In Job's Balances

Part II

REVOLT AND SUBMISSION


"I think the world's asleep."

      - SHAKESPEARE, King Lear, Act I, sc. iv.


Panta gar tolmÍteon, ti ei epicheirÍsaimen avaischynteÓn;
For all things are to be dared; what if we essayed to cast modesty aside?

      - PLATO, Theaetetus, 169 D.



1 - MORITURI

When one seeks to contemplate all that happens around one, what is now, what was long ago, what is near and what far; when one remembers that thousands, millions, billions of years passed before one came to the world and that billions of years will pass again after one is gone from it; that there is a countless multitude of worlds and that besides the thousands of millions of feeling and thinking creatures which live and have lived on the earth there are somewhere else other creatures, unknown to us, living, suffering, and struggling; when all this passes before one's eyes one thinks instantly that one has received a new vision which has no relation whatever to common apperceptions. One moment - and the vision is gone, we have neither the strength nor the opportunity to recall it and hold it fast, and we are left with nothing but a consciousness that everything that was and is taught us is not the reality. It is only there for the needs of the day. The reality lies far away, before us, behind us. There is only one way to it and each of us will have to tread that way.


2 - REVELATION

"The fool said in his heart: There is no God." Sometimes this is a sign of the end and of death. Sometimes of the beginning and of life. As soon as man feels that God is not, he suddenly comprehends the frightful horror and the wild folly of human temporal existence, and when he has comprehended this he awakes, perhaps not to the ultimate knowledge, but to the penultimate. Was it not so with Nietzsche, Spinoza, Pascal, Luther, Augustine, even with St. Paul?


3 - LIMITS

There are high mountains on the earth. But there are no very high mountains. There are mountains as high as 25,000 feet, but peaks rising to 30,000 or 35,000 feet are not found. There are great men, too, on the earth. But a limit has been set to their growth too; not over 25,000 feet. Is this an accidental limit, a limit which can be explained naturally, or is somebody, somebody's will, dictating these limits to human existence, and is that someone determined to allow no men On earth who are too great? And further: is this question permissible or is it too simple for modern consciousness?


4 - PHILOSOPHIC CRITERIA

Voltaire said that all kinds of literature are good, except the dull. Is he right? Certainly he is right; incontestably. To say that a literary work is dull is to admit that it is worthless. What, then, of philosophies of life? Have we the right to reject a philosophical system put before us simply because it is dull? I think we have. It is impossible that dullness should be the essence of life! Or that truth should be dull! That is self-evident. But why do not the philosophers use this proof in their disputations, besides other unanswerable arguments? Particularly since Kant, now that hypotheses which are considered indispensable for the attainment of certain ends are described as a priori truths. Even before Kant every one thought so but did not realize it. Obviously they forgot it. Well, I have recalled it, and now I shall wait to be thanked for a quite new, self-evident truth; and particularly for the deductions to which it will lead, which will prove quite unexpected.


5 - SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

For a sick man we call the doctor, for a dying man the priest. The doctor endeavours to preserve man for mortal existence, the priest gives him the viaticum for eternal life. And as the doctor's business has nothing in common with the priest's, so there is nothing in common between philosophy and science. They do not help one another, they do not complement one another, as is usually assumed - they fight against one another. And the enmity is the more violent because it generally has to be hidden under the mask of love and trust.


6 - THE LAST JUDGMENT

Kant postulated God, the immortality of the soul, the freedom of the will. Kant's "practical reason" was obviously firmly bound up with the interests of our mortal, transitory existence. And here in the ebb-tide of time, one can perhaps still, at a pinch, make these postulates serve. Most men get along without any postulates at all, they live at haphazard, quite absorbed in the cares and joys of the day. But when the "dies irae, dies illa" draws near, joys and postulates lose their power and their magic. Man sees that it is quite irrelevant whether he postulated or not, whether he believed or not. The Last Judgment, which so tortured the Middle Ages and which our day has forgotten so absolutely, is no mere invention of selfish and uneducated monks. The Last Judgment is the supreme reality. In moments - their rare moments - of illumination even our positive thinkers feel this. The Last Judgment decides whether there shall be freedom of will, immortality of the soul, or not - whether there shall be a soul, or not. And, maybe, even the existence of God is still undecided. Even God waits, like every living human soul, on the Last Judgment. A great battle is going on, a battle between life and death, between real and ideal, and we men do not even guess what is happening in the universe, and are deeply convinced that we need not know, as though it did not matter to us! We think that the important thing is that we should arrange our lives as well and as comfortably as possible, and that the principal use of philosophy itself, as of all human creations, is to help us attain a placid and carefree existence.


7 - MASKS OF BEING

The continuity and the imperceptible gradualness of the changes which take place in the world is the objective reason of our ignorance and superficiality, and man's ability to grow accustomed to anything is the subjective reason. The lifeless continuity hides beneath it the violence and spontaneous suddenness of creative growth and action. Custom, however, kills curiosity. If an Eskimo were suddenly transplanted to Paris he would think that he had fallen into a world of fairy-story. But he would, of course, soon grow accustomed to it - and believe the Europeans when they told him that all fairy stories were only empty invention.


8 - OVERHEARD

"I sought to say to the mountain: Slide into the sea. It did not move from its place. I sought to conjure the whole material world: Dissolve! It did not dissolve. And consequently? There is no'consequently'! And I know something besides. I sought to conjure away the empty, patently senseless and quite unfounded superstitions which had been instilled into me from my childhood, God knows how - and there, too, I failed. They are not less immovable than mountains, rivers, and seas! Talk not to me of your'consequently' and your human experience! Anyhow, it is not worth while sacrificing oneself without purpose. Apart from anything else, we are neither able nor willing to break the charm, to free ourselves from the devilish might or imagined reality. Even the events of recent times - shattering enough to awaken even the dead - have no effect on any one. Men wait patiently for things to return to their old condition and let us live our agreeable and carefree lives again. How long must man be scourged still?"


9 - COMMENTARY ON "OVERHEARD"

A famous letter written by Tolstoy to his wife from Arzamass. Tolstoy suddenly felt himself in the grip of intolerable, torturing, and unfounded fears. He felt that something imperious, hard, merciless, was rending him away from all that was dear, homely, near - from wife, child, artistic creation, from his property at Yasnaia Poliana, from life itself. And it was so clear, so distinct to him that these groundless, torturing fears were an evil before which he must flee, while the earlier world from which he was being rent by fears was a good which he must strive to attain... Ten, twenty years went by. Looking back on his past, Tolstoy sees just as clearly, and distinctly that the unfounded fears were a good, and that his wife, his children, his books and his property were the greatest of evils. There you have experience pitted against experience, self-evidence against self-evidence. Which is one to believe? Is it necessary to believe finally in anything? Is it possible to believe?... He who wishes to believe is seeking on this earth to attain to the beatitude and spiritual ataraxia promised us by the schools of philosophy and the teachers of religion. He wants to "pocket his wages" here and now. There is nothing impossible in this. We know from history that many, very many men have pocketed their wages in this life and thereby awakened the envy and jealousy of their less fortunate neighbours. They have, as a Russian proverb says, exchanged the crane in the sky - or said, by a rumour which we cannot check, to be there - for the tit in the hand, for beatitude and spiritual ataraxia in this life. Perhaps one day, like Tolstoy, they will reach the conviction that they should not have accepted the tit in the hand, for the tit means the loss of the crane in the sky. Or perhaps not. They will die with the tit in the hand and will never behold the crane - for this is the eternal law of destiny: the wages are not given twice and they have sold their birthright before death for a tit. These considerations have clearly never occurred to that philosophy which pursues positive ends. It thinks it quite obvious that groundless fears are an evil and sure possession a good. But what shall we say of Tolstoy's "experience" and other similar "experiences"? By what a priori is one to guard oneself from them?


10 - TODAY AND TOMORROW

It is hard for man to wait. He is so made that the present always seems to him more important and less dubious than the future. In a year's time - who knows what will be then? But now one must eat, drink, sleep, and have that spiritual peace without which one cannot swallow one mouthful or take one hour of sleep. Yes, but the future is the same as the present! Even the past is in many respects present. Past wrongs burn even as present: sometimes childhood memories poison our lives no less than events of today. As for the future - it will be on us before we are prepared for it! But warnings are useless. Despite his reason man is a being subject to the power of the moment. And even when he seeks to consider all things sub specie aeternitatis, his philosophy is usually sub specie temporis - indeed, of the present hour. This is why men reckon so little with death, as though death did not exist. When a man thinks on his dying hour - how do his standards and values change! But death lies in the future, which will not be - so every one feels. And there are many similar things of which one has to remind not only the common herd but also the philosophers who know so much that is superfluous and have forgotten, or have never known, what is most important. And it is when one reminds them of these things that one appears most unintelligible and even paradoxical.


11 - THE IDEAL AND THE MATERIAL

What is the basis of our world? "Matter," says Appearance. And those who desire to escape the power of Appearance are for ever at conflict with the materialists. In general they fight successfully; materialism has been utterly defeated, and ranks as the philosophy of the stupid and the commonplace. But although materialism is defeated, the outer world still dominates mankind. Man still perishes if shelter and nourishment fail him, the cup of hemlock is still mightier than the voice of wisdom, the rough soldier still destroys Archimedes and his drawings together. Even the blind, one would think, must arrive at the conviction that matter and materialism are not the crucial issue. The most deadly enemy of the spirit everywhere is not inert matter, which in fact, as the ancients taught, and as men teach today, exists either not at all or only potentially as something illusory, pitiable, powerless, suppliant to all - the most deadly and pitiless enemies are ideas. Ideas, and ideas alone, are that with which every man must do battle who would overcome the falsehood of the world. Matter is the most obedient of creatures. It is not only wax that can be moulded into any figure at will; Parian marble itself yields, and the formless block turns under the chisel of a Phidias or some other master into a singing god. From steel, too, we mould what we will, make monuments out of bronze, etc. Recently matter has renounced its immemorial right to be heavier than air, and floats with man across the sky.

Not so ideas. They do not yield, they do not permit man to evade their power. Let man but try to say to time: "Stand still!" Let him but try to make what is done undone, to beg for even a single violation of the laws of causality - beg, let us say, that a coconut palm grow out of a grain of wheat! Or that ugly Thersites turn into handsome Achilles! Any one will tell him that it is no use trying, nothing would come of it. But if this is so, then why do battle with "inert" matter and rejoice over ideas, which for all their "transparence" are far harder, coarser, more inert than the most lifeless matter?

We should be told: "What then is left for philosophy to do? To make the best of a bad job?" Yes, so it is. Philosophers justify the eternal and immutable ideal order, they chant psalms and hymns in its praise and hold this to be their function and their destiny. The theory of knowledge is a justification and exaltation of knowledge, ethics is the justification of the good, etc. Everything is justified ad majorem gloriam of the chance order and the chance structure of ideas... If only they would, at least, draw the last conclusions! If they would, at least, chant their psalms and hymns in praise of chance! Chance is just that which is so today, otherwise tomorrow. And if the order, the system of laws or ideas which rule the world is a chance one, one may hope that it may be replaced by something different - if not by absolute chaos, in which anything is equally possible, yet at least by a different order from the present. And even that would be no small matter. Perhaps an order will come to pass in which wisdom and virtue will prove stronger than the heretic's stake and hemlock cup, and perhaps the power of this order will extend, not only to the future, but to the past also, so that it will come to be that Giordano Bruno destroyed the stake, that Socrates triumphed over Meletus and Anytus, etc. So long as ideas are "idealized," so long, that is, as they are hymned and glorified, this cannot be the case. Consequently they must all be brought down from heaven and a place given them on earth, and not in a temple, but in a back courtyard. And then it would do no harm if matter were to climb up into heaven for a while, and have its fling there. Then it might turn out that the ideas, unable to put up with their disreputable neighbours, might themselves run off in all directions. We must try everything, and least of all must we trust ideas, especially not the eternal and immutable ones.


12 - SCHOOL OF HUMILITY

It is very good for every one, especially for the self-assured, to study the works of the great philosophers. Or, more accurately, it would be good, if men understood how to read books. Any "great philosophic system", if considered long and attentively, can lead us to realization of our insignificance. There are so many questions asked, and always on such important, necessary, and essential points - and there is not one single answer that is even partially satisfactory. Besides this, at every step there are countless contradictions, and rigidity, inability to forsake a standpoint once taken up. And this is so with great thinkers, even with the greatest. What, then, is man, and can his reason be called perfect, divine? Would it not be more correct to suppose that our reason is only an embryo, a germ of something, and that it has been granted to us only to strive, only to begin, but not to reach an end? That it is not matter, as the ancients taught, but rather the soul that exists only potentially: potentia but not actu; that each of us is only a "possibility" in the act of becoming reality, but not yet become it?


13 - THE SECRET OF EXISTENCE

Is it by chance that the ultimate truth is hidden from man - or should we perceive intention in the mist in which nature has veiled its tasks? We incline to the former assumption - or perhaps one should put it more strongly: we are convinced that the former assumption alone could be entertained by an educated man. Yet still the truth slips from our hands, ever and again, like the magic treasure in the fairy tales. Each time we think that only a little effort more will put us in possession of the truth, but each new effort leads to nothing, even as its predecessors did. Yes, truth is like a fairy treasure. It beckons, it calls, but ever and again it slips from our hands. And then comes that peculiar, specific fear which man feels when faced with the possibility of something new, something which has not yet happened, not yet been experienced. It is clear that Truth - I speak of course, of ultimate Truth - is a kind of living entity, which does not stand before us uninterested and indifferent, waiting passively till we approach and take her. We excite ourselves, we torture ourselves, we aspire passionately towards Truth, but Truth requires something of us also. She, too, is clearly watching over us, keen-eyed, and seeks us, even as we her. Perhaps she, too, waits for us and fears us. And if she has not yet thrown from her her secret veil, this is not out of forgetfulness, not out of distraction, still less is it "just so", without any reason, "by chance". Every seeker must bear this in mind - else in his seeking he will never reach beyond the limits of positive knowledge.


14 - DEATH AND SLEEP

We are wont to think that death is a kind of sleep, a sleep without dream-faces and without waking, the most perfect and final sleep, so to speak. It does in fact look as though death were the last sleep. Even Socrates, the wisest of men, thought so - at least he said so, if we are to believe Plato's Apology. But even the wise err: in its essence death is clearly the exact antithesis of sleep. Not for nothing do men sink so quietly, even so gladly into sleep, while feeling such ghastly fear at the approach of death. Not only is sleep still life: our life itself, strange as it may seem at first sight, is three-quarters or more sleep, i.e. the continuation of the original non-being out of which we were torn by some incomprehensible and mysterious power, unasked, and perhaps even against our will. All of us continue, more or less, to sleep in life, we are all sleep-walkers, moving automatically in space, spell-bound by the non-being which lies still such a little way behind us. It is precisely for that reason that the mechanist theories seem to us the only true ones, and any attempt to fight against immemorial necessity seems foredoomed to failure: it troubles our waking sleep and arouses only a sense of injury and irritation, such as a sleeper always shows towards a man who awakens him. Whenever anything unexpected, inexplicable, either from without or within shakes us out of our accustomed cherished equilibrium, our whole being is filled with unrest. The unexpected - also termed the inexplicable - is unnatural, against nature, it is that which ought not to be, that which is not. We must at all costs show ourselves and others that there is not and cannot be anything unexpected in the world; that the unexpected is only a misunderstanding, something chance, something transitory, which can be removed by an effort of the reason. Humanity's supreme triumph was the discovery that the heavenly bodies themselves are of the same composition as the terrestrial, that heaven itself contains nothing new, inexplicable. The great charm for humanity of the theory of evolution lies in its exclusion of the possibility of anything new, anything previously non-existent, either in the most distant past or in the most distant future. A million, a billion, a trillion years ago, and also a million, a billion, a trillion years hence, life was and will be, broadly, like it is now, both on our planet and on all the innumerable planets, within our vision's reach or beyond it, of the infinitely vast universe. Man slept, he sleeps, and he will sleep in accordance with immutable, automatically conditioned laws of eternal nature - which are nothing else but eternal reason, or the eternal ideal fundamental principles.

No one ever troubles to think that these millions and billions of years, eternal nature, the eternal ideal principles, are just a vast nonsense which only does not amaze us because we have got accustomed to it. Incidentally, such senseless conceptions, which restrict thought and paralyze any desire for knowledge, are the whole basis of the theory of evolution, which has acquired such undivided sway over contemporary thought. Spectral analysis has conquered space and brought heaven down to earth, the theory of evolution has conquered time by reducing the whole of the past and the future to the present. This is the supreme achievement of modern knowledge, which proudly boasts its perfection!

But one must be sunk, indeed, in the deepest sleep to achieve such senseless and dull self-assurance! In this connection, the new, or rather, the newest philosophy has really said a "word of its own" - so unlike the words of the ancients. Even positivist Aristotle guessed at a divine quintaessentia in the universe, something super-terrestrial, with no resemblance at all to terrestrial things. Socrates did, indeed, say to his judges that death was perhaps only a sleep without dream faces. But it looks as though Socrates did not utter his real thought before the judges. For him they were the masses, the "many", who would have been incapable of grasping the truth and awaking out of sleep whatever one might say to them. Besides, he himself in the same Apology declared at the end of his speech that no one except God knows what awaits us after death. And this second assertion was presumably very much closer to Socrates' soul. Socrates - as the whole story shows - already undertook the "flight from life", already knew and taught to Plato that philosophy is nothing else than a preparation for death and dying. And the whole philosophy of antiquity, except the schools which built on Aristotle's foundations, took this thought - if one can speak here of a "thought" - for its starting-point. Not only Plato's direct disciples, but also the Cynics and Stoics, not to speak of Plotinus, were endeavouring to escape from the hypnotic power of reality, of the dream reality with all its ideas and truths. Remember Plato's cave, the saying of the Stoics that all men are mad, the frantic ecstasy of Plotinus! It is not for nothing that modern historians talk of the "practical" trend of ancient philosophy. Certainly, if the centrifugal forces which the ancient Greeks discovered in themselves show practical purposes, the historians are right. But they are wrong, when one considers that practical purposes, if one is to speak of them, must and can, obviously, be seen in the centripetal tendencies of modern philosophy. The ancients, to awake from life, turned to death. The moderns flee from death in order not to awake, and take pains not even to think of it. Which are the more "practical"? Those who compare earthly life to sleep and wait for the miracle of the awakening, or those who see in death a sleep without dream-faces, the perfect sleep, and while away their time with "reasonable" and "natural" explanations? That is the basic question of philosophy, and he who evades it evades philosophy itself.


15 - INTERPRETATION AND REALITY

Pleasure and pain are usually interpreted as reactions of the whole organism or of one of its parts to external stimuli. If the external stimulus threatens a danger we feel pain, if it is useful to the organism, pleasure. It is assumed that the preservation of the organism is the purpose, the only purpose, which Nature set herself when she created it. Such an explanation already entails the whole odious anthropomorphism so scrupulously shunned by science. To ascribe a purpose, even the most modest, the most unimportant, to Nature, is to equate her activity with that of a human being. At bottom it is indifferent whether one assumes that Nature's aim is to preserve the organism or to create a saintly, virtuous, human being. Even to say that Nature does not protect the individual organism, but only the species and variety, does not evade the reproach of anthropomorphism with all the blame attached to it. If we seriously wish to attain objectivity, we must not endow Nature with any of those qualities peculiar to the thinking, purposeful man. Nature is one thing, man another.

To speak of a Demiurge, a Creator, an Artificer of the world, is an obvious lapse from the scientific standpoint and a return to mythology. What could be more unnatural than a Nature anxious for something? Anxiety is the most characteristic quality of the higher animals, especially of man. The usual interpretations of pain and pleasure are thus only a superficial lip-service to objectivity and science, and a very crude one at that. Even if Nature was anxious for anything, it would certainly not be to help the organism in its fight for existence, the more so as that "existence" could have been protected in other and much simpler ways. In any case there was no sort of necessity to invent, for the purpose of securing it, such unusual things as pleasure and pain, which are utterly incompatible with objectivity, and may even be termed completely anti-natural. We may wonder as we will over the complexity and elaboration of the structure of an animal organism, but the capacity of feeling pain and pleasure deserves much greater astonishment than the most complex living machine. If, therefore, the question of means and ends is raised at all, it is obviously much more probable that the organism was created in order that the living being should feel pain and pleasure, or, in other words, should begin to live, than that life should have been created in order that the "organism", which is something material, in itself soulless, and, for all its complexity, yet elementary, should not be exposed so quickly to dissolution. And why should Nature be really so anxious for the preservation of the organism? What advantage has it over a crystal or any other inorganic body? That of complexity and elaboration? But here again, it is we, mankind, the reasonable animals, who worship and treasure complexity; for Nature complexity is by no means such a valuable quality.

Indeed, does Nature care about values at all? Esteeming, loving, hating, troubling, rejoicing, are not her concern, but humanity's. And then, if one may judge from the degree of protection afforded, inanimate things seem to enjoy every advantage. A block of granite, which, God knows, is inanimate enough, is far better protected than any organism. It fears nothing, and will endure for hundreds and even thousands of years. Thus, if Nature was really anxious to protect her creations, the simplest thing for her would be, when engaged in creation, not to exceed the bounds of the inorganic world. But clearly Nature has disregarded the limitations imposed on her by our ideas of objective cognition and set herself very much more ambitious aims. She is obviously by no means so limited in her tasks as she would have to be to entitle us to forget the metaphysical and theological periods of thought. There is nothing improbable in Nature setting herself "reasonable tasks". Obviously she can have purposes into which we have not been initiated and to which we shall never penetrate, since, for reasons at which we also cannot guess, she does not find it necessary to share with us her thoughts and conjectures. But even if we became convinced that Nature was intentionally concealing her purposes from us, our endeavour to reduce everything to a "natural" concatenation of cause and effect would still be unjustified.

On the contrary: if Nature is intentionally hiding anything from us, then we must abandon any thought of "naturalness". In that case pain and pleasure cannot be considered as something self-evident, as natural functions of the organism. One must - I repeat and insist on this - see in them the beginning of something completely and absolutely different from the organism and from any functions. They are an end in themselves, not the only and, of course, not the final end, but yet the purpose of Nature's creative activity. It is in order that there should be pain and pleasure that Nature has invented a countless multitude of wonderful masterpieces called organisms. Pain and pleasure testify to a certain entity sui generis par excellence. And now further: Contrary to appearance, or rather, in spite of what our familiarity with "natural explanations" offers us as appearance and self-evidence, pain does not always, or even nearly always, give warning of a danger threatening man, as pleasure is no guarantee of the absence of danger. On the contrary, the greatest danger threatening the living creature with final destruction, both of his soul and of his body, is pleasure. This is why all deep philosophic systems have shown such antipathy and such mistrust towards hedonism and even utilitarianism. This is the meaning of asceticism, and also the meaning of the words of the Cynic Antisthenes - words which to this day have never been sufficiently appreciated: "I would rather lose my understanding than feel pleasure." This saying was reawakened to new life by St. Theresa in her words - "Pati, Domine, aut mori" (Suffer, Lord, or die).

For the vast majority of mankind pleasure is sleep, or in other words, death of the soul, its return to non-existence. Pain, suffering, is the beginning of awakening. A pleasurable, even, unperturbed existence kills in man all his humanity, leads him back to a vegetative existence, to the womb of that nothingness out of which he was brought in so inexplicable a fashion by some mysterious power. If the life of man passed easily and ended with an easy, pleasant death, he would truly be the most ephemeral of creatures. But if we cast our thoughts for a moment over the whole history of humanity; it will be impossible to name one single period which was not darkened by the grimmest misery. Whence comes this? Why, if Nature is so anxious for the preservation of her creations, has she done nothing to prevent the mass destruction of living creatures? Or does some external necessity place bounds to her anxiety? The ancients thought otherwise! Heraclitus declared that the wars which seem so terrible to mankind were agreeable to the gods. And he said, just like St. Paul, that the gods were preparing something for mankind of which he dared not even dream. It seems that in both cases the old sage, who heard the voices of the gods more plainly, knew more, much more than we. He had no fear of anthropomorphism, and he did not break, "on principle", with myths. And for that reason he could see and hear whatever was revealed to him and was not forced to hide away his knowledge, to distort and mutilate it as though it were stolen goods or contraband which he had to bring across the frontier, but might not show to any one.

Pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, hopes, fears, passions, expectation, devotion, anger, hatred, etc., everything which fills human souls and of which human speech can tell, even in approximations - these things are certainly not meant for the preservation or profit of the individual human organism, much less of the species or variety. They are the "purpose" of Nature, and if we wish to penetrate her intentions even in part, the last place where we should begin is by studying the life of the amoeba or the mollusc. We shall learn nothing by studying that; we are more likely to lose the ability of ever discovering anything about the wonders and secrets of the world structure. We must project our thought and feeling into the most intensive and complex seeking and struggling of the boldest and greatest representatives of humanity, of the saints, philosophers, artists, thinkers, prophets, and "conclude" and judge with them on the beginning and the end, on the first and the last things. The more closely and carefully we study with our modern methods the molluscs and the amoeba and the remains of fossil animals, the ichthyosaurus and the mastodon, the farther they will lead us away from our chief and most urgent task. It will seem to us, as it seems today to the whole of modern humanity, that at bottom there can be neither secrets nor miracles in life; that the ancient tales of wonders and secrets are all base-born, bastards of scanty experience and childish credulity; that the truths, the first and the last, will sooner or later be discovered by us and comprehended with the same clarity and distinctness with which we have already comprehended a countless number of middle truths; that the theological and metaphysical periods of history lie far behind us, and that we live under the star of positive science, whose dominion has no end and will have no end!


Orphus system


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