30 - KNOW THYSELF
We often hear: "That man does not know himself, but I know him." Indeed, it is usual for men not even to attempt to know themselves. Others may say of them that they are kindly, irascible, gifted, clever, bold, fine, inventive, etc., but they could say nothing of themselves, if asked. An outside observer will be correspondingly better able to predict their actions. So it comes that others know a man better than he knows himself, although he sees and feels himself directly, while to others it is never granted to look into his soul. How could it happen that he who has not seen - knows, and he who has seen, who still sees - knows not? This is in my opinion an extraordinarily, a quite exceptionally interesting paradox. If we go into it deeply we may learn many new things about the "essence" of knowledge. To know, one clearly does not need to see, but only to judge, i.e. to pass judgment according to purely external indications. Therefore knowledge has ever been knowledge of that which lies uppermost, on the surface, of what has covered the reality.
Nature has indeed contrived that one man does not even notice another, that he actually dares not know him. Each of us is eternally hid from prying eyes in the wholly impenetrable shell of the body. And those who predict our actions do not know us at all, cannot and do not want to know us. To say of a man that he is brave, clever, noble, etc., means really to say nothing of him. It simply means evaluating him, measuring his importance by the standards customary from time immemorial, and weighing, or "judging" him. A man who is to us clever or stupid, brave or cowardly, generous or stingy, does not necessarily seem to himself either stupid, brave, or generous. For him, apprehending himself directly, all these categories and standards simply do not exist. He possesses no categories for the cognition, the knowledge of himself; he does not need them. In so far as he is obliged, as a temporal and social creature, to apply them, they burden and even distort him. The basic character of all men is instability, and the right to be unstable is his chief treasure, for instability is life and freedom. But for others, instability in their neighbour is intolerable. And even for the man himself, instability is his most perilous quality. All inner work, all education of the "soul", is directed toward instilling permanent habits, creating what is called a "character". Even art requires training. To become a virtuoso one must make up one's mind to limit one's interests to one single field, i.e. to train oneself for steadiness. And thus all men involuntarily become more or less of specialists, i.e. they renounce much to attain a little and, somehow, to exist. "Self-knowledge" tends towards uprooting and repressing all that is unstable, free, originally divine in oneself and submitting oneself to regulations and standards evolved from history; and thus, despite the ancients, "know thyself" is by no means a divine commandment.
Divine commandment does not compel self-knowledge, or even permit it. As we know from the Bible, God forbade the first man to eat of the tree of knowledge. And when our forefathers transgressed the commandment and ate of the forbidden fruit, what, really, happened to them? They were ashamed of their nakedness! Before they "knew" themselves they were not ashamed of their nakedness, they admired it instead of "judging" it. Their being was subject to no outer judgment, they judged themselves not at all, as none judged them. And then there was no nakedness, there was only beauty. But then came "Know thyself" and the "judgment" began. It is clear that the rule "Know thyself" is a human rule. Its sense is that each shall value and measure himself as his environment values and measures him. In other words, he shall not feel himself as in reality he is, but only regard his picture as it is mirrored on the surface of being, or, to use Kant's phraseology, not interest himself in the thing in itself, but only in its "appearance". And in the course of centuries, public opinion has attained its goal. Man, forced ever to "know himself", i.e. only to regard his picture, has forgotten how to see his "essence". Only the appearance and what walks in appearance is accessible to him now, not only in others, but in himself also. And were he to contemplate his real ego, he would not dare tell even himself what revealed itself to him: so greatly would his ego in itself differ from that "apparent" ego of which all the world knows so much, and of which he has grown used to knowing only what others know. His real ego would appear to him ugly, senseless, mad, fearful. He would flee from it to the "apparent" ego, which is not so pitilessly unmasked, even before the unjust and interested judgment of others, as our real ego, which conforms with nothing and has no resemblance to anything of all that we usually hold normal and complete.
And obviously, not only our knowledge of our ego, but all our knowledge, is only knowledge of the apparent. The whole world is for us only an "object" that never blends with the subject, even in those philosophical systems which have undertaken to remove the barriers which divide subject from object. Such "knowledge", where what is to be known is not object, where there are only subjects, is repugnant to sinful mortal nature. We shall even "ennoble" Nature herself, force her to look into our glass. Who knows? Perhaps such a transformation of the "thing in itself" into an appearance has a meaning of its own in the world process. The thing in itself is only matter, something obscure, coarse, dull; like all substance, it is subject to transformation, and is transformed in time and history. Perhaps then, knowledge has absolutely no need to "go deep" into the essence of the object, and the duty of metaphysics is not to draw up to the surface all that was hidden in the depths. Must the subject be object until "the time comes", until it is so polished that it need no longer hide beneath the shell of "shapes" foreign to it? Nietzsche, for example, was already bold enough to entice out into daylight the "blonde beast" which men have pursued so pertinaciously since the world creation, and perhaps the day will come again on earth - or not on earth - when the blonde beast will cease to seek darkness and "be ashamed of its nakedness". Man will no longer need to hide and cover up, as he must today. Everything will be subject to knowledge in like manner, and our knowledge will not be sentence, not judgment of all upon one and of one upon himself, but simple, free, unjudging comprehension. The "thing in itself" will stand before us in its natural shape, and men will forget that it was once only allowed to "appear" and that its real being itself was called in question.
31 - THE "UNKNOWN"
Sometimes a small, purely external success wholly alters a man's mood, and with his mood also his whole philosophy. Man's reason is just as easy to corrupt as his soul. And further, the reason never notices that it has been corrupted. It begins to see clearly and plainly where even yesterday it could distinguish nothing, and it remains convinced that it is only doing its "objective" work in conformity with its own peculiar laws. Then the success is followed by a failure, the reason loses its vision and again fails to suspect the true situation. It is still convinced that it is only registering, describing impartially. But all the time it is simply expressing the hopes and fears of the soul, which can only abandon itself to its moods, but is either unable or unwilling to reckon, measure, weigh, compare present with past and future. But if the soul is exposed to passions, if the reason cannot conquer the soul and subdue it - where then is one to seek the eternal truths? Or are they not necessary at all? Here on the shifting sands of time we can get along so, but "there" - if there is a "there" for men - the soul will be stronger, the reason more acute, and perhaps also truth will be more approachable and more tolerable...
Or another deduction: we must renounce traditional presuppositions, cease to value passionlessness and to hold the absence of wishes for the basic quality, the true nature of the Supreme Being, and allow the passions to do their work openly. Then it will appear that the soul is not nearly so wicked as it commonly appears, and the reason not so unreasonable and weak, and it will not let itself be betrayed so easily as the "connoisseurs" of man's spiritual life have taught us to think. The philosophy will perhaps breathe more freely. And then it will seek ontology no longer in logic but in psychology. And it will restore to psychology the soul, the true, living soul, with its passions, its hopes; in short, with all that "sensuality" which has been so long and so fruitlessly persecuted by the best representatives of human thought... Suddenly the "last" will become the "first". Even the Supreme Being will be revealed as "passionate" and will not only not be ashamed of its passions, but will see in them the first characteristic of spirituality and life. And just as "suddenly" we shall at last understand the enigmatic words of the Bible: "God created man in His image."
32 - IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD
If Plato is speaking truth, if philosophy is nothing but preparation for dying and death, we have no right to expect appeasement and joy from it. On the contrary, whatever we may say and think of death, behind all our words and thoughts lies hidden ever a vast unrest and supreme tension, and the deeper we sink ourselves in the thought of death, the more will our unrest grow. Thus the last task of philosophy is not the construction of a system, not the explanation of our knowledge, not the reconciliation of the visible contradictions of life - all these are tasks for positive science. Unlike philosophy, they serve life, i.e. transitory needs, but never think of death, i.e. of eternity. The task of philosophy is to tear itself loose from life during life, if only in part. And even as man comes into the world wailing, or awakes with a cry from a torturing fever dream, so too the transition from life to death must clearly be accompanied by a senseless, desperate effort whose proper expression will be also a senseless, desperate cry or a wild sob. I think that many philosophers have known such an "awakening" and have tried to tell of it. The artists, too, have spoken of it not a little - witness Aeschylus, Sophocles, Dante, Shakespeare, and in our time Dostoevsky and Tolstoy; but of course they spoke in "words", and the "word" has an enigmatic power of only letting through that which is suitable to life. The word was discovered for life - to hide from man the secret of the eternal and to divert his attention to that which passes here on earth. Immediately after the creation of the world God called man to Him and commanded him to give names to all creatures. And when the names were given, man had thereby cut himself off from all sources of life. All the first names were names of species: man named things, he divided them into species, that is, he determined which things he would be able to use so long as he lived on earth, and in what way. Then he was no longer able to comprehend anything except what fell under its name.
Indeed, it is probable that he did not even wish to do so: he thought, and thinks today, that the most important and essential part of things is that which they have in common, that which he has named with names. Even in man, even in himself, he seeks the "essence" - again the general. Our whole earthly life is directed towards bringing out the general and eliminating the particular in it. Our social existence - man is obliged to be a social animal, for he cannot be a god and will not be a beast - foredooms us to the lot of "general being". We must be as our surroundings let us be. Our surroundings will not endure senseless crying or wild sobbing, and even in the heaviest moments of complete hopelessness we make ourselves appear as though things were not hard for us at all, but very easy. We are even at pains to die in beauty, and this hypocrisy is held to be the supreme virtue! Under such conditions man cannot, of course, so much as dream of "knowing", and what passes with us for knowledge is only a sort of mimicry by which our temporal, common existence is made as easy and pleasant as possible, or is actually made possible for us at all. What sort of a life would it be if those who feel, like Hamlet, that the times are out of joint, could bring all other men off the rails!
But, I repeat, careful nature, which gave man the "word" "in the beginning" arranged that whatever a man may say, his neighbours' ears only hear what is useful or agreeable to them. Cries, groans, sobs - these men do not hold for the expression of truth, and seek in every way to "eliminate" them: non ridere, non lugere, neque detestari, sed intelligere. Indeed - men need only the intelligible. That "unintelligible" which is expressed in cries, unrelated tones, or other "external" signs not to be formulated by the word, no longer refers to man. There is perhaps someone who can apprehend more easily tears and groans, even silence, than the word, who perceives more sense in the unspoken than in clear and plain, well-grounded and proved assertions. Philosophy, however - and it was of her that we began to speak - does she listen only for what social man treasures, or to that which strives towards the last "One", towards the Being which knows no needs and therefore does not understand human needs? What did Plato think of this, when he spoke of dying and death, of the flight from life? What did Plotinus think of it when ecstasy bore him into another world, where he even forgot the school, the pupils, and the "knowledge" accumulated by the schools? And is it possible that philosophy should have chosen this watchword for herself: "Non intelligere, sed ridere, lugere, detestari"?
33 - DOSTOEVSKY AND AUGUSTINE
St. Augustine hated the Stoics, Dostoevsky hated the Russian Liberals. At first sight this seems a quite inexplicable peculiarity. Both were convinced Christians, both spoke so much of love, and suddenly - such hate! And against whom? Against the Stoics, who preached self-abnegation, who esteemed virtue above all things in the world, and against the Liberals who also exalted virtue above all things! But the fact remains: Dostoevsky spoke in rage of Stassyulevitch and Gradovsky; Augustine could not be calm when he spoke the names of those pre-Stoic Stoics, Regulus and Mutius Scaevola, and even Socrates, the idol of the ancient world, appeared to him a bogey. Obviously Augustine and Dostoevsky were terrified and appalled by the mere thought of the possibility of such men as Scaevola and Gradovsky - men capable of loving virtue for its own sake, of seeing virtue as an end in itself. Dostoevsky says openly in the Diary of a Writer that the only idea capable of inspiring a man is that of the immortality of the soul.
The word "idea" has the most various meanings: in philosophy the commonest use is that of the Platonic ideas. Dostoevsky, however, used the word in quite a different sense. Theoretic philosophy was completely strange to him, but if he had known Plato as he is generally interpreted today, he would undoubtedly have hated him no less than he hated Gradovsky and Stassyulevitch. According to Plato, Socrates asserts more than once that human ideas remain unchangeable, indifferently whether our soul is mortal or immortal. Dostoevsky, however, assumed - and this is the kernel of his disagreement with the Liberals - that if there is no life after death it is impossible and even senseless to be virtuous. That was why he hated the Liberals, because they tried through their whole lives to prove the opposite. They did not believe in the immortality of the soul, but were prepared to go to the stake and the scaffold for virtue. It is for the same reason that Augustine, too, speaks with such an almost superstitious dislike of the Stoics, and is prepared to forgive them all but their virtues: "virtutes gentium splendida vitia sunt" ("The virtues of the heathens are only splendid vices"). So long as virtue was held to be a ladder, even if a steep and infinitely difficult one, to another and better world, one could let it pass. But if it is sufficient unto itself, if it is pure idea, self-purpose, then it would be better not to live on earth at all. Dostoevsky was obviously not quite convinced that he was right, that the soul was indeed immortal. But he needed precisely this certainty, it was not enough for him to be in possession of the idea of the soul's immortality.
Indeed, to speak truly, the idea of the immortality of the soul is no idea at all. That is, it does not exist in and for itself, one cannot serve it. It must serve itself. If, then, we call justice an idea, it must of course be in quite a different sense from that which Dostoevsky attributed to that word. We can say "pereat mundus, fiat justitia" or "fiat veritas". Justice or truth insist on asserting their rights, whether the world perishes or not - that is not important. Dostoevsky, on the other hand, is trying to equip the poor, lonely, human soul with rights. For him the soul insists at all costs on "being", and enters into strife with other pretenders at being, and especially with idea. Inde ira, or more accurately, the countless irae of both Dostoevsky and St. Augustine. Ideas arrogate to themselves the right to be, while Dostoevsky and Augustine, who are conscientious and impassioned defenders of the "soul", claim this right for themselves. And it is, I think, self-evident to all that it is simply impossible to divide "being" and reconcile the hostile parties with one another. The predicate "being" is indivisible. If it is assigned to the ideas, then souls must renounce immortality; but if to the souls, then the ideas must pass over into the intolerable state of relative or even quite shadowy entity. The will on the one as on the other side is so irresistible, so passionate, that the fight becomes one of life and death. Augustine even preached the forcible conversion of unbelievers, and Dostoevsky was not far removed from it. The whole of positive science, even almost the whole of philosophy, was on the side of the Liberals and the Stoics, so that Dostoevsky and Augustine had no "arguments". Scientists are easily prepared to declare the soul as mortal as, even more mortal than, the body; they are usually quite uninterested in this question; while philosophers, even if they admit anything, admit at the most the idea of the immortality of the soul; that is, they still support the cause of the Liberals, for with them the idea of the immortality of the soul differs in no way from any other idea: it exists for itself alone and only for itself. In other words, one can allow the idea of the immortality of the soul, even were the soul to be mortal.
Augustine and Dostoevsky were men of very fine perceptions, and it was not easy to deceive them. They knew what they wanted and admitted no compromises. They rebelled, grew angry, resisted, overwhelmed their opponents with threats and abuse, did not even shrink from calumny. But what should they have done? They saw that they had and could have no "proofs", that proofs are powerless in the struggle for rights. They remembered the last warning of an old Jew, the Apostle Paul, in whose name they were speaking. The enemy is alert, skillful, cruel, and watchful. If one yields to him all is over. The predicate of being will fall once for all to the ideas, and even to inert matter. It is not arguments and loving readiness for reconciliation that are needful, but belief and the extreme of enmity and hatred. Thus was forged the terrible weapon of the Middle Ages: anathema sit! With this men defended their dearest treasure fifteen centuries long. Now it is grown old, it is no more to be used. What shall one set in its place? Or was Dostoevsky's and Augustine's cause lost, maybe, on the same day when the "anathema sit" fell from their hands?
34 - HISTORIC PERSPECTIVES
The strongest, most untiring of men is capable only of a certain exertion; after that his strength fails him and he is exhausted. It was said of Socrates that he stood motionless on one spot for twenty-four hours in meditation. This already borders on the fantastic, miraculous; even Socrates' strength would not have lasted for forty-eight hours. Man needs to sleep, to rest from exertion, and consequently to interrupt his labour. This one feels in all works of human creation. Everywhere are traces of mosaic work, everywhere are beginnings, continuations, but never an end. The finality which is granted us is only an apparent, external finality, sometimes deceptive, sometimes not even deceptive. Men leave the world after having begun something, often something very important and significant. Where do they complete their beginnings? If historians would ask themselves this question, history would be written differently; if philosophers would ponder it, Hegel's Philosophy of History would not seem to them a revelation.
35 - SELF-INTEREST
We think in order to act, and for that reason our knowledge is something conditional, inadequate, even deceptive. To attain to true perception we must emancipate ourselves from utilitarian ends, not pursue interest, forget action, rather perceive everything disinterestedly. "Disinterestedness" - an old word esteemed by Kant and Schopenhauer. But how to be rid of a habit which the millions of years of human existence has made into second nature? Through conscious thought - but then, interest has produced it. Is it not clear that self-deception would be unavoidable here? Interest will take its share and then force us to hold it for disinterested, for the truth itself. Then one of two things: either the help comes from without, as a gift through chance, through an "event", or we must renounce once for all all other knowledge except such as is limited in its essence by narrow practical purposes. It is true that another supposition is possible: knowledge not only cannot be disinterested, it will not and shall not be. It is possible, that is, that a disinterested creature, a creature which needs nothing, either because it has everything or because it is simply indifferent to everything, has not the peculiarity of possessing knowledge at all. Such a creature is epekeina noű kai noęseôs (beyond thinking and knowing). In that case our distinction between pure and practical knowledge would be without meaning. We should have to classify knowledge simply after the style and character of the human interests which it represents.
The question would be wherein this interest lies, wherein it sees its profit. For as the Scriptures say: "Where thy treasure is there shall thy heart be also." So long as the "treasure" of man lies in visible and attainable ends - he has a knowledge. As soon as he grows tired of the visible, and the unattainable becomes the object of his whole endeavour, a second knowledge comes in. But why he gets tired of the visible, why the unattainable to which he was formerly indifferent suddenly takes sole possession of him, how such a change is possible and what meaning it has - that is another question, which philosophy discusses with the greater obstinacy the more indubitable the impossibility of any sort of satisfactory answer.
36 - CHANGING VALUES
Had Mozart been born in a poor peasant family, his genius would have been a burden to him and all his kin. He would have been wanted to "work" - and for what "work", from the peasant's point of view, would he have been any use - a sickly, weakly boy, and eternally hankering after music at that? He would have had to live in poverty, hunger, cold, and general contempt, and have died without fame. But if by chance some educated man had seen little Mozart, guessed his true destiny, and taken him out of his peasant surroundings and placed him in those of a gentleman - how suddenly then would his significance have changed; from a petty, useless, despicable boy he would suddenly have become one in universal demand, supreme, incomparable. For our rough, peasant, human work, the Mozarts are not suited. They seem to us idle, dull, vacant. But somewhere under other "conditions", in other surroundings, just they are more indispensable than all others. Somewhere perhaps they are awaited, awaited with impatience. An old maid of whom every one is tired, an irritable, ill-tempered witch like Xanthippe, an unsuccessful pretendant - we want to be rid of them, they tire us. But somewhere else they are awaited. There their "shortcomings" will be advantages. Their lack of occupation, balance, stability, their extreme excitability - everything that bars them from our places of honour - there it will evoke new creative activity and entrance us all. And we shall marvel to learn that there the "chief reward" is reserved for these "last". And how annoyed we shall be at having failed to recognize their gifts here! And how... But enough: for all one's talk one will never convince a peasant that Mozart was a god. Indeed a Mozart himself is not aware of this and would not believe it.
37 - ANAMNESIS
Aristotle says that it is a sign of philosophic boorishness to demand proofs for all assertions. This is hardly to be denied. But one question arises: who decides when one must ask for proofs and when not? The immobility of the earth needed no proofs at one time: it seemed a self-evident truth. The law of contradiction is now claiming privilege of exemption from the obligation of proof. Aristotle even assumes that the law of contradiction is incapable of proof: it is only possible to say that he who rejects it involves himself inevitably in unescapable contradictions. But what of Plato's anamnesis? Are proofs requisite here? It is a fact that nothing can be proved here. When man is born - this I did not learn from Plato - an angel swoops down from heaven and touches with his forefinger his upper lip, whereupon man instantly forgets all that he knew in earlier life. On man's upper lip even a trace of the angel's finger remains behind. If this is indeed true, if the angel descends from heaven with the intention that man should forget his earlier life - how is that to be proved? It can be guessed. One might also assume that the angel sometimes fails to fulfill his duty quite conscientiously, and that man, although forgetting the details of his earlier life, at least retains the recollection that he once lived. And if we shall ask no proofs of him, men will be in possession of a truth far more important and significant than the law of contradiction. But if they demand proofs they will not come into possession of truth.
Now further: men have known how to defend the law of contradiction, but have been unable and unwilling to defend anamnesis. But what a strange thing happened to Kant! The law of contradiction showed itself to him as a hindrance. He himself writes in the famous letter to Garve that it was not meditation on God, etc., that awakened him from dogmatic slumber, but the antinomies of reason which he discovered. In other words, he slept, as it is fitting for men to sleep in this life, and could not awaken until he suddenly felt that the law of contradiction was inapplicable even in our earthly life, despite Aristotle's assurances. He awakened, but slept again immediately. Obviously it is man's fate not truly to awaken so long as he lives on earth. From time to time his hard bed and uncomfortable position force him to move, and then he thinks that he awoke, but he only dreams that he awoke. Whether with or without antinomies, whether with or without meditation on God, man cannot conquer the sleep which perpetually overwhelms him. Does there await him a shock which will bring him to the final awakening? Is this shock death? Or must man awake before death, if only for a moment?
Clearly he must - and that usually comes when some truths, unproven and contrary to all our "experience", invade his consciousness, occupy a place there and defend it with an obstinacy which precludes any possibility of argument or battle with them. Then a man does not ask for Aristotle, and ceases to check himself by the approved criteria of truth. He simply knows something new, and knows, too, again despite Aristotle, that the knowledge which can be universally transmitted and taught is far from being the true knowledge. It is necessary, of course. But it is not the really important thing.
38 - PHILOSOPHY'S NEXT TASK
De omnibus dubitandum, taught Descartes - doubt all things. Easily said - but how to do it? Try, for example to doubt that the laws of nature are always binding: one day a case may occur where nature makes an exception for some stone, and exempts it from the law of gravity. But how to find this stone, if one has the courage to admit such a possibility, even if one knew definitely that such a stone existed? Assume that, contrary to the traditional view (which, according to Descartes, is in no wise to be trusted), objects seek the center of the earth, not by natural necessity, but of free will. That, perhaps, they fear loneliness and huddle together like sheep at night. Suppose then, that assuming this, we tried seriously to persuade some lump of wood to refuse henceforward to subject itself to the "laws". Suppose we tried to show it that there was no harm in this, that only good would result if it expressed its own will and transformed itself from a lump of wood into a conscious, animated creature - not after thousands of millions of years, as the theory of evolution might encourage it to hope, but quickly, at once, and not simply into a conscious creature, but into the lord of creation, man, a man of genius, a Plato, a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo. Supposing, if proof is unavailing, we beg, flatter, threaten it. Suppose we decorated it, drew on it human eyes, a golden moustache, a silver beard. This is how artists work; they take an ugly block of stone and hammer into it some noble, divine thought. And the stone begins to speak, almost to breathe - perhaps even to feel. In any case one can often enjoy deeper and more sensible intercourse with such animated stones than with men.
And yet, if some eccentric were to molest a stone with threats, prayers, and arguments, this would profit him as little if he merely appealed to Descartes, to the "de omnibus dubitandum", or to some complicated philosophic argument. Even great services to philosophy in the past would not save him. What is most important: they would fail to save him, not only from his neighbours' wrath, but from his own contempt. What horror of himself would overtake a man if he suddenly caught himself in such an occupation as conversation with an inanimate object! Francis of Assisi, indeed, held dialogues with wolves, birds, and stones. Artists, it is true, allow themselves the same licence, and work miracles. And yet, although through the magic force of reason stones both speak and breathe, the case has not got beyond metaphors. No stone has ever yet dared to refuse demonstratively obedience to the existing order. Is this perhaps because artists have not yet thought of asking for such concessions? Yes, and this is not, perhaps, their business. Disagreeable as it is to lay a new burden on the poor philosopher, yet it is quite clear that the duty of instigating and inciting dead nature, if it is any one's, is his alone. For who but the philosophers have been preaching slavery and humility with such eloquence, these thousands of years past? And how else are they to make good their great sin?
39 - THE GOLDEN FLEECE
Science sees its task in the discovery of invisible ideal relationships between things; in other words, in explaining what happens in the world. And it is so sunk in its task that it has no interest in "discoveries
does not even believe that there can be anything in the world which no one has yet seen or heard. To follow Alexander to India, to sail after Columbus into the West, or - if one may be pardoned for saying it - to sail with the Argonauts to Colchis in quest of the golden fleece, or to journey with the Jews to the promised land; to speak of such tasks today even in jest, seems improper to a scientist, still more to a philosopher. What Colchis, what promised lands can there be? These are all hopes of men of old and of uneducated people. But in three thousand years' time we shall seem to our posterity no less out-moded and no less uneducated than the Jews and the Argonauts do to us. And in thirty thousand years' time - if the world is still going on - it may turn out that the hopes and premonitions of the men of old were nearer to the truth than our learned generalizations.
40 - THE TRUTH AND THE GOOD
Spinoza says in his Ethics (IV, lxiii): "Si homines liberi nascerentur, nullum boni et mali formarent conceptum, quamdiu liberi essent." This is a great truth, already enunciated in the Scriptures by the Prophet Isaiah, and by St. Paul, but not accepted by human wisdom. Indeed, were man born free, he would have no conception of good and evil. Unfortunately, Spinoza weakens the significance of his words by recalling immediately after: "illum liberum esse, qui sola ducitur ratione." But he should have followed the Bible to the end, and added again: "Si homines liberi nascerentur, nullum veri et falsi conceptum formarent" (that if man were born free, he would find the distinction between truth and lies as unnecessary as that between good and evil). This means that a being free from the limitations imposed on us in virtue of the peculiar conditions of life on earth (let me again recall the Biblical legend of the Fall - the teaching of Isaiah and St. Paul is simply the interpretation of this legend) would not even guess that truth and lies exist, as it would not guess that good and evil exist. Or more accurately: there would be neither lies nor evil, and consequently neither truth nor good. Obviously Plato was of the same mind when he said, theôn oudeîs philosopheî oud' epithumeî sophos genesthai : esti gar (none of the gods philosophizes or strives to be wise; for they are wise already).
And indeed, the gods do not philosophize or strive after wisdom. Not, indeed, that they are wise already, but because they have no need of many things, such as money, arms, shelter, etc. - without which we cannot exist. They have no need to distinguish between good and evil; for the gods everything is good. It would be nonsensical, too, to say of God that "sola ducitur ratione"("He is guided by reason alone"). For Him there are neither moral sanctions nor reasons, He does not need, as mortals do, a reason, a support, a firm ground. Groundlessness is the basic, most enviable, and to us most incomprehensible privilege of the Divine. Consequently, our whole moral struggle, even as our rational inquiry - if we once admit that God is the last end of our endeavours - will bring us sooner or later (rather later, much later, than sooner) to emancipation not only from moral valuations, but also from reason's eternal truths. Truth and the Good are fruits of the forbidden tree; for limited creatures, for outcasts from paradise. I know that this ideal of freedom in relation to truth and the good cannot be realized on earth - in all probability does not even need to be realized. But it is granted to man to have prescience of ultimate freedom. Before the face of Eternal God all our foundations break together and all ground crumbles under us, even as objects - this we know - lose their weight in endless space, and - this we shall probably learn one day - will lose their impermeability in endless time. Not so long ago weight seemed to man an inseparable attribute of things, even as impermeability.