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|Author: Moses Hess|
The Neo-Hebraic literature - Luzzato, Rappoport, Frankel, Krochmal, Sachs and Heine on Judah Halevi - Mendelssohn and the Modernists - Schorr - Sectarians without sects - Salvador - Fusionists and Freemasons - Hirsch - The pretended calling of the Jew in exile.
You are certainly in error, dear friend, when you believe that only our progressive Jews have acquired the mastery of modem culture and science and that orthodox Jews are still steeped in Egyptian darkness, a condition which is as detrimental to the renaissance of our nation as is modern indifference. Since I have devoted myself to the cause of my people, I have, partly through personal contact and partly through their writings, come to know many orthodox Jews of the old as well as of the younger generation and especially of the latter, who do not fall behind the enlightened Jews, in scientific and literary education. These scholars have, at the same time, a more thorough understanding and conception of the past as well as of the future, than those enlightened minds who lack the philosophic and historical sense.
Orthodox Jewry everywhere, in England, France, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Bohemia, has its literary and scientific representatives who are as worthy as those of enlightened Jewry. Newspapers, magazines and even philosophical books, permeated with the same spirit of true humanitarianism as the nation to which they belong, are published by our orthodox brethren in the sacred tongue of their fathers. Hebrew literature, thanks to the works of Luzzato, Rappoport, Frankel and Krochmal, was reawakened to new life, and already a number of educated modern German rabbis conduct their correspondence in Hebrew. Even Holdheim himself did not disdain to compose his swan song in Hebrew; and Schorr, a more violent opponent of orthodoxy than Holdheim publishes his periodical Hachalutz in Hebrew. How great must the influence exerted by National Judaism be, when even its opponents are forced to employ its own medium in order to gain a hearing.
Read the work of Dr. Sachs, The Religious Poetry of the Spanish Jews. This book, written in the finest style, will convince you that educated orthodox Jews exert a far more wholesome influence on Judaism than the reformers. The last only reflect, on the ruins of a fossilized orthodoxy, a cold, borrowed light of a by-gone epoch, without possessing either the light or the warmth of new life themselves. You perhaps know, from reading Heine's Romancero, the tragic end of this great patriot and sacred singer, Judah Halevi who, according to the legend, met his death at the ruins of the Temple at Jerusalem, whither he was driven by his irresistible longing to visit the land of his fathers. You will certainly be interested to learn a few things about the life and character of this pious bard who enriched our prayer book with his beautiful and noble poems. "The one," says Dr. Sachs, "who cannot theoretically conceive the solution of the problem, how a dispersed people may possess a nationality and a homeless nation a fatherland, will find in the personality of this great singer and in his poetry, a practical solution to that problem." I must here remark that the Judaeo-Spanish cultural epoch succeeded in solving one more grave problem, namely, how it is possible to be a good, patriotic, national Jew, in the full sense of the word, and at the same time participate in the cultural and political life of the land to such a degree that the land may become a second fatherland. "The longing for the hour of redemption," continues Sachs, "is the dominant note in the Jewish poetry of the Spanish period. With many, it was the oppressive conditions of existence that called forth that irrepressible longing. But with Halevi, this longing is a pure, loving desire, which possesses, on the one hand, the simplicity and naivete of childhood and; on the other, the glow of a mighty passion. The energy and vividness with which he expresses his confidence in the redemption of his people is only the more gripping, because of the fact that in his poetry there is no trace of the gloomy present, and his hope of the future does not appear to be the result of a daring escape from the dark environment which surrounds 'him, into the shining regions of phantasy. He is confident of his cause and the joy of his belief intoxicates and inspires him."
This confidence and joy of belief remind me vividly of my pious grandfather. Whenever they spoke to him of plans for the future, he always objected to making such plans, remarking that we Jews, being in exile, have no right to plan for the future, as- the Messiah may suddenly arrive. My grandfather was neither a poet nor a prophet; he was only a plain business man, who in the daytime attended to his routine work, that he might support his family and in the night devoted himself to religious and scholarly studies. After the dispersion, study became, as you can find again in Sachs, an essential and inseparable part of the national cult. "The house of study," he says, "became the only central point of an independent, free life, and the teachers were the bearers of all ideals which were typical and characteristic of national Judaism." The Synagogue was rather a schoolhouse than a house of prayer. Even to the present day, it is still designed, by the German Jews, as "Schul." The typical national cult, finding its expression in the study and in the minute observance of thousands of precepts with which Judaism fenced itself around in order to preserve its integrity in dispersion, is misconceived by our enlightened Jews. These legal and religious precepts and commandments, which permeate the whole life of the Jew, are condemned and mocked at by blockheads, who have not the least conception of the patriotic significance of these precepts and who consider themselves progressive only because they have turned their back on the traditions of their people. It is the same tendency which came to the front immediately after the appearance of Mendelssohn and which caused Mendelssohn himself pain and aggravation. During the life of Mendelssohn, there emerged those "Modern Jews" who measure the degree of enlightenment and education one possesses by the amount of his disregard for Jewish customs, and who finally graduated into State service by presenting a conversion certificate as their diploma. They relate an anecdote which originated during that first epoch of Jewish enlightenment and which is characteristic of that period. A Jew came to Mendelssohn and boasted of his son's philosophical ability. When the great Berlin philosopher asked the father wherein the philosophical acumen of his son consisted, the happy man replied, "Why my son has not put on his Tephillin for months."
You know that the use of phylacteries on the forehead and the hand originates in a Mosaic command. It is prescribed in the Pentateuch, that in order to remember the divine teaching, we should inscribe the words of God's law on the doorposts of our houses, and symbolize that teaching by wearing fringes on our garments, binding the phylacteries ''as a sign upon the arm and as frontlets between the eyes." We find pictures of garments with such fringes on the old Egyptian monuments, which proves that this custom is a very ancient one. But even assuming with Schorr that the custom of putting on phylacteries is not as old as that of wearing fringes on the garments, the results of Schorr's investigation were not known to that "enlightened" son and his happy father; just as they were unknown to the Berlin philosopher, who conscientiously put on his tephillin every day and observed all the Jewish customs. The enlightened epikoros could by no means understand Mendelssohn's conscientious attachment to traditional Judaism. His relation to orthodox Judaism was not, as Mendelssohn persuaded himself, a logical result of his rationalism, but was a natural expression of his true Jewish spirit. His fine sense of religiosity told him, that when a man turns his back on tradition, he really severs himself from Judaism itself and from its national essence. It is one thing to restore Judaism, through unbiased historical criticism, to its origins; it is quite another to discard it and belittle it through indifference and imitation. You, who declare the teachings and ordinances of our sages to be foolish inventions, pray to tell us what would have become of Judaism and the Jews if they had not, through the institutions of the Talmudic sages, thrown a protecting fence around their religion, so as to safeguard it for the coming days? Would they have continued to exist for eighteen hundred years and have resisted the influence of Christian and Mohammedan civilization? Would they not long ago have disappeared as a nation from the face of the earth, had they not, after they were driven out of their own land, created out of the confines of their own life, a sacred territory for their existence and a soil on which they could thrive?
To those who lack the historical sense, the existence of one nation more or less is of little importance for the historical development of humanity. The great organic creation of Jewish literature which, for the last three thousand years, was a gradual growth out of the national essence of Judaism, seems to the spiritual dwarfs, the rationalist, to be no more than an unnecessary growth which, even in our age of enlightenment, has not been sufficiently eradicated. These pygmies, who are living in an age of giants, do not realize that their very existence is an anachronism. As a precursor of the French Revolution, in the century of The Critique of Pure Reason the existence of rationalism was justified. But to-day, when the shackles of dogmatism have long been shaken off, we feel more the need of creating new values, and for this purpose utilize the creations of all ages, than the continuation of mere negative criticism which has, at present, but little value for us. The desire to create new values is felt even by those who are unable to discern the creative ability in the expressions of the Jewish spirit, and are thus unable to utilize the previous creations of Judaism as a basis. But in their ignorance and mental helplessness, they turned, in their desire for creation, to external, artificial means, which do not spring from the deep well of our people's life.
In Jewry, as well as in the entire modern world, there are to be discovered at present, two main tendencies which, though diametrically opposed to each other, still originate from the same course, namely, the need of objective religious norms and the inability to create them. One tendency, as a result of the above-mentioned cause, expresses itself on the part of some people in turning back to the old uncritical belief which, however, with them, lost its naive and true character. In their despair, which arose as a result of the dominant nihilism, they insist on a conscious contradiction to all reason. This desperate reaction, which defies the results of criticism and spiritual revolution, is known in the Christian world as Supernaturalism. In the Jewish world, it is represented by Hirsch, of Frankfort AIM, and other less gifted spirits, as well as by a host of ignoramuses and hypocrites, whose association with it really lessens its dignity. As an antidote against this reaction, the negative reform aspirations may possess some justification, even though, from the point of view of reason, they did not succeed in creating any stable solid life norms. The characteristic trait of the negative spiritual tendency, which labored in vain to create something of a general Jewish value, is its extreme individualism and incoherence. The modern religious reformers are sectarians without sects. Each of our Jewish Protestants has his own code. Out of this chaos of opinions there will undoubtedly in time develop a new Jewish life. But this new life, the beginnings of which are already noticeable in the activities of the younger generation of Jewish scholars, will bring entirely different results from those hitherto expected in the liberal circles of German Jewry.
French Jewry, also, within which there is not as yet, and perhaps there never will be, any cleavage on the lines of reform and orthodoxy, is not free from the traces of a tendency which strives after a fusion of all historical cults into one, and which endeavors to reach its aim by removing from the various religions their historical and characteristic traits, retaining only their common elements. You have certainly heard of Joseph Salvador, the author of the work entitled History of the Mosaic Institutions and of the Hebrew People. This same author recently published a work entitled Paris, Rome and Jerusalem in which he clearly shows that even among our enlightened brethren, there are dreamers who wish for a rebuilding of the Temple of Jerusalem. But he attaches to this rebuilding conditions that are acceptable neither to pious nor to progressive Christians and Jews. If I understand the author correctly, he expects his New Jerusalem to become the world capital of the fusionists. Salvador, furthermore, seems to cherish the curious idea that the Jews ought first to turn Christians, so that they may be the better able to convert the Christians afterward to Judaism. This work is, in reality, not as new as Salvador thinks; it began eighteen hundred years ago. It seems, however, that the Judaism of which Salvador is thinking is as new as his Christianity.
More reasonable are the attempts of those fusionists who, like my friend Hirsch, of Luxemburg, are utilizing freemasonry as a means to amalgamate all the historical cults into one. The Luxemburg Rabbi, the antipode of his namesake, the Frankfort Rabbi Hirsch, developed the idea of fusion so thoroughly in the excellent lectures which he delivered at the Luxemburg Lodge, and later published under the title Humanity as a Religion, that, according to him, the matter may be considered closed, All that remains for the rabbis to do is to close up their reform temples and send the school children to the masonic temples. In truth, the logical consequences of reform have long since led those who took the sermons of the reform rabbis seriously, toward making such a step; as you, being a resident of Frankfort, well know. In vain did they afterward ornament their fusionist sermons with Talmudic quotations. It was too late and they had to be satisfied to preach to empty pews.
Jewish rationalists, who have as little reason to remain within the fold of Judaism as have Christian rationalists for clinging to Christianity are, like their Christian friends, very energetic in discovering new grounds for the existence of a religion which, according to them, has no longer any reason to exist. According to them, the dispersion of the Jews was merely a preliminary step to their entering upon their great mission. What great things are the Jews in exile to accomplish in their opinion? First of all, they are to represent "pure" theism, in contradistinction to Christianity. In the next place, tolerant Judaism is to teach intolerant Christianity the principles of humanitarianism. Furthermore, it is the function of exilic Judaism to take care that morality and life, which in the Christian world, are severed from each other, should become one. And lastly, the Jews must also act as industrial and commercial promoters-be the leaven of such activities among the civilized nations in whose midst they live. I have even heard it remarked quite seriously, that the Indo-Germanic race must improve its quality by mingling with the Jewish race!
But, mark you, from all these real or imaginary benefits which the Jews in dispersion confer upon the world, none will be diminished even after the restoration of the Jewish State. For just as at the time of the return from the Babylonian exile not all the Jews settled in Palestine, but the majority remained in the lands of exile, where there had been Jewish settlements since the dispersion of Israel and Judah, so need we not look forward to a larger concentration of Jews at the future restoration. Besides, it seems to me that those benefits which the Jews in exile confer upon the world are exaggerated, "for the sake of the cause." I consider it an anachronism to assign to the Jews those missions which they certainly performed in antiquity, and to some extent also in medieva l times, but which, at present, no longer belong peculiarly to them. As to affecting the unity of life and theory, it is only possible with a nation which is politically organized; such a nation alone is able to realize it practically by embodying it in its institutions.
Again, what section of world. Jewry is to teach the Christians tolerance and humanity? You will surely say the enlightened Jews. But is not the enlightened Christian entitled to repeat to the enlightened Jew the words which Lessing, in his Nathan the Wise) puts into the mouth of the liberal Christian in his answer to the liberal Jew: "What makes me a Christian in your eyes, makes you a Jew in mine."
Or, on the other hand, should the enlightened Jew say to the orthodox Christian, "Your beliefs are mere superstitions, your religion only fanaticism," may the enlightened Christian not turn to the orthodox Jew and make similar remarks in defense of his own religion? Our cultured Jews who accuse Christians of possessing a persecution mania, reason as fallaciously as does Bethmann Hollweg when he charges the Jews with the same trait. History can neither be explained nor changed in its course by such explanations.
From the viewpoint of enlightenment, I see as little reason for the continuation of the existence of Judaism as for Christianity. It is better for the Jew who does not believe in the national regeneration of his people, to labor, like the enlightened Christian, for the dissolution of his religion. I understand how one can hold such an opinion. But what I do not understand is, how it is possible to believe simultaneously in "enlightenment" and in a Jewish Mission in exile; in other words, in the ultimate dissolution and in the continued existence of Judaism at the same time.
A dilemma - The sacred history of mankind - Our allies - The unity of the human genus -Races and folk types - The organism of mankind.
You confronted me with the dilemma, that we must either agree with the Luxemburg Hirsch, that the goal and essence of Judaism is humanitarianism, in which case it is not national regeneration, but the realization of humanitarian ideals which is the aim worth striving for; and Judaism, like every religious or political society; must ultimately become absorbed and disappear in the larger fellowship of humanity; or we must agree with the Frankfort Hirsch, who sees in Judaism the only salvation; in which case, we disagree with the modern humanitarian aspirations and, like orthodox Christianity, we need make little appeal to public opinion of the century; for public opinion will receive such an appeal with the same feeling that it would receive a Chinese Proclamation or a Papal Bull.
I believe, dear friend that the opinions I have heretofore expressed in my correspondence with you have little in common with either horn of the dilemma. They do not agree with the conceptions of either extreme faction, but belong to a different order of ideas; I believe that not only does the national essence of Judaism not exclude civilization and humanitarianism, but that the latter really follow from it, as necessarily as the result follows from the cause. If, in spite of this, I emphasize the national side of Judaism, which is the root, rather than the humanitarian aspect, which is the bloom and flower, it is because in our time people are prone to decorate themselves with the flowers of culture rather than cultivate them again in the soil on which they grew. It is out of Judaism that our humanitarian view of life sprapg. There is not a phase in Christian morality, nor in the scholastic philosophy of the Middle There nor in modern philanthropy, and, if we add the latest manifestation of Judaism, Spinozism, not even in modern philosophy, which does not have its roots in Judaism. Until the French Revolution, the Jewish people was the only people in the world which had, simultaneously, a national as well as a humanitarian religion. It is through Judaism that the history of humanity became a sacred history. I mean by that, that process of unified organic development which has its origin in the love of the family and which will not be completed until the whole of humanity becomes one family, the members of which will be united by the holy spirit, the creative genius of history, as strongly as the organs of a body are united by the creative natural forces. As long as no other people possessed such a national, humanitarian cult, the Jews alone were the people of God. Since the French Revolution, the French, as well as the other peoples which followed them, have become our noble rivals and faithful allies.
With the final victory of these nations over medieva l reaction, the humanitarian aspirations, with which I am greatly in sympathy, so long as they do not express them" selves merely in hypocritical, flowery words, will be realized and bear fruit. Anti-national Humanitarianism is just as unfruitful as the anti-humanitarian Nationalism of medieva l reaction. In theoretical anti-national humanitarianism I can only see, mildly speaking, an idealistic dream, but not a semblance of reality. We become so saturated with spiritualistic love and humanistic chloroform that we ultimately become entirely unconscious of the pain and misery that the antagonism which still exists between the various members of the great human family causes in real life. This antagonism will not be eradicated by enlightened sermons, but only by a process of historical development based on laws as unchangeable as the laws of Nature. Just as Nature does not produce flowers and fruits of a general character, nor general plants and animals, but produces particular plant and animal types, so does the creative power in history produce only folk types. In mankind, the plan of the plant and animal kingdoms finds its perfection; but humanity, as a separate life sphere, as the sphere of social life, is still in the process of development. We find in the history of social life a primal differentiation of folk-types which at first; plantlike, existed side by side with each other; then, animal-like, fought each other and destroyed or absorbed one another, but which will finally, in order to become absolutely free, live not only in friendly fashion with one another, but live each for the other preserving, at the same time, their particular type identity.
The laws of universal history, I mean the history of the universe, namely, those of the cosmic, organic and social life, are as yet little known. We have particular sciences, but not a science of the universe; we still do not know the unity of all life. One thing, however, is certain, that a fusion of cults, an ideal to which so many aspire, and which was realized, at least in part, for thousands of years by Catholic Rome, will as little establish a lasting peace in human society as the philanthropic but unscientific belief in the absolute equality of men. In their attempt to base the granting of equal rights to all men on the primitive uniformity of all races and types, the humanitarians confound the organization of social life on the basis of solidarity, which is the result of a long and painful process of historical development, with a readymade, inorganic equality and uniformity, which becomes rarer and rarer the farther back we go in history. The reconciliation of races follows its own natural laws, which we can neither arbitrarily create nor change. As to the fusion of cults, it is really a past stage in the development of social life. It was the watchword of that religion which owes its existence to the death of the nations of antiquity, i.e., Christianity. To-day the real problem is how free the various oppressed races and folk-types and allow them to develop in their own way. The dangerous possibility that the various nationalities will separate themselves entirely from each other or ignore each other is to be feared as little as the danger that they will fight among themselves and enslave one another.
The present-day national movement not only does not exclude humanitarianism, but strongly asserts it; for this movement is a wholesome reaction, not against humanism, but against the things that would encroach upon it and cause its degeneration, against the leveling tendencies of modern industry and civilization which threaten to deaden every original organic life-force, by introducing a uniform inorganic mechanism. As long as these tendencies were directed against the antiquated institutions of a long-passed historical period, their existence was justified. Nor can this nationalistic reaction object to them, insofar as they endeavor to establish closer relations between the various nations of the world. But, fortunately, people have gone so far in life, as well as in science, as to deny the typical and the creative; and as a result the vapor of idealism, on the one hand, and the dust of atomism on the other, rest like mildew on the red corn, and stifle the germinating life in the bud. It is against these encroachments on the most sacred principles of creative life that the national tendencies of our time react, and it is against these destructive forces that I appeal to the original national power of Judaism.
Like the general universal cosmic life which finds its termination in it, and the individual microcosmic life in which all the buds and fruits of the spirit finally ripen. Humanity is a living organism, of which races and peoples are the members. In every organism changes are continually going on. Some, quite prominent in the embryonic stage, disappear in the later development. There are organs, on the other hand, hardly noticeable in the earlier existence of the organism, which become important only when the organism reaches the end of its development.
To the latter class of members of organic humanity (which class is really the creative one) belongs the Jewish people. This people was hardly noticeable in the world, where it was greatly oppressed by its powerful, conquering neighbors. Twice it came near being destroyed; namely, in the Egyptian and Babylonian captivities; and twice it rose to new spiritual life and fought long and successfully against the mightiest as well as the most civilized peoples of antiquity-the Greeks and the Romans. Finally, in the last struggle of the ancient world, it was this people which fertilized the genius of humanity with its own spirit, so as to rejuvenate itself, along with the regeneration of humanity" To-day, when the process of rejuvenation of the historical peoples is ended and each nation has its special function in the organism of humanity, we are for the first time beginning to conceive the England, with its industrial organization, represents the nerve-force of humanity which directs and regulates the alimentary system of mankind; France, that of general motion, namely, the social; Germany discharges the function of thinking; and America represents the general regenerating power by means of which all elements if the historical peoples will be assimilated into one. We observe that every modem people, every part of modern society, displays in its activity as an organ of humanity a special calling, then he must also determine the importance and function of the only ancient people which still exists to-day, as strong and vigorous as it was in days of old, namely, the people of Israel.
In the organism of humanity there are no two peoples which attract and repel each other more than the Germans and the Jews; just as there are no two mental attitudes which are simultaneously akin to each other and still diametrically opposed, as the scientific-philosophical and the religious-moral. Religion, in its higher form, is the spiritual tie which binds the creature to the Creator, the infinite thread, the end of which returns to its source, the bridge which leads from one creation to the other, from life to death, and from death back to life. It not only brings man to know the absolute more intimately, but it inspires and sanctifies his whole life with the divine spirit. In religion, as in love, especially in a religion like Judaism, which is neither one-sidedly materialistic nor one-sidedly spiritualistic, body and spirit merge into one I; another. The greatest and most dangerous enemy of the Jewish religion in antiquity was the religion of gross sensualist, the material love of the Semites, namely, Baal worship" In medieva l ages, the enemy was represented by the embodiment of spiritualistic love-Christianity. The Jewish people which, thanks to its prophets of antiquity and rabbis of the Middle Ages, kept its religion from both extremes of degeneration, was, and is still today that organ of humanity which expresses the Jiving, native force in universal history, namely, the organ of unifying and sanctifying love. This organ is akin to the organ of thought, but is, at the same time, opposed to it both draw their force from the inexhaustible well of life. But, while the religious genius individualizes the infinite, philosophic, scientific thought abstracts from life all its individual, subjective forms and generalizes it. Objective philosophy and science have no direct connection with life; religious teaching is intimately united with it, for either religion is identical with the national, social and moral life, or it is mere hypocrisy.
I have wandered from my trend of thought. I merely wanted to explain to you why I do not ally myself with the humanitarian aspirations which endeavor to-obliterate all differentiation in the organism of humanity and in the name of such catch words as "Liberty" and "Progress," build altars to arbitrariness and ignorance, on which our light-minded youth offers its best energies and sacrifices.
Another dilemma - Experimental sciences - Philosophy and Religion - Progress and periodic circulation - A genetic comparison of the organic, cosmic life with the social - Moral necessity or holiness - Epochs of social evolution: the paleontological times of the formation of the embryo, birth period and birth travail, age of maturity.
Just as you confronted me on a former occasion with the dilemma: "Humanitarianism or Nationalism," and reproached me for sympathizing with national aspirations, in spite of the fact that they contradict the humanitarian tendencies of our time, so do you now propound another dilemma: "Freedom or Necessity. You think it pure fatalism to consider humanity as a higher organism, and to observe in the history of nations the operation of the same eternal laws which govern the history of the earth and Nature. You think that in cosmic and organic life, moral laws do not obtain; here only natural forces operate, which are predetermined, and which can be calculated beforehand. But it is different with social life. Even this life is regulated by natural conditions, but it is the goal of man, who is a free being, to overcome the fatalism of Nature with his free-will actions, which are the basis of morality and progress in the higher sense.
I am pleased to see that you are well versed in the higher philosophical conceptions of German thought. I agree with you in your view of human life and believe, also, that moral freedom is the destiny of man as well as of humanity. But to me this goal of humanity is identical with the recognition of God, which Judaism proclaimed at the very beginning of its history, and to the spread and development of which it has always contributed, and which, since Spinoza, it has made accessible to all historical nations. This knowledge of God, which in its first manifestations as the spirit of historical humanity, had not been fully conceived, but only perceived through unanalyzed sense impressions and intuitive experience, and which heretofore had appeared only as wisdom and light, must henceforth, on the basis of the already acquired wisdom and light, progress and become an exact science, which draws its knowledge not only from internal and external experience, but also examines it critically.
In order to forestall your criticism of my Jewish view of the world through arguments based upon speculative philosophy, I have no other choice but to prove to you that philosophic speculation is not the last word in mental development, as little as is industrial speculation and dominance of Capital the goal of material development. Exact science, which recognizes only observation, experience, work and research, as the only legitimate means of acquiring mental and material wealth, and considers speculation to be only a combination of mental trickery and unfounded hypothesis must, in my case, become the supreme authority to which I appeal. I will show you, that although exact science which recognizes only eternal natural laws, seems to be in apparent contradiction to philosophy, which raises spirit above nature, and to religion, which sanctifies both spirit and nature insofar as it subordinates them both to a single being, yet it finally changes into that perfect knowledge., which conceives the laws of nature and history as one and the same, and where all contradiction disappears. But I must first make you understand that even this apparent contradiction between science and philosophy and religion had its justification, and was a necessary stage in the history of human development.
Even to-day, science, philosophy and religion are not reconciled to one another. On the contrary, to-day, when we are on the eve of a new historical era, just as in the corresponding critical transition period from antiquity to the Middle Ages, the seemingly irreconcilable antagonism between religion, philosophy and experimental science, is more marked than it was in the heyday of the ancient or medieva l world, which hardly knew such an antagonism. The basis of this theoretical contradiction, just as the practical antagonism in social life, lies in the unequal development of the various classes of humanity, in the relations between the dominant and subservient races and classes, in the division of material and intellectual labor, and in the acquisitions resulting from this division. This inequality of development, advancing with the progress of civilization, was the rock upon which ancient society foundered. In the material and mental spheres, and especially in the latter, these contrasts, which ruined the ancient world, are more sharply defined to-day than they were at the close of the age of antiquity, when the division of labor was not as minutely developed as it is in our present transition period. The result is that today, as in the ancient world, not only is religion in conflict with philosophy, but philosophy is also antagonistic to exact 'science. And yet, as you will yourself admit, truth in experimental science cannot be different from truth in philosophy or in religion. But as long as the reconciliation between these various spheres of knowledge is not accomplished, it will be a difficult matter for me to prove to you, in a few lines, or even to make it plausible to you, that science, philosophy and religion do not mutually exclude each other; that at the worst, they only ignore each other; and that finally, they will support each other and with united forces help the progress of mankind..
Let us, then, first make clear to ourselves the oft-misunderstood concepts of "Freedom" and "Progress," which are so often carelessly used.
The belief in a rational, and therefore cognizable, divine Law, as revealed to humanity in the teaching and life of Judaism, this belief in a divine Providence, in a place of creation, is not a blind, fatalistic belief in destiny, although it excludes arbitrary and lawless freedom. I do not assert, with the materialists, that the organic and spiritual world is subjected, like the inorganic world, to the same laws as an external mechanism. On the contrary, I affirm that cosmic mechanical phenomena have the same plan, the same purposefulness, and spring out of the same sacred life as organic and spiritual phenomena. Nature and humanity are subordinated to the same divine law. The difference is, that Nature follows this law blindly, while man, when perfectly developed, obeys it consciously and voluntarily. Another important difference, the non-observance of which gives rise to a misunderstanding of the concepts of "freedom'; and "Progress," lies in this, that while the natural sphere of life of the organic and cosmic world, which is the basis of our social, human sphere of life, has already accomplished its own development, humanity is still in the midst of its life-creating process. As long as human society is still occupied in the production of its own organism, man, in his creative capacity, considers himself as an irresponsible and unfettered being, although he, like Nature, is subordinated, in his very creation, to the eternal divine laws. The false conception of human freedom as arbitrariness arises mainly from the fact that we do not as yet know either the laws regulating the development of social life or its goal; and we cannot know this law from experience so long as we are still in the midst of the stream of development.
But though science is still silent concerning the law governing the development of social life, the religious genius discovered it long ago. We Jews have always, from the beginning of our history, cherished the faith in a future Messianic epoch. This belief is symbolically expressed, in. our historical religion, by the Sabbath festival. The celebration of the Sabbath is the embodiment of the great idea which has always animated us, namely, that the future will bring about the realization of the historical Sabbath, just as the past gave us the natural Sabbath. In other words, that History, like Nature, will finally have her epoch of harmonious perfection. The Biblical story of the Creation is told only for the sake of the Sabbath ideal. It tells us, in symbolic language, that when the creation of the world of Nature was completed, with the calling into life of the highest organic being of the earth-Man-and the Creator celebrated his natural Sabbath, there at once began the work -days of History. Then, also, began the history of creation of the social world, which will celebrate its Sabbath after the completion of its world-historical labor, by introducing the Messianic epoch. Here, in this conception, you can see the high moral value of the Mosaic genesis history, in which supernaturalists have discovered a system of science. As you see, my esteemed friend, the very biblical Sabbath-law in itself inspires us with a feeling of certainty that the uniform, eternal, divine law governs alike both the world of Nature and the world of History. It is only to those people who cannot conceive the manifestation of the religious genius of the Jews that the historical development of humanity appears as lawless, indeterminate, infinite "Progress" when contrasted with the life of Nature which, though it has not reached the end of its development, is yet governed by strict laws which are calculable. You see, however, that this apparent difference between the laws of Nature and those of history, is only the result of a subjective conception which cannot rise to an understanding of the great universal, divine laws. We can as little think of the freedom of the created being of History as mere lawless arbitrariness, as we can speak of the historical progress as infinite.
We call every being free, in the natural sense, which can develop its own destiny, its inner calling, according to its natural inclinations, without any external restraint. That being is free, in the moral sense, which follows its calling with consciousness and will, whose will coincides with the divine law will. Every other form of will is only arbitrariness, which does not partake of the divine essence of willing, but owes its existence to passions and natural instincts. This ability to follow the desires and passions which lead astray from the path of reason and morality, man possesses only when his inner essence is not sufficiently developed. Man can certainly not be proud of this negative ability, which is no more than a disease, a disease indicating a lack of development. This ability does not raise him above the animal, but on the contrary puts him below it; for animal life, as well as plant life, is already developed and perfected.
"Man," says Goethe, "errs as long as he strives." But there is no striving without a purpose. The goal to which humanity, in the course of its historical development, strives is the recognition of the laws which govern all the three life-spheres, the social, organic and cosmic.
The law of the universe is the law of generation and development, or to use a better-known expression, "the law of progress." The complete and perfect operation of this law, in all. the three life-spheres, is not yet known. In order to recognize fully the workings of this law, we still miss a part of its field of operation-the last phase of development of the social life. The law of history, therefore, cannot as yet become scientifically known. The ways of Providence are still but dimly outlined for us. But, thanks to the religious genius of the Jews and its divine Revelation, which continually manifested itself in various forms: first in prophetic utterances, then in mysticism, and finally in philosophic speculation-the human spirit was constantly brought nearer to the recognition of this law. It is, however, still necessary that the law of history should be investigated and its operations defined by the experimental sciences.
What modern science knows about the law of generation and development operating in the three life-spheres, the cosmic, organic and social, I have already discussed elsewhere. But I have come to the conclusion, through my scientific and historical studies, that there is only one law governing all movement and life phenomena of all the spheres of the universe, the organisms of the earth and the nations of history. There is as little infinite, indeterminate progress in the social human world, as there is in the plant and animal world, at the end of which stands the natural, undeveloped man. Here, as in the cosmic life-sphere, the field of operation of which is infinite space, everything is generated, develops, accomplishes its aim in life, and then decays and dissolves in order to arise again to a new life entity in the eternal, infinite, unified and divine cycle of universal life. What we call "progress" is no more than the development of a being from the germ stage to the mature life stage. At this stage each being reaches its destination.
Just as beings vary, just as the difference between the single atom and the entire world-sphere, between the lowest organic infusorium and the highest earthly being Man-is wide and great, so various and wide is the difference between their ages of life maturity and consequently between their goals and destinations. But nothing living remains unchanged in time and space, nothing is eternal, everything comes into existence, and ultimately disappears after it has carried out its mission in order to arise again to a new form of like the great planetary bodies originated and developed in a space and time of such magnitude that we have no standard of comparison wherewith to measure it. Organic life, which began to develop on these bodies after they had already cooled off and their surface had become rigid, consumed the entire palieontological age in its development and perfection. Finally, man, who began his spiritual, humane and social development at the ripe age of the organic life sphere, will reach his destination only after humanity will have completed its historical development which, though it has not reached its end as yet, is still not unlimited and infinite.
Whatever arises in time requires, of course, a certain time for its development, but it must reach its completion and perfection in a finite and determinate time. We recognize only one eternal, timeless and spaceless, absolute being. We infer its existence through the one absolute law governing natural and historical life, the revelation of which only Judaism possessed. Out of the unified recognition of this law a unified life will necessarily follow; for knowledge and action, or theory and life, are inseparable. Dualism, struggle, and even victory of virtue exist only during the historical development of the recognition of God, but not after its perfection. During this development, we are only able to strive after morality; but after the recognition of God, or his law is perfected within us, we must live morally. This moral necessity is holiness. Judaism, which from the beginning of its history revealed the unity and sacredness of the divine law in Nature and history, has, therefore, from the beginning, put forth the demand that holiness should become an ideal of life, and its prophets have always heralded the coming of the epoch when men will arrive at the full knowledge of God.
We must not represent either the sacred essence of God, or even our own God-like essence, in terms of time and space. The perfect recognition is, in reality, the overcoming of spatiality and temporality, namely, the historical development of the divine law in the cosmic, organic and social life spheres. We display our imperfect development and immature knowledge when we represent eternity as time continuance. Such representations prove only that our relation to holiness is not as yet perfect. The revelations of the holy spirit point to no other future but to the mature age of the social world. This age will begin, according to our historical religion, with the Messianic era. This is the era in which the Jewish nation and all the other historical nations will arise again to a new life, the time of the "resurrection of the dead," of "the coming of the Lord," of the "N ew Jerusalem," and of all the other symbolic expressions, the meaning of which is no longer misunderstood.
The Messianic era is the present age, which began to germinate with the teachings of Spinoza, and finally came into historical existence with the great French Revolution. With the French Revolution, there began the regeneration of those nations which had acquired their national historical religion only through the influence of Judaism.
The social life-sphere, like the cosmic and the" organic, is divided in its development into three epochs, which in their intrinsic structure are analogous in all the three life spheres. The first manifestation of history, that of ancient Judaism and Paganism, is the palieontological epoch of social life. It corresponds, on the one hand, to the embryological epoch in the history of development of organic life on this earth, which terminated in the tertiary period with the birth of the present existing organisms; and, on the other hand, it is analogous, in the cosmic sphere, to the epoch of world formation, the age of comets and nebulie, an age which finally culminated in the birth and rise of the astral bodies.
The second manifestation of history that of medieva l Judaism, Christianity and Islam, is the epoch of the birth of modern Society. It corresponds, in the organic sphere, to the period of the birth of the present existing organisms, and in the cosmic world to the time of the birth of the planetary bodies.
The third manifestation of history, namely, the present age of the social life-sphere, corresponds to the epoch of perfected organisms in the organic sphere and that of the developed planetary system in the cosmic.
This age of maturity began, in the cosmic sphere, with the satellites or double stars and ended with the perfection of the solar systems; in the organic sphere, it began with the prehistoric period, and finally came to completion in the historic races of mankind. In the social sphere, it is not yet completed; it is at present developing its last race and class struggle, in order to bring about a reconciliation of all opposites and to establish an equilibrium between production and consumption, and finally to reach that perfected and harmonious course of life which characterizes every age of maturity.
You will find, esteemed friend, the world-view, here outlined, to be the underlying basis of all my works. I have never held any other since I became a writer. It is the soul of my aspirations. Its realization is my life work, and at the opportune moment I hope to develop it further. The narrow limits of a letter do not allow more de tailed discussion of such a broad subject. Besides, I am at present too much interested in the fate of my own people to devote myself to the solution of a problem which, though intrinsically connected with the future of Judaism, must first await the solution of the Jewish national problem.
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