Pre-Christian and Christian times pursue opposite goals; the former wants to idealize the real, the latter to realize the ideal; the former seeks the “holy spirit,” the latter the “glorified body.” Hence the former closes with insensitivity to the real, with “contempt for the world”; the latter will end with the casting off of the ideal, with “contempt for the spirit.”
The opposition of the real and the ideal is an irreconcilable one, and the one can never become the other: if the ideal became the real, it would no longer be the ideal; and, if the real became the ideal, the ideal alone would be, but not at all the real. The opposition of the two is not to be vanquished otherwise than if some one annihilates both. Only in this “some one,” the third party, does the opposition find its end; otherwise idea and reality will ever fail to coincide. The idea cannot be so realized as to remain idea, but is realized only when it dies as idea; and it is the same with the real.
But now we have before us in the ancients adherents of the idea, in the moderns adherents of reality. Neither can get clear of the opposition, and both pine only, the one party for the spirit, and, when this craving of the ancient world seemed to be satisfied and this spirit to have come, the others immediately for the secularization of this spirit again, which must forever remain a “pious wish.”
The pious wish of the ancients was sanctity, the pious wish of the moderns is corporeity. But, as antiquity had to go down if its longing was to be satisfied (for it consisted only in the longing), so too corporeity can never be attained within the ring of Christianness. As the trait of sanctification or purification goes through the old world (the washings, etc.), so that of incorporation goes through the Christian world: God plunges down into this world, becomes flesh, and wants to redeem it, e.g., fill it with himself; but, since he is “the idea” or “the spirit,” people (e.g. Hegel) in the end introduce the idea into everything, into the world, and prove “that the idea is, that reason is, in everything.” “Man” corresponds in the culture of today to what the heathen Stoics set up as “the wise man”; the latter, like the former, a — fleshless being. The unreal “wise man,” this bodiless “holy one” of the Stoics, became a real person, a bodily “Holy One,” in God made flesh; the unreal “man,” the bodiless ego, will become real in the corporeal ego, in me.
There winds its way through Christianity the question about the “existence of God,” which, taken up ever and ever again, gives testimony that the craving for existence, corporeity, personality, reality, was incessantly busying the heart because it never found a satisfying solution. At last the question about the existence of God fell, but only to rise up again in the proposition that the “divine” had existence (Feuerbach). But this too has no existence, and neither will the last refuge, that the “purely human” is realizable, afford shelter much longer. No idea has existence, for none is capable of corporeity. The scholastic contention of realism and nominalism has the same content; in short, this spins itself out through all Christian history, and cannot end in it.
The world of Christians is working at realizing ideas in the individual relations of life, the institutions and laws of the Church and the State; but they make resistance, and always keep back something unembodied (unrealizable). Nevertheless this embodiment is restlessly rushed after, no matter in what degree corporeity constantly fails to result.
For realities matter little to the realizer, but it matters everything that they be realizations of the idea. Hence he is ever examining anew whether the realized does in truth have the idea, its kernel, dwelling in it; and in testing the real he at the same time tests the idea, whether it is realizable as he thinks it, or is only thought by him incorrectly, and for that reason unfeasibly.
The Christian is no longer to care for family, State, etc., as existences; Christians are not to sacrifice themselves for these “divine things” like the ancients, but these are only to be utilized to make the spirit alive in them. The real family has become indifferent, and there is to arise out of it an idealone which would then be the “truly real,” a sacred family, blessed by God, or, according to the liberal way of thinking, a “rational” family. With the ancients, family, State, fatherland, is divine as a thing extant; with the moderns it is still awaiting divinity, as extant it is only sinful, earthly, and has still to be “redeemed,” i. e., to become truly real. This has the following meaning: The family, etc., is not the extant and real, but the divine, the idea, is extant and real; whether this family will make itself real by taking up the truly real, the idea, is still unsettled. It is not the individual’s task to serve the family as the divine, but, reversely, to serve the divine and to bring to it the still undivine family, to subject everything in the idea’s name, to set up the idea’s banner everywhere, to bring the idea to real efficacy.
But, since the concern of Christianity, as of antiquity, is for the divine, they always come out at this again on their opposite ways. At the end of heathenism the divine becomes the extramundane, at the end of Christianity the intramundane. Antiquity does not succeed in putting it entirely outside the world, and, when Christianity accomplishes this task, the divine instantly longs to get back into the world and wants to “redeem” the world. But within Christianity it does not and cannot come to this, that the divine as intramundane should really become the mundane itself: there is enough left that does and must maintain itself unpenetrated as the “bad,” irrational, accidental, “egoistic,” the “mundane” in the bad sense. Christianity begins with God’s becoming man, and carries on its work of conversion and redemption through all time in order to prepare for God a reception in all men and in everything human, and to penetrate everything with the spirit: it sticks to preparing a place for the “spirit.”
When the accent was at last laid on Man or mankind, it was again the idea that they “pronounced eternal.” “Man does not die!” They thought they had now found the reality of the idea: Man is the I of history, of the world’s history; it is he, this ideal, that really develops, i.e. realizes, himself. He is the really real and corporeal one, for history is his body, in which individuals are only members. Christ is the I of the world’s history, even of the pre-Christian; in modern apprehension it is man, the figure of Christ has developed into the figure of man: man as such, man absolutely, is the “central point” of history. In “man” the imaginary beginning returns again; for “man” is as imaginary as Christ is. “Man,” as the I of the world’s history, closes the cycle of Christian apprehensions.
Christianity’s magic circle would be broken if the strained relation between existence and calling, e.g., between me as I am and me as I should be, ceased; it persists only as the longing of the idea for its bodiliness, and vanishes with the relaxing separation of the two: only when the idea remains — idea, as man or mankind is indeed a bodiless idea, is Christianity still extant. The corporeal idea, the corporeal or “completed” spirit, floats before the Christian as “the end of the days” or as the “goal of history”; it is not present time to him.
The individual can only have a part in the founding of the Kingdom of God, or, according to the modern notion of the same thing, in the development and history of humanity; and only so far as he has a part in it does a Christian, or according to the modern expression human, value pertain to him; for the rest he is dust and a worm-bag. That the individual is of himself a world’s history, and possesses his property in the rest of the world’s history, goes beyond what is Christian. To the Christian the world’s history is the higher thing, because it is the history of Christ or “man”; to the egoist only hishistory has value, because he wants to develop only himself not the mankind-idea, not God’s plan, not the purposes of Providence, not liberty, etc. He does not look upon himself as a tool of the idea or a vessel of God, he recognizes no calling, he does not fancy that he exists for the further development of mankind and that he must contribute his mite to it, but he lives himself out, careless of how well or ill humanity may fare thereby. If it were not open to confusion with the idea that a state of nature is to be praised, one might recall Lenau’s “Three Gypsies.”– What, am I in the world to realize ideas? To do my part by my citizenship, say, toward the realization of the idea “State,” or by marriage, as husband and father, to bring the idea of the family into an existence? What does such a calling concern me! I live after a calling as little as the flower grows and gives fragrance after a calling.
The ideal “Man” is realized when the Christian apprehension turns about and becomes the proposition, “I, this unique one, am man.” The conceptual question, “what is man?” — has then changed into the personal question, “who is man?” With “what” the concept was sought for, in order to realize it; with “who” it is no longer any question at all, but the answer is personally on hand at once in the asker: the question answers itself.
They say of God, “Names name thee not.” That holds good of me: no concept expresses me, nothing that is designated as my essence exhausts me; they are only names. Likewise they say of God that he is perfect and has no calling to strive after perfection. That too holds good of me alone.
I am owner of my might, and I am so when I know myself as unique. In the unique one the owner himself returns into his creative nothing, of which he is born. Every higher essence above me, be it God, be it man, weakens the feeling of my uniqueness, and pales only before the sun of this consciousness. If I concern myself for myself,[Stell’ Ich auf Mich meine Sache. Literally, “if I set my affair on myself”] the unique one, then my concern rests on its transitory, mortal creator, who consumes himself, and I may say:
All things are nothing to me.