The Writings of Martin Buber, edited by Will Herberg

Every person is a philosopher by nature; however, we are quickly dissuaded from this delightful activity by those who call philosophy impractical. But there is nothing more practical than knowing who you are and what you think. Try it sometime.

The Writings of Martin Buber, edited by Will Herberg

Postby admin » Thu Jul 02, 2015 7:52 pm

Selected, Edited, and Introduced by Will Herberg
Copyright 1956 by The World Publishing Company.




What the right is none of the groups of today can come to know except through men who belong to them staking their own souls to discover and then reveal it, however bitter, to their companions -- charitably if possible, cruelly if must be. Into this fiery furnace, the group plunges time and again, or it dies an inward death.

-- The Writings of Martin Buber, Selected, edited and introduced by Will Herberg

Table of Contents:

• Acknowledgments
• Preface
• PART 1. Of Human Existence
o 1. I and Thou (From I and Thou)
o 2. The Question to the Single One (From Between Man and Man)
o 3. Good and Evil
 a. The First Stage
 b. The Second Stage (From Good and Evil)
o 4. The Love of God and the Idea of Deity: On Hermann Cohengy (From Israel and the World)
o 5. God and the Spirit of Man (From Eclipse of God)
• PART 2. Of Social Life
o 1. The Idea (From Paths in Utopia)
o 2. In the Midst of Crisis (From Paths in Utopia)
o 3. An Experiment that Did Not Fail (From Paths in Utopia)
o 4. "And If Not Now, When?" (From Israel and the World)
• PART 3. Of Biblical Faith
o 1. Saga and History (From Moses)
o 2. Holy Event (From The Prophetic Faith)
o 3. "Upon Eagles' Wings* (From Moses)
o 4. The Words on the Tablets (From Moses)
o 5. The Zealous God (From Moses)
o 6. The Contradiction (From Moses)
o 7. Biblical Leadership (From Israel and the World)
o 8. Plato and Isaiah (From Israel and the World)
o 9. The Man of Today and the Jewish Bible (From Israel and the World)
• PART 4. Of Jewish Destiny
o 1. The Faith of Judaism (From Israel and the World)
o 2. The Two Foci of the Jewish Soul (From Israel and the World)
o 3. Nationalism (From Israel and the World)
o 4. The Land and its Possessors: An Answer to Gandhi (From Israel and the World)
o 5. On National Education (From Israel and the World)
o 6. Hebrew Humanism (From Israel and the World)
o 7. Zion and the Other National Concepts (From Israel and Palestine)
o 8. The Silent Question: On Henri Bergson and Simone Weil (From At the Turning)
• PART 5. Of Teaching and Learning
o 1. Teaching and Deed (From Israel and the World)
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Re: The Writings of Martin Buber, edited by Will Herberg

Postby admin » Thu Jul 02, 2015 7:55 pm


For permission to include copyright material in this volume, acknowledgment is gratefully made to the following publishers:

Charles Scribner's Sons: Sections of I and Thou; a section of Good and Evil, copyright © 1953, 1953 by Martin Buber.

The Macmillan Company: Section of "The Question to the Single One" from Between Man and Man; section of The Prophetic Faith; chapters from Paths in Utopia.

Harper & Brothers: Essay "God and the Spirit of Man" from The Eclipse of God.

Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, Inc.: Material drawn from Moses, from At the Turning, and from Israel and Palestine, all published by East and West Library and distributed by Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, Inc.

Schocken Books, Inc.: The following material from Israel and the World, translated by Olga Marx and Greta Hort, copyright © 1948 by Schocken Books, Inc.: "The Love of God and the Idea of Deity"; "And If Not Now, When?"; "The Faith of Judaism"; "The Two Foci of the Jewish Soul"; "Nationalism"; "The Land and Its Possessors"; "On National Education"; "Teaching and Deed"; "Biblical Leadership"; "Plato and Isaiah"; "The Man of Today and the Jewish Bible"; "Hebrew Humanism."

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 56-6573
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Re: The Writings of Martin Buber, edited by Will Herberg

Postby admin » Thu Jul 02, 2015 7:55 pm


The purpose of this volume is to present. within the available space, a selection of the writings of Martin Buber that will communicate to the reader something of the power and relevance of the thought of one of the most profound religious philosophers of the century. Selection is no mechanical operation, and the selection I have made more or less obviously reflects my convictions as to what aspects of Buber's thinking are of particular significance amidst the problems and perplexities of our time. These convictions are made even more explicit in the introductory essay. where exposition is supplemented by an attempt at criticism and evaluation.

Selections are taken exclusively from Buber's writings already available in English. The translations indicated in the sources have been employed; although here and there, in the interests of clarity, I have permitted myself certain modifications upon comparison with the original.

I desire to express my gratitude to Professor Buber for his encouragement and for his approval of the selection I have made, and to Maurice S. Friedman. for his advice and criticism. Neither. of course. is in any way responsible (or my interpretations and conclusions, which are entirely my own.

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Re: The Writings of Martin Buber, edited by Will Herberg

Postby admin » Thu Jul 02, 2015 7:57 pm




Martin Buber is one of the great creative forces in contemporary religious thought. Of his classic I and Thou, a small book of some hundred pages first issued in 1923, J. H. Oldham said twenty years after its appearance: "I question whether airy book has been published in the present century the message of whim, if it were understood, would have such far-reaching consequences for the life of our time." [1] Buber is easily the outstanding Jewish thinker of today, but the impact of his teaching has been felt far beyond the limits of the Jewish community. Every important Christian theologian or religious philosopher of the past generation shows the signs of his seminal influence. And not only theologians and philosophers; men of achievement in every walk of life -- scholars, education, and writers, poets and artists, psychologists and sociologists, physicians, psychotherapists, and social workers -- have testified to what Buber the man and the thinker has meant to them. [2] Few men of the spirit have left so profound a mark on the best thinking of their time as has this unforgettable Central European Jew, who now at seventy eight, is professor emeritus of social philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

I. Martin Buber is one of those men whose life and teaching are so fused that each in its own way bears authentic witness to the other. He was born in Vienna in 1878, but until the age of fourteen was brought up in the Galician home of his grandfather, Solomon Buber, a distinguished scholar. There he received a thorough Jewish education in the traditional style, and first came into contact with Hasidism, which was to become one of the great formative influences of his life and thought. At the universities of Vienna and Berlin, he pursued "secular" studies, particularly philosophy and the history of art, with great distinction.

While still a student in his early twenties, he joined the emerging Zionist movement, and in 1901 became editor of the Zionist periodical Die Welt. Buber's Zionism, however, soon revealed its basic differences with the purely political Zionism associated with the name of Theodor Herzl. His Zionism was cultural and spiritual, involving primarily an effort to encourage a renascence of total Jewish existence. Der Jude, which he founded and edited from 1916 to 1924, was the protagonist of this idea, and quickly became the leading organ of German-speaking Jewry. From 1926 to 1930, he published, jointly with the Catholic theologian, Joseph Wittig, and the Protestant physician and psychotherapist, Viktor von Weizsacker, the journal Die Kreatur, devoted to social and pedagogical problems in relation to religion.

Meanwhile, Buber was pursuing his philosophical, cultural, and religious studies. His thinking at first had a decidedly mystical cast, and indeed some of his early writing was devoted to presenting and interpreting the classics of mysticism, Western and Oriental. Gradually, however, his outlook shifted, and the change was speeded, according to Buber's own account, [3] by a shattering experience which completed the conversion from the "mystical" (Buber calls it the "religious") to the "everyday." In Daniel, [4] published in 1913, a distinctively existential view comes to the fore. Men, Buber finds, are capable of a twofold relation to their experience and environment -- "orientation" and "realization," "Orientation" is the "objective" attitude that orders the environment for knowledge and use; "realization" is the approach that brings out the inner meaning of life in intensified perception and existence (what German philosophy was beginning to call Existenz). The first draft of I and Thou was, according to Buber, made in 1916, though he did not, he says, attain "decisive clarity" until 1919. In I and Thou, as published in 1923, the existential has already given way to the dialogical approach, which governs all of Buber's subsequent work. Basically, each of the stages is transcended and subsumed in its successors: one aspect of the mystical reappears in the existential, and the existential is fulfilled and deepened in the dialogical. [5]

Soon after the first world war, Buber became acquainted with Franz Rosenzweig, with whom he collaborated in a fruitful series of literary and educational enterprises that have left their mark. on a generation of German Jews. The most important of these joint ventures was the Buber-Rosenzweig translation of the Hebrew Bible [6] and the Freies Judisches Lehrhaus (Jewish Academy) in Frankfort, a unique institution that achieved an enduring intellectual influence. For a decade after 1923, Buber was professor at Frankfort. After the triumph of the Nazis, he took over direction of the educational 'activities of the hard-pressed Jewish community, and strove mightily to build up its inner strength and spiritual resources.

In 1958, at the age of sixty, Buber left for Palestine to become professor of social philosophy at the Hebrew University. His new life was no more sheltered and academic than his old life in Germany had been. His brand of religio-cultural Zionism had all along been frowned upon by the "politicals" in the Zionist movement. and now in Palestine itself he developed a viewpoint which threw him into sharp opposition to the dominant ideology. Along with Judah L. Magnes, Ernst Simon, and others. he advocated a program of Jewish-Arab understanding on the basis of a bi-national state. The movement made little headway in the heavily charged atmosphere of the Jewish community. but it did at least raise another and dissident voice against the prevailing orthodoxy. In 1951, upon his retirement at the age of seventy three. Buber visited the United States, lectured at many universities and seminaries. and made a profound impression upon large segments of the American intellectual community. Until three years ago. he directed the Institute for Adult Education. which he had founded in 1949, for the training of teachers who would work in the immigration camps to help integrate the vast numbers of new arrivals into the life of the community.

From early manhood. Buber has been a socialist of the "communitarian" (small community) school, poles apart from Soviet communism and West European centralist "state" socialism alike. Buber's social philosophy is closely linked with his basic religious teaching and the enduring interests of his life.

These few bare facts do no justice whatever to the creativity, the unity of thought and action. of commitment and performance, that characterizes Martin Buber's life. Everything he has done has enriched his thought, and every new departure in his thinking has found expression in some social or cultural activity. Though rarely possessed of overt power, he has wielded an influence -- as much by the wholeness and integrity of his being as by the profound impact of his teaching -- that is quite without parallel in our time. His audience always consisted of men of all professions and all types of formal belief open to a new word; today it is the world.

II. Martin Buber's thinking, especially in its later phases, falls in with the general movement of religious existentialism -- indeed, he is one of the main contemporary sources of the movement -- but the particular direction he has given it unquestionably reflects the profound originality of his mind as well as the specifically Jewish sources of his spirituality. The "message," the heart of Buber's teaching, is that "real life is meeting." [7] Recalling the difference of "orientation" and "realization" in Daniel, Buber makes a radical distinction between the two basic attitudes, the two fundamental types of relation, of which men are capable, expressed in the "primary words" I-Thou and I-It (understood as referring not to the object of the relation, but to the nature of the relation itself). The "primary word I-Thou points to a relation of person to person. of subject to subject. a relation of reciprocity involving "meeting" or "encounter," while the "primary word" I-It points to a relation of person to thing, of subject to object, involving some form of utilization, domination, or control, even if it is only so-called "objective" knowing. The I-Thou relation, which Buber usually designates as "relation" par excellence, is one in which man can enter only with the whole of his being, as a genuine person. It is a relation. incidentally, which Buber feels it is possible for men to have not only with human beings, but also with nature and "intelligible forms" (art), thus recalling William James' comment that the "religious man" sees the universe as a "Thou," [8] and bringing upon Buber the not altogether unmerited charge of mysticizing. The I-It relation, on the other hand, is one that man enters not with the wholeness of his being, but only with a part of it; [9] in this relation, he is not really a person but an individual (this distinction is very similar to Jacques Maritain's). The "I" in the two relations is thus not really the same: "the I of the primary word I-Thou is a different I from that of the primary word I-It." [10] There is still another distinction of importance: in the I-Thou relation, the relation itself is primary and underived; not so in the I-It relation, where the components, so to speak, precede the relation, and the relation is secondary.

There are phrases here and there in Buber which might suggest, to one so inclined, a kind of "personalist" ontology. "[The Thou] does not help to sustain you in life," Buber says, "it only helps you to glimpse eternity," [11] from which one might infer, in a quasi-Kantian mood, that whereas the I-It attitude gives access only to the world of appearance, the I-Thou gives access to the world of reality. Certain epistemological conclusions would also seem to follow. "From Buber's basic premise, 'As I become I, I say Thou,''' Maurice Friedman states, "it follows that our belief in the reality of the external world comes from our relation to other selves." And he refers to Viktor von Weizsacker, who "sets forth a 'medical anthropology,' which begins with the recognition of the difference between the objective understanding of something and the 'transjective' understanding of someone." [12] These distinctions are real and valuable, but, along with Friedman, I do not think that they add up to a full-blown ontology, particularly in view of Buber's sustained emphasis on the "dramatic" character of the I-Thou encounter. [13] Certainly, there is no justification whatever for assimilating Buber's "metaphysics" to the "process philosophy" of Whitehead and his followers, as has been attempted on utterly inadequate grounds. [14] Buber's ontology -- and in some sense, of course, every basic outlook implies an ontology -- is altogether secondary to the immediacy of the I-Thou meeting.

It is in the I-Thou relation that the person in his authentic personality -- what Kierkegaard calls the "Single One" -- emerges: "Through the Thou a man becomes an I." [15] The primal reality, in which man achieves his real being, is the Zwischenmenschliche, the "between man and man." The self is "social" by nature; its very "essence" is interpersonal. Here Buber shows affinities and differences with Soren Kierkegaard, on the one side, and such "social humanists" as George Herbert Mead, on the other. Like Mead, with whom he has been compared, [16] Buber thinks of the self as "social" and involved in dialogue, but unlike Mead, he does not think of this dialogue as primarily an "I-Me" meeting within the self; [17] and unlikfe Mead again, he refuses to limit the interpersonal relation simply to relations among human beings, to the exclusion of God. Buber's attitude to Kierkegaard is much more complex. He stands firmly with Kierkegaard in the latter's insistence on being a "Single One" (person) and refusing to be swallowed up in the "crowd." Man realizes the "image of God" "through having become a Single One .... A man can have dealings with God only as a Single One, only as a man who has become a Single One ... Only the man who has become a Single One, a self, a real person, is able to have a complete relation of his life to the other self." [18] But he refuses to limit the dialogue to the self with itself and God. As against Kierkegaard's assertion that "everyone should be chary about having to do with 'the others: and should essentially speak only with God and with himself," Buber insists that the fundamental relation is triadic -- the self, God, and the "other." "Real relationship with God cannot be achieved on earth if real relationships to the world and mankind are lacking," [19] but real relationship with other human beings is possible only in terms of a real relationship to God. (The triadic relation of K., the Castle, and the Village in Kafka's The Castle will occur to the reader.) What is more. Buber points out, Kierkegaard's "joining of the 'with God' with the 'with himself' is a serious incompatibility that nothing can mitigate , .. Speaking with God is something toto genere different from 'speaking with oneself'; whereas, remarkably enough, it is not something toto genere different from speaking with another human being." [20] Buber refers Kierkegaard to Jesus, who when he linked the two "great commandments" -- the commandment to love God with all one's heart and the commandment to love one's neighbor as oneself -- made it clear that the "absolute" relation to God is as inclusive as it is exclusive: while barring all other "absolute" relations, it not only makes room for but demands an authentic relation to one's fellow men. [21] "He who enters on the absolute relation ... , [for him] everything is gathered up in the relation." [22]

Man's dialogue brings him into the "between man and man," but also into the "between man and God." For God is the Eternal Thou in whom "the extended lines of relation meet." "Every particular Thou is a glimpse through to the Eternal Thou; by means of every particular Thou, the primary word addresses the Eternal Thou." [23] God is the center of the circle of existence, the apex of the triangle of life.

In the dialogic meeting, man becomes and transcends himself. It is entering into relation that makes man really man; yet it is "in virtue of its dialogical character," that "human life touches upon absoluteness," and acquires "absolute meaning" that overpasses its "own conditioned nature." [24] The dialogic relation is the matrix of man's "finite infinity."

Authentic human existence -- the dialogic life -- is existence in the I-Thou. 'But such is the world that one cannot remain permanently in the I Thou relation. To survive, we need to know, control, and use things, and what is much more important, even human beings; in other words, to survive, we must engage in depersonalizing and dehumanizing our fellow men. This is a poignant expression of the "wrongness," of the "broken" character, of actual existence in this world. Yet, however inescapable, the I-It relation must remain subordinate; it is the predominance, not the mere existence, of the I-It that is the source of evil. "Without It," says Buber, "man cannot live; but he who lives with It alone is not a man ... All real living is meeting." [25] As against the "thingification" of men and the world involved in I-It, there is the self-giving love of genuine relation, which does not, Buber emphasizes, by any means imply the suppression of the self: "It is not the I that is given up, but the false self-asserting instinct . . . There is no self-love that is not self-deceit . . . , but without being and remaining oneself, there is no love." [26]

Buber's thinking is profoundly religious, for he sees man u essentially oriented to God, and life as "a summons and a lending." Every man has his unique being as a gift from God, and it is his responsibility to realize it in its wholeness. "In the world to come," so runs a celebrated saying of the Hasidic rabbi Zusya, "they will not ask me, 'Why were you not Mosetr They will ask me, 'Why were you not Zusya?'" ("The great thing," Kierkegaard once remarked, "is not to be this or that, but to be oneself . . .") Such authenticity of being is possible only in the dialogic life in which man meets God and his fellow man in the fullness of the I-Thou. The divine demand is not heteronomous. not something imposed from without, running counter to man's being; nor is it simply man giving the law unto himself in the sheer self-will of false autonomy. It is, Buber insists, in a vein that brings to mind Paul Tillich's recent writings. a "true autonomy [which) is one with true theonomy . . . The law is not thrust upon man; it rests deep within him, to waken when the call comes." [27] The call comes in the midst of life. "God speaks to man in the things and beings he sends him in life. Man answers through his dealings with these things and beings." [28] Religious man is dialogical man, the man "who commits his whole being in God's dialogue with the world, and who stands firm throughout this dialogue." [29] It is a dialogue in which "God speaks to every man through the life which he gives him again and again ... [and in which] man can only answer God with the whole of life, with the way in which he lives his given life." [30]

This wholeness of response in the dialogue is the "good" of man. Buber's understanding of evil comes, at least in great part, from his dialogic philosophy. Evil he sees as emerging in two stages. In the first, which he finds typified in the stories of Adam and Eve and Cain, evil -- sin, in man -- is decisionlessness, directionlessness, something that cannot be done with the whole being, something that falls under the shadow of the predominance of the I-It. For "only he who knows relation and knows about the presence of the Thou is capable of decision, [and] he who decides is free." [31] In the I-Thou, there is direction, wholeness, kavvanah. In the second stage, typified in the story of the Tower of Babel and the Iranian myth of Yima, evil, sin, is wrong decision, decision in self-sufficiency against God; "it is the existential lie against being in which man sees himself as self-creator." [32] Again, it is the "primal guilt" of "remaining with oneself," [33] but it is a much more sinister form of it. For in this second stage, the evil becomes obsessive and demonic. "Sin is not an undertaking which man can break off when the situation becomes critical, but a process started by him, the control of which is withdrawn from him at a fixed moment." [34] "If we may compare the occurrence of the first stage to an eccentric whirling movement, the process of the freezing of flowing water may serve as a simile to illustrate the second." [35] Man's self-assertion against God leads to his utter enslavement. [36]

In the end, evil remains a mystery with no answer. "The abyss which is opened by this question advances on to the darkness of the divine mystery even more dreadfully than the abyss opened by Job's question." [37] But however much of a mystery evil remains, one thing Buber insists upon throughout: it must not be attributed to a metaphysical or ontological dualism, which sees good and evil as substantive entities or powers. Such a dualism would, in effect, be a ditheism, and against every ditheism Buber repeats the words of the Lard to the prophet Isaiah: "I am the first and the last, and beside me there is no God" (Is. 44:6).

It is obvious that Buber's God, the God who meets us as the Eternal Thou in the dialogic life, is not the God of the philosophers or of the mystics. It is not a God that can be "inferred in anything -- in nature, say, as its author, or in history as its master, or in the subject as the self that is thought in it. Something else is not 'given' and God then elicited from it ... God is the Being that is directly, most nearly, and lastingly over against us ... nearer to me than my I." [38] But neither is God the mystic's "divineness" with which the self is to be united in undifferentiated being. [39] Our encounter with God is intensely personal, and remains personal to the very end. In the last analysis, the God to whom Buber bears witness, who is of course, the God of the Bible, the God of Jewish-Christian faith, is a God that "may properly be addressed, not expressed," a God that may be "met," but not sought. [40]

Nor is Buber's religion, in any sense, a cult of reassurance. All thought of final security in religion, whether such security is philosophical, social, psychological, moral, or even religious, is repugnant to him. He preaches instead a "holy insecurity," life on the "narrow ridge." "O you secure and safe ones," he exclaims, "you who hide yourselves behind the ramparts of the law [or of theology or of ethics] so that you will not have to look into God's abyss! Yes, you have secure wound under your feet, while we hang suspended looking out over the endless deeps. But we would not exchange our dizzy insecurity and poverty for your security and abundance ... Of God's will we know only the eternal; the temporal we must command for ourselves, ourselves imprint his wordless bidding ever anew on the stuff of reality ... In genuine life between men, the new world will reveal itself to us. First, we must act; then we shall receive-from out of our own deed." [41] "Woe to the man so possessed that he thinks he possesses God!" [42]

Buber's whole outlook is existential and situational. The dialogic man is the man who thinks "existentially," that is, the man "who stakes his life on his thinking"; [43] for him, "faith is ... the venture pure and simple." [44] Buber agrees with Kierkegaard's statement that "the truth for the Single One only exists in his producing it himself in action." "Human truth is bound up with the responsibility of the person .... Man finds the truth to be true only when he confirms it" (sie bewahrt, "makes it true"). [45] "Any genuine life relationship to Divine Being -- that is, any such relationship effected with a man's whole being -- is a human truth, and man has no other truth. The ultimate truth is one, but it is given to man as it enters, reflected as in a prism, into the true life relationships of the human person." [46]

Buber's ethic is a situational ethic of responsibility, and he uses this term in its precise sense. "Genuine responsibility exists only where there is real responding," real answering. [47] But this responsibility, this answering, "presupposes one who addresses me primarily, from a realm independent of myself, and to whom I am answerable." [48] "Our answering-for-ourselves is essentially our answering to a divine address." [49] Responsibility is thus, in the last analysis, readiness to respond in the dialogue with God which takes place in the "lived moment" of existence. It means hearing the unreduced claim of the hour and answering it out of the fullness of one's being. Many are the ways in which the self tries to evade its responsibility in the existential dialogue of life, but they all add up in the end to the erection of some protective structure of fixed and final general rules (ideas, programs, values, standards, etc.) to stand between the individual person and the concrete here-and-now which makes its demand upon him, so that it is not he who is deciding, but the general rule that decides for him. "No responsible person remains a stranger to norms. But the command inherent in a genuine norm never becomes a maxim, and the fulfillment of it never a habit ... What it [the command] has to tell him is revealed whenever a situation arises which demands of him a solution of which till then he had perhaps no idea . . . (The situation] demands nothing of what is past; it demands presence, responsibility: it demands you." [50]

III. Buber's protest against depersonalization and "thingification," through the dominance of the I-It at the expense of true "relation," takes on particular relevance for our time in his social philosophy. True community, Buber holds, emerges out of the I-Thou. Just as the individual becomes a person, a "fact of existence," "insofar as he steps into a living relation with other individuals," so does a social aggregate become a community "insofar as it is built out of living units of relation ... Only men who are capable of truly saying Thou to one another can truly say We with one another." [51] And just as the I of authentic personality emerges only in the dialogic "meeting" with God to which every other Thou points, so does the authentic We of community come forth only out of the relation of the individual members of the group to the transcendent.

"The true community does not arise through people having feelings for one another (though indeed not without it), but first, through their taking their stand in living mutual relation with a living Center, and second, their being in living mutual relation with one another. The second has its source in the first, but is not given when the first alone is given . . . The community is built up out of living mutual relation, but the builder is the living effective Center."[52] It is this radial relation to the living Center that makes true community.

In his affirmation of true community, Buber rejects both atomistic individualism and totalitarian collectivism. "Individualism understands only a part of man, collectivism understands man only as a part: neither advances to the wholeness of man. Individualism sees man only in relation to himself, but collectivism does not see man at all; it sees 'society'." [53] These false social attitudes reflect more fundamental existential attitudes which men assume in the face of life's demands. "Man as man is an audacity of life, undetermined and unfixed; he therefore requires confirmation." [54] This' confirmation, which is a source of what Tillich calls the "courage to be," he may seek either in himself, in an attitude of defiant autonomy, or through his becoming part of some collective-which may well be spiritual, as in mysticism -- in an attitude that can be defined only as heteronomy. Both of these types of confirmation are illusory: confirmation is by its very nature a reciprocal process, hence cannot be achieved in an attitude of stark autonomy; on the other hand, "confirmation through the collective . . . is pure fiction," [55] since the self that is to be "confirmed" is actually lost in the collectivistic submergence. In their social dimension, on the level of social life, these two false forms of "confirmation" appear as individualism and collectivism.

As against individualism, which he seems to identify with capitalism, and collectivism, which he sees not only in Soviet communism, but to a mitigated degree, also in West European "state" socialism, Buber raises the vision of an "organic community," a "community of communities," built out of "small and ever smaller communities," the basic cell of which is the "full cooperative," best exemplified in the Israeli kibbutz. [56] Thus Buber's religious socialism falls in with the "communitarian" ideas that have played so large a part in Catholic social radicalism, and with some trends in recent Protestant social thinking as well. But establishing true community seems to Buber a preeminently Jewish task, which the Jew can adequately cope with only under conditions of economic and political autonomy in the land appointed for the work: this is the ground of Buber's religio-social Zionism.

In his passionate plea for the "communitarian" idea, Buber tries to avoid utopian illusions. He knows that whatever may be true for Palestine, one cannot reorganize a large-scale economy, such as the American, along kibbutz lines; he insists that what he is presenting is not a blueprint, but, as he puts it, a direction and a goal. Much more serious is the challenge to the very desirability of the kind of "full cooperation" Buber envisages; there are those who charge, and a good deal of Israeli experience would seem to bear them out, that the very "fullness" of the "full cooperative," embracing the "whole life of society," carries within itself the seeds of totalism, and constitutes a threat both to personal privacy and to true community. [57] This grave question does not seem, so far, to have aroused Buber's concern. Nor does he appear to have seen the sinister possibilities of kibbutz-socialism as a secular substitute-faith. He notes, with no apprehension whatever, "the amazingly positive relationship -- amounting to a regular faith -- which these men have to the inmost being of their commune" [58] (emphasis added). The history of our time would seem to give ground for greater concern.

In his social ethics, Buber attempts to keep to the "narrow ridge" of responsibility, and to avoid falling into utopian "idealism" on the one side or amoral "realism" on the other. He is not a pacifist or an anarchist, as some have tried to make him out to be. He is indeed deeply suspicious of the centralized state, and sometimes tends too simply to identify the "social" principle with "free fellowship and association" and the "political" principle with "compulsion and coercion"; [59] but basically he recognizes that "in all probability, there will never, so long as man is what he is, be freedom pure and simple, and there will be State, that is, compulsion, for just so long." [60] He warns against using evil means for good ends, particularly violence to achieve peace -- "If the goal to be reached is like the goal which was set, then the nature of the way must be like the goal; a wrong way, that is, a way in contradiction to the goal, must lead to a wrong goal" [61] -- but he recognizes that living entails doing injustice, that "in order to preserve the community of man, we are compelled to accept wrongs in decisions concerning the community." [62] In particular, against the cult of pacifism and "nonviolence" he declares: "If there is no other way of preventing evil destroying the good, I trust I shall use force and give myself up to God's hands." [63] Not doctrinaire formulas to relieve one of the necessity of decision, but responsibility in the concrete situation is Buber's teaching. "What matters is that in every hour of decision we be aware of our responsibility and summon our conscience to weigh exactly how much is necessary to preserve the community, and accept just so much and no more." [64] As Ernst Simon has put it: "What he [Buber] seeks is the 'demarcation line' between the unconditional demand and the always only conditional realization." [65] Buber, perhaps, does not formulate the "cruel antithecalness of existence" [66] in all its tragic depth, but there can be no doubt that he understands and feels the bitter contradiction at the heart of a broken, unredeemed world.

In a famous polemic with Friedrich Gogarten, written during the early days of the Nazi regime and published in Germany in 1956, Buber tries to define the political implications of human sinfulness. Gogarten, following a pseudo-Lutheran line, justifies the authoritarian state on the ground that man is "radically and irrevocably evil, that is, in the grip of evil," and therefore must be kept in rigorous control by the state. Buber. denies this conclusion, and points out that even in Gogarten's own theology, man stands in "radical evil" only before God, because "God is God and man is man and the distance between them is absolute." Over against his fellow men and society, however, "man cannot properly be described as simply sinful because the distance is lacking which alone is able to establish the unconditional." Gogarten's justification of the authoritarian state is. therefore, invalid; indeed, Buber generalizes, "no legitimate use can be made in politics or political theory of the concept of human sinfulness." [67]

One can only admire the skill and courage of Buber's polemic against the Nazi state carried on in the shadow of the Nazi power, and one must grant the validity of his refutation of Gogarten's attempt to provide a theological justification of the totalitarian police state. But Buber's generalization -- that "no legitimate use can be made in politics or political theory of the concept of human sinfulness" -- is surely open to doubt. Indeed. the whole theological vindication of democracy rests. at least in part. on the conviction that no one. no matter how good or wise he may be, is good enough or wise enough to be entrusted with unrestrained or irresponsible power over others [68] -- and this is obviously equivalent to an assertion of universal sinfulness. By too hastily removing political theory from any relation to the sinfulness of man, Buber runs the danger of withdrawing it from the actualities of social existence, in which the insidious involutions of human sinfulness are to be detected on every level.

Buber's existential approach and social philosophy have given him a strong sense of the peril of collectivism in our time. Collectivism he holds to be the "last barrier raised by man against a meeting with himself" and therefore with God. [69] The great task. of our day is "to be a person again, to rescue one's real personal self from the fiery jaws of collectivism, which devours all selfhood." [70] The ravages of the heteronomous spirit of collectivism -- rampant not only in totalitarian societies, but in different and mitigated form, in the mass societies of the West as well -- have undermined truth as well as personality. "The person has become questionable through being collectivized.... The truth has become questionable through being politicized." [71] What is needed in the face of this double danger, Buber feels, is a reassertion of personal authenticity without falling into irresponsible individualism, and of an authentic existential relation to truth without falling into a doctrinaire absolutism. The way of man in true community is along the "narrow ridge."

Yet one cannot help but recognize that true community as Buber understands it is not an historical possibility. It is a vision of the "original rightness" of man, a transcendent norm, and an eschatological promise, but it is not something that can be achieved within history. For every effort within history to institutionalize group relations -- and without extensive institutionalization no society could survive -- depersonalizes the I-Thou relation of true community and replaces it by "social" relations, even "interpersonal" relations, that belong to the world of I-It. No; true community is not a real historical possibility, but it is that for which man is intended, and it remains relevant -- not as an "ideal," but as a reality -- to every actual situation. Buber's emphasis is one for which we, in this country, should be particularly grateful since we are all tempted to think. of the centralized and highly politicalized "welfare state," resting on a large-scale, highly industrialized mass-production economy, as the last word in social achievement.

IV. Buber sees his entire dialogical philosophy grounded in the faith of the Bible, and he naturally tends to interpret biblical faith in terms of his dialogical philosophy. The extraordinary fruitfulness of this interpretation. the insight it affords into the deeper meaning of the biblical story. would seem to suggest that there is indeed the inner harmony between the dialogical philosophy and the essential structure of biblical faith that Buber claims.

Buber sees the Bible as essentially a dialogue between "the 'I' of the speaking God and the 'Thou' of the hearing Israel." [72] Despite all its multifariousness. the Bible "is really one book, for one basic theme unites all the stories and songs. sayings and prophecies. contained within it. The theme of the Bible is the encounter between a group of people and the Lord of the world in the course of history ..." [73] "The basic doctrine which fills the Hebrew Bible is that our life is a dialogue between the above and the below." [74] The dialogic relation, which Buber has found to be the underlying reality in human existence, is here stated to be the very foundation of biblical faith -- with one difference. Here, in biblical faith. God is no longer man's Eternal Thou corresponding to the human I; here God is the I. and man the Thou whom he addresses. Here it is God who speaks first and man who responds. though it should be emphasized that this response is genuine and not the mere gestures of a God-operated puppet. This shift from the divine Thou to the divine I is very significant, but it does not destroy the relevance of the dialogical philosophy to biblical faith.

The Bible to Buber is neither an infallible God-written document. nor merely the "folk literature" of Israel; it is taken in full seriousness as the continuing witness of the believing community to its encounter with God, and it is therefore taken as essentially. and in every part. both human and divine. How Buber is able to take the Bible seriously without taking it as a collection of inerrant statements about all sorts of things; how, in short, he is able to get to the heart of biblical faith, may be seen to best advantage in his two outstanding works of biblical scholarship, Moses and The Prophetic Faith. [75] For our purpose. it will be most convenient to summarize the thesis developed in the latter work.
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Re: The Writings of Martin Buber, edited by Will Herberg

Postby admin » Thu Jul 02, 2015 7:57 pm


The prophetic reality; which provides the underlying pattern of biblical religion, is presented as a divine-human encounter not in the abstract realm of a "sacred upper story," but in the full existential context of life. and that means history. Beginning with the Song of Deborah in Judges 5, which he takes to be the first text that scholarly criticism will grant comes out of the time it deals with, Buber moves backward to the Shechem assembly (Josh. 24: 1-28), to Sinai, and to the patriarchs, and then forward to the settlement of Canaan and the rise and development of prophetism. At every stage, he asks the question: "What was the faith of Israel in that age?" And from Abraham to Deutero-Isaiah, he finds that faith to be essentially one, consisting of "three great articles": God's ruah-government (total sovereignty over all areas of life), the people's "loving" allegiance, and the demand for decision. Though the faith is one through the ages, it emerges only in concrete historical situations, and Buber is at pains to reconstruct the particular historical contexts in which the confrontations between God and man in the various crises of Israel's Heilsgeschichte took place. Yet the historical factor is not final, for the existential encounter at the core of the prophetic faith is always contemporaneous and thus transcends historical conditioning.

Thinking in such terms, Buber naturally finds irrelevant many of the problems which biblical scholars have long been concerned with. "The old controversy among scholars, whether the Hebrews who wandered from Egypt to Canaan were 'polytheists' or 'monotheists: is," he insists, "an unreal question." [76] It is unreal because what is crucial in biblical faith is not philosophical opinions as to the nature of God, but total commitment to YHVH as absolute Lord. Was Deutero-Isaiah the "first monotheist in Israel," as some writers have maintained? What difference does that make, once we realize that both Abraham and Deutero-Isaiah stood in the same crisis of decision, shared the same ultimate commitment, and recognized the same absolute divine claim upon them? This is the prophetic faith.

Against the background of this interpretation of the meaning of the prophetic faith of the Bible, Buber develops his understanding of the biblical convictions on God and man and the great biblical themes of creation, revelation, and redemption.

God and man stand in dialogic relation, and it is dangerous abstraction to try to separate them so as to study their "essence." The God of the Bible is, indeed, the "wholly Other," the "mysterium tremendum"; but he is also the "wholly Present, ... nearer to me than my I." [77] God's "presentness" in the meeting with man does not overcome his "absolute distance." nor does it mitigate his "absolute demand." "God is wholly Other and yet requires a total commitment: it is just this that gives the commitment a hazardous character which no subsequent intellectualization can wholly remove." [78]

Buber is particularly careful to emphasize the "personalness" of God in the Bible. God is the Absolute Person, who becomes person in order to "meet" man. But that is no mitigation of God's absoluteness; it is rather a testimony to his abounding love. "It is indeed legitimate to speak of the person of God within the religious relation and its language; but in so doing we are making no statement about the Absolute which reduces it to the personal. We are rather saying that it enten into the relationship as the Absolute Person whom we call God. One may understand the personality of God as his act. It is, indeed, even permissible for the believer to believe that God became a person for love of him, because in our human mode of .existence the only reciprocal relation with us that exists is the personal one." [79] It has been argued that such a view implies belief in a non-personal "Godhead" beyond the "personal" God; but this Buber would categorically deny: for him there is no God beyond the God of the divine-human encounter.

This God makes his absolute demand upon man in the totality of life and being. For man, in the Bible, "stands created a whole body, ensouled by his relation to the created, enspirited by his relation to the Creator." [80] He stands also responsible to God not merely in the "religious" sphere, but in all areas of life. ''YHVH as God of Israel does not become the lord of '" cultic order of faith, shut up within itself, but the lord of an order of people, embracing all spheres of life-that is to say, a melek, and a melek taken authentically and seriously ... " [81] Indeed, the distinction between the "religious" and the "nonreligious" is ultimately unreal: "there are no such separate fields at all here [in the community of Israel at Sinai], but only one as yet undifferentiated common life...." [82]

Confronting God's total demand upon him, man must answer, and he may answer in one of two ways: like Abraham with a "Here am I' (Gen. 22:1), or like the man and woman in the garden who ran away and "hid themselves" (Gen. 3:8). "To God's sovereign address, man gives his autonomous answer; if he remains silent, his silence too is an answer." [83] Whichever it is, it is an answer that man gives with his life and deeds, both the individual and the corporate group.

As man confronts this God who comes to "meet" him, he confronts him in fear. in love. in an unresolved and unresolvable tension of the two. Buber has no patience with the self-deluding sentimentalists who would like to conjure away all that is fearful in the divine. A God that is not feared is idolatrous; "the real God ... is, to begin with, dreadful and incomprehensible," [84] for he is the God who shatters all the self-sufficiencies and securities of our existence. Only through the "gateway" of fear do we come to the love of God, and realize that both his blessings and his curse flow from his love. "The biblical concept of holiness," Friedman well summarizes Buber's teaching, "is that of a power capable of exerting both a destructive and a hallowing effect. The encounter with this holiness is therefore a source of danger to man. The danger is turned into a grace for those who, like Abraham, and Jacob, and Moses, stand the test." [85]

The love of God- -- od's love of man and man's responsive love of God -- is the source of our power to love our neighbor, that is, the source of the biblical ethic of human relations. "The man who loves God," who lives in the grateful consciousness of God's love, "loves also him whom God loves." [86]

The fear and love of God combined give man his true autonomy in the world. "Those who know YHVH dare dread no earthly power"; [87] "since Israel is the 'peculiar property' of YHVH, no person in Israel can, properly speaking, be the slave of any other person in Israel. All belong to God, and are therefore free to make their own decisions." [88] The grounding of man's real autonomy in the theonomy of God's kingship is central to the biblical teaching.

By entering into relation, man responds to God in the "meeting." Refusal to enter into relation, turning away from the address in self-will and self-sufficiency, is sin in the biblical sense. We each reenact Adam's "fall," which "continually happens here and now in all its reality." [89] But God does not forsake the sinner. Even in the dark hour of his guilt and sin, "man is not abandoned to the forces of chaos. God himself seeks him out, and even when he comes to call him to account, his coming is salvation." [90] Yet man is not reduced to passivity by God's redemptive will: "God wishes to redeem us, but only by our own acceptance of the redemption with the turning of the whole being." [91]

This "turning" (teshubah) is of crucial importance in Buber's entire interpretation of biblical faith. It is the category in which repentance and grace are genuinely combined and preserved from the falsity that comes from the isolation of one from the other. Buber has a strong sense of the paradox involved in the divine power of grace. Grace is free and uncontrolled -- "He bestows his grace and mercy on whom he will" [92] -- and yet man's deeds count. Without grace there is nothing, and yet man must make the "beginning." Grace concerns us absolutely, but it can never become the object of our acquiring. Our freedom is real, yet grace is "prevenient": "The person who makes a decision knows that his deciding is no self-delusion; the person who has acted knows that he was and is in the hand of God." [93] These multiple paradoxes are subsumed and expressed, not resolved, in the "turning."

The "turning" is "something that happens in the immediacy of the reality between man and God." It has its "subjective" and psychological aspects, of course, but essentially it is "as little a 'psychic' event as is a man's birth or death; it comes upon the whole person, is carried out by the whole person ... ." [94] All of life, individual and corporate, depends on the "turning" -- the "turning" and the "re-turning" -- of man to God. "For the sake of the 'turning,''' the Hasidic masters have said, "was the world created."

Creation. revelation, and redemption are the three crucial themes in the dialogue between heaven and earth. "The creation itself already means communication between the Creator and the created," [95] and in the creation which continues into the here-and-now, man is called upon to be a partner and "lovingly take part in the still uncompleted work." [96] Here creation touches upon redemption, just as in another phase it touches upon revelation.

Revelation is the "supreme meeting" of the people or the individual with God. It is dialogical, hence essentially divine-human. It is neither experience nor knowledge, and comes not with a specific content of any sort, but as the self-communication of "Presence as power," which embraces the "whole fullness of real mutual action," the "inexpressible confirmation of meaning," and the call to confirm ("make true") this meaning "in this life and in relation with this world." [97] Emil Brunner's Wahrheit als Begegnung ("Truth as Meeting") [98] is an authentic characterization of what. Buber understands by revelation.

Revelation comes to the individual and the community; it comes through nature and history. [99] But does revelation have a fixed midpoint? Buber denies this, as far as Judaism is concerned. "The Jewish Bible does not set a past event as a midpoint between origin and goal. It interposes a movable, circling midpoint which cannot be pinned to any set time, for it is the moment when I, the reader, the hearer, the man, catch through the words of the Bible the voice which from earliest beginnings has been speaking in the direction of the goal.... The revelation at Sinai is not this midpoint, but the perceiving of it, and such perception is possible at any time." [100] Cullmann agrees with Buber that Judaism knows no fixed midpoint in its Heilsgeschichte, and like Buber makes this absence of fixed midpoint a basic distinction between Judaism and Christianity in their understanding of biblical faith. [101]

Yet despite Buber's very welcome emphasis on the existential appropriation of revelation in the here-and-now, despite too the formidable authority of both Buber and Cullmann, the denial of a fixed midpoint in the Hebrew Bible cannot be accepted. Surely there is such a fixed midpoint of revelation in Exodus- Sinai. In the Hebrew Bible, Exodus-Sinai is the divine-human encounter par excellence, illumining and setting the pattern for all other encounters before and after; it is the crisis of crises in the history of Israel, the focal point in terms of which all earlier redemptive events are understood and from which all subsequent divine disclosures take their orientation. "I am the Lord thy God who brought thee out of the land of Egypt ... " (Ex. 20:2, Deut. 5:6) is the introductory formula that gives redemptive relevance to God's call to Israel in the "dialogue between heaven and earth" to which the Bible bears witness. [102] Buber's unwillingness to see this has wider implications for his thinking.

Like creation and revelation, redemption concerns man in his wholeness and in the entirety of his life. "The redemption must take place in the whole corporeal life. God the Creator wills to consummate nothing less than the whole of his creation; God the Revealer wills to actualize nothing less than the whole of his revelation; God the Redeemer wills to draw into his arms 1I0thing less than the all in need of redemption." [103] The eschatological hope is not the "abrogation and supersession [of creation] by another world completely different in nature," but the renovation and "consummation" of this. [104] The former picture Buber attributes to apocalyptic; the latter, the authentic biblical one, to prophecy. God's redeeming power he sees "at work everywhere and at all times," but a state of redemption, he believes, "exists nowhere and at no time." [105] This insistence that "there are no knots in the mighty cable of our messianic belief, which, fastened to a rock on Sinai, stretches to a still invisible peg anchored in the foundations of the world" [106] Buber makes into another point of distinction between Judaism and Christianity. Here the point may be more readily granted than in the case of the distinction about the fixed midpoint of revelation, yet even here is it quite accurate to see Christianity as affirming an entirely "realized" (consummated) eschatology and Judaism an entirely "futuristic" one? After all, the Christian yearns for the "return" of Christ, and the New Testament ends on the intensely futuristic note of "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev. 22:20), while the Jew must affirm that a great and unique act of redemption has already occurred in the "deliverance" of Israel from Egypt and the constitution of the holy people. Buber himself once stated: "He who does not himself remember that God led him out of Egypt, he who does not himself await the Messiah, is no longer a true Jew." [107] No better formulation of both the "realized" and the "futuristic" elements in the eschatology of the Hebrew Bible in their unity and tension could be desired.

The development of the messianic theme is perhaps the most exciting part of The Prophetic Faith. Buber sees messianism in its connection with the kingship and prophecy. "The way of the kingship is the way from failure to failure in the dialogue between the people and God." As the failure of the Judge leads to the King, and the failure of the King to the Prophet, so the failure of the Prophet in his opposition to the King leads to new types of leader who will set the dialogue aright -- the Messiah of YHVH and the 'suffering servant of the Lord'." [108] In Isaiah, the Messiah is seen as the king of the remnant, from which the people will renew itself; in the "servant" of Deutero-Isaiah, the righteous one who suffers for the sake of the "God of the sufferers," the righting of the dialogue reaches its highest phase. It is laid on this "servant" to inaugurate God's new order of life for the world. "This is what the messianic belief means, the belief in the real leader, in the setting right of the dialogue, in God's disappointment coming to an end. And when a fragment of an apocryphal gospel has God say to Jesus: In all the prophets have I awaited thee, that thou wouldst come and I rest in thee, for thou art my rest,' this is the late elaboration of a truly Jewish conception." [109]

The messianic faith, Buber emphasizes. is a hope and a promise, but it is something more: it is a power and vision in the here-and-now. "A drop of messianic consummation must be mingled with every hour; otherwise, the hour is godless, despite all piety and devoutness." [110]

The faith of the Bible defines faith in the biblical sense. Faith in the biblical sense Buber holds to be emunah, "trust in the everlasting God." "The German philosopher Franz Baader," he feels, "did justice to the depth of Israel's faith relationship when he defined faith as 'a pledge of faith, that is, a tying of oneself, a betrothing of oneself, an entering into a covenant.'" [111] Faith in this sense is not something that can be transferred from idolatrous gods to the true God with simply a change of object, for the faith is of a different kind. Man "cannot serve two masters -- not even one after the other; he must first learn to serve in a different way." [112]

Faith in the biblical sense is always being threatened by pseudo-religious substitutes, which have manifested themselves perennially through the ages. There is first "conjuration," or magic, an attempt to control the absolute through secret arts of manipulation. There is next "gnosis," in which the control of the absolute and the dissipation of the mystery are attempted through its "unveiling" by means of secret knowledge. lung is often referred to by Buber as a modern gnostic, but Buber does not overlook others closer to home. "In many theologies [and philosophies] also," he says, "unveiling gestures are to be found behind the interpreting ones." [113] Finally, there is the pseudo-religious threat of "subjectivization," or religion as "religious experience." Here "the assailant is consciousness, the overconsciousness of this man here that he is praying, that he is praying, that he is praying." [114] On another level, all forms of objectivization constitute a threat to faith. "Centralization and codification, undertaken in the interests of religion, are a danger to the core of religion, unless there is the strongest life of faith, embodied in the whole existence of the community, and no relaxing of its renewing activity." [115] This renewal comes in the ever new confrontation of God and man in the dialogic encounter of faith.

"In Israel, all religion is history." [116] Buber repeatedly emphasizes that biblical faith is Heilsgeschichte, redemptive history, and that the "teaching" is itself "nothing other than narrative history." [117] History, for biblical man, is the texture of reality, the texture of the divine-human encounter, the texture of revelation and redemption. It has stamped nature with its mark, and in the "consummation" it will finally overcome and absorb it. [118] Biblical faith is a "history faith" in every fundamental sense.

It is in the grand framework of biblical Heilsgeschichte that Buber envisages the destiny of Israel. Israel is the covenanted people of God; only as such can it "come into being and remain in being." [119] Its vocation is to serve as God's instrument of redemption. "[The time of the patriarchs] is the peculiar point in biblical history where God, as it were, narrows down his original plan for the whole of mankind and causes a people to be begotten that is called to do its appointed work towards the completion of the creation, the coming of the Kingdom." [120] This people Israel is a corporate body through which the individual Israelite gains his standing before God, [121]yet the commands addressed to it are addressed to each individual who cannot lose himself in the collectivity. [122] It is a folk, yet it is a "religious category," not to be simply identified with the "actual people," with "that which the prophet who harangues the people sees assembled around him." "The religious character of the people consists emphatically in that something different is intended for it from what it is now, that it is destined f01 something different -- that it should become a true people. the 'People of God.'" [123] Thus, it is a "holy people," and yet must forever strive to make itself such. "Both Moses and Korah desired the people to be the people of YHVH, the holy people. But for Moses this was the goal. In order to reach it, generation after generation had to choose again and again between the roads, between the way of God and the wrong paths of their own hearts, between 'life' and 'death' (Deut. 30: 15)." [124] Because Korah saw Israel as already sufficiently "holy," thus shutting off the dialogue of demand and realization, he had to be extirpated from the community: in this his interpretation of the biblical story in Numbers 16, Buber defines his conviction as to the election and vocation of Israel which he sees as "a summons and a sending."

The dialogical character of the redemptive history o( Israel is a clue to the dialogical character of all history. Buber rejects Gogarten's undialectical notion that "history is the work of God"; [125] it is the work of God and man together, for man's response to God's call, whatever that response may be, is real and cannot be brushed aside as of no effect. The understanding of history, too, takes place within the dialogue, for the understanding of history takes place in terms of its personal appropriation. "If history is a dialogue between Deity and mankind, we can understand its meaning only when we are the ones addressed, and only to the degree to which we render ourselves receptive .... The meaning of history is not an idea which I can formulate independent of my personal life. It is only with my personal life that I am able to catch the meaning of history, for it is a dialogical meaning." [126]

V. In Drei Reden uber das Judentum, a small but highly influential work published in 1911, [127] Buber undertakes to define what he believes to be the meaning of Jewishness. Jewishness, he says, is "a spiritual process which is documented in the inner history of the Jewish people and in the works of great Jews." [128] "The spiritual process of Jewishness expresses itself in history as a striving after an ever more perfect realization of three interrelated ideas: the idea of unity, the idea of deed, and the idea of the future." [129] These "ideas," and the "spiritual process" they reflect, Buber traces, as was his wont in those early years, to the "folk character" of the Jews and to the "specific gifts" with which they are endowed. Then he proceeds to examine each of the "ideas." The "idea of unity," not yet fully distinguished from the yearning of the mystic for union in undifferentiated being, is seen to have assumed two forms in the millennia of Jewish experience, an "exalted" and a "vulgar" form -- an "exalted" form in the prophet's "great desire for God," and a "vulgar" form in the "petty play of concepts" of rabbinism. So with the "idea of deed": it too possesses its "exalted" form in the "unconditioned demand" which prophetism proclaims, and its "vulgar" form in the "panritualism" of the rabbis. The "idea of the future," finally, assumes its "vulgar" form in the well known Jewish concern for the next generation, and its "exalted" form in messianism, the "idea of the absolute future which confronts the actuality of past and present as the true life." [130]

Perhaps under the spur of criticism, [131] certainly with the development of his thought, Buber soon dropped overt reference to the quasi-Hegelian folk romanticism in which his concept of Jewishness was originally enveloped. But throughout his life to the present day, he has retained his conviction that Jewishness means the striving for realization expressed in the Jewish orientation toward unity, the deed, and the future. With the increasingly biblical direction of his thinking, what was at first essentially a manifestation of the alleged Jewish "folk character" became an expression of the vocation of Israel, the "elect" covenant people of God.

The "renewal" of Jewishness, which Buber proclaimed in those early days and which has remained the abiding concern of his life, he regards as of universal import. "The shaping of the new world feeling and the renewal of Jewishness are two sides of one and the same process. 'For salvation is of the Jews': the basic tendencies of Jewishness are the elements out of which is constructed again and again a new word for the world." [132] This "religious creativity" of the Jews, Buber feels, has manifested itself in many historical shapes and forms, but perhaps most _profoundly and significantly in prophetism, Essenism, early Christianity, Hasidism, and the Zionist halutziut.

Hasidism has been an enduring influence in Buber's life and thought. Originally, Buber regarded Hasidism as "the most powerful and unique phenomenon which the Diaspora has produced," and contrasted it with rabbinic Judaism, much to the latter's disadvantage. Later, however, he came to feel that Hasidism was "merely a concentrated movement, the concentration of all those elements which are to be found in a less condensed form everywhere in Judaism, even in 'rabbinic' Judaism." [133] From Hasidism, Buber drew, perhaps without fully realizing it, what he needed for the formation 'of his thought at the particular stage of his thinking in which he found himself: at first, he drew largely on the mystical element, and then, increasingly, on the existential element in Hasidic teaching. [134] Primarily, however, Hasidism has meant to Buber the most impressive effort made at the realization of true community from the days of the prophets to the time of the beginnings of halutziut in Palestine in recent years. "Hasidism was the one great attempt in the history of the Diaspora to make a reality of the original choice and to found a true and just community based on religious principles .... [135] This structure found its perfection about two centuries ago in Hasidism, which was built on little communities bound together by brotherly love.... [136] This attempt failed for a number of reasons, among others because it did not aim for the independence, for the self-determination of the people; or to state it differently, because its connections with Palestine were only sporadic and not influenced by the desire for national liberation." [137] Because it lacked this Zionist spirit, Hasidism degenerated into corruption and futility.

In this understanding of Hasidism, Buber's "philosophy" of Zionism is already implied. Zionism was for him in earlier days primarily a movement of the spiritual and cultural "renewal" of Jewry; the Zionism he has stood for in the past two decades, however, represents an original religio-social synthesis. His Zionism today is essentially a call to take up the task which Hasidism attempted and at which it failed, under conditions appropriate to the task. This task is the "unperformed task" that has hung over Jewry from the days of the prophets, the task of building true community. "At that time [in the days of the prophets], we did not carry out that which was imposed upon us; we went into exile with our task unperformed; but the command remained with us, and it has become more urgent than ever. We need our own soil in order to fulfill it; we need the freedom to order our own life, no attempt can be made on foreign soil and under foreign statute . . . Our one desire is that at last we may be able to obey." [138] This conception of Zionism stands poles apart from the political nationalism dominant in the Zionist movement, which Buber has always resisted, although vestiges of a romantic "folk nationalism" are not absent even from his latest formulations. The really serious problem which this conception raises, apart from the rather utopian notion that true community can be realized in history if only it is attempted in Palestine under conditions of Jewish "national" independence, is that it essentially denies any specifically Jewish task or vocation for the Jews in the Diaspora, that is, for the great majority of Jews in the world since the days of the Second Commonwealth.

Buber has generally not attempted to disclaim this rather extraordinary consequence of his Zionist position, but he has on occasion tried to mitigate it by pointing to the transcendence of justice in love. "In the Diaspora, it is true, a comprehensive realization o[ the principle of justice could not be aspired to, since that would have required an autonomous national entity, autonomous national institutions, which could only be hoped for with the return to the Holy Land; but the higher, the decisive principle which alone can knit together the relationship to God and the relationship to man -- the principle of love -- requires neither organization nor institutions, but can be given effect at any time, at any place." [139] Whether this dubious separation of love from justice, as though one could be fulfilled without invoking the other, meets the dilemma involved in the "denial of the Galut" is another question.

Like prophetism, Hasidism, and religio-social Zionism, Christianity has always appeared to Buber as an authentically Jewish movement soon corrupted by alien influences. His inability to free himself entirely from the "liberal" understanding of Christianity so characteristic of the nineteenth and early twentieth century has made it difficult for Buber to share Franz Rosenzweig's profound vision of the unity and difference of these two "views of reality" in the divine economy of salvation. [140] But he has a strong sense of the vocation of Jewry by its very existence to "give the world no rest so long as the world has not God" [141] and to testify to the unredeemedness of this "already redeemed" world. The Jew "feels this lack of redemption against his own skin, he tastes it on his tongue, the burden of the unredeemed world lies on him." [142] And in the final analysis, as in the last paragraph of his magnificent address in 1930 to a conference on Christian missions to the Jews ("The Two Foci of the Jewish Soul"), he achieves the Rosenzweigian vision:

What have you and we in common? (he asks] If we take the question literally, a book and an expectation. To you, the book is a forecourt; to us it is the sanctuary. But in this place we can dwell together, and together listen to the voice that speaks there ... Your expectation is directed toward a second coming, ours to a coming which has not been anticipated by a first ... But we can wait for the advent of the One together, and there are moments when we may prepare the way before him together.

Pre-messianically, our destinies are divided ... This is a gulf which no human power can bridge. But it does not prevent the common watch for a unity to come to us from God, which, soaring above all of your imagination and all of ours, affirms and denies, denies and affirms what you hold and what we hold, and replaces all the creedal truths of earth by the ontological truth of heaven, which is one.

It behooves both you and us to hold inviolably fast to our own true faith, that is, to our own deepest relationship to truth ... Our task is not to tolerate each other's waywardness, but to acknowledge the real relationship in which both stand to the truth. [143]

Buber's earlier writings reveal a distant, often hostile, attitude to traditional rabbinism, and although the sharpness has been much mitigated with the years, Buber's position in regard to the rabbinic halakah remains fundamentally negative. It is a position that is complex and defies simple definition. In part, it stems from his kind of Zionism, which sees the present "restoration" to Palestine as the resumption of a pre-exilic task, and therefore tends to devaluate Jewish productivity in the Diaspora; of this productivity the Talmud, and the main halakic tradition it embodies, are of course the chief expression. [144] In Buber's negative attitude to the halakah, there is also a kind of "pre-nomianism," a Judaism that, as it were, antecedes the law. "My point of view," he explains, "diverges from the traditional one; it is not a-nomistic, hut neither is it entirely nomistic ... The teaching of Judaism comes from Sinai; it is Moses' teaching. But the soul of Judaism is pre- Sinai tic; it is the soul which approached Sinai, and there received what it did ... The law put on the soul, and the soul can never again be understood outside of the law; yet the soul itself is not the law." [145]

But fundamentally, it would seem, Buber's inability to accept the halakah is his fear that through becoming codified in the law, the demand of God is "objectified" and robbed of its inner power; he is afraid of the illusion of premature fulfillment. Law, of course, is necessary, for "without law, that is, without some clearcut and transmissible line of demarcation between that which is pleasing to God and that which is displeasing to him, there can be no historical continuity of divine rule upon earth"; [146] but the Torah of God, which is "God's instruction in his way," may not without peril be made into a "separate objectivum." [147] "The will to the covenant with God through the perfected reality of life in true community can only emerge in power where one does not believe that the covenant with God is already fulfilled in essence through the observance of prescribed forms." [148] Concern over the danger of a self-righteous evasion of total responsibility through the meticulous observance of prescribed forms is certainly a very real one, and was shared by Franz Rosenzweig, yet Rosenzweig did not find it necessary to take Buber's attitude to the halakah. The controversy between the two, if controversy it can be called, which resulted in a masterly essay by Franz Rosenzweig and a number of striking letters from Martin Buber, [149] will remain of perennial interest to all those concerned with the structure of Jewish faith.

Recent years have seen a remarkable deepening of Buber's influence upon important sections of world Jewry, and Buber's teaching on the nature and destiny of Israel is receiving a more responsive hearing. On his part, Buber has become more concerned with the responsibility of Jewry to say its word to the world. One of his American addresses, "The Silent Question," is devoted to this concern. What can Judaism tell the world? "This is its message: You yourself must begin. Existence will remain meaningless for you if you yourself do not penetrate into it with active love and if you do not in this way discover its meaning for yourself ... Meet the world with the fullness of your being, and you shall meet God . . . If you wish to believe, love." [150]

But can present-day Jewry speak this word to the world? "Will Jewry itself perceive that its very existence depends upon the revival of its religious existence? ... Judaism will live only if it brings to life the primeval Jewish relationship to God, the world, and mankind." [151]

VI. It is easy to hear in Buber echoes of many voices in the contemporary world of thought since he has influenced so much of it, and his own thinking has throughout developed in fruitful dialogue with the men of his age. Be was early influenced by the giants of German idealism and romanticism, and by the German mystics, Meister Eckhart and Jacob Boehme. Hasidism, in both its mystical and existential strains, has permeated his thinking from his youth. But of all nineteenth century figures, it was Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, and Nietzsche who, by his own account, have meant most to him, and with them too his intellectual relations have been complex and many-sided. He has always closely followed the thought of his day, and his comments on Scheler, Heidegger, Sartre, Jung, Bergson, and Simone Weil, to mention but a few of the names that occur in his more recent writing, are among the most illuminating in contemporary criticism. But fundamentally, Buber's thinking has been his own in a way that can be said of few other men; everything that comes from him bears the mark of his unique personality and life experience. In him the word and the deed have indeed been fused in the authentic unity of the lived life.
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Re: The Writings of Martin Buber, edited by Will Herberg

Postby admin » Thu Jul 02, 2015 7:59 pm


PART I: Of Human Existence

I. I and Thou

2. The Question to the Single One

3. Good and Evil

4. The Love of God and the Idea of Deity

5. God and the Spirit of Man


To man the world is twofold, in accordance with his twofold attitude.

The attitude of man is twofold, in accordance with the twofold nature of the primary words which he speaks.

The primary words are not isolated words, but combined words.

The one primary word is the combination I-Thou.

The other primary word is the combination I-It; wherein, without a change in the primary word, one of the words He or She can replace It.

Hence the I of man is also twofold.

For the I of the primary word I-Thou is a different I from that of the primary word I-It.

Primary words do not signify things, but they intimate relations.

Primary words do not describe something that might exist independently of them, but being spoken they bring about existence.

Primary words are spoken from the being.

If Thou is said. the I of the combination I-Thou. is said along with it.

If It is said, the I of the combination I-It is said along with it.

The primary word I-Thou can only be spoken with the whole being.

The primary word I-It can never be spoken with the whole being.

There is no I taken in itself, but only the I of the primary word I-Thou and the I of the primary word I-It.

When a man says I he refers to one or other of these. The I to which he refers is present when he says I. Further, when he says Thou or It, the I of one of the two primary words is present.

The existence of I and the speaking of I are one and the same thing.

When a primary word is spoken the speaker enters the word and takes his stand in it.

The life of human beings is not passed in the sphere of transitive verbs alone. It does not exist in virtue of activities alone which have some thing for their object.

I perceive something. I am sensible of something. I imagine something. I will something. I feel something. I think something. The life of human beings does not consist of all this and the like alone.

This and the like together establish the realm of It.

But the realm of Thou has a different basis.

When Thou is spoken. the speaker has no thing for his object For where there is a thing. there is another thing. Every It is bounded by others; It exists only through being bounded by others. But when Thou is spoken, there is no thing. Thou has no bounds.

When Thou is spoken, the speaker has no thing; he has indeed nothing. But he takes his stand in relation.

It is said that man experiences his world. What does that mean?

Man travels over the surface of things and experiences them. He extracts knowledge about their constitution from them: he wins an experience from them. He experiences what belongs to the things.

But the world is not presented to man by experiences alone. These present him only with a world composed of It and He and She and It again.

I experience something. If we add "inner" to "outer" experiences, nothing in the situation is changed. We are merely following the uneternal division that springs from the lust of the human race to whittle away the secret of death. Inner things or outer things, what are they but things and things!

I experience something. If we add "secret" to "open" experiences, nothing in the situation is changed. How self-confident is that wisdom which perceives a closed compartment in things, reserved for the initiate and manipulated only with the key. O secrecy without a secret! O accumulation of information! It, always It!

The man who experiences has no part in the world. For it is 'in him," and not between him and the world, that the experience arises.

The world has no part in the experience. It permits itself to be experienced, but has no concern in the matter. For it does nothing to the experience. and the experience does nothing to it.

As experience, the world belongs to the primary word I-It.

The primary word I-Thou establishes the world of relation.

The spheres in which the world of relation arises are three.

First, our life with nature. There the relation sways in gloom. beneath the level of speech. Creatures live and move over against us, but cannot come to us, and when we address them as Thou, our words cling to the threshold of speech.

Second, our life with men. There the relation is open and in the form of speech. We can give and accept the Thou.

Third, our life with intelligible forms. There the relation is clouded. yet it discloses itself; it does not use speech, yet begets it. We perceive no Thou, but nonetheless we feel we are addressed and we answer -- forming. thinking. acting. We speak the primary word with our being, though we cannot utter Thou with our lips.

But with what right do we draw what lies outside speech into relation with the world of the primary word?

In every sphere in its own way. through each process of becoming that is present to us, we look out toward the fringe of the eternal Thou; in each we are aware of a breath from the eternal Thou; in each Thou we address the eternal Thou.

The Thou meets me through grace -- it is not found by seeking. But my speaking of the primary word to it is an act of my being. is indeed the act of my being.

The Thou meets me. But I step into direct relation with it. Hence the relation means being chosen and choosing. suffering and action in one; just as any action of the whole being, which means the suspension of all partial actions and consequently of all sensations of actions grounded only in their particular limitation, is bound to resemble suffering.

The primary word I-Thou can be spoken only with the whole being. Concentration and fusion into the whole being can never take place through my agency, nor can it ever take place without me. I become through my relation to the Thou; as I become I, I say Thou.

All real living is meeting.

The relation to the Thou is direct. No system of ideas, no foreknowledge, and no fancy intervene between I and Thou. The memory itself is transformed, as it plunges out of its isolation into the unity of the whole. No aim, no lust, and no anticipation intervene between I and Thou. Desire itself is transformed as it plunges out of its dream into the appearance. Every means is an obstacle. Only when every means has collapsed does the meeting come about.

In face of the directness of the relation, everything indirect becomes irrelevant. It is also irrelevant if my Thou is already the It for other I's ("an object of general experience"), or can become so through the very accomplishment of this act of my being. For the real, though certainly swaying and swinging, boundary runs neither between experience and non-experience, nor between what is given and what is not given, nor yet between the world of being and the world of value; but cutting indifferently across all these provinces, it lies between Thou and It, between the present and the object.

The present, and by that is meant not the point which indicates from time to time in our thought merely the conclusion of "finished" time, the mere appearance of a termination which is fixed and held, but the real, filled present, exists only in so far .as actual presentness, meeting, and relation exist. The present arises only in virtue of the fact that the Thou becomes present.

The I of the primary word I-It, that is, the I faced by no Thou, but surrounded by a multitude of "contents," has no present, only the past. Put in another way, in so far as man rests satisfied with the things that he experiences and uses, he lives in the past, and his moment has no present content. He has nothing but objects. But objects subsist in time that has been.

The present is not fugitive and transient, but continually present and enduring. The object is not duration, but cessation, suspension, a breaking off and cutting clear and hardening, absence of relation and of present being.

True beings are lived in the present; the life of objects is in the past.

Appeal to a "world of ideas" as a third factor above this opposition will not do away with its essential twofold nature. For I speak of nothing else but the real man, of you and of me, of our life and of our world -- not of an I, or a state of being, in itself alone. The real boundary for the actual man cuts right across the world of ideas as well.

To be sure, many a man who is satisfied with the experience and use of the world of things has raised over or about himself a structure of ideas, in which he finds refuge and repose from the oncome of nothingness. On the threshold he lays aside his inauspicious everyday dress, wraps himself in pure linen, and regales himself with the spectacle of primal being, or of necessary being; but his life has no part in it. To proclaim his ways may even fill him with well-being.

But the mankind of mere It that is imagined, postulated. and propagated by such a man has nothing in common with a living mankind where Thou may truly be spoken. The noblest fiction is a fetish. the loftiest fictitious sentiment is depraved. Ideas are no more enthroned above our heads than resident in them; they wander amongst us and accost us. The man who leaves the primary word unspoken is to be pitied; but the man who addresses instead these ideas with an abstraction or a password, as if it were their name, is contemptible.

In one of the three examples it is obvious that the direct relation includes an effect on what confronts me. In art, the act of the being determines the situation in which the form becomes the work. Through the meeting that which confronts me is fulfilled, and enters the world of things, there to be endlessly active. endlessly to become It, but also endlessly to become Thou again, inspiring and blessing. It is "embodied"; its body emerges from the flow of the spaceless, timeless present on the shore of existence.

The significance of the effect is not so obvious in the relation with the Thou spoken to men. The act of the being which provides directness in this case is usually understood wrongly as being one of feeling. Feelings accompany the metaphysical and meta psychical fact of love, but they do not constitute it. The accompanying feelings can be of greatly differing kinds. The feeling of Jesus for the demoniac differs from his feeling for the beloved disciple; but the love is the one love. Feelings are "entertained": love comes to pass. Feelings dwell in man; but man dwells in his love. That is no metaphor, but the actual truth. Love does not cling to the I in such a way as to have the Thou only for its "content." its object; but love is between I and Thou. The man who does not know this, with his very being know this, does not know love; even though he ascribes to it the feelings he lives through. experiences, enjoys. and expresses. Love ranges in its effect through the whole world. In the eyes of him who takes his stand in love, and gazes out of it. men are cut free from their entanglement in bustling activity. Good people and evil, wise and foolish, beautiful and ugly, become successively real to him; that is, set free they step forth in their singleness. and confront him as Thou. In a wonderful way. from time to time, exclusiveness arises -- and so he can be effective, helping, healing, educating, raising up, saving. Love is responsibility of an I for a Thou. In this lies the likeness-impossible in any feeling whatsoever -- of all who love, from the smallest to the greatest and from the blessedly protected man. whose life is rounded in that of a loved being, to him who is all his life nailed to the cross of the world. and who ventures to bring himself to the dreadful point -- to love all men.

Let the significance of the effect in the third example, that of the creature and our contemplation of it, remain sunk in mystery. Believe in the simple magic of life, in service in the universe, and the meaning of that waiting, that alertness, that "craning of the neck" in creatures will dawn upon you. Every word would falsify; but look! round about you beings live their life, and to whatever point you turn you come upon being.

Relation is mutual. My Thou affects me. as I affect it. We are moulded by our pupils and built up by our works. The "bad" man. lightly touched by the holy primary word. becomes one who reveals. How we are educated by children and by animals! We live our lives inscrutably included within the streaming mutual life of the universe.

You speak of love as though it were the only relation between men. But properly speaking, can you take it even only as an example, since there is such a thing as hate?

So long as love is "blind," that is, so long as it does not see a whole being, it is not truly under the sway of the primary word of relation. Hate is by nature blind. Only a part of a being can be hated. He who sees a whole being and is compelled to reject it is no longer in the kingdom of hate, but is in that of human restriction of the power to say Thou. He finds himself unable to say the primary word to the other human being confronting him. This word consistently involves an affirmation of the being addressed. He is therefore compelled to reject either the other or himself. At this barrier, the entering on a relation recognizes its relativity, and only simultaneously with this will the barrier be raised.

Yet the man who straightforwardly hates is nearer to relation than the man without hate and love.

But this is the exalted melancholy of our fate, that every Thou in our world must become an It. It does not matter how exclusively present the Thou was in the direct relation. As soon as the relation has been worked out, or has been permeated with a means, the Thou becomes an object among objects -- perhaps the chief, but still one of them, fixed in its size and its limits. In the work of art, realization in one sense means loss of reality in another. Genuine contemplation is over in a short time; now the life in nature, that first unlocked itself to me in the mystery of mutual action, can again be described, taken to pieces, and classified -- the meeting-point of manifold systems of laws. And love itself cannot persist in direct relation. It endures, but in interchange of actual and potential being. The human being who was even now single and unconditioned, not something lying to hand, only present, not able' to be experienced. only able to be fulfilled, has now become again a He or a She. a sum of qualities, a given quantity with a certain shape. Now I may take out from him again the color of his hair or of his speech or of his goodness. But so long as I can do this, he is no more my Thou and cannot yet be my Thou again.

Every Thou in the world is by its nature fated to become a thing, or continually to re-enter into the condition of things. In objective speech, it would be said that every thing in the world, either before or after becoming a thing, is able to appear to an I as its Thou. But objective speech snatches only at a fringe of real life.

The It is the eternal chrysalis, the Thou the eternal butterfly -- except that situations do not always follow one another in clear succession, but often there is a happening profoundly twofold, confusedly entangled.

The fundamental difference between the two primary words comes to light in the spiritual history of primitive man. Already in the original relational event he speaks the primary word I-Thou in a natural way that precedes what may be termed visualization of forms -- that is, before he has recognized himself as I. The primary word I-It, on the other hand, is made possible at all only by means of this recognition -- by means, that is, of the separation of the I.

The first primary word can be resolved, certainly, into I and Thou, but it did not arise from their being set together; by its nature it precedes I. The second word arose from the setting together of I and It; by nature it comes after I.

In the primitive relational event, in virtue of its exclusiveness, the I is included. While, that is to say, there are in it, in accordance with its being, only the two partners, the man and that which confronts him, in their full actuality, and while the world becomes in it a dual system, the man, without yet perceiving the I itself, is already aware of that cosmic pathos of the I.

On the other hand, the 1 is not yet included in the natural, actual event which is to pass over into the primary word I-It, into the experience with its relation to I. This actual event is the separation of the human body, as the bearer of its perceptions, from the world round about it. The body comes to know and to differentiate itself in its peculiarities; the differentiation, however, remains one of pure juxtaposition, and hence cannot have the character of the state in which I is implied.

But when the I of the relation has stepped forth and taken on separate existence, it also moves, strangely tenuous and reduced to merely functional activity, into the natural, actual event of the separation of the body from the world round about it, and awakens there the state in which I is properly active. Only now can the conscious act of the I take place. This act is the first form of the primary word I-It, of the experience in its relation to I. The I which stepped forth declares itself to be the bearer, and the world round about to be the object, of the perceptions. Of course, this happens in a "primitive" form and not in the form of a "theory of knowledge." But whenever the sentence "I see the tree" is so uttered that it no longer tells of a relation between the man -- I -- and the tree -- Thou -- but establishes the perception of the tree as object by the human consciousness, the barrier between subject and object has been set up. The primary word I-It, the word of separation, has been spoken.

Through the Thou a man becomes I. That which confronts him comes and disappears, relational events condense, then are scattered, and in the change consciousness of the unchanging partner, of the I, grows clear, and each time stronger. To be sure, it is still seen caught in the web of the relation with the Thou, as the increasingly distinguishable feature of that which reaches out to and yet is not the Thou. But it continually breaks through with more power, till a time comes when it bursts its bonds, and the I confronts itself for a moment, separated as though it were a Thou; as quickly to take possession of itself, and from then on to enter into relations in consciousness of itself.

Only now can the other primary word be assembled. Hitherto the Thou of relation was continually fading away, but it did not thereby become an It for some I, an object of perception and experience without real connection -- as it will henceforth become. It became rather an It, so to speak, for itself, an It disregarded at first, yet waiting to rise up in a new relational event. Further, the body maturing into a person was hitherto distinguished, as bearer of its perceptions and executor of its impulses, from the world round about. But this distinction was simply a juxtaposition brought about by its seeing its way in the situation, and not an absolute severance of I and its object. But now the separated I emerges, transformed. Shrunk from substance and fulness to a functional point, to a subject which experiences and uses, I approaches and takes possession of all It existing "in and for itself," and forms in conjunction with it the other primary word. The man who has become conscious of I, that is, the man who says I-It, stands before things, but not over against them in the How of mutual action. Now with the magnifying glass of peering observation he bends over particulars and objectifies them, or with the field-glass of remote inspection he objectifies them and arranges them as scenery, he isolates them in observation without any feeling of their exclusiveness, or he knits them into a scheme of observation without any feeling of universality. The feeling of exclusiveness he would be able to find only in relation; the feeling of universality only through it. Now for the first time he experiences things as sums of qualities. From each relational experience qualities belonging to the remembered Thou had certainly remained sunk in his memory; but now for the first time, things are for him actually composed of their qualities. From the simple memory of the relation, the man, dreaming or fashioning or thinking, according to his nature, enlarges the nucleus, the substance that showed itself in the Thou with power and gathered up in itself all qualities. But now also for the first time he sets things in space and time, in causal connection, each with its own place and appointed course, its measurability and conditioned nature.

The Thou appears, to be sure, in space, but in the exclusive situation of what is over against it, where everything else can be only the background out of which it emerges, not its boundary and measured limit. It appears, too, in time, but in that of the event which is fulfilled in itself: it is not lived as part of a continuous and organized sequence, but is lived in a "duration" whose purely intensive dimension is definable only in terms of itself. It appears, lastly, simultaneously as acting and as being acted upon -- not, however, linked to a chain of causes, but, in its relation of mutual action with the I, as the beginning and the end of the event. This is part of the basic truth of the human world, that only It can be arranged in order. Only when things, from being our Thou, become our It, can they be coordinated. The Thou knows no system of co-ordination.

But now that we have come so far, it is necessary to set down the other part of the basic truth, without which this would be a useless fragment -- namely, a world that is ordered is not the world-order. There are moments of silent depth in which you look on the world-order fully present. Then, in its very flight, the note will be heard; but the ordered world is its indistinguishable score. These moments are immortal, and most transitory of all; no content may be secured from them, but their power invades creation and the knowledge of man, beams of their power stream into the ordered world and dissolve it again and again. This happens in the history both of the individual and of the race.

To man the world is twofold, in accordance with his twofold attitude.

He perceives what exists round about him -- simply things, and beings as things; and what happens round about him -- simply events, and actions as events; things consisting of qualities, events of moments; things entered in the graph of place, events in that of time; things and events bounded by other things and events, measured by them. comparable with them: he perceives an ordered and detached world. It is to some extent a reliable world, having density and duration. Its organization can be surveyed and brought out again and again; gone over with closed eyes. and verified with open eyes. It is always there, next to your skin, if you look on it that way, cowering in your soul, if you prefer it so. It is your object, remains your object as long as you wish, and remains a total stranger, within you and without. You perceive it. take it to yourself as the "truth," and it lets itself be taken; but it does not give itself to you. Only concerning it may you make yourself "understood" with others; it is ready, though attached to everyone in a different way, to be an object common to you all. But you cannot meet others in it. You cannot hold on to life without it, its reliability sustains you; but should you die in it, your grave would be in nothingness.

Or. on the other hand, man meets what exists and becomes as what is over against him. always simply a single being and each thing simply as being. What exists is opened to him in happenings, and what happens affects him as what is. Nothing is present for him except this one being, but it implicates the whole world. Measure and comparison have disappeared; it lies with yourself how much of the immeasurable becomes reality for you. These meetings are not organized to make the world, but each is a sign of the world-order. They are not linked up with one another, but each assures you of your solidarity with the world. The world which appears to you in this way is unreliable, for it takes on a continually new appearance; you cannot hold it to its word. It has no density, for everything in it penetrates everything else; no duration, for it comes even when it is not summoned, and vanishes even when it is tightly held. It cannot be surveyed, and if you wish to make it capable of survey, you lose it. It comes, and comes to bring you out; if it does not reach you, meet you, then it vanishes; but it comes back in another form. It is not outside you, it stirs in the depth of you; if you say "soul of my soul" you have not said too much. But guard against wishing to remove it into your soul -- for then you annihilate it. It is your present; only while you have it do you have the present. You can make it into an object for yourself, to experience and to use; you must continually do this -- and as you do it, you have no more present. Between you and it there is mutual giving: you say Thou to it and give yourself to it, it says Thou to you and gives itself to you. You cannot make yourself understood with others concerning it, you are alone with it. But it teaches you to meet others, and to hold your ground when you meet them. Through the graciousness of its comings, and the solemn sadness of its goings, it leads you away to the Thou in which the parallel lines of relations meet. It does not help to sustain you in life, it only helps you to glimpse eternity.

The world of It is set in the context of space and time.

The world of Thou is not set in the context of either of these.

The particular Thou, after the relational event has run its course, is bound to become an It.

The particular It, by entering the relational event, may become a Thou.

These are the two basic privileges of the world of It. They move man to look on the world of It as the world in which he has to live, and in which it is comfortable to live, as the world, indeed, which offers him an manner of incitements and excitements, activity and knowledge. In this chronicle of solid benefits, the moments of the Thou appear as strange lyric and dramatic episodes, seductive and magical, but tearing us away to dangerous extremes, loosening the well-tried context, leaving more questions than satisfaction behind them. shattering security -- in short, uncanny moments we can well dispense with. For since we are bound to leave them and go back into the "world," why not remain in it? Why not call to order what is over against us, and send it packing into the realm of objects? Why, if we find ourselves on occasion with no choice but to say Thou to father, wife, or comrade, not say Thou and mean It' To utter the sound Thou with the vocal organs is by no means the same as saying the uncanny primary word; more, it is harmless to whisper with the soul an amorous Thou, so long as nothing else in a serious way is meant but experience and make use of.

It is not possible to live in the bare present. Life would be quite consumed if precautions were not taken to subdue the present speedily and thoroughly. But it is possible to live in the bare past, indeed only in it may a life be organized. We only need to fill each moment with experiencing and using, and it ceases to burn.

And in all the seriousness of truth, hear this: without It man cannot live; but he who lives with It alone is not a man.

The extended lines of relations meet in the eternal Thou.

Every particular Thou is a glimpse through to the eternal Thou; by means of every particular Thou, the primary word addresses the eternal Thou. Through this mediation of the Thou of all beings, fulfilment and non-fulfilment of relations comes to them: the inborn Thou is realized in each relation and consummated in none. It is consummated only in the direct relation with the Thou that by its nature cannot become It.

Men have addressed their eternal Thou with many names. In singing of him who was thus named, they always had the Thou in mind: the first myths were hymns of praise. Then the names took refuge in the language of It; men were more and more strongly moved to think of and to address their eternal Thou as an It. But all God's names are hallowed, for in them he is not merely spoken about, but also spoken to.

Many men wish to reject the word God as a legitimate usage, because it is so misused. It is indeed the most heavily laden of all the words used by men. For that very reason, it is the most imperishable and most indispensable. What does all mistaken talk about God's being and works (though there has been, and can be, no other talk about these) matter in comparison with the one truth that all men who have addressed God had God himself in mind? For he who speaks the word God and really has Thou in mind (whatever the illusion by which he is held), addresses the true Thou of his life, which cannot be limited by another Thou, and to which he stands in a relation that gathers up and includes all others.

But when he, too, who abhors the name, and believes himself to be godless, gives his whole being to addressing the Thou of his life, as a Thou that cannot be limited by another, he addresses God.

If we go on our way and meet a man who has advanced towards us and has also gone on his way, we know only our part of the way. not his -- his we experience only in the meeting.

Of the complete relational event we know. with the knowledge of life lived. our going out to the relation. our part of the way. The other part only comes upon us. we do not know it; it comes upon us in the meeting. But we strain ourselves on it if we speak of it as though it were some thing beyond the meeting.

We have to be concerned. to be troubled. not about the other side but about our own side. not about grace but about will. Grace concerns us in so far as we go out to it and persist in its presence; but it is not our object.

The Thou confronts me. But I step into direct relation with it. Hence the relation means being chosen and choosing, suffering and action in one; just as any action of the whole being which means the suspension of all partial actions, and consequently of all sensations of actions grounded only in their particular limitation, is bound to resemble suffering.

This is the activity of the man who has become a whole being, an activity that has been termed doing nothing: nothing separate or partial stirs in the man any more, thus he makes no intervention in the world; it is the whole man. enclosed and at rest in his wholeness. that is effective -- he has become an effective whole. To have won stability in this state is to be able to go out to the supreme meeting.

To this end the world of sense does not need to be laid aside as though it were illusory. There is no illusory world, there is only the world -- which appears to us as twofold in accordance with our twofold attitude. Only the barrier of separation has to be destroyed. Further. no "going beyond sense-experience" is necessary; for every experience. even the most spiritual, could yield us only an It. Nor is any recourse necessary to a world of ideas and values; for they cannot become presentness for us. None of these things is necessary. Can it be said what really is necessary? Not in the sense of a precept. For everything that has ever been devised and contrived in the time of the human spirit as precept. alleged preparation. practice. or meditation. has nothing to do with the primal. simple fact of the meeting. Whatever the advantages in knowledge or the wielding of power for which we have to thank this or that practice, none of this affects the meeting of which we are speaking; it all has its place in the world of It and does not lead one step. does not take the step. out of it. Going out to the relation cannot be taught in the sense of precepts being given. It can only be indicated by the drawing of a circle which excludes everything that is not this going out. Then the one thing that matters is visible, full acceptance of the present.

To be sure, this acceptance presupposes that the further a man has wandered in separated being the more difficult is the venture and the more elemental the reversal. This does not mean a giving up of, say, the I, as mystical writings usually suppose: the I is as indispensable to this. the supreme. as to every relation, since relation is only possible between I and Thou. It is not the I, then, that is given up, but that false self-asserting instinct that makes a man flee to the possessing of things before the unreliable, perilous world of relation which has neither density nor duration and cannot be surveyed.

Every real relation with a being or life in the world is exclusive. Its Thou is freed. steps forth. is single. and confronts you. It fills the heavens. This does not mean that nothing else exists; but all else lives in its light. As long as the presence of the relation continues, this its cosmic range is inviolable. But as soon as a Thou becomes It, the cosmic range of the relation appears as an offence to the world, its exclusiveness as an exclusion of the universe.

In the relation with God. unconditional exclusiveness and unconditional inclusiveness are one. He who enters on the absolute relation is concerned with nothing isolated any more, neither things nor beings, neither earth nor heaven; but everything is gathered up in the relation. For to step into pure relation is not to disregard everything but to see everything in the Thou, not to renounce the world but to establish it on its true basis. To look away from the world. or to stare at it, does not help a man to reach God; but he who sees the world in him stands in his presence. "Here world, there God" is the language of It; "God in the world" is another language of It; but to eliminate or leave behind nothing at all, to include the whole world in the Thou, to give the world its due and its truth, to include nothing beside God but everything in him -- this is full and complete relation.

Men do not find God if they stay in the world. They do not find him if they leave the world. He who goes out with his whole being to meet his Thou, and carries to it all being that is in the world, finds him who cannot be sought.

Of course God is the "wholly Other"; but he is also the wholly Same, the wholly Present. Of course he is the Mysterium Tremendum that appears and overthrows; but he is also the mystery of the self-evident. nearer to me than my I.

If you explore the life of things and of conditioned being. you come to the unfathomable; if you deny the life of things and of conditioned being. you stand before nothingness; if you hallow this life. you meet the living God.

Man's sense of Thou, which experiences in the relations with every particular Thou the disappointment of the change to It, strives out but not away from them all to its eternal Thou; but not as something is sought: actually there is no such thing as seeking God. for there is nothing in which he could not be found. How foolish and hopeless would be the man who turned aside from the course of his life in order to seek God; even though he won all the wisdom of solitude and all the power of concentrated being, he would miss God. Rather is it as when a man goes his way and simply wishes that it might be the way: in the strength of his wish his striving is expressed. Every relational event is a stage that affords him a glimpse into the consummating event. So in each event he does not partake. but also (for he is waiting) does partake. of the one event. Waiting. not seeking. h~ goes his way; hence he is composed before all things. and makes contact with them which helps them. But when he has found, his heart is not turned from them. though everything now meets him in the one event. He blesses every cell that sheltered him, and every cell into which he will yet turn. For this finding is not the end. but only the eternal middle, of the way.

It is a finding without seeking. a discovering of the primal, of origin. His sense of Thou, which cannot be satiated till he finds the endless Thou, had the Thou present to it from the beginning; the presence had only to become wholly real to him in the reality of the hallowed life of the world.

God cannot be inferred in anything -- in nature. say. as its author. or in history as its master, or in the subject as the self that is thought in it. Something else is not "given" and God then elicited from it; but God is the Being that is directly, most nearly, and lastingly, over against us, that may properly only be addressed, not expressed.

The spheres in which the world of relation is built are three.

First, our life with nature, in which the relation clings to the threshold of speech.

Second, our life with men. in which the relation takes on the form of speech.

Third, our life with intelligible forms. where the relation. being without speech, yet begets it.

In every sphere in its own way. through each process of becoming that is present to us, we look out toward the fringe of the eternal Thou; in each we are aware of a breath from the eternal Thou; in each Thou we address the eternal Thou.

All spheres are compassed in the eternal Thou, but it is not compassed in them.

A modern philosopher supposes that every man necessarily believes either in God or in "idols," that is, in some sort of finite good -- his nation. his art, power, knowledge. the amassing of money. "the ever new subjugation of woman" -- which has become for him an absolute value and has set itself up between him and God; it is only necessary to demonstrate to him the conditioned nature of this good. in order to "shatter" the idol, and the diverted religious act will automatically return to the fitting object.

This conception presupposes that man's relation to the finite goods he has "idolized" is of the same nature as his relation to God, and differs only in its object; for only with this presupposition could the mere substitution of the true for the false object save the erring man. But a man's relation to the "special something" that usurps the throne of the supreme value of his life, and supplants eternity, rests always on experiencing and using an It, a thing, an object of enjoyment. For this relation alone is able to obstruct the prospect which opens toward God -- it is the impenetrable world of It; but the relation which involves the saying of the Thou opens up this prospect ever anew. He who is dominated by the idol that he wishes to win, to hold, and to keep -- possessed by a desire for possession -- has no way to God but that of reversal, which is a change not only of goal but also of the nature of his movement. The man who is possessed is saved by being wakened and educated to solidarity of relation, not by being led in his state of possession toward God. If a man remains in this state, what does it mean when he calls no longer on the name of a demon or of a being demonically distorted for him, but on the name of God? It means that from now on he blasphemes. It is blasphemy when a man wishes, after the idol has crashed behind the altar, to pile up an unholy sacrifice to God on the desecrated place.

He who loves a woman, and brings her life to present realization in his, is able to see in the Thou of her eyes a beam of the eternal Thou. But he who eagerly desires "ever new subjugation" -- do you wish to hold out to his desire a phantom of the Eternal? He who serves his people in the boundlessness of destiny. and is willing to give himself to them, is really thinking of God. But do you suppose that the man to whom the nation is a god. in whose service he would like to enlist everything (for in the nation's he exalts his own image). need only be given a feeling of disgust -- and he would see the truth? And what does it mean that a man is said to treat money, embodied non-being. "as if it were God"? What has the lust of grabbing and of laying up treasure in common with the joy in the presence of the Present One? Can the servant of Mammon say Thou to his money? And how is he to behave toward God when he does not understand how to say Thou' He cannot serve two masters -- not even one after the other: he must first learn to serve in a different way.

He who has been converted by this substitution of object now "holds" a phantom that he calls God. But God, the eternal Presence, does not permit himself to be held. Woe to the man so possessed that he thinks he possesses God!

What is the eternal. primal phenomenon. present here and now, of that which we term revelation? It is the phenomenon out of which a man does not emerge, from the moment of the supreme meeting, the same being as he entered into it. The moment of meeting is not an "experience" that stirs in the receptive soul and grows to perfect blessedness; rather. in that moment. something happens to the man. At times, it is like a light breath; at times, like a wrestling-bout, but always -- it happens. The man who emerges from the act of pure relation that so involves his being has now in his being something more that has grown in him, of which he did not know before and whose origin he is not rightly able to indicate. However the source of this new thing is classified in scientific orientation of the world, with its authorized efforts to establish an unbroken causality. we, whose concern is real consideration of the real. cannot have our purpose served with subconsciousness or any other apparatus of the soul. The reality is that we receive what we did not hitherto have, and receive it in such a way that we know it has been given to us. In the language of the Bible, "those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." In the language of Nietzsche, who in his account remains loyal to reality, "we take and do not ask who it is there that gives."

Man receives, and he receives not a specific "content," but a Presence, a Presence as power. This Presence and this power include three things, undivided, yet in such a way that we may consider them separately. First, there is the whole fulness of real mutual action, of the being raised and bound up in relation: the man can give no account at all of how the binding in relation is brought about, nor does it in any way lighten his life -- it makes life heavier, but heavy with meaning. Secondly, there is the inexpressible confirmation of meaning. Meaning is assured. Nothing can any longer be meaningless. The question about the meaning of life is no longer there. But were it there, it would not have to be answered. You do not know how to exhibit and define the meaning of life, you have no formula or picture for it, and yet it has more certitude for you than the perceptions of your senses. What does the revealed and concealed meaning purpose with us, desire from us? It does not wish to be explained (nor are we able to do that), but only to be done by us. Thirdly, this meaning is not that of "another life," but that of this life of ours, not one of a world "yonder," but that of this world of ours, and it desires its confirmation in this life and in relation with this world. This meaning can be received, but not experienced; it cannot be experienced but it can be done, and this is its purpose with us. The assurance I have of it does not wish to be sealed within me, but it wishes to be born by me into the world. But just as the meaning itself does not permit itself to be transmitted and made into knowledge generally current and admissible, so confirmation of it cannot be transmitted as a valid Ought; it is not prescribed, it is not specified on any tablet, to be raised above all men's heads. The meaning that has been received can be proved true by each man only in the singleness of his being and the singleness of his life. As no prescription can lead us to the meeting, so none leads from it. As only acceptance of the Presence is necessary for the approach to the meeting, so in a new sense is it so when we emerge from it. As we reach the meeting with the simple Thou on our lips, so with the Thou on our lips we leave it and return to the world.

That before which, in which, out of which, and into which we live, even the mystery, has remained what it was. It has become present to us and in its presentness has proclaimed itself to us as salvation; we have "known" it. but we acquire no knowledge from it which might lessen or moderate its mysteriousness. We have come near to God. but not nearer to unveiling being or solving its riddle. We have felt release, but not discovered a "solution." We cannot approach others with what we have received, and say: "You must know this. you must do this." We can only go, and confirm its truth. And this, too, is no "ought," but we can, we must.

This is the eternal revelation that is present here and now. I know of no revelation and believe in none whose primal phenomenon is not precisely this. I do not believe in a self-naming of God, a self-definition of God before men. The Word of revelation is1 am that 1 am. That which reveals is that which reveals. That which is is, and nothing more. The eternal source of strength streams, the eternal contact persists, the eternal voice sounds forth, and nothing more.
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Re: The Writings of Martin Buber, edited by Will Herberg

Postby admin » Thu Jul 02, 2015 8:01 pm



The Unique One and the Single One

Only by coming up against the category of the "Single One: and by making it a concept of the utmost clarity, did SOren Kierkegaard become the one who presented Christianity as a paradoxical problem for the single "Christian." He was only able to do this owing to the radical nature of his solitariness. His Single One cannot be understood without his solitariness, which differed in kind from the solitariness of the earlier Christian thinkers, such as Augustine or Pascal, whose name one would like to link with his. It is not irrelevant that beside Augustine stood a mother, and beside Pascal a sister, who maintained the organic connection with the world as only a woman as the envoy of elemental life can; whereas the central event of Kierkegaard's life, and the core of the crystallization of his thought, was the renunciation of Regina Olsen as representing woman and the world. Nor may this solitariness be compared with that of a monk or a hermit; for the monk or hermit, renunciation stands essentially only at the beginning, and even if it must be achieved and practiced ever anew, it is not that which constitutes the life theme, the basic problem, the stuff out of which all teaching is woven. But for Kierkegaard, this is just what renunciation is. It is embodied in the category of the Single One, "the category through which, from the religious standpoint, time and history and the race must pass" (Kierkegaard, 1847).

By means of an opposition, we can first of all be precisely aware what the Single One, in a special and specially important sense, is not. A few years before Kierkegaard outlined his "Report to History" under the title The Point of View for My Work as an Author, in whose "Two Notes" the category of the Single One found its adequate formulation, Max Stirner published his book about "The Unique One." [2] This, too, is a border concept like the Single One, but from the other end. Stirner, a pathetic nominalist and unmasker of ideas, wanted to dissolve the alleged remains of German idealism (so he regarded Ludwig Feuerbach) by raising not the thinking subject nor man, but the concrete present individual, as "the exclusive I" to be the bearer of the world, that is, of "his" world.

Here this Unique One "consuming himself" in "self-enjoyment" is the only one who has primary existence; only the man who comes to such a possession and consciousness of himself has primary existence -- on account of the "unity and omnipotence of our I that is sufficient to itself, for it lets nothing be but itself." Thus, the question of an essential relation between him and the other is eliminated as well. He has no essential relation except to himself (Stirner's alleged "living participation" "in the person of the other" is without essence, since the other has in his eyes no primary existence). That is, he has only that remarkable relation with the self which does not lack certain magical possibilities (since all other existence becomes the haunting of ghosts that are half in bonds. half free), but is so empty of any genuine power to enter into relation that it is better to describe as a relation only that in which not only I but also Thou can be said. This border product of a German Protagoras is usually underrated; the loss of reality which responsibility and truth have suffered in our time has here if not its spiritual origin, certainly its exact conceptual proclamation. "The man who belongs to himself alone ... is by origin free, for he acknowledges nothing but himself," and "true is what is Mine," are formulas which forecast a congealing of the soul unsuspected by Stirner in all his rhetorical assurance. But also many a rigid collective We, which rejects a superior authority, is easily understood as a translation from the speech of the Unique One into that of the Group-I, which acknowledges nothing but itself -- a translation carried out against Stirner's intention, for Stirner hotly opposes any plural version.

Kierkegaard's Single One has this in common with its counterpoint, Stirner's Unique One, that both are border categories: it has no more in common than this, but also it has no less.

The category of the Single One, too, means not the subject or "man," but concrete singularity; yet not the individual who discovers his existence, but rather the person who is finding himself. But this finding oneself, however primordially remote from Stirner's "utilize thyself," is not akin either to that "know thyself" which apparently troubled Kierkegaard very much. For it means a becoming, a becoming, moreover, under a weight of seriousness that, for the West at least, emerged only with Christianity. It is, therefore, a becoming which (though Kierkegaard says that his category was used by Socrates "for the dissolution of heathendom") is decisively different from that effected by the Socratic "maieutic." "No one is excluded from being a Single One except he who excludes himself by wishing to be 'crowd.'" Here not only is "Single One" opposed to "crowd," but also becoming is opposed to a particular mode of being which evades becoming. That may still be in tune with Socratic thought. But what does it mean, to become a Single One? Kierkegaard's account shows clearly that the nature of his category is no longer Socratic. It runs, "to fulfil the first condition of all religiosity" is "to be a single man." It is for this reason that the Single One is "the category through which, from the religious standpoint, time and history and the race must pass."

Since the concept of religiosity has since lost its definiteness, what Kierkegaard means must be more precisely defined. He cannot mean that to become a Single One is the presupposition of a condition of the soul, called religiosity. It is not a matter of a condition of the soul, but a matter of existence in that strict sense in which -- precisely by fulfilling the personal life -- it passes, in its essence, beyond the boundary of the person. Then being, familiar being, becomes unfamiliar, and no longer signifies my being. but my participation in the Present Being. That this is what Kierkegaard means is expressed in the fundamental word that the Single One "corresponds" to God. In Kierkegaard's account, then, the concept "of all religiosity" has to be more precisely defined by "of all religious reality." But since this also is exposed to the epidemic sickening of the word in our time, by which every word is at once covered with the leprosy of routine and changed into a slogan, we must go further, as far as possible, and, giving up the vexatious word "religion," take a risk, but a necessary risk, and explain the phrase as meaning "of all real human dealings with God." That Kierkegaard means this is shown by his reference to a "speaking with God." And indeed a man can have dealings with God only as a Single One, as a man who has become a Single One. This the Old Testament -- though there a people too meets the Godhead as a people -- expresses by permitting only a person bearing a name, Enoch, Noah, to "have dealings with Elohim." Not before a man, in perfect reality -- that is, in finding himself -- can say I, can he, in perfect reality-that is, to God -- say Thou. And even if he does it in a community, he can only do it "alone." "As the 'Single One: he [every man] is alone, alone in the whole world, alone before God." That is -- what Kierkegaard, strangely, does not think of -- thoroughly unsocratic: in the words "the divine gives me a sign." Socrates' "religiosity" is represented in a way significant for all ages; but the words "I am alone before God" are unthinkable as coming from him. Kierkegaard's "alone" is no longer of Socrates; it is of Abraham -- Genesis 12:1 and 22:2 alike demand, in the same words "Go before thee." the power to free oneself of all bonds, the bonds to the world of fathers and to the world of sons -- and it is of Christ.

Clarity demands a further twofold distinction. First, with respect to mysticism. Mysticism too lets man be alone before God, but not as the Single One. The relation to God which it thinks of is the absorption of the I; the Single One ceases to exist if he cannot, even in devoting himself, say I. As mysticism will not permit God to assume the servant's form of the speaking and acting person, of a creator, of a revealer, and to tread the way of the Passion through time as the partner of history, suffering along with it all destiny, so it prohibits man, as the Single One persisting as such, from really praying and serving and loving, such as can be done only by an I to a Thou. Mysticism only tolerates the Single One in order that he may ultimately dissolve. But Kierkegaard knows, at any rate in relation to God, what love is, and thus he knows that there is no self-love that is not self-deceit (since he who loves -- and it is he who matters -- loves only the other and essentially not himself), but that without being and remaining oneself, there is no love.

The second necessary distinction is with respect to Stirner's Unique One. (For the sake of conceptual precision, this expression is to be preferred to the more humanistic ones, such as Stendhal's egotiste.)

A preliminary distinction must be made with respect to so-called individualism, which has also produced a "religious" variety. The Single One, the person ready and able to "stand alone before God," is the counterpart of what, in the not distant past, was still called -- using a term which is treason to the spirit of Goethe -- personality; and man's becoming a Single One is the counterpart of "personal development." All individualism, whether it is called aesthetic or ethical or religious, finds a cheap and easy pleasure in man provided only he is "developing." In other words, "ethical" and "religious" individualism are only inflections of the "aesthetic" -- which is as little genuine aesthesis as the former are genuine ethos and genuine religio.

Morality and piety, where they have in this way become an autonomous aim, must also be reckoned among the shows and show pieces of a spirit that no longer knows about being, but only about its reflections.

Where individualism ceases to be wanton, Stirner begins. He is also, it is true, concerned with the "shaping of free personality," but in the sense of a severance of the "self" from the world: he is concerned with tearing apart his existential ties and bonds, with breaking free from all ontic otherness of things and lives, which now may only serve as "nourishment" of his selfhood. The contrapuntal position of Stirner's Unique One to Kierkegaard's Single One becomes clearest when the questions of responsibility and truth are raised.

For Stirner, both are bound to be false questions. But it is important to see that though intending to destroy both basic ideas, he has destroyed only their routine forms, and thus, contrary to his whole intention, has prepared for their purification and renewal. Historically minded contemporaries have spoken disparagingly of him as a modern sophist; since then, the function of the sophists, and consequently of their like in later times, has been recognized as the function of dissolving and preparing. Stirner may have understood Hegel just as little as Protagoras did Heraclitus; but even as it is meaningless to reproach Protagoras with laying waste the gardens of the great cosmologist, so Stirner remains untouched when he is ridiculed as the unwitting and profane interloper in the fields of post- Kantian philosophy. Stirner is not, any more than the sophists were, a curious interlude in the history of human thought. Like them, he is an epeisodion in the original sense. In his monologue, the action secretly changes; what follows is a new thing: as Protagoras leads towards his contemporary Socrates, Stirner leads towards his contemporary Kierkegaard.

Responsibility presupposes one who addresses me primarily, that is, from a realm independent of myself, and to whom I am answerable. He addresses me about something that he has entrusted to me and that I am bound to take care of loyally. He addresses me from his trust, and I respond in my loyalty or refuse to respond in my disloyalty; or, having fallen into disloyalty, I wrestle free of it by the loyalty of the response. To be so answerable to a trusting person about an entrusted matter that loyalty and disloyalty step into the light of day -- but both are not of the same right, for now loyalty, born again, is permitted to conquer disloyalty -- this is the reality of responsibility. Where no primary address and claim can touch me, where everything is "my property," responsibility has become a phantom. At the same time, life's character of mutuality is dissipated. He who ceases to make a response ceases to hear the Word.

But this reality of responsibility is not what is questioned by Stirner; it is unknown to him. He simply does not know what of elemental reality happens between life and lire, he does not know the mysteries of address and answer, claim and disclaim, word and response. He has not experienced this because it can only be experienced when one is not closed to the otherness, the ontic and primal otherness of the other -- to the primal otherness of the other, which, of course, even when the other is God, must not be confined to a "total otherness." What Stirner with his destructive power successfully attacks is the surrogate for a reality that is no longer believed; he attacks the fictitious responsibility before reason, an idea, a nature, an institution, all manner of illustrious ghosts, all that in essence is not a person, and hence cannot really, like father and mother, prince and master, husband and friend, like God, make you answerable. He wishes to show the nothingness of the word which has decayed into a phrase; he has never known the living word, he unveils what he knows. Ignorant of the reality whose appearance is appearance, he proves its nature to be appearance. Stirner dissolves the dissolution. "What you call responsibility is a lie!", he cries, and he is right: it is a lie. But there is a truth. And the way to it lies freer after the lie has been seen through.

Kierkegaard means true responsibility when, rushing in a parabola past Stirner, he speaks thus of the crowd and the Single One: "Being in a crowd either completely releases the Single One from repentance and responsibility, or else weakens his sense of responsibility. since the crowd leaves only a fraction of responsibility to him." These words, to which I intend to return, no longer imply any illusion of a responsibility without a receiver; they imply genuine responsibility, now recognized once more, in which the demander demands of me the entrusted good, and I must open my hands or they petrify.

Stirner has unmasked as unreal the responsibility which is only ethical by exposing the non-existence of the alleged receivers as such. Kierkegaard has proclaimed anew the responsibility which is in faith.

And as with responsibility so with truth itself: here the parabolic meeting becomes even more uncanny.

"Truth ... exists only -- in your head." "The truth is a -- creature." "For Me there is no truth, for nothing passes beyond Me." "So long as you believe in the truth, you do not believe in yourself.... You alone are the truth." What Stirner undertakes here is the dissolution of possessed truth, of "truth" as a general good that can be taken into possession and possessed, that is at once independent of, and accessible to, the person. He does not undertake this like the sophists or other sceptics by means of epistemology. He does not seem to have been acquainted with the epistemological method; he is as audaciously naive in his behavior as though Hume and Kant had never lived. But neither would epistemology have achieved for him what he needed; for it, and the solipsist theory as well, lead only to the knowing subject, and not to the concrete human person at which Stirner aims with undeviating fanaticism. The means by which he undertakes the dissolution of possessed truth is the demonstration that it is conditioned by the person. "True is what is Mine." Here already lies hidden the fundamental principle of our day: "What I take as true is defined by what I am." To this, two statements may be taken as alternatives or as a combination -- to Stirner's horror, certainly, but in logical consistency as an inescapable interpretation. There is first the statement, "And what I am is conditioned by my complexes," and second, the statement, "And what I am is conditioned by the class I belong to," with all their variants. Stirner is the involuntary father of modern psychological and sociological relativism, which for its part (to anticipate) is at once true and false.

But again Stirner is right, again he dissolves the dissolution. Possessed truth is not even a creature; it is a ghost, a succubus with which a man may succeed in effectively imagining he is living, but with which he cannot live. You cannot devour the truth; it is not served up anywhere in the world; you cannot even gape at it, for it is not an object. And yet, there does 'exist a participation in the being of inaccessible truth -- for the man who stands its test and "makes it true." There exists a real relation of the whole human person to the unpossessed, unpossessable truth, and it is completed only in standing the test and "making it true." This real relation, whatever it is called, is the relation to the Present Being.

The rediscovery of truth, disenthroned in the human world by the semblance of truth, but in truth eternally irremovable -- a truth which cannot be possessed but which can be served, and for which service can be given by perceiving and standing test -- is accomplished by Kierkegaard in a paradoxical series of statements. It begins with the words, "He who communicates it [the truth] is only the Single One. Its communication is again only for the Single One; for this view of life, 'the Single One,' is the very truth." You must listen carefully. Not that the Single One exists, and not that he should exist, is described as the truth, but "this view of life," which consists in the Single One's existing, and which is therefore simply identified with him: to be the Single One is the communication of the truth, that is, the human truth. "The crowd," says Kierkegaard, "produces positions of advantage in human life," which "overlook in time and the world the eternal truth -- the Single One." "You alone are the truth" is what Stirner says. "The Single One is the truth," is what is said here. That is the uncanny parabolic phenomenon of words to which I have referred. In a "time of dissolution" (Kierkegaard), there is the blank point at which the No and the Yes move up to and pass one another with all their power, but purely objectively and without consciousness. Now Kierkegaard continues: "The truth cannot be communicated and received except as it were before God's eyes, by God's help; so that God is there, is the medium as he is the truth .... For God is the truth and its medium." Thus "the Single One is the truth," and "God is the truth." That is so because the Single One "corresponds" to God. Hence Kierkegaard can say that the category of the Single One is and remains "the fixed point which can resist pantheist confusion." The Single One corresponds to God. For "man is akin to the Godhead." In Old Testament language, the Single One realizes the "image" of God precisely through having become a Single One. In the language in which alone a generation, wrestling with the problem of truth, succumbing to it, turning from it, but also exploring it ever anew, can understand, the Single One existentially stands the test of the appearing truth by "the personal existence expressing what is said" (rather, "what is unsaid"). There is this human side of truth -- in human existence. God is the truth because he is; the Single One is the truth because he reaches toward his existence.

Stirner has dissolved the truth which is only noetic, and against all his knowledge and desire, cleared a space into which Kierkegaard's believed and tested truth has entered, the truth which can no longer be obtained and possessed by the noesis alone, but which must be existentially realized in order to be inwardly known and communicated.

But there is still a third and last point of contact and repulsion. For Stirner, every man is the Unique One if only he discards all ideological ballast (to which for him what is religious belongs), and settles down as owner of his world property. For Kierkegaard, "every, absolutely every man" "can and ought" to be "the Single One" -- only he must ... what, indeed, must he? He must become a Single One. For "the matter is thus: this category cannot be taught by precept; it is something that you can do, it is an art, ... and moreover an art whose practice could cost the artist, in time, his life." But when we investigate closely to see if there is a more exact definition anywhere, even if not precisely one that can be taught by precept, one will be found -- no more than one, no more than a single word, but it will be found: it is "obey." This is what is under all circumstances prohibited to Stirner's Unique One by his author. It is easy to discover that behind all Stirner's prohibitions to his Unique One this stands as the real, comprehensive, and decisive prohibition. With this one verb, with this word of "doing," Kierkegaard finally thrusts off the spirit which, without either of them knowing it, had approached so near, too near, in the time of dissolution.

And yet -- the illumination of our time makes it visible -- the two, primally different, primally strange to one another, concerning one another in nothing, but with one another concerning us, work together, not a hundred years ago but today, the one announcing decay as decay, the other proving the eternal structure to be inviolable. To renounce obedience to any usurping lord is Stirner's demand; Kierkegaard has none of his own -- he repeats the ancient, misused, desecrated, outworn, inviolable "Obey the Lord." If a man becomes a Single One, "then obedience is all right," even in the time of dissolution. where otherwise obedience is not all right.

Stirner leads men out of all kinds of alleys into the open country where each is the Unique One and the world is his property. There they bustle in futile and noncommittal life, and nothing comes of it but bustle, till one after the other begins to notice what this country is called. Kierkegaard leads to a "narrow pass"; his task is "where possible to induce the many, to invite them, to stir them to press through this narrow pass, the 'Single One: through which, note well, none passes unless he becomes the 'Single One: since in the concept itself the opposite is excluded." I think, however, that in actual history the way to this narrow pass is through that open country that fint is called individual egoism, and then collective egoism, and, finally, by its true name, despair.

But is there really a way through the narrow pass? Can one really become the Single One?

"I myself do not assert of myself," says Kierkegaard, "that I am that one. For I have indeed struggled for it, but have not yet grasped it, in the continued fight never forgetting that it is beyond human strength to be 'the Single One' in the highest sense."

"In the highest sense": that is spoken with a Christian and a christological reference; it manifests the paradox of the Christian task. But it is also convincing to the non-Christian. It has in it the assertion that no man can say of himself that he has become the Single One, since a higher sense of the category always remains unfulfilled beyond him; but it also has in it the assertion that every man can nevertheless become a Single One. Both are true.

"The eternal, the decisive, can be worked for only where one man is; and to become this one man, which all men can, means to let oneself be helped by God," This is the way.

And yet it is not the way, for reasons of which I have not spoken in this section and of which I now have to speak.

The Single One and His Thou

Kierkegaard's "to become a Single One" is. as we have seen, not meant Socratically. The goal of this becoming is not the "right" life, but entry into a relation. "To become" here means to become for something -- "for" in the strict sense in which the circle of the person himself is transcended. It means to be made ready for the one relation which can be entered into only as the Single One. the one. the relation for whose sake man exists.

This relation is an exclusive one, the exclusive one, and this, according to Kierkegaard, means that it is the excluding relation, excluding all others; more precisely, that it is the relation which in virtue of its unique, essential life drives all other relations into the realm of the unessential.

"Everyone should be chary about having to do with 'the others,' and should essentially speak only with God and with himself," Kierkegaard says in his exposition of the category. Everyone, so it is to be understood, because everyone can be the one.

This joining of the "with God" with the "with himself" is a serious incompatibility that nothing can mitigate. All the enthusiasm of the philosophers for monologue, from Plato to Nietzsche, hardly touches the simple experience of faith that speaking with God is something toto genere different from "speaking with oneself," whereas, remarkably enough, it is not something toto genere different from speaking with another human being. For in the latter case, there is in common the fact of being approached, grasped, addressed, which cannot be anticipated in any depth of the soul; but in the former, there is no such common fact in spite of all the soul's adventures in doubling roles -- games, intoxications, dreams, visions, surprises, overwhelmings, overpowerings -- in spite of all tensions and divisions, and in spite of all the noble and powerful images for traffic with oneself. "Then one became two": that can never be ontically true, just as the reverse "one and one in one" of mysticism can never be ontically true. Only when I have to do with another essentially -- that is, in sum a way that he is no longer a phenomenon of my I, but instead is my Thou -- do I experience the reality of speech with another, in the irrefragable genuineness of mutuality. Abyssus abyssum clamat: what that means the soul first experiences when it reaches its frontier and finds itself faced by one that is simply not the soul itself and yet is a self.

But on this point Kierkegaard seems to correct himself. In the passage in his Journals where he asks the question, "And how does one become a Single One?", the answer begins with the formulation, obviously more valid for the problem there under discussion, that one should be, "regarding the highest concerns, related solely to God."

If, in this statement, the word "highest'; is understood as limiting in its content, then this is self-evident: the highest concerns can be put only to the highest. But it cannot be meant this way: that is clear from the other statement, "Everyone should ...." If both are taken together, then Kierkegaard's meaning is evident: the Single One has to do essentially-is not to be "chary" -- only with God.

But thereby the category of the Single One, scarcely properly discovered, is already fatefully misunderstood.

Kierkegaard, the Christian concerned with "contemporaneity" with Jesus, here contradicts his master.

To the question -- which was not merely directed at "tempting" him, but was rather a current and significant controversial question of the time -- as to which was the all-inclusive and fundamental commandment, the "great" commandment, Jesus replied by connecting the two Old Testament commandments between which the choice lay: "Love God with all your might" and "Love your neighbor as one like yourself." [3] Both are to be "loved," God and the "neighbor" (that is, not man in general, but the man who meets me time and again in the context of life), but in different ways. The neighbor is to be loved "as one like myself" (not "as I love myself"; in the final reality, one does not love oneself, but one should rather learn to love oneself through love of one's neighbor); to him I should show love as I wish it shown to me. But God is to be loved with all my soul and all my might. By connecting the two, Jesus brings to light the Old Testament truth that God and man are not rivals. Exclusive love of God ("with all your heart") is, because he is God, inclusive love, ready to accept and include all love. It is not himself that God creates, not himself he redeems; even when he "reveals himself," it is not himself he reveals: his revelation does not have himself as object. He limits himself in all his limitlessness; he makes room for creatures, and so, in the love of him, he makes room for love to creatures.

"In order to come to love," says Kierkegaard about his renunciation of Regina Olsen, "I had to remove the object." That is sublimely to misunderstand God. Creation is not a hurdle on the road to God; it is the road itself. We are created along with one another and directed to a life with one another. Creatures are placed in my way so that I, their fellow creature, by means of them and with them, may find the way to God. A God reached by excluding them would not be the God of all beings in whom all being is fulfilled. A God in whom only the parallel lines of single approaches intersect is more akin to the "God of the philosophers" than to the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." God wants us to come to him by means of the Reginas he has created, and not by renunciation of them. If we remove the object, then -- we remove the object altogether. Without an object, artificially producing the object from the abundance of the human spirit and calling it God, this kind of love has its being in the void.

"The matter must be brought back to the monastery from which Luther broke out." So Kierkegaard defines the task of the time. "Monastery" can here mean only the institutional safeguarding of man from an essential relation -- inclusive of his whole being -- to any others but God. And certainly, to one so safeguarded, the orientation toward the point called God is made possible with a precision not to be attained otherwise. But what "God" means in this case is, in fact, only the end point of a human line of orientation. The real God is hardly to be reached by a line shorter than each man's longest, which is the line embracing the world that is accessible to him. For the real God is the Creator, and all beings stand before him in relation to one another in his creation, becoming useful for his creative purpose in living with one another. To teach an acosmic relation to God is not to know the Creator. Acosmic worship of a God of whom one knows, as does Kierkegaard, that it is of his grace "that he wills to be a person in relation to you," is Marcionism, and not even consistent Marcionism: for this worship does not separate the creator and the redeemer, as it would have to do were it consistent.

But one must not overlook the fact that Kierkegaard is not at all concerned to put Luther breaking out of the monastery in the wrong. On one occasion, he treats Luther's marriage as something removed from all natural personal life, from all directness between man and wife, as a symbolic action, a deed representing and expressing the turning point of the spiritual history of the West. "The most important thing," he makes Luther say, "is that it becomes notorious that I am married." But behind Luther's marrying Katharina, there emerges, unnamed but clear, Kierkegaard's not marrying Regina. "Put the other way round, one could say . . . in defiance of the whole nineteenth century, I cannot marry." Here there is added as a new perspective the qualitative difference between historical epochs. Certainly, on Kierkegaard's view, it is true for both ages that the Single One should not have to do essentially with any others but God; according to him, then, Luther speaks not essentially but only symbolically with Katharina: though bound to the world, he remains essentially worldless and "alone before God." But the symbolic actions are opposed: by the one, the word of a new bond with the world -- even if, perhaps, in the end, a bond that is not binding -- is spoken to the one century, by the other, the word of a new, and in any event binding, renunciation is spoken to the other century. What is the reason? Because the nineteenth century has given itself up to the "crowd," and "the crowd is untruth."

But now two things are possible. Either the bond with the world preached with his life by Luther is in Kierkegaard's view neither binding, nor "essential," nor necessary for the leading of Luther's age to God. But that would make Luther one who permits what is not binding to be effective as something that is binding; it would make him one who has a different thing to say for men than he has for God, who treats the sacrament as though it were fulfilled outside God; it would make Luther one whose symbolic action possessed no authority. Or else, on the other hand, the bond with the world preached with his life by Luther is in Kierkegaard's view binding, and essential, and necessary for leading to God. Then the difference between the two epochs, which is indubitably a qualitative one, would enter in what is basically independent of history, more so than birth and death -- the relation of the Single One to God. For the essential quality of this relation cannot be of one kind in the former century and of another in the latter; it cannot in the one go right through the world, and in the other go over and beyond the world. Human representations of the relation change, the truth of the relation is unchangeable because it stands in eternal mutuality; it is not man who defines his approach to it, but the Creator who, in the unambiguity of his creation of man, has instituted the approach.

It is certainly not possible to speak of God other than dialectically, for he does not come under the principle of contradiction. Yet there is a limit to dialectic where assertion ceases, but where there is knowledge. Who is there who confesses the God whom Kierkegaard and I confess who could suppose in decisive insight that God wants Thou to be truly said only to him, but to all others merely an unessential and fundamentally invalid word -- that God demands of us to choose between him and his creation? The objection is raised that the world as a fallen world is not to be identified with the creation. But what fall of the world could be so mighty that it could for him break it away from being his creation? That would be to make the action of the world into something more powerful than God's action, into something compelling him.

The essential is not that we should see things as standing out from God, nor as being absorbed in him, but that we should "see things in God," the things themselves. To apply this to our relations with creatures: only when all relations, uncurtailed, are taken into the one relation, do we set the circle of our life's world round the sun of our being.

Certainly that is the most difficult thing, and in order to be able to do it, man must let himself be helped from time to time by an inner-worldly "monastery." Our relations to creatures are always threatening to become incapsulated. As the world itself is sustained in its independence as the world through striving to be closed against God, though as creation it is open to him, so every great bond of man -- though in it he perceives his connection with the infinite -- protects itself vigorously against continually debouching into the infinite. Here the monastic forms of life in the world, the loneliness in the midst of life into which we turn as into hostelries, help us prevent the connection between the conditioned bonds and the one unconditioned bond from slackening. This, too, if we do not wish to see our participation in the Present Being die off, is an indispensable interchange, the systole of the soul to its diastole. The loneliness must know the quality of strictness, of a monastery's strictness, in order to do its work. But it must never wish to tear us away from creatures, never refuse to send us off to them. If it failed to do that, it would act contrary to its own law and would close us up, instead of enabling us, as is its function, to keep open the gates of finitude.

Kierkegaard does not conceal from us for a moment that his resistance to a bond with the world, his religious doctrine of loneliness, is based on personal nature and personal destiny. He confesses that he "ceased to have common speech" with men. He notes that the finest moment in his life is in the bath house, before he dives into the water: "I have nothing more to do with the world." He exposes before our eyes some of the roots of his "melancholy." He knows precisely what has brought him to the point of being chary about having to do with others, and of essentially speaking only with God and with himself. And yet, as soon as he begins with the "direct" language, he expresses it as an imperative: let everyone do so. Continually he points to his own shadow -- and wants to leap across it. He is a being excepted and exposed, and certainly so are we all, for so is man as man. But Kierkegaard has moved to the fringe of being excepted and exposed, and maintains equilibrium only by means of the extraordinary balance of his "author's" reticently communicative existence with all the complicated safeguards of the "pseudonyms"; whereas we are not on the fringe, and that is no "not yet" nor any sort of compromising. no shirking of melancholy; it is organic continuance and grace of preservation, and it is significant for the future of the spirit. Kierkegaard behaves in our sight like a schizophrenic, who tries to win over the beloved individual into "his" world as if it were the true one. But it is not the true one. We, ourselves wandering on the narrow ridge, must not shrink from the sight of the jutting rock on which he stands over the abyss; nor may we step on it. We have much to learn from him, but not the final lesson.

Our rejection can be supported by Kierkegaard's own teaching. He describes "the ethical" as "the only means by which God communicates with 'man'" (1853). The context of the teaching naturally prevents us from understanding this in the sense of an absolutizing of the ethical. But it must be understood in such a way that not merely an autarcic ethic, but also an autarcic religion, is inadmissible, so that as the ethical cannot be freed from the religious neither can the religious be freed from the ethical without ceasing to do justice to the present truth. The ethical no longer appears here, as in Kierkegaard's earlier thought, as a "stage" from which a "leap" leads to the religious, a leap by which a level is reached that is quite different and has a different meaning; here it dwells in the religious, in faith and service. This ethical can no longer mean a morality belonging to a realm of relativity, time and again overtaken and invalidated by the religious; it means essential acting and suffering in relation to men, coordinated with the essential relation to God. But only he who has to do with men essentially can essentially act and suffer in relation to them. If the ethical is the only means by which God communicates with man, then I am forbidden to speak essentially only with God and myself. And so indeed it is. I do not say that it is forbidden to Kierkegaard on his rock, alone with the mercy of the Merciful. I say only that it is forbidden to you and to me.

Kierkegaard is deeply conscious of the dubiousness which arises from the negativizing extension of the category of the Single One. "The frightful thing," he writes in his Journal, and we read it, as he wrote it, with fear and trembling. "is that precisely the highest form of piety, to let everything earthly go, can be the highest egoism." Here obviously a distinction is made according to motive, and the idea of egoism used here is an idea of motivation. If we put in its place an objective idea, an idea of a state of affairs, the statement is changed to a still more frightful one: "Precisely what appears to us as the highest form of piety -- to let everything earthly go -- is the highest egoism."

Is it true that the Single One "corresponds" to God? Does he realize the "image" of God solely by having become a Single One? One thing is lacking for that -- and it is the decisive thing.

"Certainly," says Kierkegaard, "God is no egoist, but he is the infinite Ego." Yet thereby too little is said of the God whom we confess -- if one dares to say anything at all. He hovers over his creation not as over a chaos; he embraces it. He is the infinite I that makes every It into his Thou.

The Single One corresponds to God when he, in his human way, embraces the bit of the world offered to him as God embraces his creation in his divine way. He realizes the image when, as much as he can in a personal way, he says Thou with his being to the beings living round about him.

No one can refute Kierkegaard as well as Kierkegaard himself. Reasoning with and judging himself, he corrects his own spirit from its depths, often before it has uttered its word. In 1845, Kierkegaard enters this unforgettable confession in his Journal: "Had I had faith, I would have remained with Regina." By this he means: "Had I really believed that 'with God all things are possible,' hence also the resolution of this -- my melancholy, my powerlessness, my fear, my fateful alienation from woman and from the world -- then I would have remained with Regina." But while he means this, he says something else too, namely, that the Single One, if he really believes, and that means if he is really a Single One (which, as we saw, he has become for the one relation of faith), can and may have to do essentially with another. And behind this there lurks the extreme that he who can and may also ought to do this. "The only means by which God communicates with man is the ethical." But the ethical in its plain truth means to help God by loving his creation in his creatures, by loving it towards him. For this, to be sure, one must let oneself be helped by him.

"The Single One is the category through which, from the religious standpoint, time and history and the race must pass." What is this "religious standpoint"? One beside others? The standpoint toward God, gained by standing aside from all others? God one object beside other objects, the chosen one beside the rejected ones? God as Regina's successful rival? Is that still God? Is that not merely an object adapted to the religious genius? (Note that I am not speaking of true holiness, for which, as it hallows everything, there is no "religious standpoint.") "Religious genius? Can there be religious geniuses? Is that not a contradictio in adjecto? Can the religious be a specification? "Religious geniuses" are theological geniuses. Their God is the God of the theologians. Admittedly, that is not the God of the philosophers, but neither is it the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God of the theologians, too, is a logicized God, and so is the God even of a theology which will speak only dialectically and makes light of the principle of contradiction. So long as they practise theology, they do not get away from religion as a specification. When Pascal, in a volcanic hour, made that stammering distinction between God and God, he was no genius but a man experiencing the primal glow of faith; at other times, however, he was a theological genius, and dwelt in a specifying religion, out of which the happening of that hour had lifted him.

Religion as a specification misses its mark. God is not an object beside objects, and hence cannot be reached by renunciation of objects. God is, indeed, not the cosmos, but even less is he being minus cosmos. He is not to be found by subtraction, and not to be loved by reduction.

The Single One and the Body Politic

Kierkegaard's thought circles round the fact that he essentially renounced an essential relation to a definite person. He did not resign this casually, or in the relativity of the many experiences and decisions of life, or with the soul alone, but essentially. The essential nature of his renunciation, its downright positive essentiality, is what he wants to express by saying: "In defiance of the whole nineteenth century, I cannot marry." The renunciation becomes essential through its representing in concrete biography the renunciation of an essential relation to the world as that which hinders being alone before God. Moreover, as I have already said, this does not happen just once, as when a man enters a monastery and thereby cuts himself off from the world and lives outside it; it is peculiarly enduring: the renunciation becomes the center of a spiritual coordinate system whose every point is determined in relation to this point. It is in this way that the system receives its true existential character, by means of which it has given the impulse to a new philosophy and a new theology. And certainly, there belongs to this secularly significant concreteness of biography the curiously manifold motivation -- which is undoubtedly legitimate, and is to be found piecemeal in the soundings of inwardness -- of the renunciation which Kierkegaard expresses directly and indirectly, by suggestion and by concealment. But beyond that, on a closer consideration, it is to be noted that there arises, between the renunciation and an increasingly strong point of view an attitude which is finally expressed with penetrating clarity in the "Two Notes" to the "Report to History," a secret and unexpressed connection important for Kierkegaard and for us.

"The crowd is untruth." "This consideration of life, the Single One, is the truth." "No one is excluded from becoming a Single One except he who excludes himself by wanting to be crowd." And again: "'The Single One' is the category of the spirit, of spiritual awakening and revival, and is as sharply as possible opposed to politics." The Single One and the crowd, the "spirit" and "politics": this opposition is not to be separated from that in which Kierkegaard enters the world, expressing it symbolically by means of his renunciation.

Kierkegaard does not marry "in defiance of the whole nineteenth century." What he describes as the nineteenth century is the "age of dissolution," the age of which he says that a single man "cannot help it or save it"; he can "only express that it is going under" -- going under, if it cannot reach God through the "narrow pass." And Kierkegaard does not marry, in a symbolic action of negation, in defiance of this age, because it is the "age of the "crowd" and the age of "politics." Luther married in symbolic action, because he wanted to lead the believing man of his age out of a rigid religious separation -- which finally separated him from grace itself -- to a life with God in the world. Kierkegaard does not marry (this, of course, is not part of the manifold subjective motivation, but is the objective meaning of the symbol) because he wants to lead the unbelieving man of his age, who is entangled in the crowd, to become single, to the solitary life of faith, to be alone before God. Certainly, "to marry or not to marry" is the representative question when the monastery is in view. If the Single One really must be, as Kierkegaard thinks, a man who does not have to do essentially with others, then marriage hinders him if he takes it seriously -- and if he does not take it seriously, then, in spite of Kierkegard's remark about Luther, it cannot be understood how he, an existing person, can be "the truth." For man, with whom alone Kierkegaard is fundamentally concerned, there is the additional factor that in his view woman stands "quite differently from man in a dangerous rapport to finitude." But there is still something special to be made clear at this point.

If one makes a fairly comprehensive survey of the whole labyrinthine structure of Kierkegaard's thought about renunciation, it will be recognized that he is speaking not solely of a hard, hard-won renunciation of life with a person; but in addition, he is speaking of the positively valued renunciation of life with an impersonal being, conditioned by life with a person -- an impersonal being, which in the foreground of the happening is called "people," and in the background, "the crowd." This being, however, in its essence -- of which Kierkegaard knows or wants to know nothing -- rejects these descriptions as caricatures and acknowledges as its true name only that of res publica, in English the "body politic." When Kierkegaard says the category of the "Single One" is "as sharply as possible opposed to politics," he obviously means an activity that has essentially lost touch with its origin, the polis. But this activity, however degenerate, is one of the decisive manifestations of the body politic. Every degeneration indicates its genus, and in such a way that the degeneration is never related to the genus simply as present to past, but as in a distorted face, the distortion is related to the form persisting beneath it. The body politic, which is sometimes also called the "world," that is, the human world, seeks, knowingly or unknowingly, to. realize in its genuine formations the togetherness of men according to creation. The false formations distort, but they cannot eliminate, the eternal origin. Kierkegaard, in his horror of malformation, turns away; but the man who has not ceased to love the human world in all its abasement sees genuine form even today. Supposing that the crowd is untruth, it is only a state of affairs in the body politic; how truth is here related to untruth must be part and parcel of the true question to the Single One, and the warning against the crowd can be only its preface.

From this standpoint, that special matter can be made clear of which I said that it is an additional reason for Kierkegaard's considering marriage to be an impediment. Marriage, essentially understood, brings one into an essential relation to the "world"; more precisely, to the body politic, to its malformation and its genuine form, to its sickness and its health. Marriage, as the decisive union of one with another, confronts one with the body politic and its destiny -- man can no longer shirk that confrontation in marriage; he can only prove himself in it or fail. The isolated person, who is unmarried or whose marriage is merely a fiction, can maintain himself in isolation; the "community" of marriage is part of the great community, contributing its own problems to the general problems, bound up with its hope of salvation to the hope of the great being that in its most miserable state is called the crowd. He who "has entered on marriage," who has entered into marriage, has taken in earnest, in the intention of the sacrament, the fact that the other is, the fact that I cannot legitimately share in the Present Being without sharing in the being of the other, the fact that I cannot answer the lifelong address of God to me without answering at the same time for the other, the fact that I cannot be answerable without being at the same time answerable for the other as one who is entrusted to me. But in this way, he has decisively entered into relation with otherness; and the basic structure of otherness, in many ways uncanny, but never quite unholy or incapable of being hallowed, in which I and the others who meet me in my life are inwoven, is the body politic. It is to this, into this, that marriage intends to lead us. Kierkegaard himself makes one of his pseudonyms, the "married man" of the Stages, express this, though in the style of a lower point of view which is meant to be overcome by a higher. But it is a lower point of view only when trivialized; there is no higher, because to be raised above the situation in which we are set never yields in truth a higher point of view. Marriage is the exemplary bond; it carries us as does no other into the greater bondage, and only as those who are bound can we reach the freedom of the children of God. Expressed with reference to the man: woman certainly stands "in a dangerous rapport to finitude," and finitude is certainly the danger, for nothing threatens us so sharply as the danger that we remain clinging to it. But our hope of salvation is forged on this very danger, for our human way to the infinite leads only through fulfilled finitude.

The Single One is not the man who has to do with God essentially, and only un essentially with others, who is unconditionally concerned with God, and conditionally with the body politic. The Single One is the man for whom the reality of relation with God as an exclusive relation includes and encompasses the possibility of relation with all otherness, and for whom the whole body politic. the reservoir of otherness, offers just enough otherness for him to pass his life with it.

The Single One in Responsibility

I say, therefore. that the Single One. that is. the man living in responsibility, can make even his political decisions properly only from that ground of his being where he is aware of the event as divine speech to him; if he lets the awareness of this ground be choked off by his group, he is refusing to give God an actual reply.

What I am speaking of has nothing to do with "individualism." I do not consider the individual to be either the starting point or the goal of the human world. But I consider the human person to be the irremovable central place of the struggle between the world's movement away from God and its movement toward God. This struggle takes place today to a very great extent in the realm of public life. not between group and group, but within each group. Yet the decisive battles in this realm as well are fought in the depth, in the ground or the groundlessness. of the person.

Our age is intent on escaping from the demanding "ever anew" of such an obligation of responsibility by a flight into a protective "once for all." The last generation's intoxication with freedom has been followed by the present generation's passion for bondage; the untruth of intoxication has been followed by the untruth of hysteria. He alone is true to the one Present Being who knows he is bound to his place -- and precisely there free for his proper responsibility. Only those who are bound and free in this way can still produce what can be truly called community. Yet even today, the believing man, if he adheres to something that is presented in a group, may do right to join it. But belonging to it, he must remain submissive with his whole life, therefore with his group life as well, to the One who is his Lord. His responsible decision will thus at times be opposed to, say, a tactical decision of his group. At times, he will be moved to carry the fight for the truth, the human, uncertain-certain truth which is brought forward by the depth of his conscience, into the group itself, and thereby establish or strengthen an inner front within it. This can prove more important for the future of our world than all fronts that are drawn today between groups or between associations of groups; for this front, if it is everywhere upright and strong, may run as a secret unity across all groups.

What the right is none of the groups of today can come to know except through men who belong to them staking their own souls to discover and then reveal it, however bitter, to their companions -- charitably if possible, cruelly if must be. Into this fiery furnace, the group plunges time and again, or it dies an inward death.

And if one still asks if one may be certain of finding what is right on this steep path, once again the answer is no; there is no certainty. There is only a chance; but there is no other chance but this. The risk. does not ensure the truth for us; but it, and it alone. leads us to where the breath of truth is to be felt.
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Re: The Writings of Martin Buber, edited by Will Herberg

Postby admin » Thu Jul 02, 2015 8:01 pm


The Question

In the human crisis which we are experiencing today, these two have become questionable -- the person and the truth.

We know from the act of responsibility how they are linked together. For the responsible response to exist, the reality of the person is necessary. whom the word meets and claims in the event; and the reality of the truth is necessary to which the person goes out with united being and which he is, therefore, able to receive only in the word, as the truth which concerns himself, in his particular situation, and not in any general way.

The question in which the person and the truth have today been placed is the question to the Single One.

The person has become questionable through being collectivized.

This collectivizing of the person is associated in history with a basically different undertaking in which I too participated and to which I must therefore confess now. It is that struggle of recent decades against the idealistic concepts of the sovereign. world-embracing. world-sustaining. world-creating I. The struggle was conducted (among other ways) by reference to the neglected creaturely bonds of the concrete human person. It was shown how fundamentally important it is to know at every moment of thought this as well -- that the one who thinks is bound. in different degrees of substantiality. but never purely functionally. to a spatial realm, to an historical hour. to the human race., to a people, to a family, to a society, to a vocational group, to a community holding like convictions. This entanglement in the manifold We, when factually known, wards off the temptation of ideas of sovereignty: man is placed in a narrow creaturely position. But he is enabled to recognize that this is his true extent, for being bound means being bound up in relation.

But it happened that a tendency of a quite different origin and nature prevailed over the new insights, which exaggerated and perverted the perception of bonds into a doctrine of serfdom. Primacy is ascribed here to a collectivity. The collectivity receives the right to hold the person who is bound to it bound in such a way that he ceases to have complete responsibility. The collectivity becomes what really exists, the person becomes derivative. In every realm which joins him to the whole, he is to be deprived a personal response.

Thereby the immeasurable value which constitutes man is imperilled. The collectivity cannot enter instead of the person into the dialogue of the ages which the Godhead conducts with mankind. Human perception ceases, the human response is dumb, if the person is no longer there to hear and to speak. It is not possible to reduce the matter to private life; only in the uncurtailed measure of lived life, that is, only with the inclusion of participation in the body politic, can the claim be heard and the reply spoken.

The truth, on the other hand, has become questionable through being politicized.

The sociological doctrine of the age has exercised a relativizing effect. laden with consequences. on the concept of truth, by proving the dependence of thought on social processes, and thus the connection of thought with existence. This relativization was justified in that it bound the "truth" of a man to his conditioning reality. But its justification was perverted into the opposite when its proponents omitted to draw the basic boundary line between what can and what cannot be understood as conditioned in this way. That is, they failed to comprehend the person in his total reality, wooing the truth and wrestling for it. If we begin with the Single One as a total being, who wishes to know with the totality of his being, we find that the force of his desire for the truth can, at decisive points. burst the "ideological" bonds of his social being. The man who thinks "existentially" -- that is, the man who stakes his life on his thinking -- brings into his real relation to the truth not merely his conditioned qualities, but also the unconditioned nature, transcending them, of his quest, of his grasp, of his indomitable will for the truth, which also carries along with it the whole personal power of standing his test and "making his truth true." We shall certainly be able to make no distinction, in what he has, time and again, discovered as the truth, between what can and what cannot be derived from the social factor. But it is an ineluctable duty to affirm what cannot be so derived as a border concept, and thus to point out, as the unattainable horizon of the distinction made by the sociology of knowledge, what takes place between the underivable in the knowing person and the underivable in the object of his knowledge. This duty has been neglected. Consequently, the political theory of modern collectivisms was easily able to take over the principle which lay at hand, and to proclaim what corresponded to the (real or supposed) life interests of a group as its legitimate and unappealable truth. Over against this. the Single One could no longer appeal to a truth which could be known and tested by him.

This marks the beginning of a disintegration of human faith in the truth which can never be possessed. and yet may be comprehended in an existentially real relation; it marks the beginning of the paralysis of the human search for the truth.

"What I speak of," says Kierkegaard. "is something simple and straightforward -- that the truth for the Single One only exists in his producing it himself in action." More precisely, man finds the truth to be true only when he stands its test and "makes it true." Human truth is here bound up with the responsibility of the person.

"True is what is Mine," says Stirner. Human truth is here bound up with the human person's lack of responsibility. Collectivisms translate this into the language of the group: "True is what is Ours."

But in order that man may not be lost, there is need of persons who are not collectivized, and of truth which is not politicized.

There is need of persons, not merely of "representatives" in some sense or other, chosen or appointed, who relieve those represented of responsibility, but also of "represented" who on no account let themselves be represented with regard to responsibility. There is need of the person as the unrelinquishable ground from which alone the entry of the finite into conversation with the infinite becomes possible.

There is need of man's faith in the truth as that which is independent of him, which he cannot acquire for himself, but with which he can enter into a real life relationship; the faith of human persons in the truth as that which sustains them all together, in itself inaccessible but disclosing itself to him who really woos it in the fact of responsibility which awaits test.

That man may not be lost there is need of the person's responsibility to truth in his historical situation. There is need of the Single One who stands over against all being which is present to him, and thus also over against the body politic, and guarantees all being which is present to him, and thus also the body politic.

True community and true commonwealth will be realized only to the extent to which the Single Ones out of whose responsible life the body politic is renewed become real.


The First Stage

Human life as a specific entity which has stepped forth from nature begins with the experience of chaos as a condition perceived in the soul.

Only through this experience and as its materialization could the concept of chaos. which is to be derived from no other empirical finding. arise and enter into the mythic cosmogonies.

In a period of evolution. which generally coincides with puberty without being tied to it. the human person inevitably becomes aware of the category of possibility. which of all living creatures is represented just in man. manifestly the only one for whom the real is continually fringed by the possible.

The evolving human person I am speaking of is disconcerted by possibility as an infinitude. The plenitude of possibility Roods over his small reality and overwhelms it. Phantasy. the imagery of possibilities which. in the Old Testament. God pronounces evil because it distracts from his divinely given reality and plays with potentialities. imposes the form of its indefiniteness upon the definiteness of the moment. The substantial threatens to be submerged in the potential. Swirling chaos. "confusion and desolation" (Gen. 1:2). has forced its way in.

But as, in the stage I am speaking of. everything which appears or happens to man is transformed into motor energy. into the capacity and desire for action. so too the chaos of possibilities of being. having forced an entry. becomes a chaos of possibilities of action. It is not things which revolve in the vortex, but the possible ways of joining and overcoming them.

This impelling universal passion is not to be confounded with the so-called libido, without whose vital energy it naturally could not endure, but to reduce it to which signifies a simplification and animalization of human reality. Urges in the psychological sense are abstractions; but we are speaking of a total concrete occurrence at a given hour of a person's life. Moreover, these urges are, per definitionem, "directed toward something"; but lack of direction is characteristic of the vortex revolving within itself.

The soul driven round in the dizzy whirl cannot remain fixed within it; it strives to escape. If the ebb that leads back. to familiar normality does not make its appearance, there exist for it two issues. One is repeatedly offered it: it can clutch at any object, past which the .vortex happens to carry it, and cast its passion upon it; or else, in response to a prompting that is still incomprehensible to itself, it can set about the audacious work.of self-unification. In the former case, it exchanges an undirected possibility for an undirected reality, in which it does what it wills not to do, what is preposterous to it, the alien, the "evil"; in the latter, if the work meets with success, the soul has given up undirected plenitude in favor of the one taut string, the one stretched beam of direction. If the work is not successful, which is no wonder with such an unfathomable undertaking, the soul has nevertheless gained an inkling of what direction, or rather the direction, is -- for in the strict sense, there is only one. To the extent to which the soul achieves unification, it becomes aware of direction, becomes aware of itself as sent in quest of it. It comes into the service of good or into service for good.

Finality does not rule here. Again and again, with the surge of its enticements, universal temptation emerges and overcomes the power of the human soul; again and again, innate grace arises from out of its depths and promises the utterly incredible: you can become whole and one. But always there are, not left and right, but the vortex of chaos and the spirit hovering above it. Of the two paths, one is a setting out upon no path, pseudo-decision which is indecision, flight into delusion and ultimately into mania; the other is the path, for there is only one.

The same basic structure of the occurrence, however, only become briefer and harder, we reencounter in innumerable situations in our later lives. They are the situations in which we feel it incumbent upon us to make the decision which, from our person, and from our person as we feel it "purposed" for us, answers the situation confronting us. Such a decision can only be taken by the whole soul that has become one; the whole soul, in whatever direction it was turned or inclined when the situation came upon us, must enter into it; otherwise we shall bring forth nothing but a stammer, a pseudo-answer, a substitute for an answer. The situations, whether more biographical or more historical in character, are always -- even though often behind veils -- cruelly harsh, because the unrecoverable passage of time and of our lives is so, and only with the harshness of unified decision can we prove ourselves equal to them. It is a cruelly hazardous enterprise, this becoming a whole, becoming a form, this crystallization of the soul. Everything in the nature of inclination, of indolence, of habits, of fondness for possibilities, which has been blustering and swaggering within us, must be overcome, and overcome, not by elimination, by suppression, for genuine wholeness can never be achieved like that, never a wholeness where downtrodden appetites lurk in the corners. Rather must all these mobile or static forces, seized by the soul's rapture, plunge of their own accord, as it were, into the mightiness of decision and dissolve within it. Until the soul as form has such great power over the soul as matter, until chaos is subdued and shaped into cosmos, what an immense resistance! It is thus understandable enough that the occurrence -- which at times, as we know to be the case with dreams encompassing a whole drama, lasts no longer than a moment -- so frequently terminates in a persistent state of indecision. The anthropological retrospective view of the person (which indeed is incorrectly termed "view," for if our memory proves strong enough we experience such past occurrences with all our senses, with the excitation of our nerves and the tension or flaccidity of our muscles) announces to us as evil all these and all other indecisions, all the moments in which we did no more than leave undone that which we knew to be good. But is evil then not, by its nature, an action? Not at all; action is only the type of evil happening which makes evil manifest. But does not evil action stem precisely from a decision to evil? The ultimate meaning of our exposition is that it too stems primarily from indecision, providing that by decision we understand, not a partial, a pseudo decision, but that of the whole soul. For a partial decision, one which leaves the forces opposing it untouched. and certainly which the soul's highest forces. being the true constructional substance of the person purposed for me. watch. pressed back and powerless. but shining in the protest of the spirit. cannot be termed decision in our sense. Evil cannot be done with the whole soul; good can only be done with the whole soul. It is done when the soul's rapture. proceeding from its highest forces. seizes upon all the forces and plunges them into the purging and transmuting fire. as into the mightiness of decision. Evil is lack of direction. and that which is done in it and out of it is the grasping. seizing. devouring. compelling. seducing. exploiting. humiliating. torturing. and destroying of what offers itself. Good is direction. and what is done in it; that which is done in it is done with the whole soul. so that in fact all the vigor and passion with which evil might have been done is included in it. In this connection is to be recalled that Talmudic interpretation of the biblical pronouncement of God concerning imagination. or the "evil urge." whose whole vigor must be drawn into the love of God in order truly to serve him.

The foregoing is intended and able to give no more than an anthropological definition of good and evil as. in the last instance. it is revealed to the human person's retrospection. his cognizance of himself in the course of the life he has lived. We learn to comprehend this anthropological definition as similar in nature to the biblical tales of good and evil. whose narrator must have experienced Adam as well as Cain in the abyss of his own heart. But it is neither intended nor able to provide any criterion over and above that. neither for the use of theoretical meditation concerning the entities "good" and "evil," nor, certainly, for the use of the questioning man, who is not spared inquiry and investigation into what. in the sense of design, is good and what evil, groping and feeling his way in the obscurity of the problematics, and even doubt, as to the validity of the concepts themselves. The former and the latter will have to find their criterion. or their criteria. elsewhere. will have to achieve it otherwise: he who meditates seeks to learn something else than what happens. he who inquires cannot make his choice according to whether it will lead to his soul becoming whole. Between their requirements and our anthropological insight, there is only one link, which is, of course, an important one. It is the presentiment implanted in each of us, but unduly neglected in each. the presentiment of what is meant and" purposed for him and for him alone -- no matter whether by creation, or by "individuation" -- and to fulfil which, to become which, is demanded of and entrusted to him, and the resulting possibility of comparison time and again. Here, too, there is a criterion, and it is an anthropological one; of course, by its nature, it can never extend beyond the sphere of the individual. It can assume as many shapes as there are individuals, and nonetheless is never relativised.

The Second Stage

It is far more difficult to ascertain the human reality corresponding to the myths of Ahriman's choice and Lucifer's downfall. It is in the nature of the matter that here the assistance of retrospection is only very rarely open to us; those who have once surrendered themselves to evil with their innermost being will hardly ever, not even after a complete conversion, be capable of that deliberate, reliably recollecting and interpreting retrospection which can alone advance our insight. In the literature of those able to recount their fate, we shall almost never encounter such a report; everything confronting us in this domain is, apparently of necessity, highly colored or sentimentalized, and so thoroughly that we are unable to distil out of if: the occurrences themselves, inner and outer likewise. What psychological research on phenomena of a similar nature has brought to light are naturally purely neurotic borderline cases, and, with very few exceptions, not capable of illuminating our problem. Here our own observations, whose methods are adapted to that which is essential to our purpose, must set in. To supplement them, by far the richest contribution is offered by historical and, in particular, biographical literature. It is a question of concentrating our attention on those personal crises whose specific effect on the person's psychic dynamic is to render it obdurate and secretive. We then find that these crises are of two clearly distinguishable kinds: negative experiences with our environment, which denies us the confirmation of our being that we desire, underlie the one; negative experience. with oneself, in that the human person cannot say yes to himself, underlie the other -- the only one that concerns us here We will leave aside mixed forms.

We have seen how man repeatedly experiences the dimension of evil as indecision. The occurrences in which he experiences it, however, do not remain in his self-knowledge a series of isolated moments of non-decision, of becoming possessed by the play of the phantasy with potentialities, of plunging in this possession upon that which offers itself; in self-knowledge, these moments merge into a course of indecision, as it were into a fixation in it. This negativation of self-knowledge is, of course, again and again "repressed," as long as the will to simple self-preservation dominates the will to being-able-to-affirm- oneself. To the extent, on the other hand, to which the latter asserts itself, the condition will change into one gf acute auto-problematics: man calls himself in question, because his self-knowledge no longer enables him to affirm and confirm himself. This condition now either assumes a pathological form, that is. the relationship of the person to himself becomes fragile and intricate; or the person finds the way out where he hardly expected it, namely through an extreme effort of unification. which astonishes him in its power and effectiveness, a decisive act of decision, precisely that, therefore, which in the amazingly apposite language of religion is called "conversion"; or a third process takes place, something entitled to a special status amongst the singularities of man. and to the consideration of which we must now turn.

Because man is the sole living creature known to us in whom the category of possibility is so to speak embodied, and whose reality is incessantly enveloped by possibilities. he alone amongst them all needs confirmation. Every animal is fixed in its this-being. its modifications are preordained. and when it changes into a caterpillar and into a chrysalis its very metamorphosis is a boundary; in everything together it remains exactly what it is, therefore it can need no confirmation; it would, indeed, be lin absurdity for someone to say to it, or for it to say to itself: You may be what you are. Man as man is an audacity of life, undetermined and unfixed; he therefore requires confirmation, and he can naturally only receive this as individual man, in that others and he himself confirm him in his being-this-man. Again and again. the yes must be spoken to him, from the look of the confidant and from the stirrings of his own heart, to liberate him from the dread of abandonment, which is a foretaste of death. At a pinch, one can do without confirmation from others if one's own reaches such a pitch that it no longer needs to be supplemented by the confirmation of others. But not vice versa: the encouragement of his fellow-men does not suffice if self-knowledge demands inner rejection, for self-knowledge is incontestably the more reliable. Then man, if he cannot read just his self-knowledge by his own conversion, must withdraw from it the power over the yes and no; he must render affirmation independent of all findings and base it, instead of on "judgment-of-oneself," on a sovereign willing-oneself; he must choose himself, and that not "as he is intended" -- this image must, rather, be totally extinguished -- but just as he is, as he has himself resolved to intend himself. They are recognizable, those who dominate their own self-knowledge, by the spastic pressure of the lips, the spastic tension of the muscles of the hand, and the spastic tread of the foot. This attitude corresponds to what I have called the third process, which leads out of auto-problematics "into the open": one need no longer look for being, it is here, one is what one wants and one wants what one is. It is of this that the myth is speaking when it recounts that Yima proclaimed himself his own creator. Just this too Prudentius reports of Satan, and the great legendary motif of the pact with him is clearly derived from the view that he who has achieved self-creation will be ready to assist men to it.

From this point, the meaning of that paradoxical myth of the two spirits, one of whom chose evil, not without knowing it to be evil, but as evil, is also revealed to us. The "wicked" spirit -- in whom, therefore, evil is already present, if only in statu nascendi -- has to choose between the two affirmations: affirmation of himself and affirmation of the order which has established and eternally establishes good and evil, the first as the affirmed and the second as the denied. If he affirms the order, he must himself become "good," and that means he must deny and overcome his present state of being. If he affirms himself, he must deny and reverse the order; to the yes position, which "good" had occupied, he must bring the principle of his own self-affirmation, nothing else must remain worthy of affirmation than just that which is affirmed by him; his yes to himself determines the reason and right of affirmation. If' he still concedes any significance to the concept "good," it is this: precisely that which I am. He has chosen himself, and nothing, no quality and no destiny, can any longer be signed ~ith a no if it is his.

This too explains why Yima's defection is called a lie. By glorifying and blessing himself as his own creator, he commits the lie against being, yea, he wants to raise it, the lie, to rule over being -- for truth shall no longer be what he experiences as such, but what he ordains as such. The narrative of Yima's life after his defection says with super-clarity all that remains to be said here.


I. In those scribbled lines affecting us as cries of the very soul, which Pascal wrote after two ecstatic hours, and which he carried about with him until his death. sewn into the lining of his doublet. we find under the heading Fire the note: "God of Abraham. God of Isaac. God of Jacob -- not of the philosophers and scholars."

These words represent Pascal's change of heart. He turned. not from a state of being where there is no God to one where there is a God. but from the God of the philosophers to the God of Abraham. Overwhelmed by faith. he no longer knew what to do with the God of the philosophers. that is. with the God who occupies a definite position in a definite system of thought. The God of Abraham. the God in whom Abraham had believed arid whom Abraham had loved ("The entire religion of the Jews." remarks Pascal. "consisted only of the love of God"). is not susceptible of introduction into a system of thought precisely because he is God. He is beyond each and every one of those systems. absolutely and by virtue of his nature. What the philosophers describe by the name of God cannot be more than an idea. But God, "the God of Abraham," is not an idea; all ideas are absorbed in him. Nor is that all. If I think even of a state of being in which all ideas are absorbed. and think some philosophic thought about it as an idea -- then I am no longer referring to the God of Abraham. The "passion" peculiar to philosophers is, according to a hint dropped by Pascal, pride. They offer humanity their own system in place of God.

"What'" cries Pascal, "the philosophers recognized God and desired not merely that men should love him, but that they should reach their level and then stop'" It is precisely because the philosophers replace him by the image of images, the idea, that they remove themselves and remove the rest of us furthest from him. There is no alternative. One must choose. Pascal chose, during one of those all-overthrowing moments, when he felt his sick-bed prayer was answered: "To be apart from the world, divested of all things, lonely in your Presence, in order to respond to your justice with all the motions of my heart."

Pascal himself, to be sure, was not a philosopher but a mathematician, and it is easier for a mathematician to turn his back on the God of the philosophers than for a philosopher. For the philosopher, if he were really to wish to turn his back on that God, would be compelled to renounce the attempt to include God in his system in any conceptual form. Instead of including God as one theme among others, that is, as the highest theme of all, his philosophy both wholly and in part would be compelled to point toward God, without actually dealing with him. This means that the philosopher would be compelled to recognize and admit the fact that his idea of the Absolute was dissolving at the point where the Absolute lives; that it was dissolving at the point where the Absolute is loved; because at that point the Absolute is no longer the "Absolute" about which one may philosophize, but God.

II. Those who wish clearly to grasp the nature of the endless and hopeless struggle which lay in wait for the philosopher of the critical period should read the very long notes in Kant's unfinished posthumous work, written over a period of seven years during his old age. They reveal a scene of incomparable existential tragedy. Kant calls the principle constituting the transition to the completion of the transcendental philosophy by the name of the "Principle of Transcendental Theology"; here his concern is with the questions, "What is God?" and "Is there a God?"

Kant explains: "The function of transcendental philosophy is still unresolved: Is there a God?" As long as there was no reply to that question, the task of his philosophy was still unfulfilled; at the end of his days, when his spiritual powers were waning, it was "still unresolved." He toiled on at this problem, constantly increasing his efforts, from time to time weaving the answer, yet time and again unraveling the woof. He reached an extreme formulation: "To think him and to believe in him is an identical act.'" Furthermore, "the thought of him is at one and the same time the belief in him and his personality." But this faith does not result in God's becoming existent for the philosophy of the philosopher. "God is not an entity outside of me, but merely a thought within me." Or, as Kant says on another occasion, "merely a moral relation within me."

Nevertheless, he possesses a certain kind of "reality." "God is only an idea of reason, but one possessing the greatest practical internal and external reality." Yet it is obvious that this kind of reality is not adequate to make the thought about God identical with the "belief in him and his personality." Transcendental philosophy, whose task was to ascertain whether there is a God, finally found itself compelled to state: "It is preposterous to ask whether there is a God."

The contradiction goes even deeper when Kant treats belief from this point of view. He incidentally outlines a fundamental distinction between "to believe God" and "to believe in God.'" "To believe God" obviously means God's being the ideational content of one's faith. This is a deduction from the fact that "to believe in God" means in the terminology of Kant, as he himself expressly states, to believe in a living God. To believe in God means, therefore, to stand in a personal relationship to that God, a relationship in which it is possible to stand only toward a living entity.

This distinction becomes still clearer through Kant's addendum: to believe "not in an entity which is only an idol and is not a personality.'" It follows that a God who is not a living personality is an idol. Kant comes that close at this point to the reality of faith. But he does not permit its validity to stand. His system compels him decisively to restrict what he has said. The same page of manuscript contains the following passage: "The idea of God as a living God is nothing but the inescapable fate of man.'" But if the idea of God is only that, then it is totally impossible to "believe in God" legitimately; that is, it is impossible to stand in a personal relationship with him. Man, declares the philosopher, is compelled to believe in him the moment he thinks God. But the philosopher is compelled to withdraw the character of truth from this faith, and together with it the character of reality (any reality, that is, which is more than merely psychological). Here, apparently of necessity, that which was decisive for Pascal, as it was for Abraham, is missing -- namely, the love of God.

III. But a philosopher who has been overwhelmed by faith must speak of love.

Hermann Cohen, the last in the series of great disciples of Kant, is a shining example of a philosopher who has been overwhelmed by faith.

Belief in God was an important point in Cohen's system of thought as early as in his youth, when it interested him as a psychological phenomenon. His explanations of "the origin of the mythology of gods" and of the "poetic act" involved in "god-creating fantasy," contained in his study on "Mythological Conceptions Concerning God and Soul" which appeared in 1868 in Steinthal's periodical, Zeitschrift fuer Voelkerpsychologie, was an expression of this interest. Faith was there treated as relative to psychological distinction; but in the course of the development of Cohen's philosophical system faith's status al an independent concept, distinct from knowledge, was to b~ come questionable.

In his "Ethics of Pure Will" (1904), Cohen writes: "God must not become the content of belief, if that belief is to mean something distinct from knowledge." Of the two kinds of belief which Kant distinguishes in his posthumous work, namely, "to believe God" (that is, to introduce the idea of God into a system of knowledge), and "to believe in a living God" (that is, to have a vital relationship to him as a living entity), Cohen rejects the second even more strongly than Kant. In this way, he means to overcome the "great equivocality" of the word "belief." Whereas Kant saw in the idea of God only the "fate" of the human species, Cohen wishes to "separate the concept of life from the concept of God." He finds support for his argument in Maimonides (though he limited the extent of that support three years later, saying that Maimonides had been careful to distinguish between the concept of life when applied to God and the same concept when applied to man, a distinction on the part of Maimonides which entirely differs from Cohen's distinction).

God is an idea for Cohen, as he was for Kant. "We call God an idea," says Cohen, "meaning the center of all ideas, the idea of truth." God is not a personality; as such he only appears "within the confines of myth." And he is no existence at all, neither a natural existence nor a spiritual, "just as in general the idea cannot be linked with the concept of existence." The concept of God is introduced .into the structure of ethical thought, because, as the idea of truth, it is instrumental in establishing the unity of nature and morality. This view of God as an idea Cohen regards as "the true religiosity," which can evolve only when every relation involving belief in a living God is shown to be problematical, and nullified. God's only place is within a system of thought. The system defends itself with stupendous vigor against the living God who is bound to make questionable its perfection, and even its absolute authority. Cohen, the thinker, defends himself against the belief which, rising out of an ancient heritage, threatens to overwhelm him. He defends himself with success, the success of the system-creator. Cohen has constructed the last home for the God of the philosophers.

And yet Cohen was overwhelmed by faith in more exemplary fashion than any other of the contemporary philosophers, although his labors to incorporate God into a system were in no way hindered. On the contrary: from that moment, his labors turned into an admirable wrestling with his own experience.

Cohen objectified the results of his succumbing to faith by merging it in his system of concepts. Nowhere in his writings does he directly state it, but the evidence is striking. When was it that the decisive change occurred?

IV. The answer lies in the change that crept into Cohen's way of thinking about the love of God. It was only at a late period that Cohen, who concurrently with the development of his system was dealing in a series of essays with the heritage of the Jewish faith, gave an adequate place to the cornerstone of that faith, the love of God, the essential means by which the Jewish faith realized its full and unique value. Only three years after the "Ethics," in his important research into "Religion and Morality," whose formulations, even keener than those of the "Ethics," interdict "interest in the so-called person of God and the so-called living God," declaring that the prophets of Israel "combated" the direct relation between man and God, do we find a new note about the love of God. "The more that the knowledge of God is simultaneously felt to be love of God, the more passionate becomes the battle for faith, the struggle for the knowledge of God and for the love of God." It is evident that at this point Cohen is beginning to approach the vital character of faith. Yet the love of God still remains something abstract and not given to investigation.

Once again, three years later, Cohen's short essay on "The Love of Religion" begins with the curious sentence, "The love of God is the love of religion," and its first section ends with the no less curious sentence, "The love of God is therefore the knowledge of morality." If we carefully consider the two uses of the word "is," we are able to distinguish a purpose: which is to classify something as yet unclassified but nevertheless obtruding as central; to classify it by a process of identification with something else already comprehended. and thus put it in its place. But that identification does not prove successful. All that is necessary to see this clearly is to compare the above-cited sentences with anyone of the biblical verses which enjoin or praise the love of God, which are the origin of that concept. What Cohen is enjoining and praising at this point is something essentially and qualitatively different from the love of religion and the knowledge of morality, although it includes both. Yet in Cohen's revision of his Berlin lectures of 1913-14, published in 1915 under the title, "The Concept of Religion in the System of Philosophy," he gives expression to a love which does away once and for all with that curious "is."

"If I love God," says Cohen (and this use of his of "I" touches the heart of the reader, like every genuine "I" in the work of every genuine philosopher), "then I no longer think him . . ." (and that "no longer" is almost direct testimony) "... only the sponsor of earthly morals ... ." But what? But the avenger of the poor in world history! "It is that avenger of the poor whom I love." And later, to the same effect: "I love in God the father of man." At this point, "father" means the "shield and aid of the poor," for "Man is revealed to me in the poor man."

How long a way have we come from the "love of religion"! Yet the new element in Cohen is expressed with even greater clarity and energy: "Therefore shall the love of God exceed all knowledge. . . . A man's consciousness is completely filled when he loves God. Therefore, this knowledge, which absorbs all others, is no longer merely knowledge, but love." And it is extremely logical that the biblical commandment to love God is cited and interpreted at this point in the same connection: "I cannot love God without devoting my whole heart as living for the sake of my fellow-men, without devoting my entire soul as responsive to all the spiritual trends in the world around me, without devoting all my force to this God in his correlation with man."

At this point I wish to introduce an objection related, admittedly, not to these statements of Cohen's, but to another that has a connection with them. Cohen speaks of the paradox "that I have to love man." "Worm that I am," he continues, "consumed by passions, cast as bait for egoism, I must nevertheless love man. If I am able to do so, and so far as I am able to do so, I shall be able to love God." Strong words these, yet the lives of many important persons controvert the last sentence. The teaching of the Bible overcomes the paradox in a precisely contrary fashion. The Bible knows that it is impossible to command the love of man. I am incapable of feeling love toward every man, though God himself command me. The Bible does not directly enjoin the love of man, but by using the dative puts it rather in the form of an act of love (Lev. 19: 18, 34). I must act lovingly toward my rea, my "companion" (usually translated "my neighbor"), that is toward every man with whom I deal in the course of my life, including the ger, the "stranger" or "sojourner"; I must bestow the favors of love on him, I must treat him with love as one who is "like unto me." (I must love "to him"; a construction found only in these two verses in the Bible.) Of course I must love him not merely with superficial gestures but with an essential relationship. It lies within my power to will it, and so I can accept the commandment. It is not my will which gives me the emotion of love toward my "neighbor" aroused within me by my behavior.

On the other hand. the Torah commands one to love God (Deut. 6:5; 10: 12; 11:1); only in that connection does it enjoin heartfelt love of the sojourner who is one's "neighbor" (Deut. 10:19) -- because God loves the sojourner. If 1 love God. in the course of loving him. I come to love the one whom God loves. too. I can love God as God from the moment I know him; and Israel, to whom the commandment is addressed, does know him. Thus I can accept the injunction to love my fellowman.

Cohen is, to be sure. actually referring to something else. For now he raises the question whether he should take offense at God's being "only an idea." "Why should I not be able," he replies, "to love ideas? What is man after all but a social idea, and yet I can love him as an individual only through and by virtue of that fact. Therefore, strictly considered, I can only love the social idea of man."

To me, it seems otherwise. Only if and because I love this or that specific man can I elevate my relation to the social idea of man into that emotional relationship involving my whole being which I am entitled to call by the name of love. And what of God? Franz Rosenzweig warned us that Cohen's idea of God should not be taken to mean that God is "only an idea" in Cohen's eyes. The warning is pertinent; Rosenzweig is right to emphasize that an idea for Cohen is not "only an idea." Yet, at the same time, we must not ignore that other "only," whose meaning is quite different indeed in Cohen's phrase. "a God who is only an idea." Let us, if we will, describe our relation to the idea of the beautiful and the idea of the good by the name of love -- though in my opinion all this has content and value for the soul only in being rendered concrete and made real. But to love God differs from that relationship in essential quality. He who loves God loves him precisely insofar as he is not "only an idea," and can love him because he is not "only an idea." And I permit myself to say that though Cohen indeed thought of God as an idea, Cohen too loved him as -- God.

V. In the great work prepared after "The Concept of Religion." and posthumously published under the title of "Religion of Reason from the Sources of Judaism," Cohen returns with even greater prominence to this problem: "How can one love an idea?" -- and replies: "How can one love anything save an idea?" He substantiates his reply by saying: "For even in the love of the senses one loves only the idealized person, only the idea of the person." Yet even if it were correct that in the love of "the senses" (or more correctly. in the love which comprehends sensuality), one loves only the idealized person, that does not at all mean that nothing more than the idea of the person is loved; even the idealized person remains a person, and has not been transformed into an idea. It is only because the person whom I idealize actually exists that I can love the idealized one. Even though for Dante it was la gloriosa donna della mia mente, yet the decisive fact is that first he saw the real Beatrice, who set the "spirit of life" trembling in him. But does not the motive force which enables and empowers us to idealize a beloved person arise from the deepest substance of that beloved person? Is not the true idealization in the deepest sense a discovery of the essential self meant by God in creating the person whom I love?

"The love of men for God," says Cohen, "is the love of the moral ideal. I can love only the ideal, and I can comprehend the ideal in no other way save by loving it." Even on this level, the very highest for the philosopher who is overwhelmed by faith, he declares what the love of God is, and not what it includes. But man's love for God is not love of the moral ideal; it only includes that love. He who loves God only as the moral ideal is bound soon to reach the point of despair at the conduct of the world where. hour after hour, all the principles of his moral idealism are apparently contradicted. Job despairs because God and the moral ideal seem diverse to him. But he who answered Job out of the tempest is more exalted even than the ideal sphere. He is not the archetype of the ideal, but he contains the archetype. He issues forth the ideal, but does not exhaust himself in the issuing. The unity of God is not the Good; it is the Supergood. God desires that men should follow his revelation. yet at the same time he wishes to be accepted and loved in his deepest concealment. He who loves God loves the ideal and loves God more than the ideal. He knows himself to be loved by God, not by the ideal, not by an idea, but even by him whom ideality cannot grasp, namely, by that absolute personality we call God. Can this be taken to mean that God "is" a personality? The absolute character of his personality. that paradox of paradoxes, prohibits any such statement. It only means that God loves as a personality and that he wishes to be loved like a personality. And if he was not a person in himself. he. so to speak. became one in creating man, in order to love man and be loved by him -- in order to love me and be loved by me. For. even supposing that ideas can also be loved. the fact remains that persons are the only ones who love. Even the philosopher who has been overwhelmed by faith, though he afterward continue to hug his system even more closely than before. and to interpret the love between God and man as the love between an idea and a person -- even he, nevertheless. testifies to the existence of a love between God and man that is basically reciprocal. That philosophy too. which, in order to preserve the Being (esse, Sein) of God, deprives him of existence (existentia, Dasein), indicates however unintentionally the bridge standing indestructibly on the two pillars, one imperishable and the other ever crumbling, God and man.

VI. Cohen once said of Kant: "What is characteristic of his theology is the non-personal in the usual sense, the truly spiritual principle -- the sublimation of God into an idea," And he adds: "And nothing less than this is the deepest basis of the Jewish idea of God," As far as Kant is concerned, Cohen was correct in this judgment. But throughout Kant's posthumous work we can see emerging every now and then resistance to this sublimation of God into an idea, a sublimation which later even more prominently prevents in Cohen the linking of the idea with the concept of existence.

"Under the concept of God," writes Kant, "Transcendental Philosophy refers to a substance possessing the greatest existence"; but he also qualifies God as "the ideal of a substance which we create ourselves." What we have in these notes, which sometimes appear chaotic, are the records of a suit at law, the last phase which the thought of the idea of God assumes for its thinker, of a suit between the two elements, "idea" and "God," which are contained in the idea of God -- a suit which time and again reverts to the same point, until death cuts it short. Cohen set out to put the idea into a sequence so logical as to make it impossible for any impulse to opposition to develop. Even when overwhelmed by faith, Cohen continued the struggle to preserve this sequence. In so doing, he was of the opinion that "the deepest basis of the Jewish idea of God" was on his side. But even the deepest basis of the Jewish idea of God can be achieved only by plunging into that word by which God revealed himself to Moses, "I shall be there" (Ex. 3:14; part of the phrase commonly translated "I am that I am"). It gives exact expression to the personal "existence" of God (not to his abstract "being"), and expression even to his living presence, which most directly of all his attributes touches the man to whom he manifests himself. The speaker's self-designation as the God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob (Exod. 3:15) is indissolubly united with that manifestation of "I shall be there," and he cannot be reduced to a God of the philosophers.

But the man who says, "I love in God the father of man," has essentially already renounced the God of the philosophers in his innermost heart, even though he may not confess it to himself. Cohen did not consciously choose between the God of the philosophers and the God of Abraham, rather believing to the last that he could succeed in identifying the two. Yet his inmost heart, that force from which thought too derives its vitality, had chosen and decided for him. The identification had failed, and of necessity had to fail. For the idea of God, that masterpiece of man's construction, is only the image of images, the most lofty of all the images by which man imagines the imageless God. It is essentially repugnant to man to recognize this fact, and remain satisfied. For when man learns to love God, he senses an actuality which rises above the idea. Even if he makes the philosopher's great effort to sustain the object of his love as an object of his philosophic thought, the love itself bears witness to the existence of the Beloved.
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Re: The Writings of Martin Buber, edited by Will Herberg

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This book discusses the relations between religion and philosophy in the history of the spirit, and deals with the part that philosophy has played in its late period in making God and all absoluteness appear unreal.

If philosophy is here set in contrast to religion, what is meant by religion is not the massive fulness of statements, concepts, and activities that one customarily describes by this name and that men sometimes long for more than for God. Religion is essentially the act of holding fast to God. And that does not mean holding fast to an image that one has made of God, nor even holding fast to the faith in God that one has conceived. It means holding fast to the existing God. The earth would not hold fast to its conception of the sun (if it had one), nor to its connection with it, but to the sun itself.

In contrast to religion so understood, philosophy is here regarded as the process, reaching from the time when reflection first became independent to its more contemporary crisis, the last stage of which is the intellectual letting go of God.

This process begins with man's no longer contenting himself, as did the pre-philosophical man, with picturing the living God, to whom one formerly only called -- with a call of despair or rapture which occasionally became his first name -- as a Something, a thing among things, a being among beings, an It.

The beginning of philosophizing means that this Something changes from an object of imagination, wishes, and feelings to one that is conceptually comprehensible, to an object of thought. It does not matter whether this object of thought i. called "Speech" (Logos), because in all and each one hears it speak, answer, and directly address one; or "the Unlimited" (Apeiron), because it has already leapt over every limit that one may try to set for it; or simply "Being," or whatever. If the living quality of the conception of God refuses to enter into this conceptual image, it is tolerated alongside of it, usually in an un precise form, as in the end identical with it or at least essentially dependent on it. Or it is depreciated as an unsatisfactory surrogate, helpful to men incapable of thought.

In the progress of its philosophizing, the human spirit is ever more inclined to fuse characteristically this conception, of the Absolute as object of an adequate thought, with itself, the human spirit. In the course of this process, the idea which was at first noetically contemplated finally becomes the potentiality of the spirit itself that thinks it, and it attains on the way of the spirit its actuality. The subject, which appeared to be attached to being in order to perform for it the service of contemplation, asserts that it itself produced and produces being. Until, finally, all that is over against us, everything that accosts us and takes possession of us, all partnership of existence, is dissolved in free-floating subjectivity.

The next step already takes us to the stage familiar to us, the stage that understands itself as the final one and plays with its finality: the human spirit, which adjudges to itself mastery over its work, annihilates conceptually the absoluteness of the absolute. It may yet imagine that it, the spirit, still remains there as bearer of all things and coiner of all values; in truth, it has also destroyed its own absoluteness along with absoluteness in general. The spirit can now no longer exist as an independent essence. There now exists only a product of human individuals called spirit, a product which they contain and secrete like mucus and urine.

In this stage, there first takes place the conceptual letting go of God because only now philosophy cuts off its own hands, the hands with which it was able to grasp and hold him.

But an analogous process takes place on the other side, in the development of religion itself (in the usual broad sense of the word).

From the earliest times, the reality of the relation of faith, man's standing before the face of God, world-happening as dialogue, has been threatened by the impulse to control the power yonder. Instead of understanding events as calls which make demands on one, one wishes oneself to demand without having to hearken. "I have," says man, "power over the powers I conjure." And that continues, with sundry modifications, wherever one celebrates rites without being turned to the Thou and with. out really meaning its Presence.

The other pseudo-religious counterpart of the relation of faith, not so elementally active as conjuration but acting with the mature power of the intellect, is unveiling. Here one takes the position of raising the veil of the manifest, which divides the revealed from the hidden, and leading forth the divine mysteries. "I am," says man, "acquainted with the unknown, and I make it known." The supposedly divine It that the magician manipulates as the technician his dynamo, the gnostic lays bare -- the whole divine apparatus. His heirs are not "theosophies" and their neighbors alone; in many theologies also, unveiling gestures are to be discovered behind the interpreting ones.

We find this replacement of I-Thou by an I-It in manifold forms in that new philosophy of religion which seeks to "save" religion. In it, the "I" of this relation steps ever more into the foreground as "subject" of "religious feeling," as profiter from a pragmatist decision to believe, and the like.

Much more important than all this. however, is an event penetrating to the innermost depth of the religious life, an event which may be described as the subjectivizing of the act of faith itself. Its essence can be grasped most clearly through the example of prayer.

We call prayer in the pregnant sense of the term that speech of man to God which, whatever else is asked, ultimately asks for the manifestation of the divine Presence, for this Presence becoming dialogically perceivable. The single presupposition of a genuine state of prayer is thus the readiness of the whole man for this Presence, simple-turned-towardness, unreserved spontaneity. This spontaneity, ascending from the roots, succeeds time and again in overcoming all that disturbs and diverts. But in this our stage of subjectivized reflection not only the concentration of the one who prays, but also his spontaneity. is assailed. The assailant is consciousness, the overconsciousness of this man here that he is praying, that he is praying, that he is praying. And the assailant appears to be invincible. The subjective knowledge of the one turning-toward about his turning-toward, this holding back of an I which does not enter into the action with the rest of the person, an I to which the action is an object -- all this de-possesses the moment, takes away its spontaneity. The specifically modern man who has not yet let go of God knows what that means: he who is not present perceives no Presence.

One must understand this correctly: this is not a question of a special case of the known sickness of modern man, who must attend his own actions as spectator. It is the confession of the Absolute into which he brings his unfaithfulness to the Absolute, and it is the relation between the Absolute and him upon which this unfaithfulness works, in the midst of the statement of trust. And now he too who is seemingly holding fast to God becomes aware of the eclipsed Transcendence.

What is it that we mean when we speak of an eclipse of God which is even now taking place? Through this metaphor we make the tremendous assumption that we can glance up to God with our "mind's eye," or rather being's eye, as with our bodily eye to the sun, and that something can step between our existence and his as between the earth and the sun. That this glance of the being exists, wholly unillusory, yielding no images yet first making possible all images, no other court in the world attests than that of faith. It is not to be proved; it is only to be experienced; man has experienced it. And that other, that which steps in between, one also experiences, today. I have spoken of it since I have recognized it, and as exactly as my perception has allowed me.

The double nature of man, as the being that is both brought forth from "below" and sent from "above," results in the duality of his basic characteristics. These cannot be understood through the categories of the individual man existing-for-himself, but only through the categories of his existing as man-with-man. As a being who is sent, man exists over against the existing being before which he is placed. As a being who is brought forth, he finds himself beside all existing beings in the world, beside which he is set. The first of these categories has its living reality in the relation I-Thou, the second has its reality in the relation I-It. The second always brings us only to the aspects of an existing being, not to that being itself. Even the most intimate contact with another remains covered over by an aspect if the other has not become Thou for me. Only the first relation, that which establishes essential immediacy between me and an existing being, brings me precisely thereby not to an aspect of it. but to that being itself. To be sure, it brings me only to the existential meeting with it; it does not somehow put me in a position to view it objectively in its being. As soon as an objective viewing is established, we are given only an aspect and ever again only an aspect. But it is also only the relation I-Thou in which we can meet God at all, because of him, in absolute contrast to all other existing beings, no objective aspect can be attained. Even a vision yields no objective viewing, and he who strains to hold fast an afterimage after the cessation of the full I-Thou relation has already lost the vision.

It is not the case, however, that the I in both relations, I-Thou and I-It, is the same. Rather where and when the beings around one are seen and treated as objects of observation, reflection, use, perhaps also of solicitude or help, there and then another I is spoken, another I manifested, another I exists than where and when one stands with the whole of one's being over against another being and steps into an essential relation with him. Everyone who knows both in himself -- and that is the life of man, that one comes to know both in himself and ever again both -- knows whereof I speak. Both together build up human existence; it is only a question of which of the two is at any particular time the architect and which is his assistant. Rather, it is a question of whether the I-Thou relation remains the architect, for it is self-evident that it cannot be employed as assistant. If it does not command, then it is already disappearing.

In our age, the I-It relation, gigantically swollen, has usurped, practically uncontested, the mastery and the rule. The I of this relation, an I that possesses all, makes all, succeeds with all, this I that is unable to say Thou, unable to meet a being essentially, is the lord of the hour. This selfhood that has become omnipotent, with all the It around it, can naturally acknowledge neither God nor any genuine absolute which manifests itself to men as of non-human origin. It steps in between and shuts off from us the light of heaven.

Such is the nature of this hour. But what of the next? It is a modern superstition that the character of an age acts as fate for the next. One lets it prescribe what is possible to do and hence what is permitted. One surely cannot swim against the stream, one says. But perhaps one can swim with a new stream whose source is still hidden? In another image, the I-Thou relation has gone into the catacombs -- who can say with how much greater power it will step forth! Who can say when the I-It relation will be directed anew to its assisting place and activity!

The most important events in the history of that embodied possibility called man are the occasionally occurring beginnings of new epochs, determined by forces previously invisible or unregarded. Each age is, of course, a continuation of the preceding one, but a continuation can be confirmation and it can be refutation.

Something is taking place in the depths that as yet needs no name. Tomorrow even it may happen that it will be beckoned to from the heights, across the heads of the earthly archons. The eclipse of the light of God is no extinction; even tomorrow that which has stepped in between may give way.
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Re: The Writings of Martin Buber, edited by Will Herberg

Postby admin » Thu Jul 02, 2015 8:04 pm


PART 2: Of Social Life

1. The Idea

2. In the Midst of Crisis

3. An Experiment that Did Not Fail

4. "And If Not Now, When?"


Among the sections of the Communist Manifesto which have exerted the most powerful influence on the generations up to our own day is the one entitled "Der kritisch-utopistische Sozialismus und Kommunismus" (Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism).

Marx and Engels were entrusted by the League of the Just with the formulation of a communist credo -- an important preliminary to the convocation of a universal communist congress, the Union of all the Oppressed, planned for 1848. The League directorate decided that in this credo fundamental expression also be given to the "position as regards the socialist and communist parties," that is, a line of demarcation be laid down distinguishing the League from the affiliated movements, by which were meant primarily the Fourierists, "those shallow folk," as they are called in the draft of the credo which the central authority presented to the London congress of the League. In the draft written by Engels, there is as yet no mention of "utopian" socialists or communists; we hear only of people who put forward "superlative systems of reform," "who, on the pretext of reorganizing society, want to bolster up the foundation of existing society, and consequently of the society itself," and who are therefore described as "bourgeois socialists" to be attacked -- a description which, in the final version, applies in particular to Proudhon. The distance between the Engels draft and the final version drawn up substantially by Marx is immense.

The "systems," those of Saint-Simon. Fourier. and Owen being mentioned (in Marx's original version Cabet, Weitling, and even Babeuf are also named as authors of such systems), are all described as the fruit of an epoch in which industry was not yet developed, and hence the "proletariat" problem was not yet grasped; instead, there appeared those same systems which could not be other than fictitious, fantastic, and utopian, having as their aim to abolish that very class conflict which was only just beginning to take shape, and from which the "universal transformation of society" was ultimately to proceed. Marx was here formulating afresh what he had said shortly before in his polemic against Proudhon: "These theoreticians are utopians; they are driven to seek science in their own heads, because things ace not yet so far advanced that they need only give an account of what is happening before their eyes and make themselves its instruments." The criticism of existing conditions on which the systems are built is recognized as valuable explanatory material; on the other hand, all their positive recommendations are condemned as bound to lose all practical value and theoretical justification in the course of historical development.

We can only assess the political character of this declaration in the framework. of the socialist-communist movement of the time if we realize that it was directed against the views which had prevailed in the League of the Just itself, and were supplanted by Marx's ideas. Marx characterized these views twelve years after the appearance of the Communist Manifesto as a "secret doctrine" consisting of a "hodge-podge of Anglo-French socialism or communism and German philosophy"; and to this he opposed his "scientific insight into the economic structure of bourgeois society as the only tenable theoretical basis." The point now, he says, was to show that it "was not a matter of bringing some utopian system or other into being, but of consciously participating in the historical revolutionary process of society that was taking place before our eyes." The polemical or anti-utopian section of the Manifesto thus signifies an internal political action in the strictest sense: the victorious conclusion of the struggle which Marx, with Engels at his side, had waged against the other so-called -- or self-styled -- communist movements, primarily in the League of the Just itself (which was now called the League of Communists). The concept "utopian" was the last and most pointed shaft which he shot in this fray.

I have just said: "with Engels at his side." Nevertheless, reference should not be omitted to a number of passages from the introduction with which Engels, some two years before the Manifesto was drafted, had prefaced his translation of a fragment from the posthumous writings of Fourier. Here, too, he speaks of those same doctrines which are dismissed as utopian in the Manifesto; here, too, Fourier, Saint-Simon, and Owen are quoted; here, too, a distinction is made in their works between the valuable criticism of existing society and the far less relevant "schematization" of a future one. But earlier he says: "What the French and the English were saying ten, twenty, even forty years ago -- and saying very well, very clearly, in very fine language -- is at long last, and in fragmentary fashion, becoming known to the Germans, who have been 'hegelizing' it for the past year or at best rediscovering it after the event, and bringing it out in a much worse and more abstract form as a wholly new discovery." And Engels adds word for word: "I make no exception even of my own works." The struggle thus touched his own past. Still more important. though. is the following pronouncement: "Fourier constructs the future for himself after having correctly recognized the past and present." This must be weighed against the charges which the Manifesto lays at the door of utopian ism. Nor should we forget that the Manifesto was written only ten years after Fourier's death.

What Engels says thirty years after the Manifesto in his book against Duhring about these "three great utopians." and what passed with a few additions into the influential publication, The Evolution of Socialism from Utopia to Science, a little later, is merely an elaboration of the points already made in the Manifesto. It is immediately striking that again only the same three men, "the founders of socialism," are discussed. those very people who were "utopians" "because they could not be anything else at a time when capitalist production was so little developed," men who were compelled "to construct the elements of a new society out of their heads because these elements had not yet become generally visible in the old society." In the thirty years between the Manifesto and the anti-Duhring book, is it true that no socialists had emerged who, in Engels' opinion, deserved the epithet "utopian" as well as his notice. but who could not be conceded those extenuating circumstances, since in their day economic conditions were already developed and the "social tasks" no longer "hidden"? To name only one, and of course the greatest, Proudhon -- one of whose earlier books, The Economic Contradictions or the Philosophy of Poverty, Marx had attacked in his famous polemic written before the Manifesto -- from Proudhon a series of important works had meanwhile appeared which no scientific theory about the social situation and the social tasks could afford to overlook; did Proudhon also (from whose book, albeit attacked by Marx, the Communist Manifesto had borrowed the concept of the "socialist utopia") belong to the utopians, but to those who could not be justified? True, in the Manifesto he had been named as an example of the "conservative or bourgeois socialists," and in the polemic against him, Marx had declared that Proudhon was far inferior to the socialists "because he has neither sufficient courage nor sufficient insight to raise himself, if only speculatively, above the bourgeois horizon"; and after Proudhon's death, he asserted in a public obituary that even then he would have to reaffirm every word of this judgment; a year later, he explained in a letter that Proudhon had done "immense harm," and by his "sham criticism and sham opposition to the utopians," had corrupted the younger generation and the workers. But still another year later, nine years before writing the anti-Duhring book, Engels stated in one of the seven reviews which he published anonymously on the first volume of Marx's Capital. that Marx wanted to "provide socialist strivings with the scientific foundation which neither Fourier, nor Proudhon, nor even Lassalle, had been able to give" -- from which there clearly emerges the rank he awarded to Proudhon despite everything.

In 1844, Marx and Engels. in their book The Holy Family, had discovered in Proudhon's work on property a scientific advance which "revolutionizes political economy and makes a science of political economy possible for the first time"; they had. further declared that not only did he write in the interests of the proletariat, but that he was a proletarian himself and his work was "a scientific manifesto of the French proletariat" of historic significance. And as late as May 1846, in an anonymous essay, Marx had called him a "communist," in a context, moreover, which makes it obvious that Proudhon was still a representative communist in his eyes at the time, some six months before the polemic was written. What had happened in the meantime to move Marx to so radical an alteration of his judgment? Certainly, Proudhon's Contradictions had appeared, but this book in no way represented a decisive modification of Proudhon's views; the violent diatribe against communist (by which Proudhon meant what we would call "collectivist") utopias is only a more detailed elaboration of his criticism of the "communaute," which can be read in his first discussion on property (1840), so highly praised by Marx. However, Proudhon's rejection of Marx's invitation to collaboration had preceded the Contradictions. The situation becomes clearer when we read what Marx wrote to Engels in July 1870, after the outbreak of war: "The French need a thrashing. If the Prussians win, the centralization of state power will subserve the centralization of the German working class. German domination would furthermore shift the focus of the West European workers' movement from France to Germany, and you have merely to compare the movement in the two countries from 1866 up to now to see that the German working class is superior both in theory and in organization to the French. Its supremacy over that of the French on the world stage would at once mean the supremacy of our theory over Proudhon's, etc." It is thus eminently a matter of political attitude. Hence it must be regarded as consistent that Engels should describe Proudhon soon afterwards in a polemic against him (On the Housing Question) as a pure dilettante, confronting economics helplessly and without knowledge, one who preaches and laments "where we offer proofs." At the same time. Proudhon is clearly labelled a utopian: the "best world" he constructs is already "crushed in the bud by the foot of onward-marching industrial development."

I have dwelt on this topic at some length because something of importance can best be brought to light this way. Originally, Marx and Engels called those people utopians whose thinking had preceded the critical development of industry. the proletariat, and the class war, and who therefore could not have taken this development into account; subsequently, the term was levelled indiscriminately at all those who, in the estimation of Marx and Engels. did not in fact take account of it. and of these the late-comers either did not understand how to do so, or were unwilling. or both. The epithet "utopian" thereafter became the most potent weapon in the struggle of Marxism against non-Marxian socialism. It was no longer a question of demonstrating the correctness of one's own opinion in the face of a contrary opinion; in general, one found science and truth absolutely and exclusively in his own position. and utopianism and delusion in the rival camp. To be a "utopian" in our age means to be out of step with modern economic development, and what modern economic development is we, of course, learn from Marxism. Of these "prehistoric" utopians, Saint-Simon, Fourier, and Owen, Engels had declared in 1850. in his German Peasant War that German socialist theory would never forget that it stood on the shoulders of these men, "who, despite all their fantasticalness and all their utopianism, must be counted among the most significant minds of all time, men who anticipated with genius countless truths whose validity we can now prove scientifically." But here again -- and this is consistent from the political point of view -- it is no longer considered possible that there might be living at the time men, known and unknown, who, anticipated truths the validity of which would be scientifically proved in the future, truths which contemporary "science" -- that is, the trend of knowledge which not infrequently identifies itself with science in general -- was determined to regard as invalid, exactly as had been the case with those "founders of socialism" in their day. They were utopians as forerunners; these are utopians as obscurantists. They blazed the trail for science; these obstruct it. Fortunately, however, it is sufficient to brand them utopians to render them innocuous.

Perhaps, I may be allowed to cite a small personal experience as an instance of this method of "annihilation by labels." In Whitsun, 1928, there took place in my former home town of Heppenheim a discussion, [1] attended mainly by delegates from religious socialist circles, dealing with the question of how to foster anew those spiritual forces of mankind on which the belief in a renewal of society rests. In my speech, in which I laid particular emphasis on the generally neglected and highly concrete questions of decentralization and the status of the worker, I said: "It is of no avail to call 'utopian' what we have not yet tested with our powers." That did not save me from a critical remark an the part of the chairman, who, simply relegated me to the ranks of utopian socialists and left it at that.

But if socialism is to emerge from the blind alley into which it has strayed, among other things the catchword "utopian" must be taken apart and examined far its true content.


For the past three decades, we have felt that we were living in the initial phases of the greatest crisis humanity has ever known. It grows increasingly clear to us that the tremendous happenings of recent years, too, can be understood only as symptoms of this crisis. It is not merely a crisis brought about by one economic and social system being superseded by another, more or less ready to take its place; rather are all systems, old and new, equally involved in the crisis. What is in question, therefore, is nothing less than man's whole existence in the world.

Ages ago, far beyond our calculation, this creature "man" set out on his journey -- from the point of view of nature, a well-nigh incomprehensible anomaly; from the point of view of the spirit, an incarnation hardly less incomprehensible, perhaps unique; from the point of view of both, a being whose very essence it was to be threatened with disaster every instant, both from within and without, a being exposed to deeper and deeper crises. During the ages of his earthly journey, man has multiplied what he likes to call his "power over nature" at an increasingly rapid tempo, and he has borne what he likes to call the "creations of his spirit" from triumph to triumph. But at the same time, he has felt more and more profoundly, as one crisis succeeded another, how fragile were all his glories; and in moments of clairvoyance, he has come to realize that in spite of everything he likes to call "progress," he is not travelling along the high road at all, but is rather picking his precarious way along a narrow ridge between two abysses. The graver the crisis becomes, the more earnest and consciously responsible is the knowledge demanded of us, for although what is demanded is a deed, only that deed which is born of knowledge will help to overcome the crisis. In a time of great crisis, it is not enough to look back to the immediate past in order to bring the enigma of the present nearer to solution; we have to bring the stage of the journey we have now reached face to face with its beginnings, so far as we can picture them.

The essential thing among all those things which once helped man to emerge from nature, and notwithstanding his feebleness as a natural being, to assert himself -- more essential even than the making of a "technical" world out of things expressly formed for the purpose -- was this: that he banded together with his own kind for protection and for hunting, food gathering, and work, and did so in such a way that from the very beginning, and thereafter to an increasing degree, he faced the others as more or less independent entities, and communicated with them as such, addressing and being addressed by them in that manner. This creation of a "social" world out of persons at once mutually dependent and independent differed in kind from all similar undertakings on the part of animals, just as the technical work of man differed in kind from all animal works. Apes, too, make use of some stick they happen to find as a lever, a digging tool, or a weapon, but that is a matter of chance only; apes cannot conceive and produce a tool as an object constituted so and not otherwise, having an existence of its own. And again, many of the insects live in societies built up on a strict division of labor, but it is precisely this division of labor that governs absolutely their relations with one another; they are all as it were tools -- their own society is the thing that makes use of them for its "instinctive" purposes; there is no improvisation, no degree, however modest, of mutual independence, no possibility of "free" regard for one another, and thus no person-to-person relationship. Just as the specific technical creations of man mean the conferring of independence on things, so his specific social creation means the conferring of independence on beings of his own kind. It is in the light of this specifically human idiosyncrasy that we have to interpret man's journey with all its ups and downs, as well as the point we have reached on this journey, our great and particular crisis.

In the evolution of mankind hitherto, this, then, is the line that predominates: the forming and reforming of communities on the basis of growing personal independence. their mutual recognition and collaboration on that basis. The two most important steps that the man of early times took on the road to human society can be established with some certainty. The first was that inside the individual clan, each individual, through an extremely primitive form of the division of labor. was recognized and utilized in his special capacity, so that the clan increasingly took on the character of an ever-renewed association of persons. each the vehicle of a different function. The second was that different clans would. under certain conditions, band together in quest of food and to conduct campaigns, consolidating their mutual help as custom and law that took firmer and firmer root, so that as once between individuals, so now between communities, people discerned and acknowledged differences of nature and function. Wherever genuine human society has since developed, it has always been on this same basis of functional autonomy. mutual recognition. and mutual responsibility. whether individual or collective. Power centers of various kinds split off, organizing and guaranteeing the common order and the security of all; but to the political sphere in the stricter sense, the state with its police system and its bureaucracy, there was always opposed the organic. functionally organized society as such, a great society built up of various societies, the great society in which men lived and worked, competed with one another and helped one another; and in each of the big and little societies composing it. in each of these communes and communities, the individual human being, despite all the difficulties and conflicts. felt himself at home as once he had felt in the clan. felt himself approved and affirmed in his functional independence and responsibility.

All this underwent increasing change as the centralistic political principle subordinated the decentralistic social principle to itself. The crucial thing here was not that the state, particularly in its more or less totalitarian forms, weakened and gradually displaced the free associations, but that the political principle with all its centralistic features percolated into the associations themselves. modifying their structure and their whole inner life, and thus politicized society more and more. The assimilation of society into the state was accelerated by the fact that, as a result of modem industrial development and its ordered chaos, involving the struggle of all against all for access to raw materials and for a larger share of the world market, there grew up, in place of the older conflicts between states, conflicts between whole societies. The individual society, feeling itself threatened not only by its neighbors' lust for aggression, but also by things in general, knew no way of salvation save in complete submission to the principle of centralized power; and in the democratic forms of society no less than in its totalitarian forms, it made this its guiding principle. Everywhere, the only thing of importance was the minute organization of power, the unquestioning observance of slogans, the saturation of the whole of society with the real or supposed interests of the state. Concurrently with this, there has taken place an internal development. In the monstrous confusion of modern life, only thinly disguised by the reliable functioning of the economic and state apparatus, the individual clings desperately to the collectivity. The little society in which he was embedded cannot help him; only the great collectivities, so he thinks, can do that, and he is all too willing to let himself be deprived of personal responsibility: he only wants to obey. And the most valuable of all goods -- life between man and man -- gets lost in the process: autonomous relationships become meaningless, personal relationships wither, and the very spirit of man hires itself out as a functionary. The personal human being ceases to be the living member of a social body, and becomes a cog in the "collective" machine. Just as his degenerate technology is causing man to lose the feel of good work and proportion, so the degrading social life he leads is causing him to lose the feel of community -- precisely when he is so full of the illusion of living in perfect devotion to his community.

A crisis of this kind cannot be overcome by struggling to get back to an earlier stage of the journey, but only by trying to master the problems as they are, without minimizing them. There is no going back for us, we have to go through with it. But we shall only get through if we know where we want to go.

We must begin, obviously, with the establishment of a vital peace which will deprive the political principle of its supremacy over the social principle. And this primary objective cannot in its turn be reached by any devices of political organization, but only by the resolute will of all peoples to cultivate the territories and raw materials of our planet and govern its inhabitants together. At this point, however, we are threatened by a danger greater than all previous ones: the danger of a gigantic centralization of power covering the whole planet and devouring all free community. Everything depends on not handing the work of planetary management over to the political principle.

Common management is only possible as socialistic management. But if the fatal question for contemporary man is: can he or can he not decide in favor of, and educate himself up to, a common socialistic economy? then the propriety of the question lies in an inquiry into socialism itself: what sort of socialism is it to be, under whose aegis is the common economy of man to come about, if at all?

The ambiguity of the terms we are employing is greater here than anywhere else. People say, for instance, that socialism is the passing of the control of the means of production out of the hands of the entrepreneurs into the hands of the collectivity; but again, it all depends on what you mean by "collectivity." If it is what we generally call the state -- that is to say, an institution in which a virtually unorganized mass allows its affairs to be conducted by "representation," as they call it -- then the chief change in a socialistic society will be this, that the workers will feel themselves represented by the holders of power. But what is representation? Does not the worst defect of modern society lie precisely in everybody letting himself be represented ad libitum? And in a "socialistic" society, will there not, on top of this passive political representation, be added a passive economic representation, so that, with everybody letting himself be represented by everybody else, we reach a state of practically unlimited representation, and hence, ultimately, the reign of practically unlimited centralist accumulation of power? But the more a human group lets itself be represented in the management of its common affairs, and the more it lets itself be represented from the outside, the less communal life there is in it, and the more impoverished it becomes as a community. For community -- not the primitive sort, but the sort possible and appropriate to modern man -- declares itself primarily in the common and active management of what it has in common, and without this it cannot exist.

The primary aspiration of all history is a genuine community of human beings -- genuine because it is community all through. A community that failed to base itself on the actual and communal life of big and little groups living and working together, and on their mutual relationships, would be fictitious and counterfeit. Hence everything depends on whether the collectivity into whose hands the control of the means of production passes will facilitate and promote, in its very structure and in all its institutions, the genuine common life of the various groups composing it -- on whether, in fact. these groups themselves become proper foci of the productive process; therefore, on whether the masses are so organized in their separate organizations (the various "communities") as to be as powerful as the common economy of man permits; therefore, on whether centralist representation goes only so far as the new order of things absolutely demands. The fateful question does not take the form of a fundamental either-or; it is only a question of the right line of demarcation that has to be drawn ever anew -- the thousandfold system of demarcation between the spheres which must of necessity be centralized and those which can operate in freedom, between the degree of government and the degree of autonomy, between the law of unity and the claims of community. Unwearying scrutiny of conditions in terms of the claims of community, as something continually exposed to the depredations of centralist power; custody of the true boundaries. ever changing in accordance with changing historical conditions: such would be the task of humanity's spiritual conscience, a Supreme Court unexampled in kind, the right true representation of a living idea. A new incarnation is waiting here for Plato's "guardians."

Representation of an idea, I say, not of a rigid principle, but of a living form that wants to be shaped in the daily stuff of this earth. Community should not be made into a principle; it, too, should always satisfy a situation rather than an abstraction. The realization of community. like the realization of any idea, cannot occur once and for all time; always it must be the moment's answer to the moment's question. and nothing more.

In the interests of its vital meaning. therefore. the idea of community must be guarded against all contamination by sentimentality and emotionalism. Community is never a mere attitude of mind, and if it is feeling, it is an inner disposition that is felt. Community is the inner disposition or constitution of a life in common. which knows and embraces in itself hard "calculation," adverse "chance," the sudden access of "anxiety." It is community of tribulation. and only because of that is it community of spirit; it is community of toil. and only because of that is it community of salvation. Even those communities which call the spirit their master and salvation their promised land, the "religious" communities, are community only if they serve their lord and master in the midst of simple, unexalted, unselected reality, a reality not so much chosen by them as sent to them just as it is; they are community only if they prepare the way to the promised land through the thickets of this pathless hour. True, it is not "works" that count. but the work of faith does. A community of faith truly exists only when it is a community of work.

The real essence of community is to be found in the fact, manifest or otherwise. that it has a center. The real beginning of a community is when its members have a common relation to the center overriding all other relations: the circle is described by the radii, not by the points along its circumference. And the originality of the center cannot be discerned unless it is discerned as being transpicuous to the light of something divine. All this is true. but the more earthly, the more creaturely, the more attached the center is. the truer and more transpicuous it will be. This is where the "social" element comes in, not as something separate, but as the all-pervading realm where man stands the test; and it is here that the truth of the center is proved. The early Christians were not content with the community that existed alongside of, or even above, the world and they went into the desert so as to have no more community save with God, and no more disturbing world. But it was shown them that God does not wish man to be alone with him, and above the holy impotence of the hermit, there rose the brotherhood. Finally, going beyond St. Benedict, St. Francis entered into alliance with all creatures.

Yet a community had no need to be "founded." Wherever historical destiny had brought a group of men together in a common fold, there was room for the growth of a genuine community; there was no need of an altar to the city deity in their midst when the citizens knew they were united round -- and by -- the Nameless. A living togetherness. constantly renewing itself, was already there, and all that needed strengthening was the immediacy of relationships. In the happiest instances, common affairs were deliberated and decided not through representatives, but in gatherings in the market place. and the unity that was felt in public permeated all personal contacts. The danger of seclusion might hang over the community. but the communal spirit banished it, for here this spirit flourished as nowhere else, and broke windows for itself in the narrow walls, with a large view of people, mankind, and the world.

All this, I may be told, has gone irrevocably and for ever. The modern city has no agora, and modern man has no time for negotiations of which his elected representatives can very well relieve him. The pressure of numbers and the forms of organization have destroyed any real togetherness. Work forges other personal links than does leisure, sport again others than politics; the day is neatly divided, and the soul too. These links are material ones; though we follow our 'common interests and tendencies together, we have no use for "immediacy." The collectivity is not a warm, friendly gathering, but a great link-up of economic and political forces inimical to the play of romantic fancies, understandable only in terms of quantity, expressing itself in actions and effects -- a thing to which the individual has to belong with no intimacies of any kind, but all the time conscious of his energetic contribution. Any "unions" that resist the inevitable trend of events must disappear. There is still the family, of course, which, as a domestic community, seems to demand and guarantee a modicum of communal life; but it too will either emerge from the crisis in which it is involved as an association for a common purpose, or else it will perish.

Faced with this medley of correct premises and absurd conclusions, I declare in favor of a rebirth of the commune. A rebirth -- not a bringing back. It cannot, in fact, be brought back, although I sometimes think that every touch of helpful neighborliness in the apartment house, every wave of warmer comradeship in the lulls and "knock-offs" that occur even in the most perfectly "rationalized" factory, means an addition to the world's community content; and although a rightly constituted village commune sometimes strikes me as being more real than a parliament, still it cannot be brought back. Yet, whether a rebirth of the commune will ensue from the "water and spirit" of the social transformation that is imminent, on this, it seems to me, hangs the whole fate of the human race. An organic commonwealth -- and only such commonwealths can join together to constitute a well formed and articulated race of men -- will never build itself up out of individuals, but only out of small and ever smaller communities: a nation is a community to the degree that it is a community of communities. If from the crisis which today has all the appearance of disintegration, the family does not emerge purified and renewed, then the state will be nothing more than a machine stoked with the bodies of generations of men. The community that would be capable of such a renewal exists only as a residue. If I speak of its rebirth, I am not thinking of a permanent world situation, but an altered one. By the new communes -- they might equally well be called the new cooperatives -- I mean the subjects of a changed economy: the collectives into whose hands the control of the means of production is to pass. Once again, everything depends on whether they will be ready.

Just how much economic and political autonomy -- for they will of necessity be economic and political units at once -- will have to be granted to them is a technical question that must be asked and answered over and over again, but asked and answered beyond the technical level, in the knowledge that the internal authority of a community hangs together with its external authority. The relationship between centralism and decentralization is a problem which, as we have seen, cannot be approached in principle, but like everything that has to do with the relationship between idea and reality, only with great spiritual tact, with the constant and tireless weighing and measuring of the right proportion between them. Centralization -- but only so much as is indispensable in the given conditions of time and place. And if the authorities responsible for the drawing and redrawing of lines of demarcation keep an alert conscience, the relations between the base and the apex of the power pyramid will be very different from what they are now, even in states that call themselves communist, that is, claim they are struggling for community. There will have to be a system of representation, too, in the sort of social pattern I have in mind, but it will not, as now, be composed of the pseudo-representatives of amorphous masses of electors, but of representatives well tested in the life and work of the communes. The represented will not, as they are today, be bound to their representatives by some windy abstraction, by the mere phraseology of a party program, but concretely, through common action and common experience.

The essential thing, however, is that the process of community building run all through the relations of the communes with one another. Only a community of communities merits the title of commonwealth.

The picture I have hastily sketched will doubtless be put away among the documents of "utopian socialism" until the storm turns them up again. Just as I do not believe in Marx's "gestation" of the new form, so neither do I believe in Bakunin's virgin birth from the womb of revolution. But I do believe in the meeting of idea and fate in the creative hour.
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