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The contrast which is commonly drawn between History and Philosophy exists only so long as History is conceived as a series of accidental occurrences, or as mere empirical necessity. The former is the vulgar theory, to which the other is supposed to be superior, but its limitations are equally narrow. History also proceeds from an eternal unity, and has its roots in the absolute, like Nature or any other object of cognition. The contingency of events and actions seems, to the common understanding, to be founded on the contingent nature of individuals. But, I ask, What, then, is this or that individual, but that which has carried out this or that particular action? There can be no other conception of the individual; hence, if the action is necessary, so is the individual. That which, even from a low stand-point, is free, and consequently objective, can appear as accidental in all action —is merely that the individual takes for his deed what is already determined and necessary; but for the rest, and as regards the consequence, it is, for good or for evil, the instrument of absolute necessity.
Empirical necessity is nothing but a device for prolonging the reign of chance by infinite postponement of necessity. If we allow this kind of necessity in Nature to be valid only for the phenomenon, then how much more must it be allowed in history? What intelligent person will persuade himself that events like the development of Christianity, the migration of nations, the crusades, and so many other great events, had their real origin in the causes generally assigned to them? And, even if these were really the controlling ones, they are in this relation again only the instruments of an eternal order of things.
What is true of history in general is specially true of the history of religion, namely, that it is founded in an eternal necessity, and, hence, that a logical deduction of it is possible, by means of which it is closely and intimately one with the science of religion.
The historical logical deduction of Christianity can begin only from one point — that of the universal view that the world, in so far as it is history, necessarily appears to be specialized
from two sides, and this contrast, which the modern world makes against the old, is sufficient to explain the nature and all special peculiarities of Christianity. The ancient world is in so far the nature side of history as its prevailing unity or idea is the being of the infinite in the finite. The close of ancient and the beginning of modern times, whose dominant principle is the infinite, could only be brought about when the true infinite came into the finite — not to deify it, but to sacrifice God in His own person, and thus to reconcile the finite and infinite. Hence the great idea of Christianity is God incarnate in man — Christ as the summit and finality of the ancient world of gods. He makes finite in Himself the divine, but He does not take on humanity in its highest, but in its lowest, estate, and He stands there as the dividing limit of the two worlds decreed from eternity, although a transitory phenomenon in Time. He Himself returns into the invisible realm, promising instead of Himself, not the principle which, coming into the finite, remains finite, but the spirit — the ideal principle which leads the finite back to the infinite, and is thus the light of the modern world.
All other characteristics of Christianity are connected with this first idea. The presentation of the unity of the infinite and finite objectively by means of symbols, like the Greek religion, is impossible in the ideal tendency of Christianity. All symbolism belongs to the subjectivity; hence the solution of the contradiction which is visible internally, not externally, remains a mystery, a secret. The everywhere-present antinomy of the divine and the natural is canceled only through the subjective requirement in an incomprehensible manner to think both as one. Such a subjective unity is expressed in the definition of a miracle. The origin of every idea, according to this conception, is a miracle, because it arises in time without having a relation to time. No miracle can take place in a temporal manner; it is the absolute — that is, it is God Himself who is revealed in the miracle, and, consequently, the idea of revelation is absolutely necessary in Christianity.
A religion which exists as poetry in the race has as little need of an historical basis as nature— always open and
revealed — has of religion. Where the divine principle does not live in permanent forms, but passes away in fleeting appearances, it needs some means by which to hold them, and needs tradition to perpetuate them. Besides the mysteries peculiar to religion, there must be a mythology which is the exoteric side of religion, and which is founded on religion, as, conversely, the religion of the former kind was founded on mythology.
The ideas of a religion which is directed to the contemplation of the infinite in the finite must be expressed especially in being. The ideas of a religion founded on the perception of the finite in the infinite — in which all symbolism belongs only to the subject — can become objective alone through action. The original type of all contemplation of God as a moral agent (durch Handeln) is history, but this is endless, immeasurable ; hence it must be represented by a progressive manifestation — eternal, and at the same time limited, which, again, is not real, like the State, but is ideal, and presents as in the immediate present the union of all in spirit with particularized existence in an individual as an immediate presence. This symbolic perception of God is the Church as a living work of art.
Now, as the moral agency (Handeln), which externally expresses the unity of the infinite and the finite, may be called symbolic, so the same considered internally, as mystic and mysticism, is a subjective symbolism. If the utterances of this mode of view have at most times met with contradiction and persecution in the Church, it is because they attempted to make the esoteric of Christianity exoteric; not because the inner spirit of this religion is opposed to the spirit of that mode of view.
If the actions and customs of the Church are to be considered as objectively symbolic, whose meaning is to be taken mystically, we may at least say that those ideas of Christianity which were symbolized in its dogmas have not ceased to be of purely speculative importance, their symbols having attained none of the life independent of their meaning, which the symbols of the Greek mythology had.
The reconciliation of the finite as lapsed from God, thorough His own birth into finite life, is the first thought of Christianity, and the completion of its whole view of the world and its history is stated in the idea of the Trinity, which, for that very reason, is simply necessary. It is well known that Lessing, in his “ Education of the Human Race," endeavored to disclose the philosophic meaning of this doctrine, and what he says of it is, perhaps, the deepest speculative of his writings. But his theory fails to connect this idea with the history of the world, to wit, in this point: that the eternal Son of God, born of the essence of the Father of all things, is the finite itself, as it exists in the eternal intuition of God, and which appears as a suffering God, subject to the vicissitudes of time; who, at the summit of His manifestation in Christ, closes the finite world and reveals the infinite, or the supremacy of the Spirit.
If it were permissible in the present plan to go further into the historical deduction of Christianity, we should, in the same way, recognize the necessity of all the contrasts between Christianity and Heathenism, as well as the predominant ideas and subjective symbols of ideas. It is sufficient for me to have shown the possibility in general. If Christianity, not only in itself, but in its most eminent forms, is historically necessary, and if we connect the higher view of history itself as an issue from the eternal necessity, then we have given the possibility of conceiving Christianity historically as a divine and absolute phenomenon, and, consequently, a truly historical science of religion or of theology.
NOTES AND DISCUSSIONS.
1.-F. W. LORING.
The autumn noon hung round us as we passed
Much I prosed
I said :