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Title: Ethics and Modern Thought - A Theory of Their Relations
Author: Eucken, Rudolf
Language: English
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By RUDOLF EUCKEN

Senior Professor of Philosophy in the University of Jena

The Truth of Religion
The Life of the Spirit
Religion and Life
Ethics and Modern Thought

       *       *       *       *       *

Ethics and Modern Thought

A Theory of Their Relations

The Deem Lectures

Delivered in 1913 at New York University

By
Rudolf Eucken
Professor of Philosophy, University of Jena

Translated from the German Manuscript by
Margaret von Seydewitz

G. P. Putnam's Sons
New York and London
The Knickerbocker Press
1913


COPYRIGHT, 1913
BY
RUDOLF EUCKEN


The Knickerbocker Press, New York



PREFACE


These lectures, delivered at New York University from February 20th till
March 1, 1913, appeal less to students and philosophers than to the
cultured public at large. I take this opportunity of expressing my
sincere gratitude to the New York University, and especially to
Chancellor Elmer E. Brown, for all the kindness and interest shown to me
during my stay in New York.


RUDOLF EUCKEN.

JENA, June, 1913.



CONTENTS

                                               PAGE
  I. THE ETHICAL PROBLEM IN THE PRESENT TIME      1

 II. THE ETHICAL PRINCIPLE                       23

III. A DEFENCE OF THE ETHICAL PRINCIPLE          43

 IV. EVOLUTION OF THE ETHICAL PRINCIPLE          63

  V. MORALITY AND RELIGION                       87

 VI. THE PRESENT STATUS OF MORALITY             107



I

THE ETHICAL PROBLEM IN THE PRESENT TIME


In former times, nothing seemed more plausible and more certain than
morality. It was a tower of strength, where men sought refuge in the
midst of all the doubts and conflicts of life. This was especially the
case during the Age of Enlightenment. Men were beginning to believe less
absolutely in the religion handed down to them, but they clung all the
more to morality. Metaphysical speculation and theoretical endeavours to
reveal the innermost essence of things encountered growing opposition,
yet morality was welcomed as something superior to all complications,
and valuable to all. It was held to be the pivot of Archimedes, which
gives stability to the whole of life.

In our days morality has ceased to be a matter of such unquestionable
certainty, and has been drawn into the wave of disintegration which is
passing over our minds. Formerly the scientific definition and accurate
conception of morality were matters of contention; but it is now the
fundamental idea of morality that is questioned. Many of our
contemporaries are of opinion that the revelations of modern science and
the claims of modern life have destroyed the foundations of morality and
made it untenable in the old sense. Morality in the old sense demands
dissociation of our aspirations from our own personal interest, and
devotion to something that is esteemed higher; whenever an action that
appears good is seen to proceed from selfish motives, it can no longer
claim any moral value. There is a widespread tendency in modern life, to
question the possibility of such detachment from the _Ego_, and to
acknowledge the coercion exercised over man by his instinct of
self-preservation. Emancipation from this restraint is not even
considered desirable, for constant strife and competition seem
necessary to life and progress, and a softening of this strife would
inevitably reduce the energy of life.

Morality further demands independence and spontaneity of action. An
action performed under the pressure of external coercion or mechanical
habit, loses immediately its moral character. Now such independence and
spontaneity are not possible apart from some kind of free choice, yet
this would contradict the law of causality, which in the present age is
generally considered to rule the whole of reality. In man's soul, the
supremacy of this law of causality is strengthened by our growing
insight into the power of heredity and of social environment. Yet
morality in the old sense stands and falls with man's power of
spontaneous and independent decision.

It is difficult also for morality to retain in modern life the position
and estimation it formerly enjoyed. It used to be invested with unique
significance, and placed high above all other manifestations of the
inner life. This conviction found its strongest expression at times of
great historical import. We all remember the words of Jesus: "What shall
it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own
soul?" The same conviction is expressed in philosophical language by the
greatest antique philosopher and the greatest modern philosopher: Plato
and Kant. Plato says: "All the gold on the earth and under the earth is
less precious than virtue." Kant says: "If righteousness should perish,
it would not be worth while for men to inhabit the earth."

But this conviction of the absolute supremacy of the moral task requires
an inner gradation of life, for which modern conditions offer no scope.
For modern life subordinates all aspiration and endeavour to the aim of
enhancing the process of life. Every action is valued as a means to this
end; and morality could only hold its own as an instrument of human
welfare. But such degradation of morality would mean annihilation of
morality. The present time is not entirely dominated by such a movement
against morality, only a few currents of thought are so absolute in
their negation of ethical claims. But these currents could never have
attained the strength and expansion they undoubtedly exhibit, if in our
day morality were more securely established and more distinctly
formulated. It is the want of union in moral ideals (never before so
strongly marked) which gives added power to the enemies of morality.


There are to-day no less than four kinds of morality, often crossing and
opposing each other, which claim men's allegiance. These are:

Religious Morality,

The Morality of Reason or of immanent idealism,

The Morality of Work,

Social Morality.

Religious Morality and the Morality of Reason have come down to us from
past ages, and grow out of an inner world of thought. The Morality of
Work and Social Morality are specific results of the present time,
growing out of work in a visible world of realities. The two older forms
of morality form an antithesis to the two newer forms, as will hereafter
be seen.

The most effectual kind of morality is still the religious one--for us,
the morality associated with Christianity, the religion of ethical
redemption. Christianity, which is founded on a holy will superior to
the world, exalts moral action far above arbitrary human choice and
human aim. It completely severs moral action from all natural
inclination, dissociates it from all external performance, and gives it
a purely spiritual character. It supplies a most powerful impulse to
action, by connecting man's destiny with his attitude to his moral
obligations. The awakening and ennobling power inherent in Christianity
was not confined to individuals, but was embodied in a large section of
the human race, creating a spiritual atmosphere which still acts
powerfully on individual souls, even if they themselves are not
conscious of it. Religious morality still continues to influence us in
this way. All other kinds of morality could not be as effectual as they
are, were they not constantly supplemented and deepened by religious
morality.

And yet we cannot ignore the fact that in our day the supremacy of
religious morality is often contested. The world of religion no longer
encompasses man as a matter of course, and this also weakens its moral
influence. At the same time many objections are raised against the
nature and demands of religious morality. Owing to the closer connection
between man's endeavour and his environment and to the accentuation of
the struggle for existence, this kind of morality appears too mild, too
soft, too subjective, and there is often a desire for a sterner and more
virile kind. Religious ethics do not seem to have sufficient latitude to
transform the whole of life. We can therefore understand the widespread
desire for something which can sufficiently supplement religious ethics.

At all periods of higher civilisation, religious morality has been
supplemented and completed by the morality of reason, which was
developed above all by the philosophers, from the Stoics down to Kant
and Fichte. Here morality does not proceed from a superior and divine
will, but from man's own reasonable nature. This nature seems to demand
recognition of a universal law, and voluntary submission to it; only
then does man bring his own being to perfection. The morality arising
herefrom is strong and manly; it incites man to a proud independence of
spirit, and exalts him far above everyday life. To this morality of
reason we owe the scientific development of the moral world of thought,
and the distinct formulation of conceptions like Duty and Conscience. By
means of such conceptions, the morality of reason also influences our
own time, without however taking the lead, as it did during the Age of
Enlightenment. The idea of reason as the sure foundation of our
spiritual life is no longer universally accepted, and has little
influence on the man of to-day. He is too fully conscious of his
subordination to the world of sense, of which he is a member, to be able
to enfranchise himself completely from it, and to assert his own
superior power. The rationalistic conception of life reckons with
strong, self-centred personalities, who, as we know, do not abound in
our time.

Morality could not be in close touch with the movements and problems of
the present day, if--either as religious or as rational morality--it
were inseparable from belief in an invisible world. But the latest
development of life supplies morality with valuable motives derived from
the visible world, and even creates new specific forms of morality. On
the one hand, the impulse comes from modern work; on the other hand,
from modern society. In both cases, we have forces that were always at
work, but that gain considerable significance from the conditions of
modern life.

All really earnest work is directed towards some object which it seeks
to penetrate; it impels us to value the object for its own sake, and to
treat it according to its own requirements. Man is thus exalted above
his own personal opinion and inclination. Only in modern times has work
reached its full development as a factor of education and of moral
culture. For work has now become more and more independent of separate
individuals; it is becoming a concern common to all mankind, and it
forms its own great complexes. Such a complex is modern science. It is
no longer dependent on individuals, but has formed a fabric of its own.
In accordance with the development it has attained, science dictates to
individuals the channels and methods of their work, presents problems to
be solved, and indicates the means of their solution. The individual
works in vain, if he detaches himself from the movement of the whole.
His enrolment in the movement of the whole imparts to life a distinctly
ethical character. For the individual must subordinate himself
completely to the demands of the whole; he must repress everything
bearing upon his own will and desire; he must feel that his own efforts
are part of the great sum of human endeavour, the promotion of which
must be his highest satisfaction. Single workers come and go, but
through the work of generations the proud edifice of science is ever
growing. As Bacon says: "_Multi pertransibunt et augebitur scientia_."
(Many will pass by, and science will grow.)

What applies to science is equally true of the other provinces of life.
In modern times, mighty complexes are everywhere springing up, which
encompass individuals with their superior power. We see this above all
in technical and industrial work, but also in state organisation, in
education with its schools and so forth. All these finally unite in the
comprehensive conception of civilisation and culture,--in the idea of
man's supremacy over the world by means of his work.

It is evident that a strong moral force is here engendered. Without
this ethical factor, without a constant enrolment and subordination,
modern civilisation could never have reached its present development.
Yet we cannot deny that this morality of work has inner limitations. The
technical side of work does indeed repress and even destroy all
individual will; but it is an open question in what temper the work is
done, whether from love to the work or from petty and selfish motives.
It is quite possible for a petty and narrow frame of mind to be
accompanied by the greatest technical skill. Further work spurs on
towards achievement, and the worker is judged by what he achieves. What
becomes of his inner life, of his whole personality, is a matter of
indifference. Here we are only parts of a structure, and are nothing at
all in ourselves. This must become so more and more in proportion as
work is specialised, and vitalises an ever smaller part of the
individual's powers. Moreover the union of men which in this direction
takes place, is only confined to their common work. However closely
connected they may be through their work, their individual principles
and convictions can be very different, if not absolutely hostile. It is,
in our day, above all, the social problem, which divides men into
hostile factions. In one special direction--that of work--there is an
ethical development of life; but we cannot base on it an inner entity of
right and humanity. The morality thus developed is cold and impersonal;
it lacks inner warmth, and cannot appeal to the whole personality.

In this respect, social morality is infinitely superior to the morality
of work. For social morality proceeds from the immediate relation of man
to man. Here also, something old and familiar acquires a new form and
stronger influence. It was an old conviction that man could only develop
in connection with his fellow-men, towards whom his activity was mainly
directed. But what has re-cast the idea of society in a new mould, is
the modern doctrine that men are not united by their common relation to
an invisible world--ruled either by a Divine Being or by an
all-pervading Reason--but by their actual living together in the realm
of experience. This modern doctrine points out that individuals not only
meet during the course of their life, but that they are interdependent
from the very beginning,--that union and life with others is a
fundamental necessity for every human being. In developing this idea,
modern sociology shows, by means of innumerable statistics, how the
nature and welfare of the individual depends upon the condition of the
whole. It tries to prove that all progress--even for the individual--is
inseparable from the amelioration of the community at large; such
amelioration therefore becomes the main object of endeavour. Modern
sociology at the same time advocates the idea of a common
responsibility, a solidarity of all human life and action. Strong
motives are thus offered to the individual to direct his activity,
beyond his own personal interest, towards the welfare of all, and to
find in work for the welfare of others--in "altruistic" action--the
highest value of life.

The "social" ethics thus developed are further enhanced by the growing
conviction that the traditional form of life in the community is
capable--nay needful--of fundamental changes. Formerly the structure of
society was above all aristocratic in character. The conduct of life was
in the hands of a small minority. They alone acquired full development
of all their powers and full possession of earthly goods, which the rest
could only enjoy in part and through the agency of the favoured few.
This division of mankind appeared to be too firmly established by the
divine will or by a mysterious destiny for human endeavour to try and
alter it. The modern man, in the consciousness of his power, by no means
considers these things incapable of change. For him, it is a sublime
task to suppress such distinctions, and to let "all that bears human
features" (Fichte) participate in the work and enjoyment of life.

We can here discuss neither the possibility of solving this problem in
all its bearings, nor the complications resulting therefrom. But we
cannot deny the strong ethical stimulus of such a movement. It has
resulted in an eager desire to strengthen the weak, to raise aspiring
spirits, to oppose injustice, to eradicate suffering as far as possible,
and to increase the enjoyment of life. In all this, there is much warmth
and vigour, a strong feeling of responsibility, and recognition of the
rights of others. No other ethical force so strongly influences the men
of to-day, as the social idea; we see this in legislation, in education,
in every relation of man to man. This idea counteracts egoism, and
produces such a wealth of humane action, as was hardly ever witnessed at
any period of the world's history.

But even here, in spite of so much that is admirable, inner limitations
are evident. Life and morality are concentrated on activity for others.
But this activity is more for man's external welfare than for that of
his soul,--more for the conditions of life than for life itself. Inner
problems find too often only a secondary consideration and the
personality as a whole is apt to be neglected. This morality of social
activity believes in the existence of goodwill and its growth by means
of external activity, and takes human virtue for granted. But it has
nothing to offer that could allay the inner conflicts, or could overcome
the dark, wild, and passionate element in man's soul. Nor does this kind
of morality sufficiently realise what complications and passions are
inseparable from life in the community: the strife for power and
supremacy, the vanity and unreality which arise and rapidly spread among
its members. Social morality shows a very optimistic conception of man,
which is often contradicted by experience. However great therefore the
merits of social morality may be in one special direction, it takes up
the problem too superficially, and offers no firm foundation for
morality, which it presupposes rather than creates.

Morality to-day thus appears to be accompanied by much confusion and
many complications. There is no lack of separate developments, but these
cross and oppose each other. What one kind of morality takes to be its
chief source of strength, appears to another to be mere weakness. The
inner and spiritual character of the older forms is condemned by the
younger forms as a subjective illusion, while the unremitting activity
of the latter seem to their opponents to be an exclusive concentration
on external work. Life as a whole has become uncertain to us in its
deepest aspects; and we are no longer satisfied with the moral impulses
coming from the life around us. We hesitate between absolutely different
kinds of morality, which can only fully develop their individual
characteristics by injuring one another; this must inevitably weaken the
influence of morality on the whole of life. At the same time, movements
hostile to morality encounter less opposition, and gain ground in spite
of their inherent superficiality. Morality, once an undoubted
possession of mankind, has thus come to be a difficult problem; instead
of ruling over man from the height of its superiority, it seems now to
depend on his opinion and choice.

The condition of things resulting herefrom is becoming more and more
unendurable. If morality is weakened, then life is robbed of a strong
impulse, an ennobling power, and a dominant aim; it is in danger of
inner insignificance and disintegration. The salt of life is then
lacking, which alone can keep it fresh and healthy, and with all its
outer brilliancy, it is threatened with inner decay. If we are to resist
this danger with all our might, then science must help to overcome the
uncertainty and want of concentration so characteristic of our time, and
to gain full recognition of morality as a whole. To do this, it is above
all necessary to find some point of view whence we can successfully
combat this disintegration.

We shall therefore have to consider first of all how such a point of
view may be attained.



II

THE ETHICAL PRINCIPLE


The intricate situation of to-day necessarily incites us to reflection.
We must consider our life as a whole; we must ask ourselves whether
human existence comprises various kinds and gradations of life, and
whether a task thus arises which embraces all man's endeavour. There can
be no doubt that human life is not confined to one single plane,--that
all variety of endeavour does not easily unite to form a definite
entity, but that heterogeneous elements meet and mingle in man.

Man at first appears to be part of nature, of the world of sense,
subject to its laws and impulses. Dim and unreasonable instincts pervade
man's soul with compelling force. Our conceptions grow out of sense
impressions, and form at first the purely mechanical concatenation
which we term "association," while all our efforts are directed towards
individual self-preservation. In all this, man is entirely within the
limitations of nature. Yet though this natural life at first
predominates, it does not represent the whole of our life. We become
aware of new features, which we characterise as "spiritual." We see how
man grows independent of his environment, and strives to subdue it from
without and within. By thought he frees himself from the shackles of his
environment, and asserts himself against the whole world; at the same
time he is driven back to the world, and feels impelled to fathom it and
to make it his own by personal experience. His actions do not always
remain a mere part of nature's concatenations. He can detach himself
from all cohesion. In unbridled egoism he can subordinate every event
and action to his own well-being; or he can absorb into himself all that
at first existed beside him and apart from him, and that often appeared
hostile, and can thus manifest boundless love and sympathy. His natural
instinct of self-preservation will then appear too small and
insignificant; he can even come to feel its narrow restrictions as
intolerable.

If we pass from the individual to the whole of mankind, we see in
civilisation and culture a new form of life opposed to mere nature. For
man is no longer swayed and ruled by what assails him from without, but
he confronts it with new aims and ideals. He judges and weighs; he
approves and rejects; he forms new complexes, like those of state
organisation and of science. In all this, man is the representative of a
new and specific kind of life; he manifests an independence unknown to
nature.

This new life differs from nature and from what may be attained on the
basis of nature, not only in single characteristics, but in all its
manifestations and even in its fundamental essence. Nature forms a
tissue of separate elements, which come into reciprocal action but lack
all inner cohesion. Great complexes are thus formed, but no combination
amounts to real cohesion: there is no inner whole, and no life
proceeding from such an inner entity.

All life grows out of contact with the environment; therefore
intellectual participation is indissolubly bound to the world of sense.
In this life of nature, the intellect can create no conceptions
independent of sense impressions, and action cannot free itself from the
power of natural impulse. All inner values can here be nothing more than
an accessory and reminiscence of what reaches us from without.

We see something essentially different, wherever spiritual life
develops. Here life is not decomposed into a multitude of separate
particles, but inner cohesions are formed, which embrace and dominate
all achievement of individual beings. This is especially the case when
human thought aspires towards Truth. Every individual has his own sum of
conceptions and his own special associations; but he does not possess a
truth of his own. All search for truth is based on the conviction that
something must be acquired which is common to all men, and which
embraces and governs them all. Aspiration thus extends far beyond
separate individuals. We have here not a disconnected mass of assertion
and dogma; all is gathered into a well ordered cohesion, and all
separate efforts result in progression to the whole. Every kind of
intellectual endeavour presents a similar situation. Thus the Good and
the Beautiful are not values confined to single individuals; every man
striving after them, only contributes towards the sum of common
endeavour, and what he wins for himself is at the same time a gain for
all. Aspiration is not confined to a limited number of separate results,
but the manifestation of a great whole is sought for: a comprehensive
realm of the good and the beautiful.

Once the mind is thus concentrated on the whole, greater spiritual
independence inevitably ensues. For it is necessary to rise above the
sense impression and constantly to assert the autonomy of the soul, if
aspiration from the whole and to the whole is to be successfully
developed. From being a mere accessory, the soul now becomes in all
respects a source of independent life. In science ideas gain a
significance of their own, apart from the impressions of sense; they
develop their own laws, and react with transforming power on what they
have absorbed, as we see in the case of mathematics. Our own mind
supplies the forms in which we shape our world. Feeling also frees
itself from sense impressions. Sense enjoyment no longer suffices for
man's happiness. His relation to other human beings does not remain
confined to external contact; pity and love can embrace the whole of
mankind, as is proved by the great religions. We can no longer doubt
man's capacity of aspiring to values far beyond external possessions;
and his inner life, the development of his own individual personality
may become a matter of paramount importance to him.

But this inner life, with all its distinct manifestations, can cope
successfully with the outer world and its forcible inroads, only by
developing an inner realm which it extends to an independent world of
its own. This does in reality take place. What was at first beside us
and apart from us, can be transferred to the soul without merging into
it. The antithesis between internal and external values, which at first
seemed to disintegrate life, can be overcome, if spiritual endeavour
absorbs the object and brings it into reciprocal action with spiritual
forces. Where spiritual development is at its highest, life does not
fluctuate between the subjective and objective, but unites both in
itself, brings them into reciprocal action, and develops one by means of
the other. Such a triumph over antitheses is to be seen most clearly in
the province of art. Art is not merely capable of copying external
objects as exactly as possible, or of rendering with the greatest
possible truth the feeling of the individual: really great art must
embrace both factors and blend them to a perfect unity. This is how a
real work of art is created, which then gives to life an inner expansion
and a new reality.

As in art, so also in the other provinces human life. In the mutual
relation of man to man, the spiritual phase by no means does away with
all distinctions, but it exalts us above them, and embraces them all
from a higher point of view. Individuals are not to be merged in a hazy
and colourless whole, but in rising towards a higher life an inner
communion becomes possible, within which even what is alien becomes to a
certain extent our own. This enables men to understand each other, to
put themselves in the place of one another, to find themselves in
others. Man acquires in such communion a vaster self, which is not
dependent on one tiny atom, but has a whole world of its own.

If scientific research is not to degenerate into barren scepticism, it
must also overcome the antithesis of the subjective and the objective.
To do this, it assimilates external objects by means of thought, and
strives to embrace at the same time both the inner man and the outer
world, developing one by means of the other.

We observe everywhere this tendency to subject everything to the
operation of spiritual forces--to create and develop an inner world.
Here all problems are confined to life itself, which is no longer
concerned with extraneous matters, but with itself alone. In this inner
world, life develops in its own way; it finds its aims and ideals in
itself, in its own perfection, in its complete triumph over the
antitheses it embraces.

How are we to interpret this new life and its origin? It cannot have
proceeded from that nature inferior to man, from which it differs even
in its most elementary fundamental forms. It cannot be a creation of man
alone, in whom--as experience proves--it is far too weak, too much
alloyed with lower and sensual elements, for a new gradation of life to
originate in him. Nothing therefore remains but to recognise in this
inward tendency a movement of the universe--a movement in which man is
privileged to participate, but which he could never engender from out of
his own nature. The recognition of such a movement completely changes
the aspect of reality. The universe now seems to embrace two planes, and
to be rising--at least as far as humanity is concerned--from one plane
to the other. A new light is cast on reality, which ceases to be a
collection of separate and non-cohesive elements, and becomes capable of
comprehensive operation and of self-concentration. We realise that what
at first appeared to be the whole of reality was only its outer aspect,
which is supplemented by the new depth revealed to us. It is only the
development of these depths that gives life its real significance;
values come into existence which lie beyond the natural instinct of
self-preservation--such values as the good, the true, and the beautiful.

Let us now see how this order of things strikes and influences man. The
new phase of life at first appears--in man--only in a few individual
operations, while his life and aspiration are still mainly determined by
nature and natural self-preservation. A certain spirituality does indeed
appear wherever there is human life, yet only as something subordinate,
as an accessory to another kind of life, but without the autonomy
necessary to a comprehensive and self-centred whole, which could develop
its own specific character. If man is to participate in the movement of
the universe and bring the spiritual into full operation in himself,
this autonomy of the spiritual life is of paramount importance. It can
only develop where a movement reaches man from the universe, embraces
him, and determines his further course. But, at the same time, man must
recognise and seize this impulse, thus taking possession of this new
life. We have seen that what used to be considered of secondary
importance, is now of paramount value. This requires a reversion of the
original order of things, a readjustment of the values of life. We have
not to realise any new achievement within a given sphere of activity, or
to further develop existing conditions; we have to acquire an
essentially new life.

The requirements thus formulated lead to a system of ethics. Its
fundamental doctrine is man's power to rise by free action to the higher
plane of cosmic life, and to develop it with all the strength of his
soul. We have shown that the new object of our endeavour is not
something unfamiliar that suddenly invades our consciousness. For it is
the working within us of some spiritual force, that exalts us above the
animal world to the status of human beings. But the spiritual life
undergoes an essential change, as soon as it acquires autonomy within
us. As long as it was held to be of secondary importance, it was chiefly
appreciated as a means towards human ends: spiritual forces were to give
us more power over external realities, and fuller enjoyment of life,
but we did not penetrate into the life of the spirit and there find a
new world. If we do this in accordance with the transformation of life
we have been considering, great results will soon appear. In science and
art, as well as in law and morality, our efforts will be accompanied by
such strength, devotion, and gladness as we never before experienced. We
shall operate with the laws and powers inherent in the things
themselves; we shall become indifferent to outer profit and success, and
shall find full satisfaction in the manifestation of genuine spiritual
life, in spite of the trials and difficulties it may offer. If the
spiritual life can thus grow towards perfection, undisturbed by human
aims, it will manifest all its values in rich and pure abundance; it
will reveal a new world, and will open up a new depth of reality. We
thus take possession of a world which exalts us far above all petty
human considerations, yet which is not alien and unfamiliar to us, but
is essentially our own life and being.

With autonomy, the spiritual life also gains more unity. As at first
manifested in human life, it is divided into a variety of separate
branches--such as art, science, law, technical knowledge--which lack all
inner cohesion and mutual understanding. If the autonomy of the
spiritual life reveals a new phase of reality, it must also form a
comprehensive whole, of which all the separate provinces are but the
various manifestations. They themselves now appear in a new light, and
every province must determine its position and significance in the
whole, and must submit to the operation of the forces proceeding from
the whole. This will give more depth and more soul to the activity in
each separate province, while all will seek to come into closer touch
and to supplement one another.


All this implies a great task for man. He is an imperfect and unfinished
being, full of contradictions. He has to seek and achieve genuine life;
he must penetrate from the sphere of effects to that of their causes;
he must recognise the great cosmic movement as a personal concern of his
own, and must thus give meaning and value to his life and aspiration.

We have here a matter of vast import. Not only must the new world be
recognised and taken possession of by the individual, but a new order of
things, valid for all humanity, must be created and triumphantly
asserted against an entirely different order of things. Instead of the
mere juxtaposition which the world of sense at first presents to us, we
must establish inner cohesion in society and history. The efforts of all
humanity must supplement the visible world, to which we remain bound, by
an invisible one, and must make of this invisible world the chief seat
of human life. While time is forever flowing onward, permanent truths
and values of life must be found, which can sustain from within all
aspiration and endeavour. We human beings must realise a higher life
within given natural conditions; and to do this, we have first to
create and establish a new order of things within our own sphere of
existence. This transforms our life into a never ending task, but also
imparts to it an incomparable greatness. While thus striving forward,
the individual must first of all submerge himself in the new world as a
whole, until he finds there his true life, his real and higher self. A
complete negation of the little _Ego_ and emancipation from it are
requisite. This does not mean that the individual is to disappear and be
absorbed by the infinite. The infinite becomes a living present at this
special point, and the individual must take possession of it and assert
it. He must also promote the forward movement of life, and must enrich
reality by the culture of a spiritual individuality, very different from
the one nature has given him. This spiritual individuality can only
develop on the basis of the spiritual life, from which it takes its aims
and standards; and it must always be in harmony with the movement of the
whole.

It is evident that all these factors have laid the foundations for a
system of ethics. As we have seen, life as a whole challenges man to a
great change, to a decision, an action, but also to unremitting work for
the establishment of a new order of things. That which gives us human
beings our pre-eminence and constitutes our innermost essence is not to
be gained without our own efforts, and pervades our life as a continuous
task. We may call the morality arising thence the Ethics of the
Spiritual Life, for the centre of life and its ruling motive lie in
man's relation to a superior spiritual life, which is at the root of his
own being and yet has to be acquired by his own action and effort.
Morality represents the principles underlying this great change.
Morality grasps the question as a whole. Morality elucidates the fact
that all the variety of work is dominated by strife for a spiritual
self, a strife which can only be successful if the original situation is
reversed.

We must now try to determine more closely what form these ethics are to
take, and whether they are able to overcome the objections which
confront every kind of morality.



III

A DEFENCE OF THE ETHICAL PRINCIPLE


Before we proceed further in the direction indicated, we must see
whether our own convictions are capable of overcoming the opposition and
impediments to morality, presented by widespread currents of
contemporary thought. Were we unable to overcome them, then all further
advance would be stamped by inner uncertainty.

The first objection was, that all human action must tend to the
preservation and advancement of the performer, so that action apart from
self-interest, as required by morality, is impossible. We are told that
man cannot be inspired and moved to action by any aim outside his own
personality, and that even where this appears to be the case, closer
examination reveals some hidden motive of self-interest. This was the
doctrine of Spinoza and is now a widespread conviction. There is
undoubtedly some truth in the fundamental idea, but it is by no means
certain that this truth is rightly applied. It is true that all
endeavour must start from the life and being of a man and reflect back
on him. Something absolutely alien would necessarily leave us cold and
indifferent; by his action man must in some way grow and gain and assert
his own inner self.

But we must ask ourselves whether the natural Ego, to which the opponent
of morality binds all human action, represents the whole of man's life,
and whether all endeavour is obliged to serve the interests of natural
self-preservation. If a man recognises any kind of spiritual activity in
its specific working, he will reject such limitation; and the more he
sees in the spiritual life a new and independent phase of reality, the
more decisively will he declare that a real self is not contained in the
natural Ego, but must first be acquired by means of the spiritual life.
In spite of all the subjective force and passion displayed in the
self-preservation of the natural Ego, this Ego and its life are without
inner significance: it plans and acts, without being absorbed and
illuminated by an inner force; it remains alien and dense.

On the spiritual plane, on the other hand, man acquires an
individuality, and is able to embrace a whole of reality, into the life
of which he submerges himself; and in developing this life, he is able
to find full satisfaction and joy. The spiritual life does indeed demand
repression, subjection, and even sacrifice of the little Ego; yet the
experience of humanity clearly proves that life thereby suffers neither
degradation nor disintegration, but rather, that it is thus strengthened
and regenerated. Life is certainly not weakened or extinguished in the
efforts to gain truth and beauty, in the activity of the scholar and the
artist, in social and philanthropic work. By enfranchisement from the
little Ego, life has gained in expansion and strength. Man is conscious
of finding his real self and of developing his innermost being in such
work, not of promoting ends outside himself. All deeper religions and
systems of philosophy have in common this requirement that man should
give up his little Ego, and they promise that from this renunciation a
new life shall be born, which is of infinitely greater meaning and value
than the old life. The movement towards spirituality is not a mere
negation, but leads to an assertion founded on the basis of negation.
Once man has found the right plane of life, and has acquired a new
individuality, the gulf between man and the universe is bridged over.
Man can then come into inner relation with reality, and can take
possession of the infinite. This is the meaning of Goethe's lines:


     Und so lang du dies nicht hast,
     Dieses "Stirb und Werde!"
     Bist du nur ein trüber Gast
     Auf der dunklen Erde.

     (Till thou hearest the behest
     Saying: "Death is Birth!"
     Thou art but a dreary guest
     On the gloomy earth.)


If this is the case, then all spiritual work contributes to the
development of a new, real self; then no blame can be attached to
morality for advocating the absolute necessity of this change, and for
recognising, in all ramifications of work, the one great task of
developing a new human individuality. Morality will not thereby weaken
and suppress the impulse of life, but will direct it into the right
channel and ennoble it. By treating man's task as a harmonious
whole--which at the same time forms part of the one great entity--it
will act as a stimulus on all the separate provinces of life. The
gravity of this ethical task is heightened by the fact, that we must
pass through a negative stage in order to reach one of positive
affirmation, and that all action which denies or obscures such negation,
remains one-sided and imperfect.

Closely allied to this first objection to morality is the second: the
assertion of the Determinists that human action is but part of an
immutable concatenation, and that the decision of the moment arises,
with inevitable necessity, from what is and what has been. This is an
old assertion, reaching back to the latter days of antiquity. It has
frequently aroused men to passion in the domain of religion. It
permeates modern philosophy, and has found classical expression in the
doctrine of Spinoza. In our day, it is often confirmed by a more careful
study of the universe. Favourable to Determinism is also our modern
insight into such forces as heredity and social environment, and our
greater knowledge of psychology. Everywhere the single atom appears as
the result of some cohesion, of which it at the same time forms part.
Closer observation only accentuates such dependence; we can no longer
consider a separate atom or moment as something absolutely self-centred,
nor can we interpret any action as really taking place suddenly. There
exists, without doubt, more cohesion and more subordination than was
formerly believed, or is often accepted even now.

However legitimate these considerations may be, it does not follow that
they exhaust all the possibilities offered by reality. If we declare
that man is completely absorbed in such concatenation, we must assume
what is by no means unassailable: that man is simply part of a given
order of things, of a natural mechanism, of a network of causality. Were
he in reality no more than this, there would be no possibility of his
own decision, no freedom of action, and consequently no morality. This
would destroy, not morality alone, but much that its opponents could not
well give up. If our life were merely part of a natural mechanism, it
would necessarily cease to be our own life; it would be only a process
realised in us without our co-operation, and our attitude to it would
resemble our attitude to our bodily functions. It is difficult to see
how we could then be made responsible by society, or how we could
ourselves feel any responsibility,--how such conceptions as those of
good and evil could come into existence and engross our attention.
Neither would there be any real present, for if there is no demand for
decision, and no room for original action, all action would, with
inevitable necessity, grow out of the past, like a flower out of its
bud, without our co-operation.

We might be able to endure such determination of our life for all time,
if the various movements could easily meet and mingle in our soul,
without any complications. But if our life contains great problems,
grave conflicts, various and often opposed planes, then we human beings,
did we submit passively and unresistingly, would be chained like
Prometheus to a pitiless rock. Determinism, if followed to its logical
conclusion, is nothing less than inner annihilation of life.

Such recognition necessarily brings us to the question whether the
hypothesis held by the Determinists is unassailable. Do we really
appertain absolutely to a given and distinctly limited existence? From
the point of view of a new plane of reality manifested by the spiritual
life, our reply must be a decided negative. As we have seen, this new
phase does not embrace us from the beginning, but must be grasped,
appropriated, and developed by us; our own decision and action are here
indispensable. Our life must indeed reckon with certain given factors;
we must recognise the powerful influence of heredity and environment.
Our individuality is determined for us by nature; we cannot in all
things remould ourselves as we would wish to do; we are on all sides
encompassed by fate. But man is not entirely at the mercy of this fate.
The spiritual life which can grow up in him gives him a new, spontaneous
source of life; he can originate something new, something entirely his
own, and can oppose his own action to fate.

Our life thus becomes a struggle between freedom and fate; and to this
struggle it chiefly owes its expansion and greatness. The idea of
development is therefore not applicable to the progression of human
life. There is no inevitable sequence on a well established basis and in
one definite direction; later results are not simply determined by what
has gone before; one thing does not follow another naturally and easily,
but various elements meet and clash. Time after time, we are in danger
of losing what we seemed to have won; over and over again, we must climb
to the summit of life. But this struggle constantly calls forth new
powers. We see that there is much more in us than appeared at first
sight, or than we ourselves were wont to believe. Great shocks and
strong emotions often produce new convictions or set free new forces
within us. It is, above all, suffering which rouses and regenerates,
which teaches us to see and cultivate the deepest that is in us. What
hitherto seemed to constitute our whole being, now proves to be but a
single stratum, which it is quite possible to transcend.

The real man is only a part, a section of the possible man. The
possibilities dormant in us are an integral part of our being; and these
possibilities enable us to attain something higher and greater. On this
power of inner growth rests the confidence of those who, while
recognising the evils of this life, fight bravely and hopefully on the
side of progress. The statesman wishing to raise his people from within,
builds on such a capacity for inner growth, and believes in the
realisation of new possibilities; so does the educator in his efforts to
cultivate and ennoble men's souls. Art and religion are ever at work, in
order to discover new possibilities and bring them home to man. Were it
not for such new possibilities and the regenerative power of man, his
life could retain nothing of its youthful vigour, and would lapse into
stagnation and senility. The same would apply to human civilisation: it
would drift away from simplicity and truth, and would become more and
more artificial.

It is in our own power to maintain our vitality, and to oppose
increasing inner strength to all alien and hostile forces. It is by no
means certain that we shall always be victorious; it is one of the
tragedies of life that a man's soul is filled with longing for something
better, yet is held captive by circumstance, and is finally driven back
to that from which he would fain escape. And yet it is this struggle
which gives to life its vitality and its greatness; and wherever there
is religious conviction, there also dwells the hope that what could not
gain full victory in our life, will not be lost before God. To quote
Browning:


     What I aspired to be,
     And was not, comforts me....

     All instincts immature,
     All purposes unsure....

     All I could never be,
     All, men ignored in me:

       This, I was worth to God.[1]


If all this helps to prove the autonomy of man and his independent
power of decision, it does not mean the dissociation of man from all
inner cohesion. This freedom only becomes possible by the revelation
within him of a new world. There could be no spontaneity of action in
single cases, if a world of independent and spontaneous life did not
exist and embrace us from within. Thus the individual appertains to the
whole, even in the exercise of freedom. That of which he is capable by
himself alone, is only his ability to bring his own will into accordance
with higher laws. All deep thinkers have seen, in the grasp of the
essence of life and the development of its possibilities by means of
this individual capacity, not an achievement of man alone, but the
manifestation of a higher power, a gift of grace. Life did not seem to
them to be so divided between grace and freedom, that one of these
factors could only be enriched by what was taken from the other; they
considered both to be so indissolubly united, that freedom and the power
of inner growth appeared to them to be the highest sign of grace. The
most energetic natures, if possessed of any spirituality, have generally
felt themselves to be instruments of a higher power and compelled by an
inner necessity. This feeling gave them the strength and self-confidence
indispensable for their work. In the case of achievement for the visible
world, this higher power was mostly looked upon as a dark fate, which
protects man as long as it needs him, and abandons him as soon as he
ceases to be useful. But in the case of inner change and regeneration,
this fate was superseded by a power of love and mercy, which sustains
man even in the midst of the greatest dangers. In religion especially,
the consciousness of complete dependence on a superior power has not led
to a suspension or restriction of activity. This is clearly proved by
such men as St. Paul, St. Augustine, and Calvin. They were not the
soulless vessels of a truth committed to them; they grasped, by their
own recognition and decision, what seemed to them to be the truth. Yet
in their own consciousness, achievement was of small value compared to
what they revered as a gift of grace. "Quid habemus quod non accepimus?"
(St. Augustine). "What have we that we have not received?"


Hitherto we have been concerned with refuting widespread objections to
the possibility of morality. We must now consider the violent opposition
against the appreciation which morality demands--and must demand. It
seems impossible for morality to be unquestionably superior to
everything else in life, and to demand absolute obedience to its
requirements, since it does not fill the whole of life, but must share
men's allegiance with other obligations, and must seek some compromise
with them. This objection could only be valid, if our whole life were a
homogeneous structure,--if one single aim dominated all activity, and
achievement in this direction could alone determine the value of our
action. But the case is very different. Even the one fact that two
planes unite in our life makes it impossible to apply the same standard
to all the variety we encounter. The various values determined by these
two planes are too different to be compared with one another. How could
we judge sensuous enjoyment and outer success in the same way as we
judge values like truth and honour?

Further, morality is not concerned merely with single values
appertaining to the higher plane, but with the recognition and
appropriation of this higher plane itself: it is a movement from a whole
and to a whole. Once the conviction obtains that the spiritual phase of
life is something entirely different to nature, the acquisition of it
becomes the chief problem of life, and the claim of morality--which
upholds the principle of such acquisition--can assert its supremacy over
all other claims. Wherever this was contested, the new world revealed by
the spiritual life was not fully recognised. The experience of history
shows that no artistic or intellectual achievement could prevent a
rapid abatement and deterioration of the spiritual life, if the ethical
task was not fully recognised. Morality is like religion: neither can
take a secondary or even a co-ordinate place; they must be valued _more_
than everything else in life, or else they will inevitably come to mean
_less_.

We have now seen that the doubts assailing morality generally proceed
from a particular conception of the universe and of man's position in
it. This more or less naturalistic conception, in spite of all it claims
to be, by no means exhausts the resources of human life. As soon as we
recognise the limitations of this conception of life and free ourselves
from its tyranny, we are able to acknowledge fully the claims of
morality. Nay, more: these claims must then appeal to us as being both
legitimate and imperative; and what might at first appear to be
unintelligible, will become absolutely clear and certain.

FOOTNOTE:

[1] From "Rabbi Ben Ezra."



IV

EVOLUTION OF THE ETHICAL PRINCIPLE


Having removed the obstructions which oppose the development of
morality, we can now inquire into the special characteristics of the
morality based on the spiritual life. Since morality recognises the
principle of the spiritual life, which it absorbs into its own volition
and being, therefore the nature of the spiritual life will also
determine the nature of morality itself. We have already seen that the
life of the spirit constitutes a new world as compared to the life which
originally encompasses us in nature and society, and which, though it
contains certain processes of a spiritual character, is yet mainly and
fundamentally bound to the senses. The spiritual element is here
disintegrated into separate manifestations, and is never free from the
alloy of sense. In the new life, the spiritual gains autonomy, becomes a
comprehensive whole, and is able to cultivate its own individuality. It
reveals a plane of life essentially superior to that of nature. On man
devolves the great task of attaining and developing this plane, on which
life first acquires self-concentration and inner significance, and
becomes real, genuine life.

Let us see how this affects morality. It is not confined to individual
provinces of life, but extends over its whole expansion and into every
ramification, demanding a change and an uplifting. This refutes a
conception of morality which limits it to the relation of man to man,
and makes it synonymous with altruism. Morality undoubtedly has much to
do in relation to our fellow-men; but does it not also find great tasks
in the culture of the soul,--in spiritual work for the world, as
expressed in science and art? The quintessence of the Stoical teaching
was the development of personality, the proclamation of man's inner
autonomy and superiority to the world around him. We can hardly refuse
to acknowledge the moral character of this teaching, as also of the
Christian teaching, which found expression in men like Augustine, who
brought all moral action into immediate connection with God, and derived
it from love to Him.

Let us now turn to science and art. We see how, in spite of all inner
and outer difficulties, a man like Kant devotes himself in unremitting
activity to the lifelong task of finding pure and adequate expression
for the perception of truth struggling into consciousness within him. We
see how, in the same spirit, an artist scorns all external advantage,
and strives only after a pure cultivation and assertion of the creative
power within his soul. Must not such fidelity to oneself and to one's
own work strike us as being in the highest degree moral? The ethical
obligation consequently extends to all ramifications of life. Everywhere
we must take possession of the spiritual life for its own sake,
transpose ourselves into its inner movement, and exalt it above all
concerns of the individual or even of mankind. Therefore we must not
seek the highest aim of our actions in the welfare of society, of the
community to which we belong.

The welfare of society is a conception capable of very different
interpretations. It may mean the mere subjective well-being of people
living together. In that case, a new plane of life is not attained; a
social utilitarianism develops, which destroys all inner values, and the
sole _aim_ of life is to provide the _means_ of life. But the condition
of society can also be our chief aim because the new plane, with its
essentially new values, is best attained through life in the community.
Then we do not place ourselves merely in the service of humanity, but we
labour for the development of a spiritual world within the life of man.
Then humanity as a whole is uplifted, and acknowledges a great task,
while social utilitarianism limits life to the human sphere, and takes
from it all possibility of inner uplifting. Utilitarianism is the most
dangerous opponent of spiritual productive power, for it degrades to a
means what should be valued for its own sake and as the highest aim.
Utilitarianism does not change its character by becoming _social_
utilitarianism. Inner progress of life is only possible if the spiritual
values, as the true, the good, and the beautiful, are striven after and
appreciated for their own sake, and not as a means for promoting human
welfare,--if creative production is not actuated by any consideration of
results, but is an inner necessity of a man's own soul.

We have seen that the attainment of autonomy in the spiritual life
implies a reversion of the original order of things, and that the whole
of life is thus seen in a new light. It follows that no real morality
can be engendered merely by developing existing conditions, or
heightening natural forces. Wherever this was attempted, closer
investigation will always show the presence of both the lower and the
higher phase, and the consequent weakening of morality. Here
Christianity has achieved something of world-wide historical importance:
it clearly demonstrated the gulf between all merely natural development
and real moral action; it has also shown us that something essentially
new appears in morality, something unattainable by merely ennobling
nature.

This was not only the case with religion, for the deepest thinkers of
all times have seen in morality not a mere intensification, but a
complete transformation. Plato made real virtue dependent on aspiration
to the world of ideas. He distinguished this virtue from all that men
call virtue, though to him it was little more than physical ability.
Kant advocated something similar, by forbidding man to base action on
inclination alone. He even went so far as to make action against natural
inclination a sign of good principle. The requirement thus formulated
does not preclude fruitful moral germs and impulses in the existing
order of things; but their full development is only possible when a
distinct reversion has taken place, and when an independent spiritual
life purifies, unites, and exalts all beginnings. These alone can never,
by a slow process of evolution, raise life to the plane of genuine
spirituality. As we have seen, the morality of the spiritual life
rejects a merely natural origin. But because it represents something
essentially new, its main object cannot consist in the denial and
suppression of mere nature. This was the aim of asceticism, especially
in its development as a reaction against the antique over-estimation of
nature. In the latter days of antiquity, life was swamped and enfeebled
by a refined form of sensuality. Life could only develop if this
sensuality was resisted and full supremacy was advocated for the
spiritual. We can understand that those engaged in this struggle went so
far as to see the highest morality in the complete suppression of
sensual life. This bears witness to admirable personal feeling; and yet
it was a dangerous error, for it diverted men from the great task of
giving inner significance to life, and of filling it with strong and
healthy love. The strictest asceticism can be united to inner
hollowness, to spiritual pride, and to want of love. An ascetic element
is inseparable from all morality, but only an element subject to higher
aims. We feel it to have been one of the great merits of the
Reformation, that it set aside the mediæval appreciation of asceticism.

If it is true that autonomy of the spiritual life results in progression
towards a new plane, then only such forms of morality can satisfy us as
fully acknowledge such progression and the consequent affirmation of
life,--as establish the value of man, and stimulate him to strenuous
effort. All systems which base morality on pity alone must therefore
appear inadequate. Pity does much to free man from narrow egoism, and to
inspire him with sympathy for others, even for all mankind; but pity
alone shows only one side of life--only limitations and difficulties,
suffering and gloom. It restricts man's outlook to this one side of
life, so that he can acquire neither glad courage nor any impulse
tending to the uplifting of his existence. Pity reveals no new
possibilities as love does it; complete resignation here forms the
highest pinnacle of the philosophy of life and not the creating of a new
world.

Neither can a system of morality satisfy us which only draws up laws and
regulations,--which indicates definite channels of action, without
vitalising action or giving it any progressive impulse. This might
suffice if man only had to take his place in a given order of things.
But it is quite inadequate if the whole soul is to be gained for a new
plane, and if a new order of things is to be built up within the human
sphere. There is, besides, the danger of interpreting morality above all
as a narrowing, a police system of life, and of thus forfeiting man's
sympathy. We do not deny that the uplifting, inseparable from spiritual
life, demands many struggles and renunciations. We can only rise to an
affirmative by means of a decided negation--a negation rendered
necessary by the brutality of mere nature and the pettiness of mere man.
In the history of mankind, morality at first operated chiefly through
prohibition: it was necessary to restrain the wild natural impulses and
destructive passions of man, in order to prepare the way for spiritual
activity. We have but to think of the frequent recurrence of prohibitive
laws in the older legislation of all nations. But there is a great
distinction, even in this primitive form of morality. The lower kind may
remain permanently on the grade of negation, while higher forms will
work their way through the negation to affirmation, and will retain
consciousness of this affirmation even in presence of negation. Morality
must consequently be productive in character, not merely regulative.
Productive morality will press forward, not waiting till man is brought
face to face with a new requirement or an opportunity of action, but
taking the initiative, seeking new points of attack, bringing
everything into movement, and promoting the growth of the spiritual
life.

Even then, morality cannot limit its task to the ordering of private
life, but must extend its activity to general conditions and human
society. Life in the community must be exalted, and fitted to become the
representative of spiritual life. It is one of the chief demands of
modern times, that not only private life, but the whole of human
society, should be subject to moral judgment and moral operation. Hegel
condemned as "paltriness of faith," (Kleinkrämerei des Glaubens) men's
belief in the guidance of their personal destiny by divine might and
wisdom, while at the same time they believed the fate of mankind, as
manifested in the history of the world, to be governed by blind
unreasonable chance. We must also combat a paltriness of morality which
concerns itself with the private affairs of individuals, but shows no
interest and recognises no obligation with regard to what concerns
humanity at large. In former times, when man was conscious of his
weakness with regard to his environment, the most hopeless situation
could be accepted as the will of God or as a decree of fate. But the
modern man, with his consciousness of power and of his obligations
towards the community, cannot reject the idea of the moral solidarity of
all. He must therefore concern himself with the general conditions of
mankind, and must display active interest in this direction.


Let us further consider what has been achieved by the autonomy of the
spiritual life. We must first of all return to the new depth of life
which we have already recognised as one of its most important results.
This means that we must cultivate in ourselves a firm basis, a
continuous activity which determines, vitalises, and permeates each
individual action. We must develop a distinct nucleus, an essential
character which is not a mere background to our activity, but an
integral part of it. This being the case, morality cannot be satisfied
with stimulating man to certain achievements, and setting free the
forces within him; it demands of him a new life, in which he must strive
to make the deepening of activity we have been considering, an essential
part of all his action. This is the ideal we try to realise in the
development of personality and moral character. We want not merely to
_act_ but to _be_ something, to make something out of ourselves, to put
our own personal self into our action, and to so act that we ourselves
thereby grow and advance. Only then life is so concentrated on itself
and becomes self-conscious and self-centred--only then can it gain
significance; it will otherwise be empty and hollow inwardly, in spite
of unremitting activity. This is what justifies the estimation in which
the ideas of personality and character are held. Why indeed should we
value it so highly, were it but an accumulation of natural forces and
impulses, and not the representative and starting-point of a new life?

Not only in individuals must such a depth of being, such a spiritual
individuality be developed; but in every community, in every nation, in
all mankind. Everywhere must a spiritual character be formed, and this
spiritual character must inspire and permeate all action. Only thus can
a spiritual atmosphere be created,--can a really civilised nation be
differentiated from other nations; only thus, and not by means of outer
victories and conquests, can any nation gain lasting significance for
all humanity. So, for instance, Greek culture is a possession forever.

In all this, it is evident that in striving for morality, we are not
seeking something alien, but rather our own essential being. Yet this
being does not already exist in us, but has first to be acquired; it
lies not behind us, but in front of us; we cannot take for granted a
firm basis and positive continuity, which we see before us as high tasks
and ideals. From the imperfect and incomplete life we generally lead, we
must resolutely advance towards real and genuine life. While striving
after morality, we are at the same time battling for our own spiritual
self; we cannot but feel morality as a living inner presence, a source
of strength and of joyous impulse to action. Thus understood, morality
needs no reward from without; indeed, it sustains grave injury, if
action is dominated by the thought of reward. For then the autonomy and
independence which are above all aimed at, must be given up; and we
force under an alien yoke that life which should be based on itself
alone.

Such accentuation of autonomy in life and morality, might seem to exalt
man unduly, and to inspire him with self-conscious pride. But we have
already guarded ourselves against such misapprehension. We have seen
that every undertaking possible to the individual lies within a
sustaining and impelling movement of the whole. The recognition of
morality is therefore not a matter of personal option or caprice. The
life of the whole operates in the individual; but, on the other hand,
his decision influences the whole of reality in the direction of
progress or retrogression. In this way the conception of duty arises, in
which the whole of life, the whole of the cosmic movement formulates a
claim on us. Kant rightly pointed out that duty cannot come to us from
without, but must proceed from our own being. This can only be the case
if our being experiences an inner gradation. A spiritual world speaks
within us, not as something alien, but in union with our own innermost
being, as the depth of our own soul. The idea of duty is necessary in
proportion to the consciousness and recognition of the difference
between man as he is, and the inner world which corresponds to his
innermost being. Wherever this consciousness grows dim, there morality
speedily experiences an inner weakening. Duty is the salt of life. Where
it is lacking, life, however brilliant externally, becomes inwardly tame
and insipid, while on the other hand, duty can impart inner greatness
and dignity to what appears small and insignificant. But as we do not
wish the presence of salt to be everywhere perceptible, so also the idea
of duty must not always force itself on our consciousness, but must be a
latent power in our soul and life, lifting us above all that is
arbitrary and capricious. We must take duty up into our inner being, and
not place it there as something alien or hostile. Moral life can quite
well unite earnestness and joy, reverence and love--earnestness and
reverence towards the superior majesty of a higher power operative to
us, joy and love arising from the mighty presence of this higher power
within us.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus constituted, morality can fully acknowledge the various moral
impulses at work in the present day; it can, at the same time, oppose
their disintegration, and help them as far as possible to promote each
others best interests. We have seen how, in our day, invisible and
visible impulses are in operation, which easily come into mutual
opposition. The morality of the spiritual life can in such cases
acknowledge both aspects, even if it cannot value them equally. For this
morality must take up a position in an invisible world, since the
progression from a visible to an invisible world goes through the whole
of the spiritual life. At the same time work in the visible world is
most important for man, if not indispensable. He is driven to it not
only by the necessity of natural self-preservation, but also by the real
interests of the invisible world. He does not find this invisible world
ready for him, or waiting to develop steadily from within, but he must
acquire and strengthen it by battling against the visible world and its
resistance. The spiritual movement is sure to become subjective and
uncertain, as soon as it severs all connection with the visible world,
in relation to which our work gains strength and confidence. Love,
strength, and continuity are thus acquired, which must then be
transformed into activity for our fellow-men. This applies both to
individuals and to all mankind. Such valuation of activity for the
visible world does not mean that we constitute life out of the visible
and the invisible as out of two factors of equal value, for wherever
spiritual life develops, the invisible is of paramount importance, and
everything else must be brought into relation with it. The visible is
valuable only as a means for the development or manifestation of the
invisible. But as such, it is of considerable value. Thus the morality
of the spiritual life is quite able to recognise--and to benefit by--the
great civilising work of the modern age and its untiring social
activity, even while insisting on their assimilation by a vaster
cohesion which is to vitalise them.

We shall see, later on, that the invisible world cannot hold its own
against doubts and obstacles, unless it is aided by religion. But
although the morality of the spiritual life must seek to be in close
touch with religion, it must do its best to counteract the dangers
arising from an exclusively religious system of ethics. Religious
morality in former times often directed man's endeavour too much towards
a world of faith and hope beyond our world, and was inclined to neglect
earthly matters as being of secondary importance. It often transferred
to human affairs the humility and pliability born of its relation to
God; and it consequently lacked strength and vigour when dealing with
the evils of human life. These perils can be counteracted by a morality
of the spiritual life, which sees the operation of the Divine Being
above all in man, even while acknowledging its superiority to man. Such
morality will urge man to seek and appropriate eternal values, not only
in a future state, but in this our earthly life. Such morality will
teach man not to accept the unreasonable conditions as he finds them,
but to struggle against them with all his might, striving to impart
reality to the reasonable and reason to reality.

The morality of reason and immanent idealism contains a virile strength
and educational power that the morality of the spiritual life is bound
to acknowledge. Yet spiritual morality must counteract certain
undesirable results frequently brought about by mere rational morality,
which is prone to overrate intellect and abstract ideas, to overvalue
the strength of the individual, and thus to encourage undue pride and
self-consciousness.


Thus great tasks are evident in all directions. From the standpoint of
the spiritual life it is possible to take them up hopefully, and to
counteract antitheses which would otherwise disintegrate human life. In
all these tasks, taken together, we see how life may be quickened and
strengthened by the ethics of the spiritual life. Everywhere it is
necessary to proceed beyond a given order of things,--to rise above
merely human aims and conditions,--to develop the consciousness of a
marvellous depth of reality, in which man is privileged to participate.
We discover a great cosmic movement, and we see our own greatness in our
co-operation in this movement, by which we contribute something to the
growth of the spiritual world. To speak with Leibnitz: "Man is not a
part, but an image of the divine, a presentation of the universe, a
denizen of the City of God."



V

MORALITY AND RELIGION


We have hitherto confined ourselves to the inner development of
morality, without considering the attitude of the world around us and
within us to those claims which morality, from its very nature, is bound
to assert. At all times, this question has presented grave
complications, which are magnified rather than diminished by the
philosophy of the spiritual life.

If morality is the first condition and an essential factor of all
independent spiritual life,--if this spiritual life is the central point
of reality, and dominates all its manifestations: then we might expect
to see, throughout the visible world, the triumph of good, the
repression of evil, and the rule of a moral order of things, moulding
reality to its requirements. Man's desire for such an order of things
does not rise from petty motives, but from an imperative desire for the
unquestioned supremacy of the good: what is in itself of such absolute
value, must be strong enough to enforce its dominion over reality,
otherwise it might come to be considered merely as a subjective
illusion.

The world, as we see it, does not come up to this requirement. It
evinces--as every impartial observer must acknowledge--absolute
indifference, not only to the weal and woe of man, but also to his moral
conduct. How often, in the destiny of nations as of individuals, does
good succumb and evil triumph! It may be that we often judge too
exclusively from external impressions, and that there is more justice in
the world than appears at first sight. But this is no more than a
possibility, and we cannot assert that it is in any way realised. Much
remains dark, and has not been explained away, in spite of the efforts
made by religion and philosophy during thousands of years. These
efforts have made the darkness less evident, but have not brought light
into it. We can deny neither the indifference of nature to our moral
action, nor the incapacity of man to enforce, in his own sphere, the
triumph and supremacy of the moral idea. And this gulf between what we
must demand and what we find in the world, receives further accentuation
by the recognition of an independent spiritual life closely allied to
morality. For the impotence of morality now appears as the impotence of
the whole spiritual life. At the same time, the human sphere seems to
lose all its own special significance, since it cannot enforce universal
recognition of the power to which it owes its privileged position.

Distressing as is this contradiction between the inner requirement and
external experience, it does not necessarily lead to a weakening of the
moral obligation. This is plainly shown by religion, more especially by
early Christianity. The early Christians were fully conscious of the
sorrow and gloom of human life; they realised the unreasonableness of
the world we live in, quite as fully as the pessimists of our day. Yet
their faith and courage remained unshaken. The contradiction of
experience only intensified their inner conviction, and gave it an
almost defiant superiority. This was only possible, because the
possession of a new life and the certainty of a new world made it easy
to bear all the contradictions in the existing order of things. From
their certainty of a new world, arose the conviction that the good could
only be impotent in a certain phase and for a certain time. The early
Christians were so sure of the ultimate triumph of good, that they found
strength to persevere in the battle of life.

The present time lacks this joyous certainty of a higher world and a new
life. Therefore the contradiction between the course of the world and
the requirements of morality, is felt in all its rigour, and doubt is
intensified by the unsatisfactory moral condition of human life, by the
inner weakness of morality in our day. Single individuals are not
without good intentions, but they lack the power of achievement.
Spiritual activity is generally treated as of secondary importance;
infinitely greater value is attached to the natural self-preservation of
individuals and of society. Life in the community ought to give greater
prominence to moral claims, and be governed as far as possible by moral
law. But on the one hand there is not enough power of volition, and on
the other hand there is, here also, a wide gulf between volition and
achievement. Social life also displays so much self-interest,
selfishness, and passion, so much unreality and hypocrisy, that morality
cannot reach any adequate development. The spiritual powers which should
raise man to a higher plane are mostly withdrawn into the service of the
lower plane, and life is thus diverted into wrong channels. This
contradiction between human conditions and the requirements of morality
has been expressed in various ways by the great thinkers. Plato
lamented, above all, the evanescence and unreality of everyday life;
Augustine the overweening conceit of man; Kant the insincerity and
injustice everywhere apparent. But to one and all, the moral condition
of mankind appeared most unsatisfactory.

All these contradictions, obstructions, and distortions are so
deep-rooted, that we can hardly expect any essential progress to result
from a gradual amelioration. In other directions--such as science and
technical knowledge--humanity may make steady progress; but it is not so
easy to prove that humanity will also experience moral improvement. The
progress of civilisation brings with it the development of much that is
good, but also of much that is evil, for civilisation develops great
power, without providing for its moral guidance. History shows us how
mankind has always seemed to alternate between periods of moral growth
and periods of moral decay; but it is doubtful whether, on the whole,
much has been gained. How often have the nations longed to return to
simpler and more innocent beginnings!


All these impressions might seem to prove that morality has no power in
the life of man. A doubt easily arises as to whether, if morality is so
powerless, we ought to acknowledge it as the guide of our life, or
whether we should not rather expel it as a mere illusion. But the
experience of history shows us unmistakably that the roots of morality
lie deeper, and are not so easily removed. Even if morality is not the
ruling power, it is unquestionably efficacious as man's lawgiver and
judge. Again and again, the nations may resist the claims of morality,
and the conceptions of morality itself may be widely divergent; yet
wherever human life develops, moral judgment develops with it. Certain
actions are highly esteemed, others are decidedly condemned. Something
operates in man which is not confined to his own interest, and which
forces him to judge his actions. Such judgment must inevitably
influence both the action and the spiritual condition of man; in one
direction it promotes, in another it represses.

History gives us an indirect proof of the power of morality over man.
There are times in the history of mankind when the moral idea, with its
decree of duty, recedes into the background, and is even scoffed at as
an irksome instrument of control. But such times, however brilliant on
the surface, cannot resist inner decay and hollowness, till at last they
become unendurable. Then, if there is a return to morality, it is
superior to, and triumphant over all other interests. It was moral
earnestness and moral strength that were above all instrumental in
causing early Christianity to overcome the pagan world that was, in all
outer respects, superior and more powerful. It was moral energy that
gave the Reformation its power to advance and conquer, while the soft
and beautiful Renaissance perished because it lacked morality. Look
where we will, we see that the moral task, if fully and clearly
grasped, is stronger than anything else.

It is therefore impossible for mankind to renounce morality. But we have
seen that morality, as a rule, has little power over external life or
man's soul, and is forced into a subordinate position. This produces
inner discord in human life. Man acquires inner insincerity by not
recognising and developing the depths of his own being. This inner
contradiction can be fully appreciated by a system of philosophy which
attaches special importance to the idea of the spiritual life. For in
the light of such philosophy, we see one great contradiction pervading
the whole of life: the spiritual activity--which ought to lead man to an
independent inner life, thus making his existence one of joyous creative
work--is used by average life as a mere means and instrument for human
ends. Spiritual activity is thus degraded, for the good has mostly to
give way to utilitarian considerations. This is the case, when the
motive of scientific research is its utility, and not a desire for
truth. This is the case, when art does not reveal a new world to man by
means of genuine beauty, but appeals only to his senses. This is the
case, whenever the subjective welfare of man--either of the individual
or of society--is the highest aim,--whenever man is not led to a higher
life by spiritual activity, but is only confirmed by it in the lower
life.

Such conflicts, such inner discord, such stagnation of life impel
morality to seek close contact with religion. We see that man has in
himself an ideal, on which depends all the greatness and dignity of his
life; but he cannot reach it unaided. Something strives to assert itself
within him, without his being able to accomplish it. He remains chained
to a lower level, above which his innermost soul longs to rise. Doubt
and uncertainty proceed from the fact that what is of the very highest
inner value should have so little power in the world and in the sphere
of human life. For deep and earnest natures as St. Augustine and as
Luther, such uncertainty has often become unbearable; from inner
conflicts was born the sure and triumphant conviction of a higher power
in the movement towards morality,--a power which not only imposes moral
obligations on man, but which, by the revelation of a new life, gives
him strength to fulfil them. Morality here appears as something
infinitely superior to the uncertainty of human conditions, and
completely independent of man's attitude towards it. If morality does
not attain the power due to it in man's life, this is now attributed to
the weakness, not of morality, but of man. The majesty of morality is by
no means prejudiced by man's line of conduct. Kant could therefore
declare that "it is most reprehensible to derive either the origin or
any restriction of the laws telling me what I should do, from that which
is done by others."

It is the essence of all deep religions, especially of Christianity,
that a new life is created in man by a revelation of the Divine by means
of a direct union of the soul with God. This new life is held to be
superior to the complexity of existing conditions, and is sure to
triumph, because it is founded in God. A source of life is thus opened
up, which imparts new activity to the life hitherto stagnant. Man
regains courage and confidence, because he feels himself sustained by
divine strength and love. No contradiction in the world of external
realities is now able to weaken man's inner certainty. A powerful
impulse towards work and creative activity will be born of the gladness
within him. This explains the unquestioning confidence and joyous energy
manifested by all the leaders of religious life; the consciousness of
their deliverance from dire distress filled them with unbounded
gratitude, which sought expression in unremitting work for their
fellow-men. Luther says: "From faith flow love and joy in the Lord, and
from love a free and joyous spirit of voluntary service of our
neighbour, quite irrespective of gratitude or ingratitude, praise or
blame, gain or loss."

Further development of life by means of religion is sure to stamp
morality with characteristic features. The consciousness of deliverance
by a higher power will arouse not only gratitude, but humility and
childlike confidence. If everything man has is but a gift, then he will
see, in his highest achievement, less his own work than that of God.
Gentleness and toleration will gain ground; arrogance and harshness will
disappear; all decisive action will have an inner rather than an outer
significance. The value of an action depends on loyalty to principle,
and not on the greatness of what is achieved. This is shown by Jesus in
the parable of the talents.

But this accentuation of softer elements and inner values by no means
paralyses activity. For the new life must be energetically developed and
bravely asserted against an alien, not to say a hostile, world. Man
finds a great task, first of all in his own soul, but then in the whole
of his life with other men. We may here apply a principle of the
Reformation, which has thus been expressed: "The word of God comes to
change and renew the world, whenever it comes." There is one thing on
which a philosophy of the spiritual life must emphatically insist: this
return to religion must not be confined to the individual, but must
embrace all the conditions of human life. Only thus can the whole of man
be won. This can only be done by creating a specific religious sphere of
life, a specific religious community. Many of us may wish the Church to
be, in certain respects, different to what it is; but that should not
make us ignore the necessity of a religious community. It is
indispensable, if we are to establish the new life in the human sphere,
and bring it within the reach of the individual; it is indispensable, if
the struggle is to be maintained by great entities, and is not to
degenerate into small skirmishes. At the present time, when the state is
engrossed by economic and other constantly changing problems of the day,
we need a community which attaches paramount importance to the inner
problems of humanity and which directs our life towards eternal aims and
values.

In this union with religion, morality will be inclined to see more gloom
than light in the life around us. For morality will then judge by higher
standards, and will emphasise the insufficiency of human achievement,
the unsatisfactory character of the present situation. But morality
cannot lead to despondency, once it is emancipated from the world of
immediate environment, and has gained a new world. Morality will then
see, in the world of strife and antithesis, only a special kind of
reality, and not the whole of reality; it will recognise in this world
only one act of a great drama, and not the whole drama.

Much that is dark thus remains unexplained. To speak with Goethe, we
"walk among mysteries." Even if we cannot enlighten what is dark, the
new beginnings established in us will save us from becoming cowed and
despondent. We are certain that great things are being accomplished in
us and through us,--that a higher power is present within us throughout
the struggles of our life. At the same time, we feel sure that our inner
renewal is not mechanical, but requires our own decision and action,
thus making us co-operate in the movement of the universe, and giving to
our activity a significance for the whole. That must and that can be
sufficient for us. We can agree with Luther, when he thus characterises
human life: "It is not yet done and accomplished, but it is in working
order and in full swing; it is not the end, but the way. All does not
yet glow and shine, but all is being burnished."

We know that so close a connection between morality and religion is
often contested nowadays. But we believe that religious morality can
only be attacked by those who have too low an estimate of morality or
too high an estimate of the actual condition of humanity. If morality is
but a means of tolerable order in the social community of life, and is
only looked upon as a controlling force, then it can dispense with
religion. But this means a lowering of the moral requirement, the
fulfilment of which brings but little gain or profit. It is possible, on
the other hand, to value morality more highly, but to over-estimate man,
as experience shows him to be. He is looked on as a good and noble
being, easily won for the highest aims. Were this a true conception of
man, then morality could attain its ends by its own strength alone. But
we are clearly shown that this is not the case, both by the conviction
of all great religious and philosophical teachers, and by the general
impression of human life. At all times, the pessimists--and not the
optimists--were held to have the best knowledge of human nature. We need
only consider more closely the delineation of human life left us by the
so-called optimistic philosophers (like Aristotle and Leibnitz), in
order to see that even they found in it much that was dark and gloomy.

If we maintain a high conception of the moral task and an impartial
conception of the actual condition of human life, there remains but one
dilemma: either complete hopelessness and inner collapse of life, or the
acquisition of further cohesions, such as that offered by an alliance
with religion. But religion must then mean more than a sum of doctrines
and institutions. It must influence the whole soul. It must not only
cling to the past, but must, above all, be a power in the living
present. It must not only be a source of comfort to individuals, but
must raise the whole of mankind to a higher and purer level. In all
these aspects, religion is both action and life, not mere thinking about
the world, or subjective emotion. A connection of morality with religion
thus understood, can be only a source of profit--not of loss--to
morality, which will thus be strengthened in its bearing on external
reality, and will experience a great deepening of its inner life.



VI

THE PRESENT STATUS OF MORALITY


We must now consider, in conclusion, the position of Morality in our
day. Let us see what profit and loss accrues to morality from the
present, and what its prospects are for the future. There can be no
doubt about the fact that great changes are being effected--changes not
only in the world of thought, but in the whole range of life and work.
These changes at first result in manifold losses to morality. The
pillars which used to support it began to totter, or gave way
altogether; new ones arose, but are as yet too weak to offer an adequate
substitute for what is lost. We cannot therefore look upon the present
status of morality as a satisfactory one.

The weakening of religious conviction and practice is unfavourable to
morality. Imperfect as the influence of religion often was on mankind at
large, and excessive as was the importance attached to the idea of
reward and punishment, men yet recognised a power superior to all human
action and all arbitrary human decision. This power was to be an object
of reverence; and life was raised above the care for purely material
possessions. It was also a gain for moral culture, that religion
established the inner solidarity of man, and facilitated mutual
understanding. Thus it is a loss for morality, that religion no longer
maintains its former ruling position.

The general condition of our intellectual life is unfavourable to
morality, inasmuch as this intellectual life lacks a uniform aim which
could unite scattered aspirations, strengthen every single undertaking,
and counteract, as a whole, the interests of mere individuals. These
interests at all times made themselves felt, and life was always in
danger of being dominated by petty human considerations. But the
difference between period and period depends on whether or not this
danger is counteracted and man is raised above himself by some high aim.
In our day, such counteraction is lacking. Where have we an aim
embracing the whole man, which is common to us all and binds us together
to inner communion? Every party and faction preaches some ideal of its
own, the attainment of which will, it believes, unite men, making them
good and happy. But these individual aims are very different in
character; they are a cause of mutual hindrance, and they divide mankind
in that which should be a means of union.

Another disadvantage for inner culture is the rapid pace of life, as
compared to former times. While we are hastening from moment to moment,
we have neither repose nor leisure for the culture of our inner man, for
the development of a character, a personality. We are more and more in
danger of being absorbed by the whirlpool of life, and robbed of all
possibility of self-conscious action. Other perils also beset us. In
our thirst for achievement and success, our moral judgment is often
repressed; the accentuation of the battle of life can even make us
indifferent to the moral quality of the ways and means employed by us.
All this necessarily weakens morality, and makes it appear unimportant
and shadowy.

To these dangers arising from the general conduct of life, we must add
others, which originate in the modern development of work in the
community. In former times, the conditions of life were at once narrower
and less subject to change. Social environment exercised a stricter and
more exclusive control over the individual, holding him within the
bounds of law and custom. This influence was often only an external one;
correct behaviour was frequently mistaken for moral integrity. This gave
rise to much unreality and pharisaical hypocrisy. Still, a certain
result was attained in the direction of moral culture; certain
restraints were acknowledged, which cannot, without impunity, be
dispensed with. Restraints play an important part in the life of the
soul, as well as in that of the body. Modern freedom of action makes the
individual depend on himself alone, and we must be very optimistic to
believe him able to completely withstand, unaided, all the temptations
of life.

We cannot omit one characteristic modern development: the change of
men's mutual relation from a personal to an impersonal one. We have but
to think of the difference between the cordial community of life
established by the old arts and crafts, and the cool, almost hostile
manner in which, in our great labour complexes, "employers" and
"employees" nowadays associate. There is no longer the slightest
personal relation or personal sympathy between them.


If we survey all these losses, the balance of the day will hardly appear
to be in favour of morality. But we must not forget that the present age
has also supplied morality with new and valuable impulses. This is
above all the case with labour--the modern form of work to which we have
just alluded. There is a strong moral element in the ever increasing
formation and organisation of great labour complexes, not only in the
factory, but also in science, state organisation, education, and so
forth. The individual is thereby obliged to work in close union with
others, and in accordance with objective requirements. He must adapt his
own activity to the general character of the work; and yet he must do
his own part conscientiously, so that the mass of separate achievements
may blend harmoniously and ensure the steady progress of the whole. This
requires such loyalty, self-control, and sacrifice of personal taste and
opinion, that a strong moral effect is undeniable. In this respect, man
now learns more implicit obedience than at any former period. Another
moral element in modern labour is the concentration of man's whole
strength on his work, to the exclusion of all inert repose.

If the impersonal element predominates in work, the social side of
modern life offers, on the other hand, more direct union and more
reciprocal action between man and man. This was, at first, mainly
theoretical. It was pointed out how much one man depends on his
fellow-men. People realised that the individual develops with other
individuals and as part of the community, with which his aspirations are
indissolubly connected, even when he imagines he is striking out a path
for himself. But such theories could only have so much influence,
because they were in harmony with the realities of life. Modern life,
with its technical developments, brought individuals into close touch
and created new opportunities of mutual intercourse, uniting men both in
success and in failure. Thus grew up the consciousness of human
solidarity, the recognition of men's interdependence, the idea of mutual
obligation. The result is a wealth of humane activity, which penetrates
into all the ramifications of life, attacking and seeking to eradicate
all forms of want and misery, instead of merely helping to relieve
individual cases. We encounter the earnest endeavour to impart material
and spiritual possessions, as far as possible, to all men; to help and
strengthen the less favoured section of humanity; to further the
interests of aspiring spirits. These efforts are but various aspects of
one great duty, which we feel we cannot ignore; we can no longer look
upon them as works of mercy, which it is a virtue to perform. This is at
the root of the social idea. And this social idea is, in our day, the
greatest bond of union between human beings; not only does it stir
individuals, but it also exercises a strong influence on law, education,
and so forth. In this respect our time has a right to claim undoubted
superiority over all former times.

These moral achievements of the present, valuable as they are, yet have
their inner limitations. Nearly all movement here proceeds outward, and
is directed towards distinct single achievements, while the culture and
welfare of the inner man are mostly treated as of secondary importance.
Zeal for surface ends leads to the neglect of the central values of
life. Yet all outer achievement only means real gain for us, if it
promotes the growth of the whole man, of his soul, of his personality,
making him nobler, greater, and happier. If there is no development and
strengthening of the centre of life, achievement on the surface is apt
to result in grave complications, and all that is great in the present
may thereby be driven into the wrong channels. Another danger grows out
of the ever increasing tendency to organise work. Owing to the necessity
of specialising and differentiating, the amount of work is restricted
which the individual can comprehend and master. He is tempted to
concentrate his interest on his own little province, to be indifferent
to everything outside it, and to lose all consciousness of a leading
idea and of a great whole. He thus falls a prey to the narrow conceit of
the specialist, and finally pushes aside as worthless accessories all
matters of general interest, all the questions and sorrows of humanity
at large.

By furthering a spirit of pity for human want and misery, without giving
to life an inner value and a higher aim, we are in danger of becoming
sentimental and of producing inner languor in spite of all outer
activity. We are often more anxious to procure for man a comfortable and
pleasant life, than to promote inner growth; and our care for the weak,
which is quite justified, leads us to take such weak individuals as a
criterion and to lower life to their level.

Modern life often lacks the necessary hardness and vigour; in our care
for the rights of individuals, we are inclined to neglect the rights and
requirements of the whole and also of the spiritual life. So we are in
danger of losing that which according to Goethe, "No one brings with him
into the world, yet which is all important if a man is to become a man
in every respect: reverence."

If we review the whole and consider the balance of moral profit and
loss in our day, the result cannot be a favourable one. No full
substitute is offered for what is lost. We have gained in breadth, but
we have lost in depth and strength. Above all, morality is in danger of
losing its former ruling position, and of having a subordinate one
assigned to it. It can therefore no longer call forth reverence, or be
treated as an independent aim and ideal. We realise at once the gravity
of this loss.

But this unfavourable aspect only holds good, if we consider the present
time as something complete and incapable of further development. If, on
the contrary, we seek to grasp all that is struggling into life, all the
requirements of our time that yet await fulfilment: then the situation
is quite different and far more favourable. What mainly told against
morality was the prevalent over-estimation of everything pertaining to
the visible life which surrounds us in nature and in human society. The
invisible realms of religion and the ideal have, as we have seen, often
grown dim and shadowy. Many of our contemporaries deny them altogether,
and look to the visible world for full satisfaction of all man's wants,
even of his spiritual and intellectual requirements. This could only
appear possible because, in reality, the invisible world of spiritual
values continued to influence even those who denied it, and because it
supplemented and completed the achievements of the visible world. It is,
however, characteristic of our time, that the old fusion is no longer
possible, and the irreconcilable antithesis between these two
conceptions of life stands out in bold relief. With increasing zeal, the
movement in favour of the visible world--that is to say,
Naturalism--tries to eradicate everything appertaining to the invisible
world, and to fashion the whole of life in accordance with its own
principles. Naturalism tolerates no rival, and declares war to the death
to Idealism.

We now see the truth of Bacon's words: "_Veritas potius emergit ex
errore quam ex confusione_" (Truth can more easily emerge from error
than from confusion). For if we accept naturalism as the only valid
conception of life, and develop it consistently in all its bearings, we
cannot but see its incapacity to embrace the whole of life. The apparent
victory of naturalism thus contains the germ of a defeat, the beginning
of a great reaction. What becomes of man and of human life, if the
visible world means to him the only form of reality? He is then but part
of nature--dark and soulless nature. The vast expansion and range of
nature overwhelms him with the consciousness of his own insignificance,
while, at the same time, nature is absolutely indifferent to his wishes
and aspirations. What he makes of himself and his life has not the very
slightest significance for this world of nature. All aspiration which
transcends his natural instinct of self-preservation must appear to be
mere folly. Such ideals as personality and character are but held to be
illusions.

If man turns away from the outer world and takes refuge in his own
sphere, in the social life among his fellows, naturalism there shows him
a mere juxtaposition, but no inner community which could offer new aims
or develop new values. What remains is only a number of individuals
inhabiting the same little corner of the universe. Each of these
individuals strives to gain recognition of his own merits, and to assert
himself, to the detriment of others. Much sordidness and hypocrisy
become rampant, and it is impossible to counteract them within so narrow
a range, or to hope for the growing up of a nobler and purer race of
men. The individual remains bound to the condition of society, which
also determines his own nature; he appears to be but a product of the
social environment. Having no deeper source of life within himself, how
should he be able to escape from the trammels of society, to rise above
it or oppose it? Society and environment thus become the destiny of man;
and there is no scope for freedom, for initiative, for independent
action.

If we survey and appreciate all this with unbiassed minds, this life
must appear empty and meaningless and scarcely worth living. At the same
time, we shall discern a development of mankind far transcending these
narrow limits, as indeed has already been pointed out in this our study
of morality. The degradation of life effected by naturalism might be
endured in feeble and senile periods conscious of no great tasks, but
not in our time, which teems with stupendous tasks it is earnestly
striving to carry out. These great tasks and problems can only be
grappled with, if we are fully conscious of concentrated energy and
increased spiritual power. Modern life has developed in various and
opposite directions. Its expansion is greater than its concentration,
and this threatens it with disintegration. There is an increasing and
imperative need of more unity and cohesion, of some universal and
harmonious character of the whole. How should this be attained without a
vigorous deepening of life, without the development of invisible
values? We observe, in our day, the encounter of an older and a newer
age, of a conception of life hallowed by the traditions of history, and
a new one that is struggling into existence; there is a sharp conflict
between the past and the present. We cannot but admit in the old an
imperishable germ of truth, and in the new, an inalienable right to
impress and influence us. We must prove and sift, separate and unite.
But how were any progress in this direction possible, could we not find
a superior point of view, such as can be offered only by a world of
thought, not by the visible life? This problem gains vastly in
significance by extending to the social life of all humanity. We see
here a struggle between an older, more aristocratic form of society, and
a newer, more democratic one. This struggle engenders violent passions,
especially in the province of economics. We are here placed before a
grave question: shall we be able to impart the benefits of civilisation
to all men alike, and thus broaden every individual soul, without
injury to its inner depths?

These are problems which do not originate in ourselves, but which are
forced upon us by the movement of history. Their very necessity bids us
hope for progression, in spite of all impediments. The power which has
imposed these problems on us will enable us to solve them. But we shall
also need to put forth our uttermost strength, and to quicken all our
latent spiritual forces; we must grasp our life as a whole, must
acknowledge its high aims with all our heart and soul, and must find our
real self in these ideals. Only thus can we gain the sense of inner
necessity which alone can lead us onward.

In this manner, our aspiration becomes closely linked to morality. Let
us see wherein we have already recognised the quintessence of morality.
Life and aspiration are detached from the little Ego, and take root in a
spiritual world in which we find our own essential being, so that while
working for this spiritual world, we are at the same time working for
our own depth and spiritual self-preservation. Such a change and
reaction, such identification with the movement of the spiritual life,
means only that our aspiration has gained a moral character. This moral
character brings us, at all points, into touch with our time. By means
of our own aspiration, we can now grasp, unite, and deepen all the
goodwill, genuine feeling, and untiring activity of our day, which was
hitherto inadequate only because it lacked inner unity and quickening
spiritual power.

We can thus face the future with courage and confidence. Humanity has by
no means exhausted its vital power; it is full of new possibilities
which demand realisation; and therefore we may expect an inner
progression of life and a rejuvenation of morality.

What is true of mankind in general, is especially true of America. The
multitude of grave problems cannot discourage a nation which feels in
itself so much youthful vigour, that it will not submit to a dark fate,
but is able and ready to mould its own fate, and to aspire to yet
greater heights than it has hitherto attained. But to achieve this,
moral force is as necessary as unshaken confidence in the power of the
spirit. We believe in a bright future for this great country. We believe
also in the development in America of such moral strength as will
successfully overcome all conflicts and lead to splendid results, for
the benefit not only of the American nation, but of all mankind.


THE END



ADVERTISEMENTS


Works by Dr. Rudolf Eucken

Professor of Philosophy, University of Jena

In 1908, Dr. Eucken was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. His
books have been translated into many languages and their influence is
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The Life of the Spirit

An Introduction to Philosophy

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Works by Dr. Rudolf Eucken

_In the Theological Translations Series_


The Truth of Religion

Translated by W. Tudor Jones, Ph.D.

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_12º. With Portrait. $1.50 net. By mail, $1.65_

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This volume forms the best introduction to M. Bergson's philosophy. In
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appeal.

G. P. Putnam's Sons
New York  London





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