"Heinrich Heine (1797–1856), famous poet, journalist, and political exile, studied with Hegel and was personally acquainted with the leading figures of the most important generation of German writers and philosophers": "Immanuel Kant, the arch-destroyer in the realm of thought, far surpassed in terrorism Maximilian Robespierre
https://archive.org/stream/religionandphilo011616mbp/religionandphilo011616mbp_djvu.txtH468-2 v / 69^12133 Heine Religion and philosophy in Germany 193 H468-2 59-12183 Heine $1*45 Religion and philosophy in Germany " KANSAS CITY, MO. PUBLIC LIBRARY
Mark this, ye proud men of action : ye are nothing but unconscious hodmen of the men of thought who, often in humblest stillness, have appointed you your inevitable task. Maximilian Eobespierre was merely the hand of Jeau Jacques Eousseau, the bloody hand that drew from the womb of time the body whose soul Eousseau had created. May not the restless anxiety that troubled the life of Jean Jacques have caused such stirrings within him that he already foreboded the kind of accoucheur that was needed to bring his thought living into the world ? * Old Fontenelle may have been right when he said : " If * This paragraph is wanting in the French version. TR. RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. 107 I held all the truths of the universe in my hand, I would be very careful not to open it." I, for my part, think otherwise. If I held all the truths of the world in my hand, I might perhaps beseech you instantly to cut off that hand ; but, in any case, I should not long hold it closed. I was not born to be a gaoler of thoughts; by Heaven! I would set them free. What though they were to incarnate themselves in the most hazardous realities, what though they were to range through all lands like a mad bacchanalian procession, what though they were to crush with their thyrsus our most innocent flowers, what though they were to invade our hospitals and chase from his bed the old sick world my heart would bleed, no doubt, and I myself would suffer hurt thereby ! For alas ! I too am part of this old sick world, and the poet says truly, one may mock at his crutches yet not be able to walk any better for that. I am the most grievously sick of you all, and am the more to be pitied since I know what health is ; but you do not know it, you whom I envy ; you are capable of dying without perceiving your dying condition. Yea, many of you are already long since dead, though maintaining that your real life is just beginning. When I try to dispel such a delusion, then you are angry with me and rail at me, and, more horrible still, the dead rush upon and mock at me, and more loathsome to me than their insults is the smell of their putrefaction. Hence, ye spectres ! I am about to speak of a man whose mere name has the might of an exorcism; I speak of Immanuel Kant. It is said that night-wandering spirits are filled with terror at sight of the headsman's axe. With what mighty fear, then, must they be stricken when there is held up to them Kant's " Critique of Pure Reason " ! This is the sword that slew deism in Germany. To speak frankly, you French have been tame and moderate compared with us Germans. At most, you could io8 RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. but kill a king, and he had already lost his head before you guillotined him. For accompaniment to such deed you must needs cause such a drumming and shrieking and stamping of feet that the whole universe trembled. To compare Maximilian Eobespierre with Immanuel Kant is to confer too high an honour upon the former. Maxi- milian Robespierre, the great citizen of the Eue Saint Honore, had, it is true, his sudden attacks of destructive- ness when it was a question of the monarchy, and his frame was violently convulsed when the fit of regicidal epilepsy was on ; but as soon as it came to be a question about the Supreme Being, he wiped the white froth from his lips, washed the blood from his hands, donned his blue Sunday coat with silver buttons, and stuck a nosegay in the bosom of his broad vest. The history of Immanuel Kant's life is difficult to por- tray, for he had neither life nor history. He led a mecha- nical, regular, almost abstract bachelor existence in a little retired street of Konigsberg, an old town on the north- eastern frontier of Germany. I do not believe that the great clock of the cathedral performed in a more passion- less and methodical manner its daily routine than did its townsman, Immanuel Kant. Rising in the morning, coffee-drinking, writing, reading lectures, dining, walking, everything had its appointed time, and the neighbours knew that it was exactly half-past three o'clock when Immanuel Kant stepped forth from his house in his grey, tight-fitting coat, with his Spanish cane in his hand, and betook himself to the little linden avenue called after him to this day the " Philosopher's Walk." Summer and winter he walked up and down it eight times, and when the weather was dull or heavy clouds prognosticated rain, the townspeople beheld his servant, the old Lampe, trudg- ing anxiously behind him with a big umbrella under his arm, like an image of Providence. RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. 109 What a strange contrast did this man's outward life present to his destructive, world-annihilating thoughts! In sooth, had the citizens of Konigsberg had the least presentiment of the full significance of his ideas, they would have felt a far more awful dread at the presence of this man than at the sight of an executioner, who can but kill the body. But the worthy folk saw in him nothing more than a Professor of Philosophy, and as he passed at his customary hour, they greeted him in a friendly manner and set their watches by him. But though Immanuel Kant, the arch-destroyer in the realm of thought, far surpassed in terrorism Maximilian Robespierre, he had many similarities with the latter, which induce a comparison between the two men. In the first place, we find in both the same inexorable, keen, poesyless, sober integrity. We likewise find in both the same talent of suspicion, only that in the one it mani- fested itself in the direction of thought and was called criticism, whilst in the other it was directed against man- kind and was styled republicau virtue. But both pre- sented in the highest degree the type of the narrow-minded citizen. Nature had destined them for weighing out coffee and sugar, but fate decided that they should weigh out other things, and into the scales of the one it laid a king, into the scales of the other a God. . . . And they both gave the correct weight ! The " Critique of Pure Eeason " is Kant's principal work ; and as none of his other writings is of equal im- portance, in speaking of it we must give it the right of preference. This book appeared in 1781, but, as already said, did not become generally known till 1789. At the time of its publication it was quite overlooked, except for two insignificant notices, and it was not till a later period that public attention was directed to this great book by the articles of Schiitz, Schultz, and Eeinhold. The cause no RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. of this tardy recognition undoubtedly lay in the unusual form and bad style in which the work is written. As regards his style, Kant merits severer censure than any other philosopher, more especially when we compare this with his former and better manner of writing. The recently published collection of his minor works contains his first attempts, and we are surprised to find in these an excellent and often very witty style. These little treatises were trilled forth while their author ruminated over his great work. There is a gleefulness about them like that of a soldier tranquilly arming for a combat in which he promises himself certain victory. Especially remarkable amongst them are his " Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens," composed as early as 1755 ; " Ob- servations on the Emotions of the Sublime and Beautiful," written ten years later; and " Dreams of a Ghostseer," full of admirable humour after the manner of the French essay. Kant's wit as displayed in these pamphlets is of quite a peculiar sort. The wit clings to the thought, and in spite of its tenuity is thus enabled to reach a satis- factory height. Without such support wit, be it ever so robust, cannot be successful; like a vine- tendril wanting a prop, it can only creep along the ground to rot there with all its most precious fruits. But why did Kant write his " Critique of Pure Reason " in such a colourless, dry, packing-paper style ? I fancy that, having rejected the mathematical form of the Cartesio- Leibnitzo-Wolfian school, he feared that science might lose something of its dignity by expressing itself in light, attractive, and agreeable tones. He therefore gave it a stiff, abstract form, which coldly repelled all familiarity on the part of intellects of the lower order. He wished haughtily to separate himself from the popular philosophers of his time, who aimed at the most citizen-like clearness, and so clothed his thoughts in a courtly and frigid official RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY, in dialect. Herein he shows himself a true philistine. But it might also be that Kant needed for the carefully measured march of his ideas a language similarly precise, and that he was not in a position to create a better. It is only genius that has a new word for a new thought. Immanuel Kant, however, was no genius. Conscious of this defect, Kant, like the worthy Maximilian, showed himself all the more mistrustful of genius, and went so far as to maintain, in his " Critique of the Faculty of Judgment/' that genius has no business with scientific thought, and that its action ought to be relegated to the domain of art. The heavy, buckram style of Kant's chief work has been the source of much mischief ; for brainless imitators aped him in his external form, and hence arose amongst us the superstition that no one can be a philosopher who writes well. The mathematical form, however, could not, after the days of Kant, reappear in philosophy ; he has mercilessly passed sentence of death upon it in his "Critique of Pure Beason." The mathematical form in philosophy, he says, is good for nothing save the building of houses of cards, in the same way that the philosophic form in mathematics produces nothing but twaddle, for in philosophy there can be no definitions such as those in mathematics, where the definitions are not discursive but intuitive, that is to say, capable of being demon- strated by inspection ; whilst what are called definitions in philosophy are only tentatively, hypothetically put forth, the real definition appearing only at the close, as result. How comes it. that philosophers display so strong a predilection for the mathematical form ? This predilec- tion dates from the time of Pythagoras, who designated the principles of things by numbers. This was the idea of a genius : all that is sensible and finite is stripped off H2 RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. in a number, and yet it denotes something determined, and the relation of this thing to another determined thing, which last, designated in turn by a number, re- ceives the same insensible and infinite character. In this respect numbers resemble ideas that preserve the same character and relation to one another. We can indicate by numbers in a very striking manner ideas, as they are produced in our mind and in nature ; but the number still remains the sign of the idea, it is not the idea itself. The master is always conscious of this distinction, but the scholar forgets it, and transmits to other scholars at second hand merely a numerical hieroglyph, dead ciphers, which are repeated with parrot-like scholastic pride, but of which the living significance is lost. This applies likewise to the other methods of mathematical demonstration. The intellect in its eternal mobility suffers no arrest; and just as little can it be fixed down by lines, triangles, squares, and circles, as by numbers. Thought can neither be calculated nor measured. As my chief duty is to facilitate in France the study of German philosophy, I always dwell most strongly on the external difficulties that are apt to dismay a stranger who has not already been made aware of them. I would draw the special attention of those who desire to make Frenchmen acquainted with Kant to the fact, that it is possible to abstract from his philosophy that portion which serves merely to refute the absurdities of the Wolfian philosophy. This polemic, constantly reappear- ing, will only tend to produce confusion in the minds of Frenchmen, and can be of no utility to them. The "Critique of Pure Eeason " is, as I have said, Kant's principal work, and his other writings are in a measure superfluous, or may at least be considered as commentaries. The social importance that attaches to his chief work will be apparent from what follows. RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. 113 The philosophers who preceded Kant reflected, doubt- less, on the origin of our cognitions, and followed, as we have seen, two different routes, according to their view of ideas as a priori or as a posteriori ; but concerning the faculty of knowing, concerning the extent and limits of this faculty, they occupied themselves less. Now this was the task that Kant set before himself ; he submitted the faculty of knowing to a merciless investigation, he sounded all the depths of this faculty, he ascertained all its limits. In this investigation he certainly discovered that about many things, wherewith formerly we supposed ourselves to be most intimately acquainted, we can know nothing. This was very mortifying; but it has always been useful to know of what things we can know nothing. He who warns us against a useless journey performs as great a service for us as he who points out to us the true path. Kant proves to us that we know nothing about things as they are in and by themselves, but that we have a knowledge of them only in so far as they are reflected in our minds. We are therefore just like the prisoners of whose condition Plato draws such an afflicting picture in the seventh book of his Republic. These wretched beings, chained neck and thigh in such a manner that they cannot turn their heads about, are seated within a roofless prison, into which there comes from above a certain amount of light. This light, however, is the light from a fire, the flame of which rises up behind them, and indeed is separated from them only by a little wall. Along the outer side of this wall are walking men bearing all sorts of statues, images in wood and stone, and con- versing with one another. Now the poor prisoners can see nothing of these men, who are not tall enough to overtop the wall ; and of the statues, which rise above the wall, they see only the shadows flitting along the side of the wall opposite them. The shadows, however, they take 114 RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. for real objects, and, deceived by the echo of their prison, believe that it is the shadows that are conversing. With the appearance of Kant former systems of philo- sophy, which had merely sniffed about the external aspect of things, assembling and classifying their characteristics, ceased to exist. Kant led investigation back to the human intellect, and inquired what the latter had to reveal. Not without reason, therefore, did he compare his philosophy to the method of Copernicus. Formerly, when men con- ceived the world as standing still, and the sun as revolv- ing round it, astronomical calculations failed to agree accurately. But when Copernicus made the sun stand still and the earth revolve round it, behold ! everything accorded admirably. So formerly reason, like the sun, moved round the universe of phenomena, and sought to throw light upon it. But Kant bade reason, the sun, stand still, and the universe of phenomena now turns round, and is illuminated the moment it comes within the region of the intellectual orb. These few words regarding the task that presented itself to Kant will suffice to show that I consider that section of his book wherein he treats of phenomena and noumena as the most important part, as the central point, of his philo- sophy. Kant, in effect, distinguishes between the appear- ances of things and things themselves. As we can know nothing of objects except in so far as they manifest them- selves to us through their appearance, and as objects do not exhibit themselves to us as they are in and by them- selves, Kant gives the name phenomena to objects as they appear to us, and noumena to objects as they are in themselves. We know things, therefore, only as pheno- mena ; we cannot know them as noumena. The latter are purely problematic ; we can neither say that they exist nor that they do not exist. The word noumena has been correlated with the word phenomena merely to enable us RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. 115 to speak of things in so far as they are cognisable by us, without occupying our judgment about things that are not cognisable by us. Kant did not therefore, as do many teachers whom I will not name, make a distinction of objects into phenomena and noumena, into things that for us exist and into things that for us do not exist. This would be an Irish bull in philosophy. He wished merely to express a notion of limitation. God, according to Kant, is a nournen. As a result of his argument, this ideal and transcendental being, hitherto called God, is a mere fiction.* It has arisen from a natural illusion. Kant shows that we can know nothing regarding this noumen, regarding God, and that all reason- able proof of his existence is impossible. The words of Dante, " Leave all hope behind ! " may be inscribed over this portion of the " Critique of Pure Reason." My readers will, I think, gladly exempt me from at- tempting a popular elucidation of that portion of his work in which Kant treats " of the arguments of speculative reason in favour of the existence of a Supreme Being." Although the formal refutation of these arguments occu- pies but a small space, and is not taken in hand till the second part of the book is reached, there is already a very evident intention of leading up to this refutation, which forms one of the main points of the work. It connects itself with the "Critique of all Speculative Theology," wherein the last phantoms of deism are put to flight. I cannot help remarking that Kant, in attacking the three principal kinds of evidence in favour of the existence of God, namely, the ontological, the cosmological, and the physico-theological, whilst successful, according to my opinion, in refuting the latter two, fails with regard to the first. I am not aware whether the above terms are under- stood in this country, and I therefore quote the passage * In the Prench version, " is only an assumption." TB. n6 RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. from the " Critique of Pure Season " in which Kant for- mulates the distinction between them. " There are but three kinds of proof possible to specu- lative reason of the existence of God. All the routes that may be selected with this end in view start, either from definite experience and the peculiar properties of the external world, as revealed by experience, and ascend from it according to the laws of causality up to the supreme cause above the world ; or, they rest merely on an indefi- nite experience, as, for example, on an existence or being of some kind or other ; or, lastly, they make an abstraction from all experience, and arrive at a conclusion entirely a priori from pure ideas of the existence of the supreme cause. The first of these is the physico-theological proof, the second the cosmological, and the third the ontological. Other proofs there are none, nor can other proofs exist." After repeated and careful study of Kant's chief work, I fancied myself able to recognise everywhere visible in it his polemic against these proofs of the existence of God ; and of this polemic I might speak at greater length were I not restrained by a religious sentiment. The mere discussion by any one of the existence of God causes me to feel a strange disquietude, an uneasy dread such as I once experienced in visiting New Bedlam in London, when, for a moment losing sight of my guide, I was sur- rounded by madmen. " God is all that is," and doubt of His existence is doubt of life itself, it is death. The more blameworthy any dispute regarding the exist- ence of God may be, the more praiseworthy is meditation on the nature of God. Such meditation is a true worship of God ; the soul is thereby detached from the perishable and finite, and attains to consciousness of innate love and of the harmony of the universe. It is this consciousness that sends a thrill through the heart of the emotional man in the act of prayer or in the contemplation of the sacred RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. 117 symbols ; and the thinker realises this holy fervour in the exercise of that sublime faculty of the mind called reason, a faculty whose highest function is to inquire into the nature of God. Men of specially religious temperament concern themselves with this problem from childhood upwards; they are mysteriously troubled about it even at the first dawnings of reason.* The author of these pages is most joyfully conscious of having possessed this early primitive religious feeling, and it has never forsaken him. God was always the beginning and the end of all my thoughts. If I now inquire: What is God ? what is his nature? as a little child I had already inquired: How is God ? what is he like ? In that childish time I could gaze upwards at the sky during whole days, and was sadly vexed at evening because I never caught a glimpse of God's most holy countenance, but saw only the grey silly grimaces of the clouds. I was quite puzzled over the astronomical lore with which in the " enlighten- ment period " even the youngest children were tormented, and there was no end to my amazement on learning that all those thousand millions of stars were spheres as large and as beautiful as our own earth, and that over all this glitter- ing throng of worlds a single God ruled. I recollect once seeing God in a dream far above in the most distant firmament. He was looking contentedly out of a little window in the sky, a devout hoary-headed being with a small Jewish beard, and he was scattering forth myriads of seed-corns, which, as they fell from heaven, burst open in the infinitude of space, and expanded to vast dimen- sions till they became actual, radiant, blossoming, peopled worlds, each one as large as our own globe. I could never forget this countenance, and often in dreams I used to see the cheerful-looking old man sprinkling forth the * The remainder of this paragraph, with the first two sentences of the succeeding one, is omitted in the French version. TJU ii8 RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. world-seeds from his little window in the sky; once I even saw him clucking like our maid when she threw down for the hens their barley. I could only see how the falling seed-corns expanded into great shining orbs ; but the great hens that may by chance have been waiting about with eager open bills to be fed with the falling orbs I could not see. You smile, dear reader, at the notion of the big hens. Yet this childish notion is not so very different from the view of the most advanced deists. In the attempt to provide a conception of an extra-mundane God, orient and Occident have exhausted themselves in hyperbole. The imagination of deists has, however, vainly tormented itself with the infinitude of time and space. It is here that their impotence, the inadequacy of their cosmology, and the untenableness of their explanation of the nature of God becomes fully apparent. We are not greatly dis- tressed, therefore, at beholding the subversion of their explanation. Kant has actually wrought this affliction upon them by refuting their demonstration of the exist- ence of God. Nor would the vindication of the ontological proof specially benefit deism, for this proof is equally available for pantheism. To render my meaning more intelligible, I may remark that the ontological proof is the one em- ployed by Descartes, and that long before his time, in the Middle Ages, Anselm of Canterbury had expressed it in the form of an affecting prayer. Indeed, St. Augustin may be said to have already made use of the ontological proof in the second book of his work, " De Libero Arbi- trio." I refrain, as I have said, from all popular discussion of Kant's polemic against these proofs. Let it suffice to give an assurance that since his time deism has vanished from the realm of speculative reason. It may, perhaps, be RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. 119 several centuries yet before this melancholy notice of decease gets universally bruited about ; we, however, have long since put on mourning. De Profundis ! You fancy, then, that we may now go home! By my life, no ! there is yet a piece to be played ; after the tragedy comes the farce. Up to this point Immanuel Kant has pursued the path of inexorable philosophy ; he has stormed heaven and put the whole garrison to the edge of the sword; the ontological, cosmological, and physico-theological bodyguards lie there lifeless ; Deity itself, deprived of demonstration, has succumbed ; there is now no All-mercifulness, no fatherly kindness, no other- world reward for renunciation in this world, the immorta- lity of the soul lies in its last agony you can hear its groans and death-rattle ; and old Lampe is standing by with his umbrella under his arm, an afflicted spectator of the scene, tears and sweat-drops of terror dropping from his countenance. Then Immanuel Kant relents and shows that he is not merely a great philosopher but also a good man ; he reflects, and half good-naturedly, half ironically, he says : " Old Lampe must have a God, otherwise the poor fellow can never be happy. Now, man ought to be happy in this world ; practical reason says so ; well, I am quite willing that practical reason should also guarantee the existence of God." As the result of this argument, Kant distinguishes between the theoretical reason and the practical reason, and by means of the latter, as with a magician's wand, he revivifies deism, which theoretical reason had killed. But is it not conceivable that Kant brought about this resurrection, not merely for the sake of old Lampe, but through fear of the police ? Or did he act from sincere conviction ? Was not his object in destroying all evidence for the existence of God to show us how embarrassing it might be to know nothing about God ? In doing so, he 120 RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. acted almost as sagely as a Westphalian friend of mine, -who smashed all the lanterns in the Grohnder Street in Gottingen, and then proceeded to deliver to us in the dark a long lecture on the practical necessity of lanterns, which he had theoretically broken in order to show how, without them, we could see nothing. I have already said that on its appearance the " Critique of Pure Eeason " did not cause the slightest sensation, and it was not till several years later, after certain clear-sighted philosophers had written elucidations of it, that public attention was aroused regarding the book. In the year 1789, however, nothing else was talked of in Germany but the philosophy of Kant, about which were poured forth in abundance commentaries, chrestomathies, interpretations, estimates, apologies, and so forth. We need only glance through the first philosophic catalogue at hand, and the innumerable works having reference to Kant will amply testify to the intellectual movement that originated with this single man. In some it exhibited itself as an ardent enthusiasm, in others as an acrid loathing, in many as a gaping curiosity regarding the result of this intellectual revolution. We had popular riots in the world of thought> just as you had in the material world, and over the demoli- tion of ancient dogmatism we grew as excited as you did at the storming of the Bastille. There was also but a handful of old pensioners left for the defence of dogmatism, that is, the philosophy of Wolf. It was a revolution, and one not wanting in horrors. Amongst the party of the past, the really good Christians showed least indignation at these horrors. Yea, they desired even greater, in order that the measure of iniquity might be full, and the counter-revolution be more speedily accomplished as a necessary reaction. We had pessimists in philosophy as you had in politics. As in France there were people who maintained that Robespierre was the agent of Pitt, with us RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. 121 there were many who went so far in their wilful blindness as to persuade themselves that Kant was in secret alliance with them, and that he had destroyed all philosophic proofs of the existence of God merely in order to convince the world that man can never arrive at a knowledge of God by the help of reason, and must therefore hold to revealed religion. Kant brought about this great intellectual movement less by the subject-matter of his writings than by the critical spirit that pervaded them, a spirit that now began to force its way into all sciences. It laid hold of all constituted authority. Even poetry did not escape its influence. Schiller, for example, was a strong Kantist, and his artistic views are impregnated with the spirit of the philosophy of Kant. By reason of its dry, abstract character, this philosophy was eminently hurtful to polite literature and the fine arts. Fortunately it did not inter- fere in the art of cookery. The German people is not easily set in motion ; but let it be once forced into any path and it will follow it to its termination with the most dogged perseverance. Thus we exhibited our character in matters of religion, thus also we now acted in philosophy. Shall we continue to advance as consistently in politics? Germany was drawn into the path of philosophy by Kant, and philosophy became a national cause. A brilliant troop of great thinkers suddenly sprang up on German soil, as if called into being by magical art. If German philosophy should some day find, as the French revolution has found, its Thiers and its Mignet, its history will afford as remarkable reading as the works of these authors. Germans will study it with pride, and Frenchmen with admiration. Among the followers of Kant, John Gottlieb Fichte soon rose into pre-eminence. 122 RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. I almost despair of being able to convey an accurate impression of this man. In the case of Kant we had merely a book to examine ; but here, besides the book, we have to take account of the man. In this man thought and purpose are one, and in this splendid unity they affect the contemporary world. We have therefore to investi- gate not a philosophy merely, but also the type by which that philosophy is conditioned, and in order thoroughly to comprehend this twofold influence we should have to pass in review the situation of this epoch. What a wide- reaching task ! We shall, no doubt, be readily excused for offering merely an imperfect outline. At the outset there is the greatest difficulty in stating explicitly the nature of Fichte's ideas. We have here to encounter peculiar obstacles, obstacles connected not only with the subject-matter but also with the form and method of its presentation two things with which we are specially desirous of making foreigners acquainted. Let us begin, then, with the method of Fiehte. At first he borrowed the method of Kaut, but it soon underwent a change, resulting from the nature of the subject. Kant had merely to produce a critique, that is to say, some- thing negative ; whilst Fiehte had by and by to develop a system, that is, something positive. This want of a defi- nite system in the philosophy of Kant was the reason why it was sometimes refused the name philosophy. As regards Immanuel Kant himself, there was justice in this ; but not as regards the Kantists, who constructed from Kant's propositions quite a sufficient number of definite systems. In his earlier writings, Fiehte remained, as I have said, quite faithful to the method of his master, so much so that his first treatise, which was published anonymously, was attributed to Kant. But when Fiehte afterwards produced a system he was seized with an ardent and per- sistent passion for construction, and after constructing the RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. 123 universe he sets about demonstrating, in all its aspects, with the same ardour and persistency, that which he has constructed. Whether constructing or demonstrating, Fichte manifests, so to speak, an abstract passion. As in his system, so, soon afterwards in his exposition, subjec- tivity is dominant. Kant, on the other hand, stretches out thought before him, analyses it, dissects it down to its minutest fibrils, and his " Critique of Pure Eeason " is a kind of anatomical theatre of the human intellect; he himself, however, stands by, cold and insensible, like a true surgeon. The form of Fichte's writings resembles his method ; it is living, but it has also all the faults of life : it is restless and confused. That he may always remain thoroughly animated, Fichte disdains the customary terminology of philosophers, which seems to him a dead thing; but the effect of this is to make him still less comprehensible. About intelligibility in general he had quite a peculiar caprice. As long as Reinhold was of the same opinion with him, Fichte declared that no one understood him better than Reinhold. But when the latter differed from him in opinion, Fichte declared that he had never been understood by him. When he himself took a different view from Kant, he had it put in print that Kant did not understand himself. I am here touching upon the comical aspect of our philosophers, who are perpetually lamenting that they are misunderstood. When Hegel was lying on his deathbed, he said : " Only one man has understood me," but shortly afterwards he added fretfully : " And even he did not understand me." Considered as to its substance, its intrinsic value, the philosophy of Fichte is of no great significance. It has afforded society no result. Only in so far as it exhibits above all other systems one of the most remarkable phases of German philosophy, only in so far as it attests the 124 RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. sterility of idealism in its last consequences, and only in so far as it forms the necessary transition to the philosophy of our day, does the substance of Fichte's doctrine possess a certain interest. This doctrine, being then of more im- portance in an historical and scientific than in a social aspect, I shall merely indicate it in a few words. The question proposed by Fichte is, What grounds have we for assuming that our conceptions of objects correspond with objects external to us ? And to this question he offers the solution: All things have reality only in our mind. The " Critique of Pure Eeason " was Kant's chief work, the " Theory of Knowledge " 9 was the chief work of Fichte. The latter book is a kind of continuation of the former. The " Theory of Knowledge " likewise refers the intellect back to itself. But where Kant analyses, Fichte constructs. The " Theory of Knowledge " opens with an abstract formula (1 = 1); it re-creates the world out of the recesses of mind ; it fits the disjointed parts together again ; intelligence retraces its steps over the road it had travelled towards abstraction till it regains the world of phenomena. Thereafter reason is enabled to declare the phenomenal world to be a necessary operation of intelli- gence. The philosophy of Fichte also presents the peculiar difficulty that it requires the mind to observe itself in the midst of its activity; the Ego is to investigate its own intellectual acts during the process of thinking ; thought is to play the spy on itself whilst it thinks, whilst it grows gradually warmer until at last it is boiling. This opera- tion reminds us of the monkey seated on the hearth before a copper kettle cooking its own tail ; for it is of opinion that the true art of cookery consists not merely in the objective act of cooking, but also in the subjective consciousness of the process of cooking. RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. 125 It is a singular circumstance that the philosophy of Fichte has always had to endure much from satire. I once saw a caricature representing a Fichtean goose. The poor bird has a liver so large that it no longer knows whether it is goose or liver. On its belly is inscribed /-/. Jean Paul has most wickedly quizzed the Fichtean philosophy in a book entitled Clams Fichteana. That idealism pursued to its ultimate consequences should end by denying even the reality of matter seemed, to the great mass of the public, to be carrying the joke too far. We grew rather merry over the Fichtean Ego, which produced by its mere thinking the whole external world. The laughter of our wits was increased through a misappre- hension that became too popular to permit of my passing it over in silence. The great mass really supposed that the Ego of Fichte was the Ego of Johann Gottlieb Fichte, and that this individual Ego implied a negation of all other existences. What an impertinence ! exclaimed the worthy folk ; this fellow does not believe that we exist, we who are much more corpulent than himself, and who, as burgomasters and bailiffs, are actually his superiors ! The ladies inquired, Does he not at least believe in the existence of his wife ? No ! And Madam Fichte suffers this! The Ego of Fichte, however, is not the individual but the universal Ego, the world-Ego awakened to self-con- sciousness. The Fichtean process of thought is not the thinking act of an individual, of a certain person called Johann Gottlieb Fichte ; it is rather the universal thought manifesting itself in an individual. As we say, " It rains," " it lightens," and so on ; so Fichte ought not to say, " I think," but, " it thinks," " the universal world- thought thinks in me." In a parallel between the French revolution and Ger- man philosophy I once compared, more in jest than in 126 RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. earnest, Fichte to Napoleon. But there are, in fact, certain remarkable analogies between them. After the Kantists had accomplished their work of terrorism and destruction, Fichte appeared, as Napoleon appeared after the Conven- tion had demolished the whole past by the help of another sort of Critique of Pure Eeason. Napoleon and Fichte represent the great inexorable Ego for which thought and action are one ; and the colossal structures raised by both men testify to a colossal will. But through the bound- lessness of this will their structures soon fall to the ground, and both the " Theory of Knowledge " and the Empire crumble to pieces and disappear as quickly as they were reared. The Empire is now nothing more than matter of history, but the commotion caused by the emperor in the world has not yet calmed down, and from this commotion our present Europe draws its vitality. It is the same with the philosophy of Fichte ; it has completely perished, but men's minds are still agitated by the thoughts that found a voice in Fichte, and the after-effect of his teaching is incalculable. Even supposing all transcendental idealism to be an error, still the writings of Fichte are animated by a proud independence, by a love of liberty, by a virile dignity that have exercised, especially on the young, a wholesome influence. The Ego of Fichte was in complete accord with his inflexible, stubborn, stern character. The notion of an Ego so all-powerful could perhaps germinate only in such a character, and such a character intertwin- ing its roots about such a doctrine could not but become more inflexible, more stubborn, more stern. With what aversion must this man have been regarded by aimless sceptics, by frivolous ecclectics, and by mode- rates of all shades ! His whole life was a combat. The story of his youth, like that of almost all our distinguished men, is the record of a series of afflictions. Poverty sits RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. 127 by their cradle and rocks them up to manhood, and this meagre nurse remains their faithful companion through life. Nothing is more touching than the sight of the proud- willed Fichte struggling miserably through the world by the aid of tutorship. Nor can he obtain even thus the bitter bread of servitude in his own country, but has to migrate to Warsaw. There the old story repeats itself ; the tutor displeases the gracious lady of the house, or perhaps only the ungracious lady's-maid. He cannot scrape a leg with sufficient gentility, is not French enough, and is no longer judged worthy to superintend the educa- tion of a young Polish squire. Johann Gottlieb Fichte is dismissed like a lackey, receives from his dissatisfied master hardly the meagre expenses of his journey, leaves Warsaw and betakes himself, full of youthful enthusiasm, to Konigsberg, in order to make the acquaintance of Kant. The meeting of these two men is in every respect note- worthy. Perhaps I can present no clearer idea of their everyday life and circumstances than by citing a frag- ment from Fichte's journal, to be found in a biography of him, recently published by his son.* " On the twenty-fifth of June I set out for Konigsberg with a carrier of this town, and arrived there, without experiencing any remarkable incident, on the first of July. The fourth. Visited Kant, who did not, however, receive me with any special distinction. I attended his lecture as an invited stranger, and again my expectation was dis- appointed. His delivery is drowsy. Meantime I have begun this journal. " I have long felt a desire for a more serious interview with Kant, but could find no means of bringing this about. At last I hit upon the plan of writing a ' Critique of all * " Fichte's Life and Literary Correspondence," by Immanuel Hermann von Pichte, published in 1830-1831. TB. 128 RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. Revelation/ and of presenting it to him instead of a letter of introduction. I made a beginning with it about the thirteenth, and have since worked at it without inter- mission. On the eighteenth of August I at last sent my finished work to Kant, and on the twenty-fifth paid him a visit in order to hear his opinion of it. He received me with the most marked kindness, and appeared very well satisfied with my dissertation. We did not come to any close philosophical discourse. With regard to my philo- sophical doubts, he referred me to his ' Critique of Pure lieason,' and to the court chaplain, Schulz, whom I shall at once find out. On the twenty-sixth I dined with Kant in the company of Professor Sommer, and I found Kant to be a very pleasant and very intellectual man. I now for the first time recognised in him traits worthy of the great intellect that has found embodiment in his writings. " On the twenty-seventh I brought this journal to a close, after completing the excerpts from Kant's lectures on anthropology, lent to me by Herr von S. I also make a resolution henceforth regularly to continue this journal every evening before going to ted, and to record therein everything of interest that occurs to me, but especially noting all characteristic traits and observations. "The twenty-eighth; evening. Yesterday I began to revise my Critique, and fell upon right good and profound ideas, which, however, made me unhappily conscious that my first treatment of the subject was exceedingly super- ficial. To-day I was desirous of continuing the new line of investigation, but found myself so carried away by my imagination that I have not been able to do anything all day. In my present position this is, unfortunately, not to be wondered at I have calculated that, counting from to-day, my means of subsistence will not suffice me here for more than fourteen days. I have, it is true, already RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. 129 experienced the like embarrassment, but it was in my own country ; and, besides, with increase of years and a more acute sense of honour, the case is always a harder one. I have formed no resolution, nor can form any. To Pastor Borowski, to whom Kant addressed me, I shall not reveal my situation : if I reveal it to any one, it will be to no other than to Kant himself. " On the twenty-ninth I visited Borowski, in whom I found a truly good and honourable man. He made me a proposal of a situation, but it is not yet quite an assured one ; and besides, it is one for which 1 have no great liking. At the same time, by his frankness of manner he extorted from ine the admission that it was urgent for me to obtain an appointment. He advised me to see Professor W . Work has been an impossibility for me. On the following day I did in fact call on W , and afterwards visited the court chaplain, Schulz. The prospects held out by the former are very uncertain ; still he spoke of a tutorship in Courland, which certainly nothing but the direst neces- sity will induce me to accept ! Later, I went to the house of the court chaplain, where I was at first received by his wife. Her husband by and by appeared, but he was absorbed in mathematical circles. Afterwards, when he understood more distinctly who I was, Kant's recom- mendation rendered him very friendly. He has an angular Prussian countenance, but the very spirit of loyalty and good-heartedness shines through its features. I also made the acquaintance at his house of Herr Braun- lich, and of his charge, Count Danhof, of Herr Biittner, the court chaplain's nephew, and of a young savant of Niirnberg, Herr Ehrhard, a youth of good and excellent parts, though wanting in manners and without knowledge of the world. " On the first of September I formed a decided resolu- tion, which I wished to communicate to Kant. A situa- 130 RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. tion as tutor, however regretfully I might be obliged to accept it, is not to be had, and the uncertainty of my position hinders me from working with freedom of inind, and from profiting by the instructive intercourse of my friends. I must away, then, back to my own country! The small loan of which I stand in need for this purpose may perhaps be obtained through the mediation of Kant ; but as I was in the act of going to him with the object of declaring my intention, courage failed me. I decided to write to him. For the evening I was invited to the house of the court chaplain, where I spent a very pleasant evening. On the second I finished my letter to Kant and despatched it." Despite the remarkableness of this letter, I cannot bring myself to give it here. I fancy the red blood is mounting to my cheeks, and I feel as though I were relating in the presence of strangers the most shamefaced miseries of my own family. In spite of my striving after French urbanity, in spite of my philosophic cosmopolitanism, old Germany, with all its Philistine sentiments, still holds its place in my bosom. Enough, I cannot transcribe this letter, and merely relate this much : Immanuel Kant was so poor that, notwithstanding the pathetic, heart-rending tone of this letter, he could lend Johann Gottlieb Fichte no money. But the latter showed no trace of ill-humour On that account, as may be gathered from the language of his journal, from which I continue to quote : " I was invited to dine with Kant on the third of Sep- tember. He received me with his usual cordiality, telling me, however, that he had not as yet formed any resolution as to my proposition ; that he was not in a position to do so for a fortnight. What amiable frankness! For the rest, he started objections to my plans, which betrayed that he was not sufficiently acquainted with our position in Saxony. . . . During all these days I have done nothing. RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. 131 I will, however, set to work again, and simply leave the rest to God. The sixth : I was asked to visit Kant, who proposed to me the disposing of my manuscript on ' The Critique of all Kevelation* to the publisher Hartung, through the intervention of Pastor Borowski. ' It is well written/ said he, when I spoke of revising it. Is this the case ? And yet it is Kant that says so ! For the rest, he declined the object of my first request. On the tenth I dined with Kant. Nothing said about our affair. Master of Arts Gensichen was there, and, though only general, the conversation was in part very interesting. Kant's dis- position towards me remains quite unchanged. . . . The thirteenth : I was anxious to work to-day, and yet I get nothing done. I am overcome by dejection. How will this end ? How will it be with me eight days hence ? My money will then be quite exhausted." After much wandering about, after a long sojourn in Switzerland, Fichte at last finds a settled position at Jena, and from this time dates his period of splendour. Jena and Weimar, two little Saxon towns lying within short distance of each other, were then the central points of the intellectual life of Germany. At Weimar were the court and poetry ; at Jena, the university and philosophy. There were the greatest poets, here the most learned men of Germany. In the year 1794 Fichte commenced his lectures at Jena. The date is significant, and explains the spirit of his writings at this period, as well as the tribulations to which he was henceforth exposed, and to which four years later he succumbed. For in the year 1798 were raised those accusations of atheism that drew down upon him insufferable persecutions, and occasioned his departure from Jena. This, the most noteworthy event in the life of Fichte, possesses also a general significance, and we cannot pass it over in silence. I 3 2 RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. Here, too, is naturally the place to speak of Fichte's views concerning the nature of God. In the periodical called The Philosophical Journal, at that time edited by himself, Fichte published an article entitled " Development of the Notion of Religion/' sent to him by a certain Forberg, a schoolmaster at Saalfield. To this article Fichte added a short explanatory disserta- tion, under the title, " On the Ground of our Belief in a Divine Government of the World." Both articles were suppressed by the Government of the Electorate of Saxony, under the pretext that they were tainted with atheism. Simultaneously there was despatched from Dresden a requisition to the court of Weimar enjoining upon it the serious punishment of Pro- fessor Fichte. The court of Weimar did not, it is true, permit itself to be misled by such a demand; but as Fichte on this occasion committed the gravest blunders, amongst others that of writing an " Appeal to the Public " without the sanction of official authority, the Government of Weimar, offended at this step and importuned from other quarters, had no alternative but to administer a mild reproof to the professor who had imprudently ex- pressed his views. Fichte, however, considering himself in the right, was unwilling to submit to such reproof, and left Jena. To judge from his letters written at this time, he was especially piqued at the conduct of two persons, whose official positions lent much weight to their voice in this affair ; these two persons were His Eeverence the President of the Consistorial Council, Herr von Herder, and His Excellence the Privy Councillor, Herr von Goethe; but both are sufficiently excusable. It is pathetic to read in the posthumous letters of Herder how the poor man was embarrassed by the candidates of theo- logy, who, after studying at Jena, came before him at RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. 133 Weimar to undergo examination as Protestant preachers. About Christ the Son he no longer dared to put a single question ; he was glad enough to have their mere acknow- ledgment of the existence of the Father. As for Goethe, he expresses himself in his Memoirs, regarding this occur- rence, to the following effect : " After Reinhold's departure from Jena, an event justly considered a great loss for the University, the appoint- ment of successor to him was rashly, even audaciously, conferred on Fichte, who in his writings had manifested a certain grandeur, though not perhaps the requisite tact for dealing with the most important topics of morality and politics. He was a man of as strong a personality as had ever been known, and, considered in their higher aspects, there was nothing censurable in his views ; but how could he maintain himself on a footing of equality with a world that he regarded as his own created pos- session ? " The hours that he desired to set apart during week- days for his public lectures being objected to, he under- took to hold on Sundays the prelections regarding which objections were raised. The lesser adverse circumstances and the greater obstacles arising from these had scarcely been smoothed down and adjusted, when the assertions of Professor Fichte concerning God and sacred things (about which he would have done better to have maintained profound silence) attracted in outside circles troublesome observation. " Fichte had ventured in his Philosophical Journal to express himself about God and sacred things in a manner that seemed contradictory to the language customarily employed in dealing with such mysteries. He was called in question for it ; his defence did not improve matters, for it was undertaken with passion and without any sus- picion how well disposed towards him people here were, 134 RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. although they knew what interpretation to put on his ideas and language an interpretation of his opinions that could not indeed be explained to him in crude words, just as little as he could be brought to under- stand how help might be afforded him in the kindliest spirit. Discussion for and against, doubts and assertions, confirmations and resolutions, surged about the university in many-sided uncertain discourse : there was talk of ministerial remonstrance, of nothing short of a public reprimand which Fichte might have to expect. There- upon, throwing aside all moderation, he considered him- self justified in addressing to the ministry a violent letter, in which, assuming the certainty of proceedings being taken against him, he haughtily and vehemently declared that he would never submit to such treatment ; that he preferred, without more ado, to quit the university, in which case he would not do so alone, as several other influential teachers were in accord with him to leave the place. " As a result of this step, all friendly intentions that had been aroused on his behalf were now restrained, nay, even paralysed. No expedient, no compromise, was now possible, and the gentlest measure that could be adopted was to dismiss him without delay. Then, for the first time, after the affair was beyond remedy, Fichte per- ceived the turn his friends had sought to give the affair, and he was forced to regret his precipitation, whilst we had reason to compassionate him." Have we not here his very self, the ministerial Goethe with his conciliations and prudent reticences ? In reality he censures Fichte only for having said what he thought, and for not having said it with the customary disguises of expression. He does not find fault with the thought, but with the word. That deism had been annihilated in the world of German philosophy was, as I have already RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. 135 said, a secret known to every one ; a secret, however, that must not be proclaimed on the housetops. Goethe was as little a deist as Fichte ; for he was a pantheist But his very position on the heights of pantheism enabled Goethe with his sharp eyes to perceive very clearly the untenableness of the Fichtean philosophy, and his gra- cious lips could not forbear to smile at what he saw. To the Jews (and every deist is, after all, a Jew) the doc- trine of Fichte was an abomination : to the great pagan it was only a folly. The "great pagan" is, you must understand, the name bestowed on Goethe in Ger- many. Yet this name is not quite appropriate. The paganism of Goethe is wonderfully modernised. His vigorous heathen nature manifests itself in his clear penetrating conception of all external facts, of all forms and colours ; but Christianity has endowed him also with a profounder intelligence. Christianity, in spite of his militant antipathy towards it, has initiated him into the mysteries of the spiritual world; he has drunk of the blood of Christ, and this has made him comprehend the most secret voices of nature, like Siegfried, the hero of the "Nibelungen," who understood the language of the birds the instant that his lips were moistened by a drop of the slain dragon's blood. It is a remarkable thing that Goethe's pagan nature should have been so thoroughly pervaded by our modern sentimentality, that the antique marble of his temperament should have pulsated with so much modern feeling, and that he should have sympathised as deeply with the sufferings of young Werther as with the joys of an ancient Greek god. The pantheism of Goethe differed, therefore, very widely from that of paganism. To express my ideas briefly : Goethe was the Spinoza of poetry. The whole of Goethe's poetry is animated by the same spirit that is wafted towards us from the writings of Spinoza. That Goethe paid undivided allegiance to 136 RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. the doctrine of Spinoza is beyond doubt. At any rate, he occupied himself with it throughout his life ; in the in- troductory passages of his Memoirs, as in the concluding volume recently published, he has frankly acknowledged this to be the case. I cannot now recollect where I have read that Herder, losing his temper at finding Goethe perpetually engaged with Spinoza's works, once exclaimed, " If Goethe would just for once take up some other Latin book than one of Spinoza's ! " But this applies not only to Goethe ; quite a number of his friends, who afterwards became more or less celebrated as poets, devoted them- selves at an early period of their lives to pantheism ; and this doctrine assumed a practical form in German art before it attained to supremacy amongst us as a philo- sophic theory. Even in Fichte's time, when idealism was flourishing most sublimely in the domain of philo- sophy, in the region of art it was being violently de- stroyed, and there had already begun in Germany that celebrated revolt in art a revolt not yet terminated which traces its origin to the conflict of Romanticism with the ancient Classical E^gime. Our first Romanticists were, in fact, moved by a panthe- istic instinct, which they did not themselves comprehend. The sentiment, which they mistook for a yearning towards the Catholic mother Church, was of deeper origin than they suspected. Their veneration and affection for the tradi- tions of the Middle Ages, for the popular beliefs, the diablerie, the sorcery, and the witchcraft of former times, all this was a suddenly reawakened, though uncompre- hended, predilection for the pantheism of the old Ger- mans, and, in its foully stained and spitefully mutilated form, what they really loved was the pre-christian reli- gion of their ancestors. I must here recall what was said in the first part of this book, where I showed how Chris- tianity absorbed the elements of the old Germanic religion, RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY IN GERMANY. 137 how, after undergoing the most outrageous transforma- tion, these elements were preserved in the popular beliefs of the Middle Ages in such a way that the old worship of nature came to be regarded as mere wicked sorcery, the old gods as odious demons, and their chaste priestesses as profligate witches. From this point of view the aberra- tions of our earliest Komanticists can be more leniently judged than is usually the case. They wished to restore the Catholicism of the Middle Ages, for they felt that in this Catholicism there still survived many sacred recollec- tions of their first ancestors, many splendid memorials of their earliest national life. It was these mutilated and defiled relics that attracted the sympathies of the Koman- ticists, and they detested a Protestantism and a Liberalism whose aim was to destroy these relics and to efface the whole Catholic past. I shall return, however, to this subject. At present it is sufficient merely to mention that pantheism began in Fichte's time to force its way into German art ; that even Catholic Romanticists unconsciously followed this ten- dency, and that Goethe was its foremost spokesman.