the 
popularization as in the vulgarization of science or, 
rather, of pseudo-science venting itself in a flood of 
cheap, popular, and propagandist literature. Science 
sought to popularize itself as if it were its function to 
come down to the people and subserve their passions, 
and not the duty of the people to rise to science and 
through science to rise to higher heights, to new and 
profounder aspirations. 

All this led Brunetiere to proclaim the bankruptcy of 
science, and this science if you like to call it science 
did in effect become bankrupt. And as it failed to 



DON QUIXOTE TO-DAY 299 

satisfy, men continued their quest for happiness, but 
without finding it, either in wealth, or in knowledge, or 
in power, or in pleasure, or in resignation, or in a good 
conscience, or in culture. And the result was pessimism. 

Neither did the gospel of progress satisfy. What end 
did progress serve ? Man would not accommodate him 
self to rationalism ; the Kulturkampf did not suffice him ; 
he sought to give a final finality to life, and what I call 
the final finality is the real 6Wa>9 ov. And the famous 
maladie du siecle, which announced itself in Rousseau 
and was exhibited more plainly in Se"nancour s Ober- 
mann than in any other character, neither was nor is 
anything else but the loss of faith in the immortality of 
the soul, in the human finality of the Universe. 

The truest symbol of it is to be found in a creation of 
fiction, Dr. Faustus. 

This immortal Dr. Faustus, the product of the 
Renaissance and the Reformation, first comes into our 
ken at the beginning of the seventeenth century, when 
in 1604 he is introduced to us by Christopher Marlowe. 
This is the same character that Goethe was to rediscover 
two centuries later, although in certain respects the 
earlier Faust was the fresher and more spontaneous. 
And side by side with him Mephistopheles appears, of 
whom Faust asks: "What good will my soul do thy 
lord?" "Enlarge his kingdom," Mephistopheles re 
plies. "Is that the reason why he tempts us thus?" 
the Doctor asks again, and the evil spirit answers : 
" Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris," which, 
mistranslated into Romance, is the equivalent of our 
proverb "The misfortune of many is the consolation 
of fools." "Where we are is hell, and where hell 
is there must we ever be," Mephistopheles continues, 
to which Faust answers that he thinks hell s a fable 
and asks him who made the world. And finally 
this tragic Doctor, tortured with our torture, meets 
Helen, who, although no doubt Marlowe never sus- 



300 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 

pected it, is none other than renascent Culture. And in 
Marlowe s Faust there is a scene that is worth the whole 
of the second part of the Faust of Goethe. Faust says 
to Helen: Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a 
kiss " and he kisses her 

Her lips suck forth my soul ; see where it flies ! 
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again. 
Here will I dwell, for Helen is in these lips, 
And all is dross that is not Helena. 

Give me my soul again ! the cry of Faust, the Doctor, 
when, after having kissed Helen, he is about to be lost 
eternally. For the primitive Faust has no ingenuous 
Margaret to save him. This idea of his salvation was 
the invention of Goethe. And is there not a Faust 
whom we all know, our own Faust? This Faust has 
studied -Philosophy, Jurisprudence, Medicine, and even 
Theology, only to find that we can know nothing, and 
he has sought escape in the open country (hinaus ins 
weite Land) and has encountered Mephistopheles, the 
embodiment of that force which, ever willing evil, ever 
achieves good in its own despite. This Faust has been 
led by Mephistopheles to the arms of Margaret, child 
of the simple-hearted people, she whom Faust, the over- 
wise, had lost. And thanks to her for she gave herself 
to him this Faust is saved, redeemed by the people that 
believes with a simple faith. But there was a second 
part, for that Faust was the anecdotical Faust and not 
the categorical Faust of Goethe, and he gave himself 
again to Culture, to Helen, and begot Euphorion upon 
her, and everything ends among mystical choruses with 
the discovery of the eternal feminine. Poor Euphorion ! 

And this Helen is the spouse of the fair Menelaus, the 
Helen whom Paris bore away, who was the cause of the 
war of Troy, and of whom the ancient Trojans said that 
no one should be incensed because men fought for a 
woman who bore so terrible a likeness to the immortal 



DON QUIXOTE TO-DAY 301 

gods. But I rather think that Faust s Helen was that 
other Helen who accompanied Simon Magus, and whom 
he declared to be the divine wisdom. And Faust can 
say to her : Give me my soul again ! 

For Helen with her kisses takes away our soul. And 
what we long for and have need of is soul soul of bulk 
and substance. 

But the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Revo 
lution came, bringing Helen to us, or, rather, urged on 
by Helen, and now they talk to us about Culture and 
Europe. 

Europe ! This idea of Europe, primarily and imme 
diately of geographical significance, has been converted 
for us by some magical process into a kind of meta 
physical category. Who can say to-day in Spain, at 
any rate what Europe is? I only know that it is a 
shibboleth (vide my Tres Ensayos). And when I pro 
ceed to examine what it is that our Europeanizers call 
Europe, it sometimes seems to me that much of its 
periphery remains outside of it Spain, of course, and 
also England, Italy, Scandinavia, Russia and hence 
it is reduced to the central portion, Franco-Germany, 
with its annexes and dependencies. 

All this is the consequence, I repeat, of the Renais 
sance and the Reformation, which, although apparently 
they lived in a state of internecine war, were twin- 
brothers. The Italians of the Renaissance were all of 
them Socinians; the humanists, with Erasmus at their 
head, regarded Luther, the German monk, as a bar 
barian, who derived his driving force from the cloister, 
as did Bruno and Campanella. But this barbarian was 
their twin-brother, and though their antagonist he was 
also the antagonist of the common enemy. All this, I 
say, is due to the Renaissance and the Reformation, and 
to what was the offspring of these two, the Revolution, 
and to them we owe also a new Inquisition, that of 
science or culture, which turns against those who refuse 



302 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 

to submit to its orthodoxy the weapons of ridicule and 
contempt. 

When Galileo sent his treatise on the earth s motion 
to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, he told him that it was 
meet that that which the higher authorities had deter 
mined should be believed and obeyed, and that he con 
sidered his treatise " as poetry or as a dream, and as 
such I desire your highness to receive it." And at 
other times he calls it a " chimera " or a " mathematical 
caprice." And in the same way in these essays, for 
fear also why not confess it? of the Inquisition, of 
the modern, the scientific, Inquisition, I offer as a 
poetry, dream, chimera, mystical caprice, that which 
springs from what is deepest in me. And I say with 
Galileo, Eppur si muove! But is it only because of 
this fear? Ah, no! for there is another, more tragic 
Inquisition, and that is the Inquisition which the modern 
man, the man of culture, the European and such am I, 
whether I will or not carries within him. There is a 
more terrible ridicule, and that is the ridicule with which 
a man contemplates his own self. It is my reason that 
laughs at my faith and despises it. 

And it is here that I must betake me to my Lord Don 
Quixote in order that I may learn of him how to con 
front ridicule and overcome it, and a ridicule which 
perhaps who knows? he never knew. 

Yes, yes how shall my reason not smile at these 
dilettantesque, would-be mystical, pseudo-philosophical 
interpretations, in which there is anything rather than 
patient study and shall I say scientific? objectivity 
and method? And nevertheless . . . eppur si muove! 

Eppur si muove! And I take refuge in dilettantism, 
in what a pedant would call demi-mondaine philosophy, 
as a shelter against the pedantry of specialists, against 
the philosophy of the professional philosophers. And 
who knows ? . . . Progress usually comes from the 
barbarian, and there is nothing more stagnant than the 



DON QUIXOTE TO-DAY 303 

philosophy of the philosophers and the theology of the 
theologians. 

Let them talk to us of Europe ! The civilization of 
Thibet is parallel with ours, and men who disappear like 
ourselves have lived and are living by it. And over all 
civilizations there hovers the shadow of Ecclesiastes, 
with his admonition, "How dieth the wise man? as 
the fool " (ii. 16). 

Among the people of my country there is an admirable 
reply to the customary interrogation, * How are you ? J1 
and it is "Living." And that is the truth we are 
living, and living as much as all the rest. What can a 
man ask for more ? And who does not recollect the 
verse ? 

Cada vez que considero 
que me tengo de morir, 
tiendo la capa en el suelo 
y no me harto de dormir. 2 

But no, not sleeping, but dreaming dreaming life, 
since life is a dream. 

Among us Spaniards another phrase has very rapidly 
passed into current usage, the expression " It s a ques 
tion of passing the time," or " killing the time." And, 
in fact, we make time in order to kill it. But there is 
something that has always preoccupied us as much as 
or more than passing the time a formula which denotes 
an esthetical attitude and that is, gaining eternity, 
which is the formula of the religious attitude. The 
truth is, we leap from the esthetic and the economic to 
the religious, passing over the logical and the ethical ; 
we jump from art to religion. 

One of our younger novelists, Ramon Perez de 
Ayala, in his recent novel, La Pata de la Raposa, has 
told us that the idea of death is the trap, and spirit 

1 " Que tal ?" o " como va?" y es aquella que responde : " se vive !" 

2 Whenever I consider that I needs must die, I stretch my cloak upon the 
ground and am not surfeited with sleeping. 



304 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 

the fox or the wary virtue with which to circumvent the 
ambushes set by fatality, and he continues : " Caught 
in the trap, weak men and weak peoples lie prone on the 
ground . . . ; to robust spirits and strong peoples the 
rude shock of danger gives clear-sightedness ; they 
quickly penetrate into the heart of the immeasurable 
beauty of life, and renouncing for ever their original 
hastiness and folly, emerge from the trap with muscles 
taut for action and with the soul s vigour, power, and 
efficiency increased a hundredfold." But let us see; 
weak men . . . weak peoples . . . robust spirits . . . 
strong peoples . . . what does all this mean ? I do not 
know. What I think I know is that some individuals 
and peoples have not yet really thought about death and 
immortality, have not felt them, and that others have 
ceased to think about them, or rather ceased to feel them. 
And the fact that they have never passed through the 
religious period is not, I think, a matter for either men 
or peoples to boast about. 

The immeasurable beauty of life is a very fine thing to 
write about, and there are, indeed, some who resign 
themselves to it and accept it as it is, and even some who 
would persuade us that there is no problem in the 
"trap." But it has been said by Calderon that "to 
seek to persuade a man that the misfortunes which he 
suffers are not misfortunes, does not console him for 
them, but is another misfortune in addition." 1 And, 
furthermore, "only the heart can speak to the heart," 
as Fray Diego de Estella said (Vanidad del Mundo, 
cap. xxi.). 

A short time ago a reply that I made to those who 
reproached us Spaniards for our scientific incapacity 
appeared to scandalize some people. After having re 
marked that the electric light and the steam engine func- 

1 No es consuelo dc desdichas es otra desdicha aparte querer a quien las 
padece persuadir que no son tales (Gustos y diogustos no son masque imagina- 
d6n, Act I., Scene 4). 



DON QUIXOTE TO-DAY 305 

tion here in Spain just as well as in the countries where 
they were invented, and that we make use of logarithms 
as much as they do in the country where the idea of them 
was first conceived, I exclaimed, " Let others invent!" 
a paradoxical expression which I do not retract. We 
Spaniards ought to appropriate to ourselves some of 
those sage counsels which Count Joseph de Maistre gave 
to the Russians, a people not unlike ourselves. In his 
admirable letters to Count Rasoumowski on public 
education in Russia, he said that a nation should not 
think the worse of itself because it was not made for 
science ; that the Romans had no understanding of the 
arts, neither did they possess a mathematician, which, 
however, did not prevent them from playing their part 
in the world ; and in particular we should take to heart 
everything that he said about that crowd of arrogant 
sciolists who idolize the tastes, the fashions, and the 
languages of foreign countries, and are ever ready to 
pull down whatever they despise and they despise 
everything. 

We have not the scientific spirit? And what of that, 
if we have some other spirit ? And who can tell if the 
spirit that we have is or is not compatible with the 
scientific spirit? 

But in saying " Let others invent !" I did not mean to 
imply that we must be content with playing a passive 
role. No. For them their science, by which we shall 
profit; for us, our own work. It is not enough to be on 
the defensive, we must attack. 

But we must attack wisely and cautiously. Reason 
must be our weapon. It is the weapon even of the fool. 
Our sublime fool and our exemplar, Don Quixote, after 
he had destroyed with two strokes of his sword that 
pasteboard visor " which he had fitted to his head-piece, 
made it anew, placing certain iron bars within it, in such 
a manner that he rested satisfied with its solidity, and 
without wishing to make a second trial of it, he deputed 

20 



306 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 

and held it in estimation of a most excellent visor. 1 And 
with the pasteboard visor on his head he made himself 
immortal that is to say, he made himself ridiculous. 
For it was by making himself ridiculous that Don 
Quixote achieved his immortality. 

And there are so many ways of making ourselves 
ridiculous ! . . . Cournot said (Traite de I enchame- 
ment des idees fondamentales, etc., 510) : " It is best 
not to speak to either princes or peoples of the probabili 
ties of death ; princes will punish this temerity with dis 
grace ; the public will revenge itself with ridicule." True, 
and therefore it is said that we must live as the age lives. 
Corrumpere et corrumpi sceculum vocatur (Tacitus : 
Ger mania 19). 

It is necessary to know how to make ourselves ridicu 
lous, and not only to others but to ourselves. And more 
than ever to-day, when there is so much chatter about 
our backwardness compared with other civilized peoples, 
to-day when a parcel of shallow-brained critics say that 
we have had no science, no art, no philosophy, no Re 
naissance, (of this we had perhaps too much), no any 
thing, these same critics being ignorant of our real 
history, a history that remains yet to be written, the first 
task being to undo the web of calumniation and protest 
that has been woven around it. 

Carducci, the author of the phrase about the con- 
torcimenti dell affannosa grandiositd spagnola, has 
written (in Mosche Cochiere) that " even Spain, which 
never attained the hegemony of the world of thought, 
had her Cervantes." But was Cervantes a solitary and 
isolated phenomenon, without roots, without ancestry, 
without a foundation ? That an Italian rationalist, re 
membering that it was Spain that reacted against the 
Renaissance in his country, should say that Spain non 
ebbe egemonia mai di pensiero is, however, readily com 
prehended. Was there no importance, was there nothing 

t Don Quijote, part i, , chap. i, 



DON QUIXOTE TO-DAY 307 

akin to cultural hegemony, in the Counter-Reformation, 
of which Spain was the champion, and which in point of 
fact began with the sack of Rome by the Spaniards, a 
providential chastisement of the city of the pagan popes 
of the pagan Renaissance ? Apart from the question as 
to whether the Counter-Reformation was good or bad, 
was there nothing akin to hegemony in Loyola or the 
Council of Trent? Previous to this Council, Italy 
witnessed a nefarious and unnatural union between 
Christianity and Paganism, or rather, between im 
mortal ism and mortal ism, a union to which even some 
of the Popes themselves consented in their souls ; 
theological error was philosophical truth, and all diffi 
culties were solved by the accommodating formula 
salva fide. But it was otherwise after the Council ; after 
the Council came the open and avowed struggle between 
reason and faith, science and religion. And does not the 
fact that this change was brought about, thanks prin 
cipally to Spanish obstinacy, point to something akin to 
hegemony ? 

Without the Counter-Reformation, would the Reforma 
tion have followed the course that it did actually follow ? 
without the Counter-Reformation might not the Reforma 
tion, deprived of the support of pietism, have perished in 
the gross rationalism of the Aufklarung, of the age of 
Enlightenment? Would nothing have been changed 
had there been no Charles I., no Philip II., our great 
Philip? 

A negative achievement, it will be said. But what is 
that? What is negative? what is positive? At what 
point in time a line always continuing in the same 
direction, from the past to the future does the zero 
occur which denotes the boundary between the positive 
and the negative ? Spain, which is said to be the land of 
knights and rogues and all of them rogues has been 
the country most slandered by history precisely because 
it championed the Counter-Reformation. And because 



3 o8 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 

its arrogance has prevented it from stepping down into 
the public forum, into the world s vanity fair, and pub 
lishing its own justification. 

Let us leave on one side Spain s eight centuries of 
warfare against the Moors, during which she defended 
Europe from Mohammedanism, her work of internal 
unification, her discovery of America and the Indies 
for this was the achievement of Spain and Portugal, and 
not of Columbus and Vasco da Gama let us leave all 
this, and more than this, on one side, and it is not a little 
thing. Is it not a cultural achievement to have created 
a score of nations, reserving nothing for herself, and to 
have begotten, as the Conquistadores did, free men on 
poor Indian slaves? Apart from all this, does our 
mysticism count for nothing in the world of thought? 
Perhaps the peoples whose souls Helen will ravish away 
with her kisses may some day have to return to this 
mysticism to find their souls again. 

But, as everybody knows, Culture is composed of 
ideas and only of ideas, and man is only Culture s instru 
ment. Man for the idea, and not the idea for man ; the 
substance for the shadow. The end of man is to create 
science, to catalogue the Universe, so that it may be 
handed back to God in order, as I wrote years ago in my 
novel, Amor y Pedagogia. Man, apparently, is not 
even an idea. And at the end of all, the human race will 
fall exhausted at the foot of a pile of libraries whole 
woods rased to the ground to provide the paper that is 
stored away in them museums, machines, factories, 
laboratories ... in order to bequeath them to whom ? 
For God will surely not accept them. 

That horrible regenerationist literature, almost all of 
it an imposture, which the loss of our last American 
colonies provoked, led us into the pedantry of extolling 
persevering and silent effort and this with great 
vociferation, vociferating silence of extolling prudence, 
exactitude, moderation, spiritual fortitude, synteresis, 



DON QUIXOTE TO-DAY 309 

equanimity, the social virtues, and the chiefest advocates 
of them were those of us who lacked them most. Almost 
all of us Spaniards fell into this ridiculous mode of litera 
ture, some more and some less. And so it befell that 
that arch-Spaniard Joaquin Costa, one of the least 
European spirits we ever had, invented his famous say 
ing that we must Europeanize Spain, and, while pro 
claiming that we must lock up the sepulchre of the Cid 
with a sevenfold lock, Cid-like urged us to conquer 
Africa! And I myself uttered the cry, "Down with 
Don Quixote!" and from this blasphemy, which meant 
the very opposite of what it said such was the fashion 
of the hour sprang my Vida de Don Quijote y Sancho 
and my cult of Quixotism as the national religion. 

I wrote that book in order to rethink Don Quixote in 
opposition to the Cervantists and erudite persons, in 
order to make a living work of what was and still is for 
the majority a dead letter. What does it matter to me 
what Cervantes intended or did not intend to put into it 
and what he actually did put into it? What is living in 
it is what I myself discover in it, whether Cervantes put 
it there or not, what I myself put into and under and 
over it, and what we all put into it. I wanted to hunt 
down our philosophy in it. 

For the conviction continually grows upon me that 
our philosophy, the Spanish philosophy, is liquescent 
and diffused in our literature, in our life, in our action, 
in our mysticism, above all, and not in philosophical 
systems. It is concrete. And is there not perhaps as 
much philosophy or more in Goethe, for example, as in 
Hegel ? The poetry of Jorge Manrique, the Romancero, 
Don Quijote, La Vida es Sueno, the Subida al Monte 
Carmelo, imply an intuition of the world and a concept 
of life (Weltanschauung und Lebensansicht). And it 
was difficult for this philosophy of ours to formulate itself 
in the second half of the nineteenth century, a period that 
was aphilosophical, positivist, technicist, devoted to 



3io THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 

pure history and the natural sciences, a period essentially 
materialist and pessimist. 

Our language itself, like every cultured language, con 
tains within itself an implicit philosophy. 

A language, in effect, is a potential philosophy. 
Platonism is the Greek language which discourses in 
Plato, unfolding its secular metaphors ; scholasticism is 
the philosophy of the dead Latin of the Middle Ages 
wrestling with the popular tongues; the French lan 
guage discourses in Descartes, the German in Kant and 
in Hegel, and the English in Hume and in Stuart Mill. 
For the truth is that the logical starting-point of all 
philosophical speculation is not the I, neither is it repre 
sentation (Vorstellung), nor the world as it presents itself 
immediately to the senses ; but it is mediate or historical 
representation, humanly elaborated and such as it is 
given to us principally in the language by means of 
which we know the world ; it is not psychical but spiritual 
representation. When we think, we are obliged to set 
out, whether we know it not and whether we will or not, 
from what has been thought by others who came before 
us and who environ us. Thought is an inheritance. 
Kant thought in German, and into German he translated 
Hume and Rousseau, who thought in English and 
French respectively. And did not Spinoza think in 
Judeo-Portuguese, obstructed by and contending with 
Dutch ? 

Thought rests upon prejudgements, and prejudge 
ments pass into language. To language Bacon rightly 
ascribed not a few of the errors of the idola fori. But is 
it possible to philosophize in pure algebra or even in 
Esperanto? In order to see the result of such an 
attempt one has only to read the work of Avenarius on 
the criticism of pure experience (reine Erfahrung), of this 
prehuman or inhuman experience. And even Avenarius, 
who was obliged to invent a language, invented one 
that was based upon the Latin tradition, with roots which 



DON QUIXOTE TO-DAY 311 

carry in their metaphorical implications a content of 
impure experience, of human social experience. 

All philosophy is, therefore, at bottom philology. 
And philology, with its great and fruitful law of 
analogical formations, opens wide the door to chance, to 
the irrational, to the absolutely incommensurable. His 
tory is not mathematics, neither is philosophy. And 
how many philosophical ideas are not strictly owing to 
something akin to rhyme, to the necessity of rightly 
placing a consonant ! In Kant himself there is a great 
deal of this, of esthetic symmetry, rhyme. 

Representation is, therefore, like language, like reason 
itself which is simply internal language a social and 
racial product, and race, the blood of the spirit, is lan 
guage, as Oliver Wendell Holmes has said, and as I 
have often repeated. 

It was in Athens and with Socrates that our Western 
philosophy first became mature, conscious of itself, and 
it arrived at this consciousness by means of the dialogue, 
of social conversation. And it is profoundly significant 
that the doctrine of innate ideas, of the objective and 
normative value of ideas, of what Scholasticism after 
wards knew as Realism, should have formulated itself in 
dialogues. And these ideas, which constitute reality, 
are names, as Nominalism showed. Not that they may 
not be more than names (flatus vocis), but that they are 
nothing less than names. Language is that which gives 
us reality, and not as a mere vehicle of reality, but as 
its true flesh, of which all the rest, dumb or inarticulate 
representation, is merely the skeleton. And thus logic 
operates upon esthetics, the concept upon the expression, 
upon the word, and not upon the brute perception. 

And this is true even in the matter of love. Love 
does not discover that it is love until it speaks, until it 
says, I love thee ! In Stendhal s novel, La Chartreuse 
de Parme, it is with a very profound intuition that Count 
Mosca, furious with jealousy because of the love which 



312 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 

he believes unites the Duchess of Sanseverina with his 
nephew Fabrice, is made to say, " I must be calm ; if my 
manner is violent the duchess, simply because her vanity 
is piqued, is capable of following Belgirate, and then, 
during the journey, chance may lead to a word which 
will give a name to the feelings they bear towards each 
other, and thereupon in a moment all the consequences 
will follow." 

Even so all things were made by the word, and the 
word was in the beginning. 

Thought, reason that is, living language is an 
inheritance, and the solitary thinker of Aben Tofail, the 
Arab philosopher of Guadix, is as absurd as the ego 
of Descartes. The real and concrete truth, not the 
methodical and ideal, is : homo sum, ergo cogito. To 
feel oneself a man is more immediate than to think. But, 
on the other hand, History, the process of culture, finds 
its perfection and complete effectivity only in the indi 
vidual ; the end of History and Humanity is man, each 
man, each individual. Homo sum, ergo cogito; cogito 
ut sim Michael de Unamuno. The individual is the end 
of the Universe. 

And we Spaniards feel this very strongly, that the 
individual is the end of the Universe. The introspective 
individuality of the Spaniard was pointed out by Martin 
A. S. Hume in a passage in The Spanish People, 1 upon 
which I commented in an essay published in La Espana 
Moderna. 2 

And it is perhaps this same introspective individualism 
which has not permitted the growth on Spanish soil 
of strictly philosophical or, rather, metaphysical 
systems. And this in spite of Suarez, whose formal 
subtilties do not merit the name of philosophy. 

Our metaphysics, if we can be said to possess such a 
thing, has been metanthropics, and our metaphysicians 

1 Preface. 

- El individualismo espdhol^ in vol. clxxi., March I, 1903. 



DON QUIXOTE TO-DAY 313 

have been philologists or, rather, humanists in the 
most comprehensive sense of the term. 

Mene"ndez de Pelayo, as Benedetto Croce very truly 
said (Estetica, bibliographical appendix), was inclined 
towards metaphysical idealism, but he appeared to 
wish to take something from other systems, even from 
empirical theories. For this reason Croce considers that 
his work (referring to his Historia de las ideas esteticas 
de Espana) suffers from a certain uncertainty, from the 
theoretical point of view of its author, Mene"ndez de 
Pelayo, which was that of a perfervid Spanish humanist, 
who, not wishing to disown the Renaissance, invented 
what he called Vivism, the philosophy of Luis Vives, 
and perhaps for no other reason than because he himself, 
like Vives, was an eclectic Spaniard of the Renaissance. 
And it is true that Menendez de Pelayo, whose 
philosophy is certainly all uncertainty, educated in 
Barcelona in the timidities of the Scottish philosophy as 
it had been imported into the Catalan spirit that creep 
ing philosophy of common sense, which was anxious not 
to compromise itself and yet was all compromise, and 
which is so well exemplified in Balmes always shunned 
all strenuous inward combat and formed his conscious 
ness upon compromises. 

Angel Ganivet, a man all divination and instinct, was 
more happily inspired, in my opinion, when he pro 
claimed that the Spanish philosophy was that of Seneca, 
the pagan Stoic of Cordoba, whom not a few Christians 
regarded as one of themselves, a philosophy lacking in 
originality of thought but speaking with great dignity of 
tone and accent. His accent was a Spanish, Latino- 
African accent, not Hellenic, and there are echoes of him 
in Tertullian Spanish, too, at heart who believed in 
the corporal and substantial nature of God and the soul, 
and who was a kind of Don Quixote in the world of 
Christian thought in the second century. 

But perhaps we must look for the hero of Spanish 



314 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 

thought, not in any actual flesh-and-bone philosopher, 
but in a creation of fiction, a man of action, who is more 
real than all the philosophers Don Quixote. There is 
undoubtedly a philosophical Quixotism, but there is also 
a Quixotic philosophy. May it not perhaps be that the 
philosophy of the Conquistadores, of the Counter- 
Reformers, of Loyola, and above all, in the order of 
abstract but deeply felt thought, that of our mystics, 
was, in its essence, none other than this ? What was 
the mysticism of St. John of the Cross but a knight- 
errantry of the heart in the divine warfare? 

And the philosophy of Don Quixote cannot strictly be 
called idealism ; he did not fight for ideas. It was of the 
spiritual order; he fought for the spirit. 

Imagine Don Quixote turning his heart to religious 
speculation as he himself once dreamed of doing when 
he met those images in bas-relief which certain peasants 
were carrying to set up in the retablo of their village 
church 1 imagine Don Quixote given up to meditation 
upon eternal truths, and see him ascending Mount 
Carmel in the middle of the dark night of the soul, to 
watch from its summit the rising of that sun which never 
sets, and, like the eagle that was St. John s companion 
in the isle of Patmos, to gaze upon it face to face and 
scrutinize its spots. He leaves to Athena s owl the 
goddess with the glaucous, or owl-like, eyes, who sees 
in the dark but who is dazzled by the light of noon he 
leaves to the owl that accompanied Athena in Olympus 
the task of searching with keen eyes in the shadows for 
the prey wherewith to feed its young. 

And the speculative or meditative Quixotism is, like 
the practical Quixotism, madness, a daughter-madness 
to the madness of the Cross. And therefore it is 
despised by the reason. At bottom, philosophy abhors 

1 See El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha, part ii., 
chap. Iviii., and the corresponding chapter in my Vida de Don Quijote y 
Sancho. 



DON QUIXOTE TO-DAY 3*5 

Christianity, and well did the gentle Marcus Aurelius 
prove it. 

The tragedy of Christ, the divine tragedy, is the 
tragedy of the Cross. Pilate, the sceptic, the man of 
culture, by making a mockery of it, sought to convert 
it into a comedy ; he conceived the farcical idea of the 
king with the reed sceptre and crown of thorns, and cried 
" Behold the man !" But the people, more human than 
he, the people that thirsts for tragedy, shouted, " Crucify 
him ! crucify him !" And the human, the intra-human, 
tragedy is the tragedy of Don Quixote, whose face was 
daubed with soap in order that he might make sport for 
the servants of the dukes and for the dukes themselves, 
.as servile as their servants. "Behold the madman!" 
they would have said. And the comic, the irrational, 
tragedy is the tragedy of suffering caused by ridicule and 
contempt. 

The greatest height of heroism to which an individual, 
like a people, can attain is to know how to face ridicule ; 
better still, to know how to make oneself ridiculous and 
not to shrink from the ridicule. 

I have already spoken of the forceful sonnets of that 
tragic Portuguese, Antero de Quental, who died by his 
own hand. Feeling acutely for the plight of his country 
on the occasion of the British ultimatum in 1890, he 
wrote as follows: 1 "An English statesman of the last 
century, who was also undoubtedly a perspicacious 
observer and a philosopher, Horace Walpole, said that 
for those who feel, life is a tragedy, and a comedy for 
those who think. Very well, then, if we are destined to 
end tragically, we Portuguese, we who feel, we would 
far rather prefer this terrible, but noble, destiny, to that 
which is reserved, and perhaps at no very remote future 

1 In an article which was to have been published on the occasion of the 
ultimatum, and of which the original is in the possession of the Conde do 
Ameal. This fragment appeared in the Portuguese review, A Aguia (No. 3), 
March, 1912. 



3i6 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 

date, for England, the country that thinks and calculates, 
whose destiny it is to finish miserably and comically." 
We may leave on one side the assertion that the English 
are a thinking and calculating people, implying thereby 
their lack of feeling, the injustice of which is explained 
by the occasion which provoked it, and also the assertion 
that the Portuguese feel, implying that they do not think 
or calculate for we twin-brothers of the Atlantic sea 
board have always been distinguished by a certain 
pedantry of feeling ; but there remains a basis of truth 
underlying this terrible idea namely, that some peoples, 
those who put thought above feeling, I should say reason 
above faith, die comically, while those die tragically who 
put faith above reason. For the mockers are those who 
die comically, and God laughs at their comic ending, 
while the nobler part, the part of tragedy, is theirs who 
endured the mockery. 

The mockery that underlies the career of Don Quixote 
is what we must endeavour to discover. 

And shall we be told yet again that there has never 
been any Spanish philosophy in the technical sense of 
the word ? I will answer by asking, What is this sense ? 
What does philosophy mean ? Windelband, the his 
torian of philosophy, in his essay on the meaning of 
philosophy (Was ist Philosophic? in the first volume of 
his Praludieri) tells us that " the history of the word 
1 philosophy is the history of the cultural significance 
of science." He continues : " When scientific thought 
attains an independent existence as a desire for know 
ledge for the sake of knowledge, it takes the name of 
philosophy ; when subsequently knowledge as a whole 
divides into its various branches, philosophy is the 
general knowledge of the world that embraces all other 
knowledge. As soon as scientific thought stoops again 
to becoming a means to ethics or religious contemplation, 
philosophy is transformed into an art of life or into a 
formulation of religious beliefs. And when afterwards 



DON QUIXOTE TO-DAY 317 

the scientific life regains its liberty, philosophy acquires 
once again its character as an independent knowledge of 
the world, and in so far as it abandons the attempt to 
solve this problem, it is changed into a theory of know 
ledge itself." Here you have a brief recapitulation of 
the history of philosophy from Thales to Kant, including 
the medieval scholasticism upon which it endeavoured 
to establish religious beliefs. But has philosophy no 
other office to perform, and may not its office be to reflect 
upon the tragic sense of life itself, such as we have been 
studying it, to formulate this conflict between reason 
and faith, between science and religion, and deliberately 
to perpetuate this conflict ? 

Later on Windelband says : " By philosophy in the 
systematic, not in the historical, sense, I understand the 
critical knowledge of values of universal validity 
(allgemeingiltigen Werten)." But what values are there 
of more universal validity than that of the human will 
seeking before all else the personal, individual, and con 
crete immortality of the soul or, in other words, the 
human finality of the Universe and that of the human 
reason denying the rationality and even the possibility 
of this desire ? What values are there of more universal 
validity than the rational or mathematical value and the 
volitional or teleological value of the Universe in con 
flict with one another? 

For Windelband, as for Kantians and neo-Kantians 
in general, there are only three normative categories, 
three universal norms those of the true or the false, the 
beautiful or the ugly, and the morally good or evil. 
Philosophy is reduced to logics, esthetics, and ethics, 
accordingly as it studies science, art, or morality. 
Another category remains excluded namely, that of the 
pleasing and the unpleasing, or the agreeable and the 
disagreeable : in other words, the hedonic. The hedonic 
cannot, according to them, pretend to universal validity, 
it cannot be normative. " Whosoever throws upon 



3i8 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 

philosophy," wrote Windelband, " the burden of 
deciding the question of optimism and pessimism, who 
soever demands that philosophy should pronounce 
judgement on the question as to whether the world is 
more adapted to produce pain than pleasure, or vice 
versa such a one, if his attitude is not merely that of a 
dilettante, sets himself the fantastic task of finding an 
absolute determination in a region in which no reason 
able man has ever looked for one." It remains to be 
seen, nevertheless, whether this is as clear as it seems, in 
the case of a man like myself, who am at the same time 
reasonable and yet nothing but a dilettante, which of 
course would be the abomination of desolation. 

It was with a very profound insight that Benedetto 
Croce, in his philosophy of the spirit in relation to 
esthetics as the science of expression and to logic as the 
science of pure concept, divided practical philosophy into 
two branches economics and ethics. He recognizes, in 
effect, the existence of a practical grade of spirit, purely 
economical, directed towards the singular and uncon 
cerned with the universal. Its types of perfection, of 
economic genius, are lago and Napoleon, and this grade 
remains outside morality. And every man passes 
through this grade, because before all else he must wish 
to be himself, as an individual, and without this grade 
morality would be inexplicable, just as without esthetics 
logic would lack meaning. And the discovery of the 
normative value of the economic grade, which seeks the 
hedonic, was not unnaturally the work of an Italian, a 
disciple of Machiavelli, who speculated so fearlessly with 
regard to virtu, practical efficiency, which is not exactly 
the same as moral virtue. 

But at bottom this economic grade is but the rudi 
mentary state of the religious grade. The religious is 
the transcendental economic or hedonic. Religion is a 
transcendental economy and hedonistic. That which man 
seeks in religion, in religious faith, is to save his own 



DON QUIXOTE TO-DAY 319 

individuality, to eternalize it, which he achieves neither 
by science, nor by art, nor by ethics. God is a necessity 
neither for science, nor art, nor ethics ; what necessitates 
God is religion. And with an insight that amounts to genius 
our Jesuits speak of the grand business of our salvation. 
Business yes, business; something belonging to the 
economic, hedonistic order, although transcendental. 
We do not need God in order that He may teach us the 
truth of things, or the beauty of them, or in order that He 
may safeguard morality by means of a system of penal 
ties and punishments, but in order that He may save us, 
in order that He may not let us die utterly. And because 
this unique longing is the longing of each and every 
normal man those who are abnormal by reason of their 
barbarism or their hyperculture may be left out of the 
reckoning it is universal and normative. 

Religion, therefore, is a transcendental economy, or, 
if you like, metaphysic. Together with its logical, 
esthetic, and ethical values, the Universe has for man an 
economic value also, which, when thus made universal 
and normative, is the religious value. We are not con 
cerned only with truth, beauty, and goodness : we are 
concerned also and above all with the salvation of the 
individual, with perpetuation, which those norms do not 
secure for us. That science of economy which is called 
political teaches us the most adequate, the most 
economical way of satisfying our needs, whether these 
needs are rational or irrational, beautiful or ugly, moral 
or immoral a business economically good may be a 
swindle, something that in the long run kills the soul 
and the supreme human need is the need of not dying, 
the need of enjoying for ever the plenitude of our own 
individual limitation. And if the Catholic eucharistic 
doctrine teaches that the substance of the body of Jesus 
Christ is present whole and entire in the consecrated 
Host, and in each part of it, this means that God is 
wholly and entirely in the whole Universe and also in 



320 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 

each one of the individuals that compose it. And this 
is, fundamentally, not a logical, nor an esthetic, nor an 
ethical priciple, but a transcendental economic or reli 
gious principle. And with this norm, philosophy is able 
to judge of optimism and pessimism. // the human soul 
is immortal, the world is economically or hedonistically 
good; if not, it is bad. And the meaning which pessimism 
and optimism give to the categories of good and evil is 
not an ethical sense, but an economic or hedonistic sense. 
Good is that which satisfies our vital longing and evil 
is that which does not satisfy it. 

Philosophy, therefore, is also the science of the tragedy 
of life, a reflection upon the tragic sense of it. An essay 
in this philosophy, with its inevitable internal contradic 
tions and antinomies, is what I have attempted in these 
essays. And the reader must not overlook the fact that 
I have been operating upon myself; that this work par 
takes of the nature of a piece of self-surgery, and without 
any other anesthetic than that of the work itself. The 
enjoyment of operating upon myself has ennobled the 
pain of being operated upon. 

And as for my other claim the claim that this is a 
Spanish philosophy, perhaps the Spanish philosophy, 
that if it was an Italian who discovered the normative 
and universal value of the economic grade, it is a 
Spaniard who announces that this grade is merely the 
beginning of the religious grade, and that the essence 
of our religion, of our Spanish Catholicism, consists pre 
cisely in its being neither a science, nor an art, nor an 
ethic, but an economy of things eternal that is to say, of 
things divine : as for this claim that all this is Spanish, 
I must leave the task of substantiating it to another and 
an historical work. But leaving aside the external and 
written tradition, that which can be demonstrated by 
reference to historical documents, is there not some 
present justification of this claim in the fact that I am a 
Spaniard and a Spaniard who has scarcely ever been 



DON QUIXOTE TO-DAY 321 

outside Spain ; a product, therefore, of the Spanish tradi 
tion, of the living tradition, of the tradition which is 
transmitted in feelings and ideas that dream, and not in 
texts that sleep ? 

The philosophy in the soul of my people appears to 
me as the expression of an inward tragedy analogous to 
the tragedy of the soul of Don Quixote, as the expression 
of a conflict between what the world is as scientific reason 
shows it to be, and what we wish that it might be, as our 
religious faith affirms it to be. And in this philosophy 
is to be found the explanation of what is usually said 
about us namely, that \ve are fundamentally irreducible 
to Kultur or, in other words, that we refuse to submit 
to it. No, Don Quixote does not resign himself either 
to the world, or to science or logic, or to art or esthetics, 
or to morality or ethics. 

" And the upshot of all this," so I have been told more 
than once and by more than one person, " will be simply 
that all you will succeed in doing will be to drive people 
to the wildest Catholicism." And I have been accused 
of being a reactionary and even a Jesuit. Be it so ! 
And what then ? 

Yes, I know, I know very well, that it is madness to 
seek to turn the waters of the river back to their source, 
and that it is only the ignorant who seek to find in the 
past a remedy for their present ills ; but I know too that 
everyone who fights for any ideal whatever, although his 
ideal may seem to lie in the past, is driving the world 
on to the future, and that the only reactionaries are those 
who find themselves at home in the present. Every sup 
posed restoration of the past is a creation of the future, 
and if the past which it is sought to restore is a dream, 
something imperfectly known, so much the better. The 
march, as ever, is towards the future, and he who 
marches is getting there, even though he march walking 
backwards. And who knows if that is not the better 
way ! . . . 

21 



322 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 

I feel that I have within me a medieval soul, and I 
believe that the soul of my country is medieval, that it 
has perforce passed through the Renaissance, the 
Reformation, and the Revolution learning from them, 
yes, but without allowing them to touch the soul, pre 
serving the spiritual inheritance which has come down 
from what are called the Dark Ages. And Quixotism is 
simply the most desperate phase of the struggle between 
the Middle Ages and the Renaissance which was the off 
spring of the Middle Ages. 

And if some accuse me of subserving the cause of 
Catholic reaction, others perhaps, the official Catho 
lics. . . . But these, in Spain, trouble themselves little 
about anything, and are interested only in their own 
quarrels and dissensions. And besides, poor folk, they 
have neither eyes nor ears ! 

But the truth is that my work I was going to say my 
mission is to shatter the faith of men here, there, and 
everywhere, faith in affirmation, faith in negation, and 
faith in abstention from faith, and this for the sake of 
faith in faith itself; it is to war against all those who 
submit, whether it be to Catholicism, or to rationalism, 
or to agnosticism ; it is to make all men live the life of 
inquietude and passionate desire. 

Will this work be efficacious ? But did Don Quixote 
believe in the immediate apparential efficacy of his work ? 
It is very doubtful, and at any rate he did not by any 
chance put his visor to the test by slashing it a second 
time. And many passages in his history show that he 
did not look with much confidence to the immediate 
success of his design to restore knight-errantry. And 
what did it matter to him so long as thus he lived and 
immortalized himself ? And he must have surmised, 
and did in fact surmise, that his work would have another 
and a higher efficacy, and that was that it would ferment 
in the minds of all those who in a pious spirit read of 
his exploits. 



DON QUIXOTE TO-DAY 323 

Don Quixote made himself ridiculous; but did he 
know the most tragic ridicule of all, the inward ridicule, 
the ridiculousness of a man s self to himself, in the eyes 
of his own soul? Imagine Don Quixote s battlefield 
to be his own soul ; imagine him to be fighting in his 
soul to save the Middle Ages from the Renaissance, to 
preserve the treasure of his infancy ; imagine him an 
inward Don Quixote, with a Sancho, at his side, inward 
and heroical too and tell me if you find anything comic 
in the tragedy. 

And what has Don Quixote left, do you ask ? I 
answer, he has left himself, and a man, a living and 
eternal man, is worth all theories and all philosophies. 
Other peoples have left chiefly institutions, books ; we 
have left souls; St. Teresa is worth any institution, any 
Critique of Pure Reason. 

But Don Quixote was converted. Yes and died, 
poor soul. But the other, the real Don Quixote, he who 
remained on earth and lives amongst us, animating us 
with his spirit this Don Quixote was not converted, 
this Don Quixote continues to incite us to make ourselves 
ridiculous, this Don Quixote must never die. And the 
conversion of the other Don Quixote he who was con 
verted only to die was possible because he was mad, 
and it was his madness, and not his death nor his conver 
sion that immortalized him, earning him forgiveness for 
the crime of having been born. 1 Felix culpa! And 
neither was his madness cured, but only transformed. 
His death was his last knightly adventure; in dying he 
stormed heaven, which suffereth violence. 

This mortal Don Quixote died and descended into hell, 
which he entered lance on rest, and freed all the con 
demned, as he had freed the galley slaves, and he shut 
the gates of hell, and tore down the scroll that Dante saw 
there and replaced it by one on which was written " Long 

1 An allusion to the phrase in Calderon s La Vida es Stteno, " Que delito 
cometi contra vosotros naciendo ?" J. E. C. F. 



324 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 

live hope !" and escorted by those whom he had freed, 
and they laughing at him, he went to heaven. And God 
laughed paternally at him, and this divine laughter filled 
his soul with eternal happiness. 

And the other Don Quixote remained here amongst us, 
fighting with desperation. And does he not fight out of 
despair? How is it that among the words that English 
has borrowed from our language, such as siesta, 
camarilla, guerrilla, there is to be found this word 
desperado ? Is not this inward Don Quixote that I spoke 
of, conscious of his own tragic comicness, a man of 
despair (desesperado), A desperado yes, like Pizarro 
and like Loyola. But " despair is the master of impos 
sibilities," as we learn from Salazar y Torres (Elegir al 
enemigo, Act I.), and it is despair and despair alone that 
begets heroic hope, absurd hope, mad hope. Spero 
quid absurdum, it ought to have been said, rather than 
credo. 

And Don Quixote, who lived in solitude, sought more 
solitude still ; he sought the solitudes of the Pena Pobre, 
in order that there, alone, without witnesses, he might 
give himself up to greater follies with which to assuage 
his soul. But he was not quite alone, for Sancho accom 
panied him Sancho the good, Sancho the believing, 
Sancho the simple. If, as some, say, in Spain Don 
Quixote is dead and Sancho lives, then we are saved, for 
Sancho, his master dead, will become a knight-errant 
himself. And at any rate he is waiting for some other 
mad knight to follow again. 

And there is also a tragedy of Sancho. The other 
Sancho, the Sancho who journeyed with the mortal Don 
Quixote it is not certain that he died, although some 
think that he died hopelessly mad, calling for his lance 
and believing in the truth of all those things which 
his dying and converted master had denounced and 
abominated as lies. But neither is it certain that the 
bachelor Sans6n Carrasco, or the curate, or the barber, 



DON QUIXOTE TO-DAY 325 

or the dukes and canons are dead, and it is with these 
that the heroical Sancho has to contend. 

Don Quixote journeyed alone, alone with Sancho, 
alone with his solitude. And shall we not also journey 
alone, we his lovers, creating for ourselves a Quixotesque 
Spain which only exists in our imagination ? 

And again we shall be asked : What has Don Quixote 
bequeathed to Kultur? I answer: Quixotism, and that 
is no little thing ! It is a whole method, a whole 
epistemology, a whole esthetic, a whole logic, a whole 
ethic above all, a whole religion that is to say, a 
whole economy of things eternal and things divine, a 
whole hope in what is rationally absurd. 

For what did Don Quixote fight? For Dulcinea, for 
glory, for life, for survival. Not for Iseult, who is the 
eternal flesh ; not for Beatrice, who is theology ; not for 
Margaret, who is the people; not for Helen, who is cul 
ture. He fought for Dulcinea, and he won her, for he 
lives. 

And the greatest thing about him was his having been 
mocked and vanquished, for it was in being overcome 
that he overcame ; he overcame the world by giving the 
world cause to laugh at him. 

And to-day ? To-day he feels his own comicness and 
the vanity of his endeavours so far as their temporal 
results are concerned; he sees himself from without 
culture has taught him to objectify himself, to alienate 
himself from himself instead of entering into himself 
and in seeing himself from without he laughs at himself, 
but with a bitter laughter. Perhaps the most tragic 
character would be that of a Margutte of the inner man, 
who, like the Margutte of Pulci, should die of laughter, 
but of laughter at himself. E riderd in eterno, he will 
laugh for all eternity, said the Angel Gabriel of Mar 
gutte. Do you not hear the laughter of God ? 

The mortal Don Quixote, in dying, realized his own 
comicness and bewept his sins ; but the immortal Quixote, 



326 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 

realizing his own comicness, superimposes himself upon 
it and triumphs over it without renouncing it. 

And Don Quixote does not surrender, because he is 
not a pessimist, and he fights on. He is not a pessimist, 
because pessimism is begotten by vanity, it is a matter of 
fashion, pure intellectual snobbism, and Don Quixote is 
neither vain nor modern with any sort of modernity (still 
less is he a modernist), and he does not understand the 
meaning of the word " snob " unless it be explained to 
him in old Christian Spanish. Don Quixote is not a 
pessimist, for since he does not understand what is meant 
by the joie de vivre he does not understand its opposite. 
Neither does he understand futurist fooleries. In spite 
of Clavilerio, 1 he has not got as far as the aeroplane, 
which seems to tend to put not a few fools at a still 
greater distance from heaven. Don Quixote has not 
arrived at the age of the tedium of life, a condition that 
not infrequently takes the form of that topophobia so 
characteristic of many modern spirits, who pass their 
lives running at top speed from one place to another, 
not from any love of the place to which they are going, 
but from hatred of the place they are leaving behind, and 
so flying from all places : which is one of the forms of 
despair. 

But Don Quixote hears his own laughter, he hears the 
divine laughter, and since he is not a pessimist, since 
he believes in life eternal, he has to fight, attacking the 
modern, scientific, inquisitorial orthodoxy in order to 
bring in a new and impossible Middle Age, dualistic, 
contradictory, passionate. Like a new Savonarola, an 
Italian Quixote of the end of the fifteenth century, he 
fights against this Modern Age that began with 
Machiavelli and that will -end comically. Fie fights 
against the rationalism inherited from the eighteenth 

1 The wooden horse upon which Don Quixote imagined that he and Sancho 
had been carried in the air. See Don Quijote, part ii., chaps. 40 and 41. 
J. E. C. F. 



DON QUIXOTE TO-DAY 327 

century. Peace of mind, reconciliation between reason 
and faith this, thanks to the providence of God, is no 
longer possible. The world must be as Don Quixote 
wishes it to be, and inns must be castles, and he will 
fight with it and will, to all appearances, be van 
quished, but he will triumph by making himself ridicu 
lous. And he will triumph by laughing at himself and 
making himself the object of his own laughter. 

" Reason speaks and feeling bites," said Petrarch ; but 
reason also bites and bites in the inmost heart. And 
more light does not make more warmth. " Light, light, 
more light!" they tell us that the dying Goethe cried. 
No, warmth, warmth, more warmth ! for we die of cold 
and not of darkness. It is not the night kills, but the 
frost. We must liberate the enchanted princess and 
destroy the stage of Master Peter. 1 

But God ! may there not be pedantry too in thinking 
ourselves the objects of mockery and in making Don 
Quixotes of ourselves ? Kierkegaard said that the 
regenerate (Opvakte) desire that the wicked world should 
mock at them for the better assurance of their own 
regeneracy, for the enjoyment of being able to bemoan 
the wickedness of the world (Afsluttende uvidenskabelig 
Efterskrift, ii., Afsnit ii., cap. 4, sect. 2, b). 

The question is, how to avoid the one or the other 
pedantry, or the one or the other affectation, if the 
natural man is only a myth and w r e are all artificial. 

Romanticism ! Yes, perhaps that is partly the word. 
And there is an advantage in its very lack of precision. 
Against romanticism the forces of rationalist and 
classicist pedantry, especially in France, have latterly 
been unchained. Romanticism itself is merely another 
form of pedantry, the pedantry of sentiment? Perhaps. 
In this world a man of culture is either a dilettante or a 
pedant : you have to take your choice. Yes, Rene and 
Adolphe and Obermann and Lara, perhaps they were all 

1 Don Quijote, part ii., chap. 26. 



328 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 

pedants. . . . The question is to seek consolation in 
disconsolation. 

The philosophy of Bergson, which is a spiritualist 
restoration, essentially mystical, medieval, Quixotesque, 
has been called a demi-mondaine philosophy. Leave 
out the demi; call it mondaine, mundane. Mundane 
yes, a philosophy for the world and not for philosophers, 
just as chemistry ought to be not for chemists alone. The 
world desires illusion (mundus vult decipi) either the 
illusion antecedent to reason, which is poetry, or the 
illusion subsequent to reason, which is religion. And 
Machiavelli has said that whosoever wishes to delude 
will always find someone willing to be deluded. Blessed 
are they who are easily befooled ! A Frenchman, Jules 
de Gaultier, said that it was the privilege of his country 
men n etre pas dupe not to be taken in. A sorry 
privilege ! 

Science does not give Don Quixote what he demands 
of it. " Then let him not make the demand," it will be 
said, " let him resign himself, let him accept life and 
truth as they are." But he does not accept them as they 
are, and he asks for signs, urged thereto by Sancho, who 
stands by his side. And it is not that Don Quixote does 
not understand what those understand who talk thus to 
him, those who succeed in resigning themselves and 
accepting rational life and rational truth. No, it is that 
the needs of his heart are greater. Pedantry ? Who 
knows ! . . . 

And in this critical century, Don Quixote, who has 
also contaminated himself with criticism, has to attack 
his own self, the victim of intellectualism and of senti- 
mentalism, and when he wishes to be most spontaneous 
he appears to be most affected. And he wishes, unhappy 
man, to rationalize the irrational and irrationalize the 
rational. And he sinks into the despair of the critical 
century whose two greatest victims were Nietzsche and 
Tolstoi. And through this despair he reaches the heroic 



DON QUIXOTE TO-DAY 329 

fury of which Giordano Bruno spok e that intellectual 
Don Quixote who escaped from the cloister and 
becomes an awakener of sleeping souls (dormitantium 
animorum excubitor), as the ex-Dominican said of him 
self he who wrote : " Heroic love is the property of 
those superior natures who are called insane (insane) not 
because they do not know (no sanno), but because they 
over-know (sop r as anno)." 

But Bruno believed in the triumph of his doctrines ; at 
any rate the inscription at the foot of his statue in the 
Campo dei Fiori, opposite the Vatican, states that it has 
been dedicated to him by the age which he had foretold 
(il secolo da lui divinato). But our Don Quixote, the 
inward, the immortal Don Quixote, conscious of his own 
comicness, does not believe that his doctrines will 
triumph in this world, because they are not of it. And 
it is better that they should not triumph. And if the 
world wished to make Don Quixote king, he would 
retire alone to the mountain, fleeing from the king- 
making and king-killing crowds, as Christ retired alone 
to the mountain when, after the miracle of the loaves and 
fishes, they sought to proclaim him king. He left the 
title of king for the inscription written over the Cross. 

What, then, is the new mission of Don Quixote, 
to-day, in this world? To cry aloud, to cry aloud in the 
wilderness. But though men hear not, the wilderness 
hears, and one day it will be transformed into a resound 
ing forest, and this solitary voice that goes scattering 
over the wilderness like seed, will fructify into a gigantic 
cedar, which with its hundred thousand tongues will sing 
an eternal hosanna to the Lord of life and of death. 

And now to you, the younger generation, bachelor 
Carrascos of a Europeanizing regenerationism, you who 
are working after the best European fashion, with scien 
tific method and criticism, to you I say : Create wealth, 
create nationality, create art, create science, create ethics, 
above all create or rather, translate Kultur, and thus 



330 THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 

kill in yourselves both life and death. Little will it all 
last vou ! . 



And with this I conclude high time that I did ! for 
the present at any rate, these essays on the tragic sense 
of life in men and in peoples, or at least in myself who 
am a man and in the soul of my people as it is reflected 
in mine. 

I hope, reader, that some time while our tragedy is still 
playing, in some interval between the acts, we shall 
meet again. And we shall recognize one another. And 
forgive me if I have troubled you more than was needful 
and inevitable, more than I intended to do when I took 
up my pen proposing to distract you for a while from 
your distractions. And may God deny you peace, but 
give you glory ! 

SALAMANCA, 

In I he year of grace 1912. 



INDEX 



AESCHYLUS, 246 

Alexander of Aphrodisias, SS 

Amiel, 18, 68, 228 

Anaxagoras, 143 

Angelo of Foligno, 289 

Antero de Quintal, 240, 315 

Ardigo, Rol>erto, 238 

Aristotle, i , 2 1 , So, 1 44, 1 65, 1 7 1 , 232, 235 

Arnold, Matthew, 103 

Athanasius, 63-65 

Avenarius, Richard, 144, 310 

de Ayala, Ramon P<5rez, 303 

Bacon, 310 

Balfour, A. J., 27 

Balmes, 84, 85 

Bergson, 144, 328 

Berkeley, Bishop, 87, 146 

Besant, Mrs. A., 291 

Boccaccio, 52 

Bohme, Jacob, 227, 297 

Bonnefon, 250, 254 

Bossuet, 226, 231 

Brooks, Phillips, 76, 190 

Browning 1 , Robert, 112, 181, 249, 254 

Brunetiere, 103, 298 

Brunhes, B., 235, 237, 238 

Bruno, 301, 329 

Buchner, 95 

Butler, Joseph, 5, 6, 87 

Byron, Lord, 94, 102, 103, 132 

Calderdn, 39, 268, 323 
Calvin, 121, 246 
Campanella, 301 
Carducci, 102, 306 
Carlyle, 231, 298 
Catherine of Sienna, 289 
Cauchy, 236 
Cervantes, 220, 306 , 
Channing, VV. E., 78 
Cicero, 165, 216, 221 
Clement of Alexandria, 32 
Cortes, Donoso, 74 
Costa, Joaquin, 309 
Cournot, 192, 217, 222, 306 
Cowper, 43 
Croce, Benedetto, 313, 318 



Dante 



Descartes, 
310, 312 
Diderot, 99 



, 42, 51, 140, 223, 233, 256, 295 
n, 72, 147 



Darwin, 72, 147 

s, 34, 86, 107, 224, 237, 293, 

2 



Diego de Estella, 304 
Dionysius the Areopagite, 1 60 
Domingo de Guzman, 289 
Duns Scotus, 76 

Eckhart, 289 
Empedocles, 61 
Erasmus, 112, 301 
Erigena, 160, 167 

Fe"nelon, 224 
Fichte, 8, 29 
Flaubert, 94, 219 
Fouillee, 261 
Fourier, 278 

Francesco de Sanctis, 220 
Francke, August, 120 
Franklin, 248 

Galileo, 72, 267, 302 
Ganivet, Angel, 313 
de Gaultier, Jules, 328 
Goethe, 218, 264, 288, 299, 309 
Gounod, 56 
Gratry, Pere, 236 

Haeckel, 95 

Harnack, 59, 64, 65, 69, 75 

Hartmann, 146 

Hegel, 5, in, 170, 294, 309, 310 

Heraclitus, 165 

Hermann, 69, 70, 77, 165, 217 

Herodotus, 140 

Hippocrates, 143 

Hodgson, S. H., 30 

Holberg, 109 

Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 257, 311 

Hume, David, 79, 86, 104, 310 

Hume, Martin A. S., 312 

Huntingdon, A. M., 298 

James, William, 5, Si, 86 
Jansen, 121 

Juan de los Angeles, i, 207, 286 
Juan de la Cruz, 67, 289, 293 
Justin Martyr, 63 

Kaftan, 68, 222 

Kant, Immanuel, 3, 4, u, 13. 67,68, 

73,79,114,143,166,294,310,311,317 
a Kempis, 51, 99, 277 
Kierkegaard, 3, 109, 115, 123, 153, 178, 

198, 257, 287, 327 
Krause, 294 

Lactantius, 59, 74, 165, 169 



332 



THE TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE 



Lamarck, 147 

Lamennais, 74, 117, 165, 246 

Laplace, 161 

Leibnitz, 247 

Leo XIII., 75 

Leopardi, 44, 47, 123, 132, 240, 248 

Le Roy, 73 

Lessing, 229 

Linnaeus, i 

Loisy, 72 

Loyola, 122,307,314,324 

Loyson, Hyacinthe, 116 

Lucretius, 94, 102 

Luis de Le6n, 289 

Luther, 3, 121, 270, 294, 301 

Mach, Dr. E., 114 

Machado, Antonio, 241 

Machiavelli, 296, 326, 328 

de Maistre, Count Joseph, 74, 305 

Malebranche, 63 

Maldn de Chaide, 66 

Manrique, Jorge, 309 

Marcus Aurelius, 315 

Marlowe, Christopher, 299 

Martins, Oliveira, 68 

Mazzini, 153 

Melanchthon, 69 

Men^ndez de Pelayo, 313 

Michelet, 45 

Miguel de Molinos, 216, 219, 228 

Mill, Stuart, 104, 310 

Milton, 284 

Moser, Johann Jacob, 252, 263 

Myers, W. H., 88 

Nietzsche, 50, 61, 100, 231, 239, 328 
Nimesius, 59 

Obermann, 11, 47, 259, 263, 268 
Oetinger, Friedrich Christoph, 252, 253 
Ord6nez de Lara, 56 
Origen, 245 

Papini, 238 

Pascal, 40, 45, 74, 262, 263 

Petrarch, 327 

Pfleiderer, 61 

Pius IX., 72 

Pizarro, 324 

Plato, 38, 45, 48, 61, 90, 125, 143, 216, 

217, 221, 292, 310 
Pliny, 165 

Plotmus, 209, 230, 243 
Pohle, Joseph, 77 
Pomponazzi, Pietro, 88 

Renan, 51, 68 

Ritschl, Albrecht, 68, 114, 121, 167, 
238, 253, 263, 294 



Robertson, F. W., 180 
Robespierre, 41 
Rohde, Erwin, 60, 61 
Rousseau, 53, 263, 299, 310 
Ruysbroek, 289 

Saint Augustine, 74, 192, 247 

Saint Bonaventura, 220 

Saint Francis of Assissi, 52, 210 

Saint Paul, 48, 49, 62, 94, 112, 188, 

209, 225, 241, 253, 255, 270 
Saint Teresa, 67, 75, 210, 226, 228, 289, 

323 

Saint Thomas Aquinas, 83, 92, 233 
Salazar y Torres, 324 
Schleiermacher, 89, 156, 217 
Schopenhauer, 146, 147, 247 
Seeberg, Reinold, iSS 
St^nancour, 43, 47, 260, 263, 299 
Seneca, 231, 313 
Seuse, Heinrich, 75, 289 
Shakespeare, 39 
Socrates, 29, 143, 145 
Solon, 17 
Soloviev, 95 

Spencer, Herbert, 89, 124, 238, 253 
Spener, 253 
Spinoza, Benedict, 6, 7, 22, 24, 31, 38, 

40, 89, 97-99, 101, 208, 234, 310 
Stanley, Dean, 91 
Stendhal, 311 
Stirmer, Max, 29 
Sudrez, 312 
Swedenborg, 153, 221, 225 

Tacitus, 56, 94, 142, 216, 306 

Tauler, 289 

Tennyson, Lord, 33, 103 

Tertullian, 74, 94, 104 

Thales of Miletus, 143, 317 

Thom<5 de Jesus, 283 

Tolstoi, 328 

Troeltsch, Ernst, 70, 112 

Velasquez, 70 

Vico, Giovanni Baptista, 142, 143 

Vinet, A., 93, 113, 160 

Virchow, 95 

Virgil, 249 

Vives, Luis, 313 

Vogt, 95 

Walpole, Horace, 315 
Weizsacker. 62, 77 
Wells, H. G., 265 
Whitman, Walt, 125 
Windelband, 267, 316, 317 

Xenophon, 29, 143 



Printed and Bound in Great Britain by 
Billing & Sons, Ltd., and James Burn & Co., Ltd., Guiltford, Esher, and London. 



B 4568 .U53 D4813 1921 

snc 

Unamuno, Miguel de, 

1864-1936. 
The tragic sense of 1 1 fe 

in men and in peoples / 
AYN-7532 (mcsk)