The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, by Houston Stewar

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, by Houston Stewar

Postby admin » Tue Oct 18, 2016 8:53 pm

The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century -- Volumes 1 & 2
by Houston Stewart Chamberlain
First published 1910
A translation from the German by John Lees, M.A., D.Lit. (Edin.), with an introduction by Lord Redesdale, G.C.V.O., K.C.B., etc.
(This edition is limited to 500 copies.)
© 1988 by James K. Warner




Table of Contents: Volume 1

o Inside Cover
 Plan of the Work
 The Foundations
 The Turning-point
 The Year 1200
 Division into two parts
 The Continuation
 Anonymous Forces
 Genius
 Generalisations
 The Nineteenth Century
 Hellas, Rome, Judea
 Philosophy of History
 Man's Awakening
 Animal and Man
 Homer
 Artistic Culture
 Shaping
 Plato
 Aristotle
 Natural Science
 Public Life
 Historical Falsehoods
 Decline of Religion
 Metaphysics
 Theology
 Scholasticism
 Conclusion
 Disposition
 Roman History
 Roman Ideals
 The Struggle against the Semites
 Rome under the Empire
 The Legacy of Constitutional Law
 Jurisprudence as a Technical Art
 Natural Law
 Roman Law
 The Family
 Marriage
 Woman
 Poetry and Language
 Summary
 Introductory
 The Religion of Experience
 Buddha and Christ
 Buddha
 Christ
 The Galileans
 Religion
 Christ not a Jew
 Historical Religion
 Will in the Semitic Race
 The Prophet
 Christ a Jew
 The Nineteenth Century
 The Chaos
 The Jews
 The Teutonic Races
 Scientific Confusion
 Importance of Race
 The Five Cardinal Laws
 Other Influences
 The Nation
 The Hero
 The Raceless Chaos
 Lucian
 Augustine
 Ascetic Delusion
 Sacredness of Pure Race
 The Teutonic Peoples
 The Jewish Question
 The "Alien People"
 Historical Bird's-eye View
 Consensus Ingeniorum
 Princes and Nobility
 Inner Contact
 Who is the Jew?
 Systematic Arrangement of the Investigation
 Origin of the Israelite
 The Genuine Semite
 The Syrian
 The Amorites
 Comparative Numbers
 Consciousness of Sin against Race
 Homo Syriacus
 Homo Europaeus
 Homo Arabicus
 Homo Judaeus
 Excursus on Semitic Religion
 Israel and Judah
 Development of the Jew
 The Prophets
 The Rabbis
 The Messianic Hope
 The Law
 The Thora
 Judaism
 The Term "Germanic"
 Extension of the Idea
 The Germanic Celt
 The Germanic Slav
 The Reformation
 Limitation of the Notion
 Fair Hair
 The Form of the Skull
 Rational Anthropology
 Physiognomy
 Freedom and Loyalty
 Ideal and Practice
 Teuton and Anti-Teuton
 Ignatius of Loyola
 Backward Glance
 Forward Glance

Table of Contents: Volume 2

 Leading Principles
 Anarchy
 Religion and State
 Christ and Christianity
 Religious Delirium
 The Two Main Pillars
 Mythology of Outer Experience
 Corruption of the Myths
 Mythology of Inner Experience
 Jewish Chronicle of the World
 Paul and Augustine
 Paul
 Augustine
 The Three Main Tendencies
 The "East"
 The "North"
 Charlemagne
 Dante
 Religious Instincts of Race
 Rome
 The Victory of the Chaos
 Position To-day
 Oratio pro Domo
 Emperor and Pope
 The "Duplex Potestas"
 Universalism against Nationalism
 The Law of Limitation
 The Struggle for the State
 The Delusion of the Unlimited
 Limitation Based on Principle
 A. The Teutons as Creators of a New Culture:
 Teutonic Italy
 The Teutonic Master-builder
 So-called "Humanity"
 The So-called "Renaissance"
 Progress and Degeneration
 Historical Criterion
 Inner Contrasts
 The Teutonic World
 B. Historical Survey:
 The Elements of Social Life
 Comparative Analyses
 The Teuton
 1. DISCOVERY (From Marco Polo to Galvani):
 The Inborn Capacity
 The Impelling Powers
 Nature as Teacher
 Unity of the Work of Discovery
 Idealism
 2. SCIENCE (From Roger Bacon to Lavoisier):
 Our Scientific Methods
 Hellene and Teuton
 Nature of our Systematising
 Idea and Theory
 The Goal of Science
 3. INDUSTRY (From the Introduction of Paper to Watt's Steam-engine):
 Ephemeral Nature of all Civilisation
 Autonomy of Modern Industry
 Paper
 4. POLITICAL ECONOMY (From the Lombardic League of Cities to Robert Owen, the Founder of Co-operation):
 Co-operation and Monopoly
 Guilds and Capitalists
 Farmer and Landlord
 Syndicates and Socialism
 The Machine
 5. POLITICS AND CHURCH (From the Introduction of Compulsory Confession, 1215, to the French Revolution):
 The Church
 Martin Luther
 The French Revolution
 The Anglo-Saxons
 6. PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGION (From Francis of Assisi to Immanuel Kant):
 The Two Courses
 The Course of Truth
 The Course of Falsehood
 Scholasticism
 Rome and Anti-Rome
 The Four Groups
 The Theologians
 The Mystics
 The Humanists
 The Naturalist-Philosophers
 The Observation of Nature
 Exact Not-Knowing
 Idealism and Materialism
 The First Dilemma
 The Metaphysical Problem
 Nature and the Ego
 The Second Dilemma
 Science and Religion
 Religion
 Christ and Kant
 7. ART (From Giotto to Goethe):
 The Idea "Art"
 Art and Religion
 Poetry Wedded to Music
 Art and Science
 Art as a Whole
 The Primacy of Poetry
 Teutonic Music
 The Tendency of Music
 Naturalism
 The Struggle for Individuality
 The Inner Struggle
 Shakespeare and Beethoven
 Summary
 Conclusion

That Chamberlain is a strong Anti-Semite adds to the value of the testimony which he bears to the nobility of the Sephardim, the intensely aristocratic Jews of Spain and Portugal, the descendants of the men whom the Romans, dreading their influence, deported westward. "That is nobility in the fullest sense of the word, genuine nobility of race! Beautiful forms, noble heads, dignity in speech and in deportment.... That out of the midst of such men prophets and psalmists should go forth, that I understood at the first glance -- something which I confess the closest observation of the many hundred 'Bochers' in the Friedrichstrasse in Berlin had failed to enable me to do."


And we, who were chosen to develop the profoundest and sublimest religious conception of the world as the light, life and vitalising force of our whole culture, have with our own hands firmly tied up the veins of life and limp along like crippled Jewish slaves behind Jehovah's Ark of the Covenant!


It is not necessary to feel sympathy for the pseudo-Buddhistical sport of half-educated idlers in order to recognise clearly that the discovery of the divine doctrine of understanding of the ancient Indians is one of the greatest achievements of the nineteenth century, destined to exercise an enduring influence upon distant ages. To this has been added the knowledge of old Teutonic poetry and mythology. Everything that tends to strengthen genuine individuality is a real safety anchor. The brilliant series of Teutonic and Indian scholars has, half unconsciously, accomplished a great work at the right moment; now we too possess our "holy books," and what they teach is more beautiful and nobler than what the Old Testament sets forth...the myth of the peculiar aptitude of the Jew for religion is finally exploded.


I find it difficult to grow enthusiastic because the material element is so predominant in this century....Not ideas, but material gains, are the characteristic feature of the nineteenth century....And so this too great preoccupation with the material banished the beautiful almost entirely from life...If the nineteenth century were really a summit, then the pessimistic view of life would be the only justifiable one: to see, after all the great achievements in the intellectual and material spheres, bestial wickedness still so widespread, and misery increased a thousandfold, could cause us only to repeat Jean Jacques Rousseau's prayer: "Almighty God, deliver us from the sciences and the pernicious arts of our fathers! Grant us ignorance, innocence and poverty once more as the only things which can bring happiness and which are of value in Thine eyes!"...  It may be that the tendency of modern education to direct the glance so unceasingly to the past is regrettable, but it has the advantage that one does not require to be a Schiller to feel with him that "no single modern man can vie with the individual Athenian for the prize of manhood."  When, therefore, we look back at the nineteenth century, which certainly was driven more than it drove, and in most things deviated to an almost ridiculous extent from the paths it had originally intended to pursue, we cannot help feeling a thrill of honest admiration and almost of enthusiasm.


"THE WORLD," says Dr. Martin Luther, "is ruled by God through a few heroes and pre-eminent persons."...I make this statement in advance that the reader may comprehend in what sense the year 1 is here chosen as the starting-point of our age....The actual life of the hero is, and cannot but be, the living source of all subsequent developments. The birth of Jesus Christ is the most important date in the whole history of mankind...In a certain sense we might truly say that "history" in the real sense of the term only begins with the birth of Christ. The peoples that have not yet adopted Christianity -- the Chinese, the Indians, the Turks and others -- have all so far no true history; all they have is, on the one hand, a chronicle of ruling dynasties, butcheries and the like....The Aryan Indian, for example, though he unquestionably possesses the greatest talent for metaphysics of any people that ever lived, and is in this respect far superior to all peoples of to-day, does not advance beyond inner enlightenment: he does not shape; he is neither artist nor reformer, he is content to live calmly and to die redeemed -- he has no history.


Meanwhile, just as the day is followed by the night (the sacred night, which reveals to our eye the secret of other worlds, worlds above us in the firmament of heaven and worlds within ourselves, in the depths of our silent hearts), so the glorious positive work of the Greeks and Romans demanded a negative completion; and this was provided by Israel. To enable us to see the stars, the light of day must be extinguished; in order to become truly great, to attain that tragic greatness which, as I have said, alone gives vivid purport to history, man had to become conscious not only of his strength but also of his weakness. It was only by clear recognition and unsparing accentuation of the triviality of all human action, the pitiableness of reason in its heavenward flight, the general baseness of human feelings and political motives, that thought was able to take its stand upon a totally new foundation, from which it was to discover in the heart of man capacities and talents, that guided it to the knowledge of something that was sublimer than all else.  If we contemplate the outward history of the people of Israel, it certainly offers at the first glance little that is attractive; with the exception of some few pleasing features, all the meanness of which men are capable seems concentrated in this one small nation ... in their case no great political sense excuses injustice, no art, no philosophy reconciles us to the horrors of the struggle for existence. Here it was that the negation of the things of this world arose, and with it the vague idea of a higher extra-mundane vocation of mankind. Here men of the people ventured to brand the princes of this earth as "companions of thieves," and to cry out upon the rich, "Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth." That was a different conception of right from that of the Romans, to whom nothing seemed more sacred than property. But the curse extended not merely to the mighty, but also to "them that are wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight," and likewise to the joyous heroes, who "drink wine," and have chosen the world as their sporting place....Finally the negation becomes a positive principle of life, and the sublimest of prophets suffers on the cross out of love.


Through art a new element, a new form of existence, enters into the cosmos....In order to do justice to this view, we must in the first place know exactly what is here meant by "art." When Schiller writes, "Nature has formed creatures only, art has made men," we surely cannot believe that he was thinking here of flute-playing or verse-writing? Let us hear what Schiller says, for an understanding of this fundamental idea is indispensable not merely for the purpose of this chapter, but also for that of the whole book. He writes: ... "What precisely makes him a man is the fact that he does not stand still as mere nature made him, but is endowed with the capacity of retracing with the aid of reason the steps which nature anticipated with him, of transforming the work of necessity into a work of his free choice and of raising the physical necessity to a moral one."...By placing himself "on his aesthetic standpoint," as it were, "outside the world and contemplating it," man for the first time clearly sees this world, the world outside himself! The desire to tear himself away from nature had indeed been a delusion, but it is this very delusion which is now bringing him to a full and proper consciousness of nature: for "man cannot purge the semblance from the real without at the same time freeing the real of the semblance."... It is only when an individual man, like Homer, invents the gods of his own free will as he wishes them to be; it is only when an observer of nature, like Democritus, from free creative power invents the conception of the atom; when a pensive seer, like Plato, with the wilfulness of the genius superior to the world throws overboard all visible nature and puts in its place the realm of ideas that man has created; it is only when a most Sublime Teacher proclaims, "Behold the kingdom of Heaven is within you" -- it is only then that a completely new creature is born, that being of whom Plato says, "He has generative power in his soul rather than in his body," it is only then that the macrocosm contains a microcosm....Compared with all other phenomena of history, Hellenism represents an exuberantly rich blossoming of the human intellect, and the reason of this is that its whole culture rests on an artistic basis.


If we consider the civic life of the ants, and see by what daring refinements they ensure the practical efficiency of the social mechanism and the faultless fitting of all parts into each other -- as an example I shall mention only the removal of the baneful sexual impulse in a large percentage of the population, and that too not by mutilation, as is the case with our wretched makeshift castration, but by shrewd manipulation of the fecundating germs -- then we must admit that the civic instinct of man is not of a high standard; compared with many animal species we are nothing but political blunderers.


Die! Thou seekest on this earthly ball
In vain, O noble mind, thine element!


Rightly understand the driving power of religion, do what it behoves you to further it, and seek to fulfil your duty in this. -- ZOROASTER.


In contrast to the new, growing, Anglo-Saxon race, look, for instance, at the Sephardim, the so-called "Spanish Jews"; here we find how a genuine race can by purity keep itself noble for centuries and tens of centuries, but at the same time how very necessary it is to distinguish between the nobly reared portions of a nation and the rest. In England, Holland and Italy there are still genuine Sephardim but very few, since they can scarcely any longer avoid crossing with the Ashkenazim (the so-called "German Jews"). Thus, for example, the Montefiores of the present generation have all without exception married German Jewesses. But every one who has travelled in the East of Europe, where the genuine Sephardim still as far as possible avoid all intercourse with German Jews, for whom they have an almost comical repugnance, will agree with me when I say that it is only when one sees these men and has intercourse with them that one begins to comprehend the significance of Judaism in the history of the word. This is nobility in the fullest sense of the word, genuine nobility of race! Beautiful figures, noble heads, dignity in speech and bearing. The type is Semitic in the same sense as that of certain noble Syrians and Arabs. That out of the midst of such people Prophets and Psalmists could arise -- that I understood at the first glance, which I honestly confess that I had never succeeded in doing when I gazed, however carefully, on the many hundred young Jews -- "Bochers " -- of the Friedrichstrasse in Berlin. When we study the Sacred Books of the Jews we see further that the conversion of this monopolytheistic people to the ever sublime (though according to our Ideas mechanical and materialistic) conception of a true cosmic monotheism was not the work of the community, but of a mere fraction of the people; indeed this minority had to wage a continuous warfare against the majority, and was compelled to enforce the acceptance of its more exalted view of life by means of the highest Power to which man is heir, the might of personality. As for the rest of the people, unless the Prophets were guilty of gross exaggeration, they convey the impression of a singularly vulgar crowd, devoid of every higher aim, the rich hard and unbelieving, the poor fickle and ever possessed by the longing to throw themselves into the arms of the wretchedest and filthiest idolatry. The course of Jewish history has provided for a peculiar artificial selection of the morally higher section: by banishments, by continual withdrawals to the Diaspora -- a result of the poverty and oppressed condition of the land -- only the most faithful (of the better classes) remained behind, and these abhorred every marriage contract -- even with Jews! -- in which both parties could not show an absolutely pure descent from one of the tribes of Israel and prove their strict orthodoxy beyond all doubt. There remained then no great choice; for the nearest neighbours, the Samaritans, were heterodox, and in the remoter parts of the land, except in the case of the Levites who kept apart, the population was to a large extent much mixed. In this way race was here produced. And when at last the final dispersion of the Jews came, all or almost all of these sole genuine Jews were taken to Spain. The shrewd Romans in fact knew well how to draw distinctions, and so they removed these dangerous fanatics, these proud men, whose very glance made the masses obey, from their Eastern home to the farthest West, while, on the other hand, they did not disturb the Jewish people outside of the narrower Judea more than the Jews of the Diaspora. -- Here, again, we have a most interesting object-lesson on the origin and worth of "race"! For of all the men whom we are wont to characterise as Jews, relatively few are descended from these great genuine Hebrews, they are rather the descendants of the Jews of the Diaspora, Jews who did not take part in the last great struggles; who, indeed, to some extent did not even live through the Maccabean age; these and the poor country people who were left behind in Palestine, and who later in Christian ages were banished or fled, are the ancestors of "our Jews" of to-day. Now whoever wishes to see with his own eyes what noble race is, and what it is not, should send for the poorest of the Sephardim from Salonici or Sarajevo (great wealth is very rare among them, for they are men of stainless honour) and put him side by side with any Ashkenazim financier; then will he perceive the difference between the nobility which race bestows and that conferred by a monarch.


In the days of the Roman Republic the influence of the Israelite was already felt. It is strange to read of Cicero, who could thunder out his denunciations of a Catiline, dropping his voice in the law courts when of the Jews he spoke with bated breath lest he should incur their displeasure. In the Middle Ages high offices were conferred by Popes upon Jews, and in Catholic Spain they were even made bishops and archbishops. In France the Jews found the money for the Crusades -- Rudolph of Habsburg exempted them from the ordinary laws.


In Christ man awakens to consciousness of his moral calling, but thereby at the same time to the necessity of an inner struggle that is reckoned in tens of centuries. I shall show that after an anti-Christian reaction lasting for many centuries we have with Kant returned again to exactly the same path. The humanitarian Deists of the eighteenth century who turned away from Christ thought the proper course was a "return to nature": on the contrary, it is emancipation from nature, without which we can achieve nothing, but which we are determined to make subject to ourselves.


The name Galilee (from Gelil haggoyim) means "district of the heathen." It seems that this part of the country, so far removed from the intellectual centre, had never kept itself altogether pure, even in the earliest times when Israel was still strong and united, and it had served as home for the tribes Naphtali and Zebulon. Of the tribe Naphtali we are told that it was from the first "of very mixed origin," and while the non-Israelitic aborigines continued to dwell in the whole of Palestine as before, this was the case "nowhere in so great a degree as in the northern districts." There was, however, another additional circumstance. While the rest of Palestine remained, owing to its geographical position, isolated as it were from the world, there was, even at the time when the Israelites took possession of the land, a road leading from the lake of Gennesareth to Damascus, and from that point Tyre and Sidon were more accessible than Jerusalem. Thus we find that Solomon ceded a considerable part of this district of the heathen (as it was already called, I Kings, ix. II), with twenty cities to the King of Tyre in payment of his deliveries of cedar- and pine-trees, as well as for the one hundred and twenty hundredweights of gold which the latter had contributed towards the building of the temple; so little interest had the King of Judea in this land, half inhabited as it was by heathens. The Tyrian King Hiram must in fact have found it sparsely populated, as he profited by the opportunity to settle various foreign tribes in Galilee. Then came, as everyone knows, the division into two kingdoms, and since that time, that is, since about a thousand years before Christ (!) only now and again, and then but for a short time, had there been any comparatively close political connection between Galilee and Judea, and it is only this, not community of religious faith, that furthers a fusion of races. In Christ's time, too, Galilee was politically quite separate from Judea, so that it stood to the latter in the relation "of a foreign country." [FN: Further ... we have no right to identify the genuine "Israelites" of the North with the real "Jews" of the South.] In the meantime, however, something had happened, which must have destroyed almost completely for all time the Israelitish character of this northern district: seven hundred and twenty years before Christ (that is about one hundred and fifty years before the Babylonian captivity of the Jews) the northern kingdom of Israel was laid waste by the Assyrians, and its population -- it is said to a man, at all events to a large extent -- deported into different and distant parts of the Empire, where it soon fused with the rest of the inhabitants and in consequence completely disappeared. [FN: So completely disappeared that many theologians, who had leisure, puzzled their brains even in the nineteenth century to discover what had become of the Israelites, as they could not believe that five-sixths of the people to whom Jehovah had promised the whole world should have simply vanished off the face of the earth. An ingenious brain actually arrived at the conclusion that the ten tribes believed to be lost were the English of to-day! He was not at a loss for the moral of this discovery either; in this way the British possess by right five-sixths of the whole earth; the remaining sixth the Jews.] At the same time strange races from remote districts were transported to Palestine to settle there. The authorities indeed suppose (without being able to vouch for it) that a considerable portion of the former mixed Israelitish population had remained in the land; at any rate this remnant did not keep apart from the strangers, but became merged in the medley of races. The fate of these districts was consequently quite different from that of Judea. For when the Judeans at a later time were also led into captivity, their land remained so to speak empty, inhabited only by a few peasants who moreover belonged to the country, so that when they returned from the Babylonian captivity, during which they had kept their race pure, they were able without difficulty to maintain that purity. Galilee, on the other hand, and the neighbouring districts had, as already mentioned, been systematically colonised by the Assyrians, and, as it appears from the Biblical account, from very different parts of that gigantic empire, among others from the northerly mountainous Syria. Then in the centuries before the birth of Christ many Phoenicians and Greeks had also migrated thither. This last fact would lead one to assume that purely Aryan blood also was transplanted thither; at any rate it is certain that a promiscuous mixture of the most different races took place, and that the foreigners in all probability settled in largest numbers in the more accessible and at the same time more fertile Galilee. The Old Testament itself tells with artless simplicity how these strangers originally came to be acquainted with the worship of Jehovah (2 Kings, xvii. 24 ff.): in the depopulated land beasts of prey multiplied; this plague was held to be the vengeance of the neglected "God of the Land" (verse 26); but there was no one who knew how the latter should be worshipped; and so the colonists sent to the King of Assyria and begged for an Israelitish priest from the captivity, and he came and "taught them the manner of the God of the land." In this way the inhabitants of Northern Palestine, from Samaria downward, became Jews in faith, even those of them who had not a drop of Israelitish blood in their veins. In later times many genuine Jews may certainly have settled there; but probably only as strangers in the larger cities, for one of the most admirable characteristics of the Jews -- particularly since their return from captivity where the clearly circumscribed term "Jew" first appears as the designation of a religion (see Zechariah, viii. 23) -- was their care to keep the race pure; marriage between Jew and Galilean was unthinkable. However, even these Jewish elements in the midst of the strange population were completely removed from Galilee not very long before the birth of Christ! It was Simon Tharsi, one of the Maccabeans, who, after a successful campaign in Galilee against the Syrians, "gathered together the Jews who lived there and bade them emigrate and settle bag and baggage in Judea." Moreover the prejudice against Galilee remained so strong among the Jews that, when Herod Antipas during Christ's youth had built the city of Tiberias and tried to get Jews to settle there, neither promises nor threats were of any avail. There is, accordingly, as we see, not the slightest foundation for the supposition that Christ's parents were of Jewish descent.


And now follows the profound remark [by Albert Reville, the well-known Professor of Comparative Religions at the College de France]: "The question whether Christ is of Aryan descent is idle. A man belongs to the nation in whose midst he has grown up." This is what people called "science" in the year of grace 1896! To think that at the close of the nineteenth century a professor could still be ignorant that the form of the head and the structure of the brain exercise quite decisive influence upon the form and structure of the thoughts, so that the influence of the surroundings, however great it may be estimated to be, is yet by this initial fact of the physical tendencies confined to definite capacities and possibilities, in other words, has definite paths marked out for it to follow! To think that he could fail to know that the shape of the skull in particular is one of those characteristics which are inherited with ineradicable persistency, so that races are distinguished by craniological measurements, and, in the case of mixed races, the original elements which occur by atavism become still manifest to the investigator! He could believe that the so-called soul has its abode outside the body, and leads the latter like a puppet by the nose. O Middle Ages! when will your night leave us?


We are accustomed to regard the Jewish people as the religious people above all others: as a matter of fact in comparison with the Indo-European races it is quite stunted in its religious growth. In this respect what Darwin calls "arrest of development" has taken place in the case of the Jews, an arrest of the growth of the faculties, a dying in the bud. Moreover all the branches of the Semitic stem, though otherwise rich in talents, were extraordinarily poor in religious instinct; this is the "hardheartedness" of which the more important men among them constantly complain. How different the Aryan! Even the oldest documents (which go back far beyond the Jewish) present him to us as earnestly following a vague impulse which forces him to investigate in his own heart. He is joyous, full of animal spirits, ambitious, thoughtless, he drinks and gambles, he hunts and robs; but suddenly he begins to think: the great riddle of existence holds him absolutely spellbound, not, however, as a purely rationalistic problem -- whence is this world? whence came I? questions to which a purely logical and therefore unsatisfactory answer would require to be given -- but as a direct compelling need of life. Not to understand, but to be, that is the point to which he is impelled. Not the past with its litany of cause and effect, but the present, the everlasting present holds his astonished mind spellbound. And he feels that it is only when he has bridged the gulf between himself and all that surrounds him, when he recognises himself -- the one thing that he directly knows -- in every phenomenon and finds again every phenomenon in himself, when he has, so to speak, put the world and himself in harmony, that he can hope to listen with his own ear to the weaving of the everlasting work and hear in his own heart the mysterious music of existence. And in order that he may find this harmony, he utters his own song, tries it in all tones, practises all melodies; then he listens with reverence. And not unanswered is his call: he hears mysterious voices; all nature becomes alive, everything in her that is related to man begins to stir. He sinks in reverence upon his knees, does not fancy that he is wise, does not believe that he knows the origin and finality of the world, yet has faint forebodings of a loftier vocation, discovers in himself the germ of immeasurable destinies, "the seed of immortality." This is, however, no mere dream, but a living conviction, a faith, and like everything living, it in its turn begets life. The heroes of his race and his holy men he sees as "supermen" (as Goethe says) hovering high above the earth; he wills to be like them, for he too is impelled onward and upward, and now he knows from what a deep inner well they drew the strength to be great. -- Now this glance into the unfathomable depths of his own soul, this longing to soar upwards, this is religion. Religion has primarily nothing to do either with superstition or with morals; it is a state of mind. And because the religious man is in direct contact with a world beyond reason, he is thinker and poet: he appears consciously as a creator; he toils unremittingly at the noble Sisyphus work of giving visible shape to the Invisible, of making the Unthinkable capable of being thought; we never find with him a hard and fast chronological cosmogony and theogony, he has inherited too lively a feeling of the Infinite for that; his conceptions remain in flux and never grow rigid; old ones are replaced by new; gods, honoured in one century, are in another scarcely known by name. Yet the great facts of knowledge, once firmly acquired, are never again lost, and more than all that fundamental truth which the Rigveda centuries and centuries before Christ tried thus to express, "The root of existence, the wise found in the heart" -- a conviction which in the nineteenth century has been almost identically expressed by Goethe: Ist nicht der Kern der Natur, Menschen im Herzen? That is religion!

Now this very tendency, this state of mind, this instinct, "to seek the core of nature in the heart," the Jews lack to a startling degree. They are born rationalists. Reason is strong in them, the will enormously developed, their imaginative and creative powers, on the other hand, peculiarly limited. Their scanty mythically religious conceptions, indeed even their commandments, customs and ordinances of worship, they borrowed without exception from abroad, they reduced everything to a minimum which they kept rigidly unaltered; the creative element, the real inner life is almost totally wanting in them; at the best it bears, in relation to the infinitely rich religious life of the Aryans, which includes all the highest thought and poetical invention of these peoples, like the lingual sounds referred to above, a ratio of 2 to 7. Consider what a luxuriant growth of magnificent religious conceptions and ideas, and in addition, what art and philosophy, thanks to the Greeks and Teutonic races, sprang up upon the soil of Christianity and then ask with what images and thoughts the so-called religious nation of the Jews has in the same space of time enriched mankind!...

Goethe, who is often called the "great Heathen," but who might with greater justice be termed the "great Aryan," ... said, "Animated inquiry into cause does great harm." Similarly the German natural scientist of to-day says, "In the Infinite no new end and no beginning can be sought. However far back we set the origin, the question still remains open as to the first of the first, the beginning of the beginning." The Jew felt quite differently. He knew as accurately about the creation of the world as do the wild Indians of South America or the Australian blacks to-day. That, however, was not due -- as is the case with these -- to want of enlightenment, but to the fact that the Aryan shepherd's profound, melancholy mark of interrogation was never allowed a place in Jewish literature; his tyrannous will forbade it, and it was the same will that immediately silenced by fanatical dogmatism the scepticism that could not fail to assert itself among so gifted a people (see the Kohelelh, or Book of the Preacher). Whoever would completely possess the "to-day" must also grasp the "yesterday" out of which it grew. Materialism suffers shipwreck as soon as it is not consistent; the Jew was taught that by his unerring instinct; and just as accurately as our materialists know to-day how thinking arises out of the motion of atoms, did he know how God had created the world and made man from a clod of earth. Creation, however, is the least thing of all; the Jew took the myths with which he became acquainted on his journeys, stripped them as far as possible of everything mythological and pruned them down to concrete historical events. But then, and not till then, came his masterpiece: from the scanty material common to all Semites the Jew constructed a whole history of the world of which he made himself the centre; and from this moment, that is, the moment when Jehovah makes the covenant with Abraham, the fate of Israel forms the history of the world, indeed, the history of the whole cosmos, the one thing about which the Creator of the world troubles himself. It is as if the circles always became narrower; at last only the central point remains -- the "Ego," the will has prevailed. That indeed was not the work of a day; it came about gradually; genuine Judaism, that is, the Old Testament in its present form, shaped and established itself only after the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity. And now what formerly had been effected with unconscious genius was applied and perfected consciously: the union of the past and the future with the present in such a way that each individual moment formed a centre on the perfectly straight path, which the Jewish people had to follow and from which it henceforth could not deviate either to right or to left....

 The Jew lived only in history, to him the "heathen" idea of morality and sanctity was strange, since he knew only a "law," and moreover obeyed this law for quite practical reasons, namely, to stay the wrath of God and to make sure of his future, and so he judged a phenomenon like the revelation of Christ from a purely historical standpoint, and became justly filled with fury, when the promised kingdom, to win which he had suffered and endured for centuries -- for the sake of possessing which he had separated himself from all people upon the earth, and had become hated and despised of all -- when this kingdom, in which he hoped to see all nations in fetters and all princes upon their knees "licking the dust," was all at once transformed from an earthly kingdom into one "not of this world." And now, to crown all, this Galilean heterodoxy! To plant the flag of idealism on this ancient consecrated seat of the most obstinate materialism! To transform, as if by magic, the God of vengeance and of war into a God of love and peace! To teach the stormy will, that stretched out both hands for all the gold of the world, that it should throw away what it possessed and seek the hidden treasure in its own heart! ...

We see what an important element of faith the will is. While the Aryan, rich in cognition, "flies to search in distant realms," the strong-willed Jew makes God pitch His tent once for all in his own midst. The power of his will to live has not only forged for the Jew an anchor of faith, which holds him fast to the ground of historical tradition, but it has also inspired him with unshakable confidence in a personal, directly present God, who is almighty to give and to destroy; and it has brought him, the man, into a moral relation to this God, in that God in His all-powerfulness issued commands, which man is free to follow or neglect.

There is another matter which must not be omitted in this connection: the one-sided predominance of the will makes the chronicles of the Jewish people in general dreary and ugly; and yet in this atmosphere there grew up a series of important men, whose peculiar greatness makes it impossible to compare them with other intellectual heroes. In the introduction to this division I have already spoken of those "disavowers" of the Jewish character, who themselves remained the while such out and out Jews, from the crown of their heads to the soles of their feet, that they contributed more than anything else to the growth of the most rigid Hebraism; in chap. v. I shall return to them; only so much must here be said: these men, in grasping religious materialism by its most abstract side, raised it morally to a very great height; their work has paved the way historically in essential points for Christ's view of the relation between God and man. Moreover, an important feature, which is essentially rooted in Judaism, shows itself most clearly in them: the historical religion of this people lays emphasis not upon the individual, but upon the whole nation; the individual can benefit or injure the whole community, but otherwise he is of little moment; from this resulted of necessity a markedly socialistic feature which the Prophets often powerfully express. The individual who attains to prosperity and wealth, while his brothers starve, falls under the ban of God. While Christ in one way represents exactly the opposite principle, namely, that of extreme individualism, the redeeming of the individual by regeneration, His life and His teaching, on the other hand, point unmistakably to a condition of things which can only be realised by having all things common. The communism of "one flock and one shepherd" is certainly different from the entirely politically coloured, theocratic communism of the Prophets; but here again the basis is solely and characteristically Jewish....

Here, however, we can and must ask with Christ, "But if the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness?" ... how shall we, above all, be able to sift and separate from the "bread of life" this specifically Jewish element which is so threateningly perilous to our spirit, if the revelation of Christ does not stand conspicuously before our eyes in its general outlines, and if we are not able clearly to distinguish in this image the purely personal from its historical conditions.


It is all very fine to roast one's enemies in ovens -- from China to the artistic Netherlands of the sixteenth century where do we not find cruelty?


Fearful, too, are the many precepts in the Talmud concerning the persecution and the destruction of the unorthodox Jews: how individuals are to be stoned and the people executed with the sword, and still more frightful are the descriptions of the tortures and executions which this equally dismal and spiritless book expatiates upon with pleasure; here too only one example: "The criminal is placed in dirt up to the knees; a hard cloth is then laid in a soft one and wrapped round his neck; the one witness pulls the one end towards himself and the other the other, till the prisoner opens his mouth. In the meantime the lead is heated and poured into his mouth so that it enters his vitals and burns them up" (Sanhedrin, fol. 52a). Then there are learned discussions about such things in the Talmud, thus the extremely pious Rabbi Jehuda thinks it would be advisable to open the poor man's mouth with pincers and to pour the lead down quickly, otherwise he might die of strangulation and then his soul would not be consumed with his body. This is what one comes to with "the subjection of the feelings to the reason!"


It redounds to the honour of the Germans to have hated Christianity!


Julius Caesar at once recognised not only the military prowess but also the unexampled loyalty of the Teutons and hired from among them as many cavalrymen as he could possibly get. In the battle of Pharsalus, which was so decisive for the history of the world, they fought for him; the Romanised Gauls had abandoned their commander in the hour of need, the Germanic troops proved themselves as faithful as they were brave. This loyalty to a master chosen of their own free will is the most prominent feature in the Germanic character; from it we can tell whether pure Germanic blood flows in the veins or not....Karl Lamprecht has written so beautifully about this great fundamental characteristic of loyalty in its historical significance that I should reproach myself if I did not quote him here. He has just spoken of the "retainers" who in the old German State pledge themselves to their chief to be true unto death and prove so, and then he adds: "In the formation of this body of retainers we see one of the most magnificent features of the specifically Germanic view of life, the feature of loyalty. Not understood by the Roman but indispensable to the Teuton, the need of loyalty existed even at that time, that ever-recurring German need of closest personal attachment, of complete devotion to each other, perfect community of hopes, efforts and destinies. Loyalty never was to our ancestors a special virtue, it was the breath of life of everything good and great; upon it rested the feudal State of the Early and the co-operative system of the Later Middle Ages, and who could conceive the military monarchy of the present day without loyalty?....

However true and beautiful every word that Lamprecht has here written, I do not think that he has made quite clear the "primary source." Loyalty, though distinguishing the Teutons from mongrel races, is not altogether a specific Germanic trait. One finds it in almost all purely bred races, nowhere more than among the negroes, for example, and -- I would ask -- what man could be more faithful than the noble dog? No, in order to reveal that "primary source of Germanicism," we must show what is the nature of this Germanic loyalty, and we can only succeed in doing so if we have grasped the fact that freedom is the intellectual basis of the whole Germanic nature. For the characteristic feature of this loyalty is its free self-determination. The human character resembles the nature of God as the theologians represent it: complex and yet indiscernible, an inseparable unity. This loyalty and this freedom do not grow the one out of the other, they are two manifestations of the same character which reveals itself to us on one occasion more from the intellectual on another more from the moral side. The negro and the dog serve their masters, whoever they may be: that is the morality of the weak, or, as Aristotle says, of the man who is born to be a slave; the Teuton chooses his master, and his loyalty is therefore loyalty to himself: that is the morality of the man who is born free....

One thing is certain: if we wish to sum up in a single word the historic greatness of the Teuton -- always a perilous undertaking, since everything living is of Protean nature -- we must name his loyalty. That is the central point from which we can survey his whole character, or better, his personality. But we must remember that this loyalty is not the primary source, as Lamprecht thinks, not the root but the blossom -- the fruit by which we recognise the tree. Hence it is that this loyalty is the finest touchstone for distinguishing between genuine and false Germanicism; for it is not by the roots but by the fruit that we distinguish the species; we should not forget that with unfavourable weather many a tree has no blossoms or only poor ones, and this often happens in the case of hard-pressed Teutons. The root of their particular character is beyond all doubt that power of imagination which is common to all Aryans and peculiar to them alone and which appeared in greatest luxuriance among the Hellenes. I spoke of this in the beginning of the chapter on Hellenic art and philosophy; from that root everything springs, art, philosophy, politics, science; hence, too, comes the peculiar sap which tinges the flower of loyalty. The stem then is formed by the positive strength -- the physical and the intellectual, which can never be separated; in the case of the Romans, to whom we owe the firm bases of family and State, this stem was powerfully developed. But the real blossoms of such a tree are those which mind and sentiment bring to maturity. Freedom is an expansive power which scatters men, Germanic loyalty is the bond which by its inner power binds men more closely than the fear of the tyrant's sword: freedom signifies thirst after direct self-discovered truth, loyalty the reverence for that which has appeared to our ancestors to be true; freedom decides its own destiny and loyalty holds that decision unswervingly and for ever. Loyalty to the loved one, to friend, parents, and fatherland we find in many places; but here, in the case of the Teuton, something is added, which makes the great instinct become a profoundly deep spiritual power, a principle of life. Shakespeare represents the father giving his son as the best advice for his path through life, as the one admonition which includes all others, these words: This above all: to thine own self be true! The principle of Germanic loyalty is evidently not the necessity of attachment, as Lamprecht thinks, but on the contrary the necessity of constancy within a man's own autonomous circle; self-determination testifies to it; in it freedom proves itself; by it the vassal, the member of the guild, the official, the officer asserts his independence. For the free man, to serve means to command himself....Therefore it is that Goethe writes: "Loyalty preserves personality!" Germanic loyalty is the girdle that gives immortal beauty to the ephemeral individual, it is the sun without which no knowledge can ripen to wisdom, the charm which alone bestows upon the free individual's passionate action the blessing of permanent achievement.

-- The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, by Houston Stewart Chamberlain
Site Admin
Posts: 33203
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, by Houston St

Postby admin » Tue Oct 18, 2016 9:10 pm

Stewart Houston Chamberlain



The first edition of the FOUNDATIONS OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY was published in 1910. It was the first book written about the rise and fall of civilizations and the effect of race on the course of history.

His book, written from a Christian viewpoint, was the foundation for the racial nationalist movement from that time to the present.

Racial nationalists from all over Europe made it a point to visit and consult with him throughout his lifetime and many racial nationalist movements and publications were partly based on his FOUNDATIONS and other published manuscripts, which were published in German.

His father-in-law was the famous composer, Richard Wagner, who gave him the inspiration to move forward with his important work.

One of his most enthusiastic supporters was Kaiser Wilhelm, II who after reading the German language edition in 1901 wrote to him saying, "... And now the powerfully altered primevil Aryan-Germanic dormant deep within me began to slowly stir and painfully assert itself. Frequently in open conflict with the 'old established', it assumed bizarre forms, often remaining shapeless like vague intimations awakening in my subconscious and preparing to surface. And now you have come, and illuminating the dimly apprehended with a wave of your magic wand, you bring order into chaos, light into darkness, and goals to strive and work for. You show paths which must be followed for the glory of Germany and hence for that of everything German and particularly of our glorious language... Truly, we thank Him on high that He still means well for us Germans. That the Lord sent you to write your book for the German people and sent you to me personally; that is my firm belief. And now God's blessing and our Saviour's strength for the new year 1902 to you, my comrade in arms and ally in the struggle...The knowledge of fighting for a cause so righteous and divinely inspired carries its own certainty of victory! You with your pen, I with my tongue, will fight the good fight, come what may! I remain, despite all attacks and grumblings, your truly grateful friend, Wilhelm."

In the early 70's a Jewish-run publishing corporation published an edition of FOUNDATIONS. However, like most of our so-called "free speech" publishing companies in America, the edition had an additional 100 pages "explaining" why the author's ideas were wrong and trying to fault his reasoning!

In this book the reader will inevitably find material he will disagree with as well as material he will agree with. This book was written almost 100 years ago -- and even though some of the ideas in it may not be in accord with all its readers, it has been the basis in the past for helping to form a philosophy and basis for a plan of action for the survival of Christianity and White Civilization.

Houston Stewart Chamberlain died in 1927. However, bits and pieces of his history of Civilization continue to be used by patriots of all countries. Here in this reprint of his FOUNDATIONS we are making his complete UNCENSORED work available once again.

James K Warner 1988
Site Admin
Posts: 33203
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, by Houston St

Postby admin » Tue Oct 18, 2016 9:29 pm

Part 1 of 2


SOME ten years ago there appeared in Germany a work of the highest importance which at once arrested the attention of the literary world, and was speedily declared to be one of the masterpieces of the century. The deep learning, the sympathy with knowledge in its most various forms, a style sometimes playful, sometimes ironical, always persuasive, always logical, pages adorned with brilliant passages of the loftiest eloquence -- these features were a passport to immediate recognition. Three editions were exhausted in as many years, and now when it has gone through eight editions, and, in spite of the expense of the two bulky volumes, no fewer than sixty thousand copies have been sold in Germany, it is surely time that England should see the book clothed in the native language of its author.

Houston Stewart Chamberlain was born at Southsea in 1855, the son of Admiral William Charles Chamberlain. Two of his uncles were generals in the English army, a third was the well-known Field-Marshal Sir Neville Chamberlain. His mother was a daughter of Captain Basil Hall, R.N., whose travels were the joy of the boyhood of my generation, while his scientific observations won for him the honour of Fellowship of the Royal Society. Captain Basil Hall's father, Sir James Hall, was himself eminent in science, being the founder of experimental geology. As a man of science therefore (and natural science was his first love), Houston Chamberlain may be regarded as an instance of atavism, or, to use the hideous word coined by Galton, "eugenics."

His education was almost entirely foreign. It began in a Lycee at Versailles. Being destined for the army he was afterwards sent to Cheltenham College: but the benign cruelty of fate intervened; his health broke down, he was removed from school, and all idea of entering the army was given up: and so it came to pass that the time which would have been spent upon mastering the goose-step and the subtleties of drill was devoted under the direction of an eminent German tutor, Herr Otto Kuntze, to sowing the seed of that marvellous harvest of learning and scholarship the full fruit of which, in the book before us, has ripened for the good of the world. After a while he went to Geneva, where under Vogt, Graebe, Muller Argovensis, Thury, Plantamour and other great professors he studied systematic botany, geology, astronomy, and later the anatomy and physiology of the human body. But the strain of work was too great and laid too heavy a tax upon his strength; so, for a time at any rate, natural science had to be abandoned and he migrated to Dresden, a forced change which was another blessing in disguise; for at Dresden he plunged heart and soul into the mysterious depths of the Wagnerian music and philosophy, the metaphysical works of the master probably exercising as strong an influence upon him as the musical dramas.

Chamberlain's first published work was in French, Notes sur Lohengrin. This was followed by various essays in German on Wagnerian subjects: but they were not a success, and so, disgusted with the petty jealousies and unrealities of art-criticism, he fell back once more upon natural science and left Dresden for Vienna, where he placed himself under the guidance of Professor Wiesner. Again the miseries of health necessitated a change. Out of the wreck of his botanical studies he saved the materials for his Recherches sur la seve ascendante, a recognised authority among continental botanists, and natural science was laid aside, probably for ever.

Happily the spell of the great magician was upon him. In 1892 there appeared Das Drama Richard Wagners, which, frozen almost out of existence at first (five copies were sold in the twelve-month, of which the author was himself the buyer), has since run into four greedily purchased editions. Then came that fine book, the Life of Wagner, which has been translated into English by Mr. Hight, and Chamberlain's reputation was made, to be enhanced by the colossal success of the Grundlagen des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts which followed in 1899. Naturally enough, criticism was not spared. The book was highly controversial and no doubt lent itself to some misunderstanding; moreover the nationality of the author could hardly fail to be in a sense provocative of some slight jealousy or even hostility. One critic did not hesitate to accuse him of plagiarism -- plagiarism, above all, from Richard Wagner, the very man whose disciple and historian he was proud to be, whose daughter he was, years afterwards, to marry. But this attack is one for which Chamberlain might well be thankful, for it gave him the chance, in the preface to the third edition, of showing all his skill in fence, a skill proof even against the coup de Jarnac. His answer to his critics on his theory of Race, and his criticism of Delitzsch in the preface to the fourth edition are fine pieces of polemical writing.

What is the Book? How should it be defined? Is it history, a philosophical treatise, a metaphysical inquiry? I confess, I know not: probably it is all three. I am neither an historian, alas! nor a philosopher, nor a metaphysician. To me the book has been a simple delight -- the companion of months -- fulfilling the highest function of which a teacher is capable, that of awakening thought and driving it into new channels. That is the charm of the book. The charm of the man is his obviously transparent truthfulness. Anything fringing upon fraud is abhorrent to him, something to be scourged with scorpions. As in one passage he himself says, the enviable gift of lying has been denied to him. Take his answer to Professor Delitzsch's famous pamphlet Babel und Bibel, to which I have alluded above.

No writer is so dangerous as the really learned scholar who uses his learning, as a special pleader might, in support of that which is not true. Now, Professor Delitzsch is an authority in Assyriology and the knowledge of the cuneiform inscriptions. The object of his brilliant and cleverly named pamphlet was to arouse interest in the researches of the German Orientalischer Verein. In this sense any discovery which can be brought into line with the story of the Old Testament is an engine the price of which is above pearls. Accordingly, Professor Delitzsch, eager to furnish proof of Semitic monotheism, brings out the statement that the Semitic tribes of Canaan which, at the time of Khammurabi, two thousand years before Christ, flooded Assyria, were worshippers of one God, and that the name of that God was Jahve (Jehovah), and in support of that statement he translates the inscriptions on two tablets, or fragments of tablets, in the British Museum. Now it must be obvious to the poorest intelligence that an obscure script like that in the cuneiform character can only be read with any approach to certainty where there is the opportunity of comparison, that is to say, where the same groups of wedges or arrowheads, as they used to be called, are found repeated in various connections: even so, the patience and skill which have been spent upon deciphering the inscriptions, from the days of Hincks and Rawlinson until now, are something phenomenal. Where a proper name occurs only once, the difficulty is increased a hundredfold. Yet this did not deter Delitzsch from making his astounding monotheistic assertion on the strength of an arbitrary interpretation of a single example of a group of signs, which signs moreover are capable of being read, as is proved by the evidence of the greatest Assyriologists, in six if not eleven different ways. Truly a fine case for doctors to disagree upon! Chamberlain, with that instinctive shying at a fraud which distinguishes him, at once detected the imposition. He is no Assyriologist, but his work brings him into contact with the masters of many crafts, and so with the pertinacity of a sleuth-hound he runs the lie to earth. In a spirit of delicate banter, through which the fierce indignation of the truth-lover often pierces, he tears the imposture to tatters; his attack is a fighting masterpiece, to which I cannot but allude, if only in the sketchiest way, as giving a good example of Chamberlain's methods. So much for Tablet No. 1.

The interpretation of the second tablet upon which Professor Delitzsch reads the solemn declaration "Jahve is God" fares no better at our author's hands; for he brings forward two unimpeachable witnesses, Hommel and Konig, who declare that Delitzsch has misread the signs which really signify "The moon is God."

It is well known -- a fact scientifically proved by much documentary evidence -- that Khammurabi and his contemporaries were worshippers of the sun, the moon and the stars; the name of his father was Sin-mubalit, "the moon gives life," his son was Shamshuiluna, "the sun is our God." But no evidence is sufficient to check Professor Delitzsch's enthusiasm over his monotheistic Khammurabi! That much in the deciphering of Assyrian inscriptions is to a great extent problematical is evident. One thing, however, is certain in these readings of Professor Delitzsch: in the face of the authority of other men of learning, his whole fabric, "a very Tower of Babel, but built on paper, crumbles to pieces; and instead of the pompously announced, unsuspected aspect of the growth of monotheism, nothing remains to us but a surely very unexpected insight into the workshop of lax philology and fanciful history-mongering."

It seems to me that Khammurabi has been made a victim in this controversy. Even if he was a worshipper of the sun and the stars and the moon, he was, unless we ignorant folk have been cruelly misled, a very great man: for he appears to have been the first king who recognised the fact that if a people has duties to its sovereign, the sovereign on the other hand has duties to his people -- and that, for a monarch who reigned so many centuries before Moses, must be admitted to show a very high sense of kingly responsibility. But Delitzsch, in trying to prove too much, has done him the dis-service of exposing him to what almost amounts to a sneer from the Anti-Semites. I have submitted what I have written above to Dr. Budge of the British Museum, who authorises me to say that he concurs in Chamberlain's views of Professor Delitzsch's translation.

But it is time that we should leave these battles of the learned in order to consider the scheme, the scope and the conduct of the book. To write the story of the Foundations of the Nineteenth Century was a colossal task, for which the strength of a literary Hercules would alone be of any avail. Mr. Chamberlain, however, has brought to the undertaking such a wealth of various knowledge and reading, set out with unrivalled dialectical power, that even those who may disagree with some of his conclusions must perforce incline themselves before the presence of a great master. That his book should be popular with those scholars who are wedded to old traditions was not to be expected. He has shattered too many idols, dispelled too many dearly treasured illusions. And the worst of it is that the foundations of his beliefs -- perhaps I should rather say of his disbeliefs -- are built upon rocks so solid that they will defy the cunningest mines that can be laid against them. This is no mere "chronicle of ruling houses, no record of butcheries." It is the story of the rise of thought, of religion, of poetry, of learning, of civilisation, of art; the story of all those elements of which the complex life of the Indo-European of to-day is composed -- the story of what he calls "Der Germane."

And here let me explain once for all what Chamberlain means by "Der Germane": obviously not the German, for that would have been "Der Deutsche." To some people the name may be misleading; but he has adopted it, and I may have to use it again, so let us take his own explanation of it. In this term he includes the Kelts, the Germans, the Slavs, and all those races of northern Europe from which the peoples of modern Europe have sprung (evidently also the people of the United States of America). The French are not specifically mentioned, but it is clear from more than one passage that they too are included. As indeed how should they be left out? Yet it strikes one almost as a paradox to find Louis XIV claimed as a "genuine Germane" for resisting the encroachments of the Papacy, and bearding the Pope as no other Catholic sovereign ever did; and blamed as a Germane false to his "Germanentum" for his shameless persecution of the Protestants! In the Germane, then, he describes the dominant race of the nineteenth century. Strange indeed is the beginning of the history of that race.

Far away in Asia, behind the great mountain fastnesses of India, in times so remote that even tradition and fable are silent about them, there dwelt a race of white men. They were herdsmen, shepherds, tillers of the soil, poets and thinkers. They were called Aryas -- noblemen or householders -- and from them are descended the dominant caste of India, the Persians, and the great nations of Europe. The history of the Aryan migrations, their dates, their causes, is lost in the clouds of a mysterious past. All that we know is that there were at least three great wanderings: two southward to India and Persia, one, or perhaps several, across the great Asiatic continent to Europe. What drove these highly gifted people from their farms and pastures? Was it the search for change of climate? Was it pressure from the Mongols? There are some reasons for supposing that religious dissent may have had something to do with it. For instance, the evil spirits of the Zendavesta, the scriptures of the Zoroastrians, are the gods of the Rigveda, the sacred poems of the Indian Aryans, and vice versa. Be that as it may, wherever the Aryans went they became masters. The Greek, the Latin, the Kelt, the Teuton, the Slav -- all these were Aryans: of the aborigines of the countries which they overran, scarcely a trace remains. So, too, in India it was "Varna," colour, which distinguished the white conquering Arya from the defeated black man, the Dasyu, and so laid the foundation of caste. It is to the Teuton branch of the Aryan family that the first place in the world belongs, and the story of the Nineteenth Century is the story of the Teuton's triumph.

While by no means ignoring, or failing to throw light upon, the Assyrian or Egyptian civilisations, this all-embracing book ascribes the laying of the Foundations of the Nineteenth Century to the life-work of three peoples: two of these, the Greek and Roman, being of Aryan extraction, the third, the Jew, Semitic.

Of Greek poetry and art Chamberlain writes with all the passionate rapture of a lover. "Every inch of Greek soil is sacred." Homer, the founder of a religion, the maker of gods, stands on a pinnacle by himself. He was, as it were, the Warwick of Olympus. "That any one should have doubted the existence of the poet Homer will not give to future generations a favourable impression of the perspicacity of our times." It is just a hundred years since Wolf started his theory that there was no such poet as Homer -- that the Iliad and Odyssey were a parcel of folk-songs of many dates and many poets pasted together. By whom? asks Chamberlain. Why are there no more such "able editors"? Is it paste that is lacking or brain-paste? Schiller at once denounced the idea as "simply barbarous" and proclaimed Wolf to be a "stupid devil." Goethe at first was caught by the idea, but when he examined the poems more closely, from the point of view of the poet, recanted, and came to the conclusion that there could be only one Homer. And now "Homer enters the twentieth century, the fourth millennium of his fame, greater than ever." No great work of art, as Chamberlain points out, was ever produced by the collaboration of a number of little men. The man who made the faith of a people was, as Aristotle put it, divine before all other poets." If Greek poetry and Greek art were in those two branches of human culture the chief inheritance of the nineteenth century, then we may safely assert that Homer in that direction dominated all other influence and was the first prophet of our Indo-European culture.

Never, indeed, did the sacred fire of poetry and art burn with a purer flame than it did in ancient Greece. Homer was followed by a radiant galaxy of poets. The tragic dramas of AEschylus and Sophocles, the farces of Aristophanes, the idylls of Theocritus, the odes of Pindar, the dainty lyrics of Anacreon, have made the Greek genius the test by which all subsequent work must be judged. In architecture and sculpture the Greeks have never been equalled; of their painting we know less; but the men who were under the influence of a Phidias and a Praxiteles, we may safely say, would not have borne with a mere dauber. Poetry and art then were the very essence of Greek life; they penetrated the soul and thrilled every fibre of the ancient Hellenes. Their philosophy, the deep thoughts that vibrated in their brain, were poetry. Plato himself was, as Montesquieu said of him, one of the four great poets of mankind. He was the Homer of thought, too great a poet, according to Zeller, to be quite a philosopher. But Plato was Himself, and his spirit is as young and as fresh to-day as it was when he was so penetrated with the sense of beauty that he made his Socrates lecture only in the fairest scenes, and pray to the great god Pan that he might be beautiful in his inner self, and that his outer self should be in tune with it. "Much that has come between has sunk in oblivion; while Plato and Aristotle, Democritus, Euclid and Archimedes live on in our midst stimulating and instructing, and the half-fabulous figure of Pythagoras grows greater with every century."

But -- and it is a big "but" -- when we come to metaphysics Chamberlain cries, Halt! With all his reverence for Plato as statesman, moralist and practical reformer; for Aristotle as the first encyclopaedist; full of admiration for the philosophers of the great epoch so far as they represent a "creative manifestation" of the mind of man closely allied to the poetic art, in the history of human thought he dethrones them from the high place which has hitherto been assigned to them, he denies them the honour of having been the first thinkers. To Aristotle, indeed, with all his gifts, he traces the decadence of the Hellenic spirit.

It has been the fashion among the schoolmen to hold the Greeks up to admiration as being historically the first thinkers. Nothing could be further from the truth. They laid the foundations of our science, of geography, natural history, logic, ethics, mathematics -- of metaphysics they were not the founders, though they taught us to think. Bacon indeed condemned their philosophy as "childish, garrulous, impotent and immature in creative power." Centuries before the birth of the great Greeks, India had produced philosophers who in the realms of thought reached heights which never were attained by Plato or Aristotle. The doctrine of the transmigration of souls was brought by Pythagoras from India. In Greece, until it was published by Plato, it was regarded as the mystery of mysteries, only to be revealed to the elect -- to the high priests of thought: but in India it was the common belief of the vulgar; whereas to the philosophers, a small body of deep thinkers, it was and is an allegorical representation of a truth only to be grasped by deep metaphysical pondering. The common creed of the Indian coolie, invested by Plato with the halo of his sublime poetry, became glorified as the highest expression of Greek thought!

Alas! for the long years wasted in the worship of false gods! Alas! for the idols with feet of clay, ruthlessly hurled from their pedestals! That the ancient Greek was the type of all that was chivalrous and noble was the accepted belief taught by the old-fashioned, narrow- minded pedagogues of two generations ago. They took the Greeks at their own valuation, accepting all their figures and facts without a question. Their battles were always fought against fearful odds; they performed prodigies of valour; their victories decided the fate of the world. To the student brought up in the faith of such books as Creasy's Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World, it comes as a shock to be told that Marathon was a mere skirmish without result, in which, as a matter of fact, the Athenians had if anything rather the worst of it. Even Herodotus inconveniently let out the fact that Miltiades hurried on the battle knowing that his brave Hoplites were half minded to go over to the enemy, and that delay might cause this treacherous thought to be carried into effect. Another half-hour and the "heroes of Marathon" would have been seen marching against Athens side by side with the Persians. As it was, the latter quietly sailed back to Ionia in their Grecian ships, carrying with them several thousand prisoners and a great store of booty. Gobineau has shown that Salamis was no better, and he describes Grecian history as "la plus elaboree des fictions du plus artiste des peuples." ["The more elaborate fictions of the most artistic of people."]

In the view of writers like Gobineau and Chamberlain the ancient Greek was a fraud, a rogue and a coward, a slave-driver, cruel to his enemies, faithless to his friends, without one shred of patriotism or of honour. Alcibiades changing colour like a chameleon, Solon forsaking his life's work and going over to Pisistratus, Themistocles haggling over the price for which he should betray Athens before Salamis, and living at the Court of Artaxerxes as the declared enemy of Greece, despised by the Persians "as a wily Greek snake," these and others are sickening pictures which Chamberlain draws of the Hellene when viewed as a man apart from his poetry and his art.

Probably in these days of critical investigation the fanciful teaching of previous generations will be modified. The Greeks have enough really to their credit, they have a sufficient title to our gratitude for what they were, without being held up to our admiration for that which they distinctly were not. It seems laughable that Grote should have accepted as gospel truth, and held up as an example for future ages, what Juvenal had summed up, eighteen hundred years before, as "all that lying Greece dares in history."

No two people could be in sharper contrast to one another than the Greeks and the Romans. From the creative genius of the Greeks we have inherited Olympus, the Gods, and Homer who made them, poetry, architecture, sculpture, philosophy, all that makes up the joy of life: not our religion -- that comes from a higher source -- and yet, even here perhaps something, some measure of religiosity which fitted us to receive the Divine Message. The gift of the matter-of-fact Roman, on the other hand, has been law, order, statecraft, the idea of citizenship, the sanctity of the family and of property. Borne on the pinions of imagination the Greek soared heavenward. The Roman struck his roots deep into the soil. In all that contributes to the welfare and prosperity of the State and of the man the Roman was past-master. In poetry, in the fine arts, in all that constitutes culture, he was an imitator, a follower -- at a great distance -- of the Greeks. A poet in the true sense of the word, he certainly was not. A poet means one who creates. Consider the translations and imitations wrought with consummate skill by Virgil, at the imperial command, into an epic in honour of a dynasty and a people. Compare these, masterpieces of their kind though they be, with the heaven-inspired creations of Homer, and you will see what Chamberlain means when he says that "to unite Greek poetry with Latin poetry in the one conception of classical literature, is a proof of incredible barbarism in taste, and of a lamentable ignorance of the essence and value of artistic genius." The Roman was no true poet, no creator. Horace, with all his charm -- the most quotable of writers because his dainty wit had the secret of rendering with delicate fancy the ideas which occur at every step, on every occasion of our lives -- was after all only the first and foremost of all society verse-writers. Chamberlain is inclined to make an exception in favour of Lucretius, of whom in a footnote he says that he is worthy of admiration both as thinker and bard. (I hesitate here to translate the word Dichter by "poet.") Yet in the same note he goes on to say that his thoughts are altogether Greek, and his materials preponderatingly so. "Moreover there lies over his whole work the deadly shadow of that scepticism that sooner or later leads to barrenness, and which must be carefully distinguished from the deep intuition of truly religious spirits that preserve the figurative in that which they set forth without thereby casting doubt upon the lofty truth of their inmost forebodings, their inscrutable mysteries." For Lucretius, Epicurus, the man who denied the existence of God, was the greatest of mortals. And yet there came a day when even Epicurus must needs fall down before Zeus. "Never," cried Diokles, who found him in the Temple, "did I see Zeus greater than when Epicurus lay there at his feet." Footnotes are apt to be skipped, and I have felt it right to dwell upon this one because of its importance as bearing upon Chamberlain's views of the "deadly shadow of scepticism."

The poetry of Greece was the dawn of all that is beautiful, the bounteous fountain of all good gifts, at which, century after century, country after country, have quaffed the joyous cup, seeking inspiration that in their turn they might achieve something lovely.

The influence which Rome has exercised upon our development has been in a totally different direction. From the beginning of time the races of Aryan extraction have been deeply imbued with the conviction of the importance of law. Yet it was reserved for the Romans to develop this instinct, and they succeeded because to them alone among the Aryans was possible the consolidation of the State. The law was the foundation of personal right; the State was based upon the sacrifice of that personal right, and the delegation of personal power for the common weal. If we realise that, we recognise the immense value of the inheritance bequeathed to us by the Romans. Without the great quality of patriotism this would have been impossible.

The spot upon which the Roman had settled had little physically to recommend it. There was no romantic scenery, there were no lofty mountains, no rushing rivers. The seven mean hills, the yellow mud of the Tiber, the fever-stricken marshes, a soil poor and unproductive, were not features to captivate the imagination. But the Roman loved it and cherished it in his heart of hearts. Surrounded by hostile tribes, his early history was one long struggle for life, in which his great qualities always won the day. Once defeated, he would have been wiped off the face of the earth: strength of character, determination, courage above proof, saved him, and in the end made him the conqueror of the world. There was no need in his case to pass laws enforcing valour as in the case of Sparta, making men brave, as it were, by act of Parliament. There was no fear of his turning traitor; he was loyal to the core. His home, his family, his fatherland were sacred, the deeply treasured objects of his worship, a religion in themselves. Self was laid on one side -- the good of the community was everything. It was the idea of the family carried into statecraft. One word represented it, Patria, the fatherland, and the man who worked for the Patria was the ideal statesman.

Is it fair, asks Chamberlain, to call the Roman a conqueror or invader? He thinks not. He was driven to war not by the desire of conquest or of aggrandisement, but by the desperate determination to maintain his home or die. With the defeat and disappearance of the surrounding tribes, he found himself ever compelled to push his outposts farther and farther still; it was self-preservation, not the lust of conquest, which armed the Roman. For him war was a political necessity, and no people ever possessed the political instinct in so high a degree.

The struggle with Carthage was a case in point. Historians from the earliest times, from Polybius to Mommsen, have denounced the barbarity shown by the Romans in the extermination of Carthage. Chamberlain in a few convincing paragraphs teaches us what was the real issue. He shows us that annihilation was an absolute necessity. Rome and Carthage could not exist together. The fight was for the supremacy in the Mediterranean; and therefore for the mastery of the world. On the one side was the civilising influence of Rome, colonising under laws so beneficent that nations even came to petition that they might be placed under her rule: on the other side a system of piratical colonisation undertaken in the sole cause of gain, the abolition of all freedom, the creation of artificial wants in the interest of trade, no attempt at legal organisation beyond the imposition of taxes, slavery, a religion of the very basest in which human sacrifices were a common practice. The Roman felt that it must be war to the knife without quarter. In his own interest, and, though he knew it not, in that of the world, there could be nothing short of extermination. "Delenda est Carthago" was the cry. Had he failed, had the piracy of the Semitic combination of Phoenicians and Babylonians won the day against the law and order of the Aryan, it is not too much to say that culture and civilisation would have come to a standstill, and the development of the nineteenth century would have been an impossibility, or at any rate hopelessly retarded. "It is refreshing," writes Chamberlain, "for once to come across an author who, like Bossuet, simply says, 'Carthage was taken and destroyed by Scipio, who herein proved himself worthy of his great ancestor,' without any outburst of moral indignation, without the conventional phrase, 'all the misery that later burst upon Rome was retribution for this crime.''' Caesar rebuilt Carthage, and it became a congeries of all the worst criminals: Romans, Greeks, Vandals, all rotten to the very marrow of their bones. It must have been something like Port Said in the early days some forty years ago, which seemed to be the trysting-place of the world's rascaldom: those who remember it can form some idea of what that second Carthage of Caesar's must have been.

In the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans one sees the hand of Providence. It was largely the act of the Jew himself, the born rebel against State law, or any law save that which he deemed to be his own sacred inheritance. It was immaterial that he had himself petitioned Rome to save him from his own Semitic kings and to take him under her charge. He was a continual thorn in the side of his chosen rulers, and his final subjugation and dispersal became a necessity. Had the Jew remained in Jerusalem, Christianity would have become a mere sect of the Jews. Long before our era the Diaspora had taken place. Originally the Diaspora meant the Jews who, after the Babylonian captivity, refused to go back to Palestine because of the prosperity which they enjoyed in their place of exile. Later it embraced all those Jews who, for various reasons of trade, or convenience, or missionary enterprise, went forth into the world. In Alexandria alone these numbered over one million. The making of proselytes was universal. But wherever they might be, to Jerusalem they looked as to their home. To Jerusalem they sent tribute, in the interests of Jerusalem they worked as one man. The influence of Jerusalem was all-pervading. Even the first Christians, in spite of St. Paul, held to the rites of Judaism; those who did not were branded by St. John as "them of the Synagogue of Satan." In destroying the stronghold of Judaism the Romans, though here again they knew it not, were working for the triumph of Christianity. As it is, much of Judaism pervades our faith. Had Jerusalem stood, the "religious monopoly of the Jews," says Chamberlain, "would have been worse than the trade monopoly of the Phoenicians. Under the leaden pressure of these born dogmatists and fanatics, all freedom of thought and of belief would have vanished from the world: the flat materialistic conception of God would have been our religion, pettifoggery our philosophy. This is no fancy picture, there are too many facts crying aloud: for what is that stiff, narrow-minded, spiritually cramped dogmatising of the Christian Church, such as no Aryan people ever dreamt of; what is that bloodthirsty fanaticism disgracing the centuries down to the nineteenth, that curse of hatred fastening on to the religion of love from the very beginning, from which Greek and Roman, Indian and Chinese, Persian and Teuton, turn with a shudder? What is it if not the shadow of that Temple in which sacrifice was offered to the God of wrath and of revenge, a black shadow cast over the young generation of heroes striving out of the Darkness into the Light?"

With the help of Rome, Europe escaped from the chaos of Asia. The imaginative Greek was ever looking towards Asia -- to him the East called. The practical Roman transferred the centre of gravity of culture to find an eternal home in the West, so that Europe "became the beating heart and the thinking brain of all mankind." The Aryan had mastered the Semite for all time.

It comes somewhat as a surprise to find Rome, the ideal Republic, pointed to as the fountain-head from which the conception of Constitutional Monarchy is drawn. The principle of Roman Law and the Roman State was, as we have seen, that of the rights of the individual and his power to choose representatives. In the course of time when Rome ceased to be Rome, when she fell under the rule of half-breeds from Africa, aliens from Asia Minor, baseborn men from Illyria, not chosen by the people, but elected by the army; when she had ceased even to be the capital of her own Empire; one would have thought that the decay of the Republic would have been the end of all the constitutional principles which it had established. But it was not so. The jurists in the service of Diocletian, an Illyrian shepherd, of Galerius, an Illyrian cowherd, of Maximinus, an Illyrian swineherd, were the men who based the imperial conception upon the theory of the will of the people, upon the same power which had elected the consuls and the other officers of the ancient State. Never before had the world beheld such a phenomenon. "Despots had ruled as direct descendants of the Gods, as in the case of the Egyptians and the Japanese of to-day, or as in Israel as representatives of the Godhead, or again by the Jus Gladii -- the right of the sword." The soldier-emperors who had made themselves masters of the Roman Empire founded their rights as autocrats upon the constitutional law of the Republic. There was no usurpation, only delegation pure and simple. To this we owe the conception of the Sovereign and the Subject.

In the meantime Christianity had become a power; and with it had taken place the abolition of slavery in Europe. Only a Sovereign could abolish slavery -- that we saw in Russia in 1862. The nobles would never have given up their slaves, who were their property, their goods and chattels; far rather would they have made free men into bondsmen. But the establishment of the monarchical principle has been the main pillar of law and order and of that civic freedom from which, as we see, it originally sprang; it is one proof of the great debt of gratitude which Europe owes to ancient Rome, it is not the only one.

It would be an impertinence were I to attempt to discuss Roman Law. The treatment of the subtleties and intricacies of a highly technical subject must be left to those who have made of them a special study. Yet it is impossible to pass over in silence the effect of the great legacy which the world has inherited from Rome. The effect is an historical fact and must be as patent to the layman as to the professed jurist. What Greece did for the higher aesthetic culture, that Rome did for law, good government and statecraft. The one made life beautiful, the other made it secure. As a poet, or as a philosopher, the Roman was insignificant; he had not even an equivalent for either word in his language; he must borrow the name, as he borrowed the idea, from the Greek. But in the practical direction of the life of the individual, of the life of the State, he remains, after more than twenty centuries, the unrivalled master. The pages in which Chamberlain brings into relief the noble qualities of the Roman character are, to my thinking, among the best and most eloquent in his book, and they should be read not without profit in an age which is singularly impatient of discipline. For after listening to Chamberlain we must come away convinced that it was discipline which made the Roman what he was. He learnt to obey that he might learn to command, and so he became the ruler of the world. That his conception of the law has become the model upon which all jurisprudence has been moulded, the State as he founded it being based upon the great principles of reciprocity and self-sacrifice on the one side and of protection of the sanctity of private rights on the other, is a fact which bears lasting testimony to the force of Roman character. There have been great jurists in many nations -- professors learned in the law -- laws have been amplified and changed to meet circumstances; but no single nation has ever raised such a legal monument as that of the Romans, which, according to Professor Leist, is "the everlasting teacher for the civilised world and will so remain."

It is interesting to consider wherein lay the difference between Greek and Roman legislation. How came it, asks Chamberlain, that the Greeks, mentally so incomparably superior to the Romans, were able to achieve nothing lasting, nothing perfect, in the domain of law? The reason he gives is simple enough -- simple and convincing. The Roman started with the principle of the family, and on the basis of the family he raised the structure of State and Law. The Greek, on the contrary, ignored the family, and took the State as his starting-point. Even the law of inheritance was so vague that questions in connection with it were left by Solon to the decision of the Courts. In Rome the position of the Father as King in his own house, the rank assigned to the Wife as house-mistress, the reverential respect for matrimony, these were great principles of which the Greeks knew nothing; but they were the principles upon which the existence of the private man depended, upon which the Res Publica was founded. The Jus Privatum and the Jus Publicum were inseparable, and from them sprang the Jus Gentium, the law of nations. The laws of Solon, of Lycurgus and others have withered and died; but the laws of Rome remain a stately and fruit-bearing tree, under whose wholesome shade the civilisation of Europe has sprung up and flourished.

Few men have approached a great subject in a loftier spirit of reverence than that in which Chamberlain deals with what, to him, as to all of us, is the one great and incomparable event in the whole story of our planet. "No battle, no change of dynasty, no natural phenomenon, no discovery possesses a significance which can be compared with that of the short life upon earth of the Galilean. His birth is, in a sense, the beginning of history. The nations that are not Christian, such as the Chinese, the Turks and others have no history; their story is but a chronicle on the one hand of ruling houses, butcheries and the like, and on the other, represents the dull, humble, almost bestially happy life of millions that sink in the night of time without leaving a trace."

With the dogmas of the Church or Churches, Chamberlain has scant sympathy, and on that account he will doubtless be attacked by swarms as spiteful as wasps and as thoughtless. And yet how thoroughly imbued with the true spirit of Religion, as apart from Churchcraft, is every line that he has written! Christ was no Prophet, as Mahomet dubbed him. He was no Jew. The genealogies of St. Matthew and St. Luke trace to Joseph, but Joseph was not His father. The essence of Christ's significance lies in the fact that in Him God was made man. Christ is God, or rather since, as St. Thomas Aquinas has shown, it is easier to say what God is not than what He is, it is better to invert the words and say God is Christ, and so to avoid explaining what is known by what is not known. Such are but a few ideas of the author culled at random and from memory. But (and here is the stone of offence against which the Churchman will stumble) "it is not the Churches that form the strength of Christianity, but that Fountain from which they themselves draw their power, the vision of the Son of Man upon the Cross."

In two or three masterly pages written with such inspiration that it is difficult to read them without emotion, Chamberlain has drawn a parallel between Christ and Buddha, between the love and life-breathing doctrine of the One and the withering renunciation of the other. Buddha tears from his heart all that is dear to man -- parents, wife, child, love, hope, the religion of his fathers -- all are left behind when he wanders forth alone into the wilderness to live a living suicide and wait for death, an extinction that can only be perfect, in the face of the doctrine of metempsychosis, if it is so spiritually complete that the dread reaper can harvest no seed for a new birth. How different is it with the teaching of Christ, whose death means no selfish, solitary absorption into a Nirvana, a passionless abstraction, but the Birth of the whole world into a new life. Buddha dies that there may be no resurrection. Christ dies that all men may live, that all men may inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. And this Kingdom of Heaven, what is it? Clearly no Nirvana, no sensuous Paradise like that of Mahomet. He gives the answer Himself in a saying which must be authentic, for His hearers could not understand it, much less could they have invented it. The Kingdom of God is within you. "In these sayings of Christ we seem to hear a voice; we know not His exact words but there is an unmistakable, unforgettable tone which strikes our ear and so forces its way to the heart. And then we open our eyes and we see this Form, this Life. Across the centuries we hear the words, Learn from me! and at last we understand what that means: to be as Christ was, to live as Christ lived, to strive as Christ died, that is the Kingdom of Heaven, that is eternal Life."

As I sit writing I can see on a shelf a whole row of books written on Buddhism by eminent scholars and missionaries, comparing its doctrines with those of the Saviour. It is not too much to say that the sum of all the wisdom and learning of that little library of Buddhism is contained in the few paragraphs of which I have given the kernel. Chamberlain in burning words points out how radiant is the doctrine of hope preached by the Saviour -- where is there room for pessimism since the Kingdom of God is within us? -- and he contrasts the teaching of our Lord with the dreary forebodings of the Old Testament, where all is vanity, life is a shadow, we wither like grass. The Jewish writers took as gloomy a view of the world as the Buddhists. But our Lord who went about among the people and loved them, taking part in their joys and in their sorrows -- His was a teaching of love and sympathy, and above all of hope. Christ did not retire into the wilderness to seek death and annihilation. He came out of the wilderness to bring life eternal. Buddha represents the senile decay of a culture that has finished its life; Christ represents the Birth of a new day, of a new civilisation dawning under the sign of the Cross, raised upon the ruins of the old world, a civilisation at which we must work for many a long day before it may be worthy to be called by His name.

Chamberlain is careful to tell us that he does not intend to lift the veil which screens the Holy of Holies of his own belief. But it must be clear from such utterances as those upon which I have drawn above, how noble and how exalted is the conception of Christ and of His teaching which is borne in on the mind of one of the foremost thinkers of our day. He draws his inspiration at the fountainhead. For the dogmas of oecumenical councils, for the superstitions and fables of monks, he has an adequate respect: he preaches Christ and Him crucified: that is to him all-sufficing. Can there be a purer ideal?
Site Admin
Posts: 33203
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, by Houston St

Postby admin » Tue Oct 18, 2016 9:30 pm

Part 2 of 2

It is this same lofty conception which accounts for the contrast which this protestant layman draws between Catholicism and the hierarchy of Rome. For the former he has every sympathy: upon the latter he looks as a hindrance to civilisation and to the essential truths of Religion. How could it be otherwise with an institution which until the year 1822 kept under the ban of the Index every book which should dare to contest the sublime truth that the sun goes round the Earth? The whole Roman system, hierarchical and political, is in direct opposition to the development of Indo-European culture, of which the Germane constitutes the highest expression. The Catholic, on the other hand, when not choked by the mephitic vapours of Roman dogma and Roman imperialism, left free to follow the simple teaching of the cross, and to practise so far as in him lies the example of the Saviour, is worthy of all the respect which is due to the true Christian of whatsoever denomination he may be. He at any rate is no enemy to the Truth.

Very striking are the passages in which Chamberlain points out the ambiguous attitude of our Lord towards Jewish thought and the religion of which His teaching was the antithesis. How he brushed aside the narrow prescriptions of the Law, as for example in the great saying, "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath"; -- and yet how, born in the midst of Jewish ideas and bigotry, the bearer of the new Glad Tidings, the Teacher who was to revolutionise the world, never altogether shook off the old traditions. Chamberlain's argument leads us a step farther. It is impossible not to feel how much more completely St. Paul, a Pharisee after the strictest sect of his religion, cut himself adrift from Judaism. There was no beating about the bush, no hesitation, no searching of the soul. A convert, he at once threw into his new faith all the zeal and energy with which up to that very moment he had persecuted it. He ceased to be a Jew: he became the Apostle to the Gentiles, and bade his followers refuse all "old wives' fables" (1 Tim. iv. 7), while to Titus he says, "rebuke them sharply, not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men, that turn from the truth" (Titus i. 14). Christ's life upon earth was spent among the Jews: it was to them that His "good tidings" were addressed. To touch the hearts of men you must speak to them in a language that they understand. St. Paul, on the other hand, who lived and worked among the Gentiles, was unfettered by any preconceived ideas on the part of his hearers. His doctrine was to them absolutely new, standing on its own foundation, the rock of Christianity -- and yet, as Chamberlain points out in a later part of the book, it was St. Paul, the very man who after his conversion avoided the Jews and separated himself from them as much as he could, who did more than any of the first preachers of Christianity to weld into the new faith the traditions of the Old Testament. In the Epistle to the Romans the fall of man is given as an historical event; our Lord born "from the seed of David according to the flesh" is declared to be the son of God; Israel is the people of God, the good olive-tree into which the branches of the wild olive-tree, the Gentiles may be "graffed." The death of the Messiah is an atoning sacrifice in the Jewish sense, &c. &c., all purely Jewish ideas preached by the man who hated the Jews. When we read these contradictions of the man's self we may say of St. Paul's epistles as St. Peter did, in another sense, "in which are some things hard to be understood."

The influence of Judaism on Indo-European civilisation is a subject upon which the author of the Grundlagen dwells with special stress. He cannot withhold his admiration from the sight of that one small tribe standing out amid the chaos of nationalities, which was the legacy of the fallen Roman Empire, "like a sharply cut rock in the midst of a shapeless sea," maintaining its identity and characteristics in the midst of a fiery vortex where all other peoples were fused into a molten conglomerate destroying all definition. The Jew alone remained unchanged. His belief in Jehovah, his faith in the promises of the prophets, his conviction that to him was to be given the mastery of the world -- these were the articles of his creed, a creed which might be summed up as belief in himself. Obviously to Chamberlain the Jew is the type of pure Race, and pure Race is what he looks upon as the most important factor in shaping the destinies of mankind. Here he joins issue with Buckle, who considered that climate and food have been the chief agents in mental and physical development. Rice as a staple food Buckle held to be the explanation of the special aptitudes of the Indian Aryans. The error is grotesque. As Chamberlain points out, rice is equally the food of the Chinese, of the hard-and-fast materialists who are the very antipodes of the idealist, metaphysical Aryans. In the matter of climate Chamberlain might have brought the same witnesses into court. There are more variations of climate in China than in Europe. The climate of Canton differs as much from that of Peking as from that of St. Petersburg. The Chinaman of the north speaks a different language from that of the south, though the ideographic script is the same: his food is different, the air that he breathes is different: but the racial characteristics remain identical.

Race and purity of blood are what constitute a type, and nowhere has this type been more carefully preserved than among the Jews. I remember once calling upon a distinguished Jewish gentleman. Mr. D'Israeli, as he was then, had just left him. "What did you talk about?" I asked at haphazard. "Oh," said my host, "the usual thing -- the Race." No one was more deeply penetrated with the idea of the noble purity of "the Race" than Lord Beaconsfield. No one believed more fully in the influence of the Jew working alongside of the Indo-European. With what conviction does he insist upon this in Coningsby!

That Race, however, does not drop ready-made from the skies is certain; nature and history show us no single example either among men or beasts of a prominently noble and distinctly individual race which is not the result of a mixture. Once the race established, it must be preserved. The English constitute a Race, and a noble one, though their pedigree shows an infusion of Anglo-Saxon, Danish and Norman bloods. In spite of its history which is its religion, there is proof that at a remote stage of its existence the Jewish race was actually formed of several elements. Its stability, unchanged for thousands of years, is one of the wonders of the world. One rigidly observed law is sufficient for their purpose. The Israelite maiden may wed a Gentile: such an alliance tends not to the degeneracy of the race: but the Jewish man must not marry outside his own nation, the seed of the chosen people of Jehovah must not be contaminated by a foreign alliance. That Chamberlain is a strong Anti-Semite adds to the value of the testimony which he bears to the nobility of the Sephardim, the intensely aristocratic Jews of Spain and Portugal, the descendants of the men whom the Romans, dreading their influence, deported westward. "That is nobility in the fullest sense of the word, genuine nobility of race! Beautiful forms, noble heads, dignity in speech and in deportment.... That out of the midst of such men prophets and psalmists should go forth, that I understood at the first glance -- something which I confess the closest observation of the many hundred 'Bochers' in the Friedrichstrasse in Berlin had failed to enable me to do." To the Ashkenazim, the so-called German Jews, Chamberlain is as it seems to me unjust. That they have played a greater part in the history of the nineteenth century than the Sephardim is hardly to be denied. They are born financiers and the acquisition of money has been their characteristic talent. But of the treasure which they have laid up they have given freely. The charities of the great cities of Europe would be in a sad plight were the support of the Jews to be withdrawn; indeed many noble foundations owe their existence to them. Politically too they have rendered great services: one instance which Chamberlain himself quotes is the settlement of the French indemnity after the war of 1870. Bismarck was represented by a Jew, and the French on their side appointed a Jew to meet him, and these two Jews belonged to the Ashkenazim, not to the noble Sephardim.

Who and what then is the Jew, this wonderful man who during the last hundred years has attained such a position in the whole civilised world?

Of all the histories of the ancient world there is none that is more convincing, none more easily to be realised, than that of the wanderings of the patriarch Abraham. It is a story of four thousand years ago, it is a story of yesterday, it is a story of to-day. A tribe of Bedouin Arabs with their womenkind and children and flocks flitting across the desert from one pasture to another is a sight still commonly seen -- some of us have even found hospitality in the black tents of these pastoral nomads, where the calf and the foal and the child are huddled together as they must have been in Abraham's day. Such a tribe it was that wandered northward from the city of Ur on the fringe of the desert, on the right bank of the Euphrates, northward to Padan Aram at the foot of the Armenian Highlands; six hundred kilometres as the crow flies, fifteen hundred if we allow for the bends of the river and for the seeking of pasture. From Padan Aram the tribe travels westward to Canaan, thence south to Egypt and back again to Canaan. It is possible that the names of the patriarchs may have been used to indicate periods, but, however that may be, these journeys, long in themselves, and complicated by the incumbrances of flocks and herds, occupied a great space in time; there were moreover long halts, residences lasting for centuries in the various countries which were traversed, during which intermarriages took place with the highly civilised peoples with whom the wanderers came in contact.

The Bible story, ethnology, the study of skulls and of racial types, all point to the fact that the Jewish people, the descendants of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, united in themselves the five great qualifications which Chamberlain holds to be necessary for the establishment of a powerful race. First, to start with, a strong stock. This the Jew possessed in his Arab origin. No type, surely, was ever so persistent as that of the Bedouin Arab of the desert, the same to-day as he was thousands of years ago. Secondly, inbreeding. Thirdly, such inbreeding not to be at haphazard but carefully carried out, the best mating only with the best. Fourthly, intermarriage with another race or races. Fifthly, here again careful selection is essential. The Jewish race, built up under all these conditions, was, as we have seen, once formed, kept absolutely pure and uncontaminated. Of what happens where these laws are not observed the mongrels of the South American republics -- notably of Peru -- furnish a striking example.

In the days of the Roman Republic the influence of the Israelite was already felt. It is strange to read of Cicero, who could thunder out his denunciations of a Catiline, dropping his voice in the law courts when of the Jews he spoke with bated breath lest he should incur their displeasure. In the Middle Ages high offices were conferred by Popes upon Jews, and in Catholic Spain they were even made bishops and archbishops. In France the Jews found the money for the Crusades -- Rudolph of Habsburg exempted them from the ordinary laws. In all countries and ages the Jew has been a masterful man. Never was he more powerful than he is to-day. Well may Chamberlain count Judea as the third ancient country which with Greece and Rome has made itself felt in the development of our civilisation. It is not possible within the limits of this brief notice to give an idea of the extraordinary interest of Chamberlain's special chapter upon the Jews and their entry into the history of the West. I have already hinted that with some of his conclusions I do not agree: but I go all lengths with him in his appreciation of the stubborn singleness of purpose and dogged consistency which have made the Jew what he is. The ancient Jew was not a soldier -- foreigners furnished the bodyguard of his king. He was no sailor like his cousins the Phoenicians, indeed he had a horror of the sea. He was no artist -- he had to import craftsmen to build his Temple -- neither was he a farmer, nor a merchant. [1] What was it then that gave him his wonderful self-confidence, his toughness of character, which could overcome every difficulty, and triumph over the hatred of other races? It was his belief in the sacred books of the law, the Thora: his faith in the promises of Jehovah: his certainty of belonging to the chosen people of God. The influence of the books of the Old Testament has been far-reaching indeed, but nowhere has it exercised more power than in the establishing of the character of the Jew. If it means so much to the Christian, what must it not mean to him? It is his religion, the history of his race, and his individual pedigree all in one. Nay! it is more than all that: it is the attesting document of his covenant with his God.

Within the compass of a few pages Chamberlain has performed what amounts to a literary feat: he has made us understand the condition of Europe and of the chief countries of the Mediterranean littoral at the time of the first symptoms of decay in the power of Rome. It was the period of what he calls the "Wilker-chaos," a hurly-burly of nationalities in which Greeks and Romans, Syrians, African mongrels, Armenians, Gauls and Indo-Europeans of many tribes were all jumbled up together -- a seething, heterogeneous conflicting mass of humanity in which all character, individuality, belief and customs were lost. In this witches' Sabbath only the Jew maintained his individuality, only the Teuton preserved the two great characteristics of his race, freedom and faith -- the Jew the witness of the past; the Teuton the power of the future.

They were a wonderful people, these tall men with the fair hair and blue eyes, warriors from their birth, fighting for fighting's sake, tribe against tribe, clan against clan, so that Tiberius, looking upon them as a danger, could think of no better policy than to leave them alone to destroy one another. But the people who held in their hands the fate of mankind were not to be got rid of like so many Kilkenny cats. Their battlesomeness made them a danger to the State -- to a Roman Emperor, ever under the shadow of murder, their trustworthiness made them the one sure source from which he could recruit his bodyguard. But they were not mere fighting machines, though war was to them a joy and a delight. From their Aryan ancestors, from the men to whom the poems of the Rigveda were a holy writ, they had received, instilled in their blood, a passion for song and for music, an imagination which revelled in all that is beautiful, and which loved to soar into the highest realms of thought. And so it came to pass that when in the fulness of time they absorbed the power of Europe, they knew how to make the most of the three great legacies which they had inherited: poetry and art from the Greeks, law and statecraft from the Romans, and, greatest of all, the teaching of Christ. By them, with these helps, was founded the culture of the nineteenth century.

In the descendants of such men it is not surprising to see the union of the practical with the ideal. A Teuton writes The Criticism of Pure Reason. A Teuton invents the steam-engine. "The century of Bessemer and Edison is equally the century of Beethoven and Richard Wagner.... Newton interrupts his mathematical inquiries to write a commentary on the Revelation of St. John. Crompton troubles himself with the invention of the spinning mule, that he may have more leisure to devote to his one love -- music. Bismarck, the statesman of blood and iron, in the critical moments of his life causes the sonatas of Beethoven to be played to him." Whoso does not realise all this, fails to understand the essence of the Teuton character, and is unable to judge of the part which it has played in the past and is still playing in the present.

The Goths, who of course were Teutons, have been, as Gibbon puts it, "injuriously accused of the ruin of antiquity." Their very name has passed into a byword for all that is barbarous and destructive; yet, as a matter of fact, it was Theodosius and his followers who, with the help of the Christian fanatics, destroyed the Capitol and the monuments of ancient art, whereas it was Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, on the contrary, who issued edicts for the preservation of the ancient glories of Rome. Yet "this man could not write; for his signature he had to use a metal stencil.... But that which was beautiful, that which the nobler spirits of the Chaos of Peoples hated as a work of the devil, that the Goth at once knew how to appreciate: to such a degree did the statues of Rome excite his admiration that he appointed a special official for their protection." Who will deny the gift of imagination in the race which produced a Dante (his name Alighieri a corruption of Aldiger, taken from his grandmother who was of a Goth family from Ferrara), a Shakespeare, a Milton, a Goethe, a Schiller, not to speak of many other great and lesser lights? Who will dispute the powers of thought of a Locke, a Newton, a Kant, a Descartes? We have but to look around us in order to see how completely our civilisation and culture are the work of the Germane.

Freedom, above all things Freedom, was the watchword of the Germane -- Dante taking part with the Bianchi against the Neri and Pope Boniface; Wycliffe rebelling against the rule of the Church of Rome; Martin Luther leading a movement which was as much political as it was religious, or even more so; all these were apostles of Freedom. The right to think and to believe, and to live according to our belief, is that upon which the free man insists: our enjoyment of it is the legacy of those great men to us. Without the insistence of the Germane, religious toleration would not exist to-day.

We have seen that Chamberlain takes the year one -- the birth of our Lord -- as the first great starting-point of our civilisation. The second epoch which he signalises as marking a fresh departure is the year 1200. The thirteenth century was a period of great developments. It was a period full of accomplishment and radiant with hope. In Germany the founding and perfecting of the great civic league known as the Hansa, in England the wresting of Magna Charta from King John by the Barons, laid the foundation of personal freedom and security. The great religious movement in which St. Francis of Assisi was the most powerful agent "denied the despotism of the Church as it did the despotism of the State, and annihilated the despotism of wealth." It was the first assertion of freedom to think. Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Albertus Magnus and Roger Bacon were leaders, the first two in philosophical thought, the last two in modern natural science. In poetry, and not in poetry alone but in statecraft, Dante towers above all those of his day; and yet there were many poets, singers whose names are still famous, while at the same time lived Adam de la Halle, the first great master in counterpoint. Among painters we find such names as Niccolo Pisani, Cimabue, Giotto, from whom sprang the new school of art. And while these men were all working each at his own craft, great churches and cathedrals and monuments were springing up, masterpieces of the Gothic architect's skill. Well did the thirteenth century deserve the title given to it by Fiske, "the glorious century." [2]

When we reach these times we stand on fairly firm ground. The details of history, when we think how the battle rages round events which have taken place in our own times [for instance, the order for the heroic mistake of the Balaclava charge, where "some one had blundered"] may not always command respect, but the broad outlines are clear enough. We are no longer concerned with the deciphering of an ambiguous cuneiform inscription. The works of the great men testify, and their witness commands respect.

The second volume of the Grundlagen opens with a chapter entitled "Religion" -- a chapter which leaves upon the mind of the reader a vivid impression of the superstitions and myths which gave birth to the dogmas of the Christian Church in its early years, dogmas the acceptance or rejection of which was decided by the votes of Councils of Bishops, many of whom could neither read nor write. It seems incredible that such sublime questions as those of the nature of the Godhead, the relation of the Father to the Son, Eternal Punishment and others, should have been settled by a majority of votes "like the imposition of taxes by our Parliaments." In the dark ages of Christianity, Judaism, Indian mythology, Egyptian mysteries and magic, were woven into a chequered woof, which was an essential contradiction of the touching simplicity of our Lord's teaching. It was a strange moment in the world's history, and one which lent itself to the welding together of utterly dissimilar elements. In the Chaos of Peoples, all mixed up in the weirdest confusion, the dogma-monger found his opportunity. Judaism, which up to that time had been absolutely confined to the Jews, was clutched at with eagerness by men who were tired of the quibbles, the riddles and the uncertainties of the philosophers. Here was something solid, concrete; a creed which preached facts, not theories, a religion which announced itself as history. In the international hodgepodge, a jumble in which all specific character, all feeling of race or country had been lost, the Asiatic and Egyptian elements of this un-Christian Christianity, this travesty of our Lord's teaching, found ready acceptance. The seed bed was ready and the seed germinated and prospered greatly. In vain did the nobler spirits, the wiser and more holy-minded of the early Fathers raise their voices against gross superstitions borrowed from the mysteries of Isis and of Horus. The Jews and dogma triumphed. The religion of Christ was too pure for the vitiated minds of the Chaos of Peoples, and perhaps dogma was a necessity, a hideous evil, born that good might arise. Men needed a Lord who should speak to them as slaves: they found him in the God of Israel. They needed a discipline, a ruling power; they found it in the Imperial Church of Rome.

Conversion to Christianity was in the days of the Empire far less a question of religious conviction than one of Law arbitrarily enforced for political reasons by autocrats who might or might not be Christians. Aurelian, a heathen, established the authority of the Bishop of Rome at the end of the third century. Theodosius made heresy and heathenism a crime of high treason. Lawyers and civil administrators were made Bishops -- Ambrosius even before he was baptized -- that they might enforce Christianity, as a useful handmaid in government and discipline. As the power of the Empire dwindled, that of the Church grew, until the Caesarism of the Papacy was crystallised in the words of Boniface VIII., "Ego sum Caesar, ego sum Imperator."

In vain did men of genius, as time went on and the temporal claims of the Popes became intolerable, rise in revolt against it. Charlemagne, Dante, St. Francis, all tried to separate Church from State. But the Papacy stood its ground, firm as the Tarpeian Rock, immutable as the Seven Hills themselves. It held to the inheritance which came to it not from St. Peter, the poor fisherman of the Sea of Galilee, but from the Caesars, like whom the Bishops of Rome claimed to be Sovereigns over the world. How much more tolerant the early Popes were in religious matters than in temporal is a point which Chamberlain forcibly brings out: they might bear with compromise in the one; in the other they would not budge an inch. Like the Phoenix in the fable, out of its own ashes the Roman Empire arose in a new form, the Papacy.

It is not possible here to dwell upon our author's contrast between St. Paul and Augustine, that wonderful African product of the Chaos, in whom the sublime and the ridiculous went hand in hand, who believed in the heathen Gods and Goddesses as evil spirits, who took Apuleius and his transformation into an ass seriously, to whom witches and sorcerers, and a dozen other childish fancies of the brain, were realities. We must leave equally untouched his interesting sketches of Charlemagne and Dante and their efforts at Reformation. His main object in this chapter is to show the position of the Church at the beginning of the thirteenth century. The Papacy was in its glory. Its doctrines, its dogmas and its temporal supremacy had been enforced -- politically it stood upon a pinnacle. The proudest title of the Caesars had been that of Pontifex Maximus. The Pontifex Maximus was now Caesar.

And the present position -- what of to-day? The Church of Rome is as solid as ever it was. The Reformation achieved much politically. It achieved freedom. But as the parent of a new and consistent religion, Protestantism has been a failure. Picking and choosing, accepting and rejecting, it has cast aside some of the dogmas of the early days of the Chaos, but it remains a motley crowd of sects without discipline, all hostile to one another, all more or less saturated with the tenets of the very Church against which they rebelled. Rome alone remains consistent in its dogmas, as in its claims, and, purged by the Reformation of certain incongruous and irreconcilable elements, has in religion rather gained than lost strength. It is easy to see what difficulties the lack of unity creates for Protestant missionaries. Church men, Chapel men, Calvinists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists and Heaven knows how many more, all pulling against one another! and the Roman Catholic Church against them all! The religion of Christ as He taught it absolutely nowhere! Small wonder that the heathen should grin and be puzzled.

The building up of the ideal State as we know it to-day was the result of two mighty struggles which raged during the first twelve centuries of our era. The first, as we have seen, was the fight for power between the Caesars and the Popes for the Empire of the world in which now one, now the other, had the upper hand. The second was the struggle between "Universalism" and "Nationalism," that is to say, between the idea on the one hand of a boundless Empire, whether under Caesar or Pope, and on the other a spirit of nationality within sure bounds, and a stubborn determination to be free from either potentate, which ended in the organisation of independent States and the triumph of the Teuton. His rise meant the dawn of a new culture, not as we are bidden to remember a Renaissance in the sense of the calling back into life of a dead past, but a new birth into freedom, a new birth in which the cramping shackles, the levelling influences of the Imperium Romanum, of the Civitas Dei, were cast aside -- in which at last, after long centuries of slavery, men might live, thinking and working and striving according to their impulses, believing according to the faith that was in them.

Independent statecraft then, as opposed to the all-absorbing Imperium, was the work of the rebellious Teuton, the poet warrior, the thinker, the free man. It was a mighty victory, yet one in which defeat has never been acknowledged. From his prison in the Vatican the Pope continues to issue Bulls and Briefs hurling defiance at the world and at common sense; new saints are canonised, new dogmas proclaimed by oecumenical councils summoned from all parts of the inhabited world; and there are good men and, in many respects, wise men, who bow their heads and tremble. No one can say that the Papacy, though shorn of its earthly dominions, is not still a Power to be reckoned with: its consistency commands respect; but the Civitas Dei is a thing of the past: it is no more than a dream in the night, from which a weary old man wakens to find its sole remnant in the barren semblance of a mediaeval court, and the man-millinery of an out-of-date ceremonial. Truly a pathetic figure!

A new world has arisen. The thirteenth century was the turning-point. The building is even now not ended. But the Teuton was at work everywhere, and the foundations were well and truly laid. In Italy, north and south, the land was overrun with men of Indo-European race -- Goths, Lombards, Norsemen, Celts. It was to them that was owing the formation of the municipalities and cities which still remain as witnesses of their labour. It was their descendants, certainly not the hybrids of the Chaos, that worked out the so-called "Renaissance," and when owing to the internecine feuds and petty wars, as well as to the too frequent intermixture with the hybrids, the Teuton element became weaker and weaker, the glory of Italy waned likewise. Happily for the world the race was maintained in greater purity elsewhere.

The leitmotiv which runs through the whole book is the assertion of the superiority of the Teuton family to all the other races of the world -- and more especially, as we have seen, is this shown by the way in which the Germane threw off the shackles with which, under the guise of religion, the Papacy strove to fetter him. It is interesting to consider how Immanuel Kant, the greatest thinker that ever lived, treated this subject. He, the man who was so deeply penetrated with religious feeling that he held it to be "the duty of man to himself to have religion," saw in the teaching of Christ a "perfect religion." His demand was for a religion which should be one in spirit and in truth, and for the belief in a God "whose kingdom is not of this world." He by no means rejected the Bible, but he held that its value lay not so much in that which we read in it, as in that which we read into it, nor is he the enemy of Churches, "of which there may be many good forms." But with superstition and dogma he will have no dealings. Nor is this to be wondered at when we consider how, by whom, and for what purpose dogmas, as we have seen above, were manufactured, and what manner of men they were who degraded the early Church with their superstitions. In the mass of ignorant monks and bishops who were the so-called "Fathers of the Church" there are brilliant exceptions. Perhaps the greatest of these was St. Augustine. He was a good and a holy man, but even his great brain, as we have seen, was saturated with Hellenic mythology, Egyptian magic and witchcraft, Neoplatonism, Judaism, Romish dogmatism. If we cite him as an irrefutable authority on a point of dogma, we should, to be consistent, go a step farther, and equally hold him as irrefutable when he inclines to a belief in Apuleius and his ass, and in his views as to Jupiter, Juno and the theocracy of Olympus. Religious dogmas, superstitions, so bred, could not be accepted by a man of Kant's intellect. They were noxious weeds to be rooted up and swept out of existence. Christ's teaching being, as he held it to be, perfect, could only be degraded by being loaded with heathen fables and tawdry inanities. It was the scum of the people who invented superstitions, the belief in witches and demons: it was the priestcraft who welded those false doctrines into the semblance of a religion to which they gave Christ's name. [3]

Kant said of himself that he was born too soon; that a century must elapse before his day should come. "The morning has dawned," as Chamberlain says in another book, [4] and "it is no mere chance that the first complete and exact edition of Kant's collected works and letters should have begun to appear for the first time in the year 1900; the new century needed this strong guardian spirit, who thought himself justified in saying of his system of philosophy that it worked a revolution in the scheme of thought analogous to that of the Copernican system. There are to-day a few who know, and many who suspect, that this scheme of philosophy must form a pillar of the culture of the future. For every cultivated and civilised man Kant's thought possesses a symbolical significance; it wards off the two opposite dangers -- the dogmatism of the Priests and the superstition of science -- and it strengthens us in the devoted fulfilment of the duties of life." Now that thought is less cramped and Kant is beginning to be understood, the true religiosity of his august nature is surely being recognised, and the last charge that will be brought against him will be that of irreligion. If he destroyed, he also built; he was not one of those teachers who rob a man of what he possesses without giving anything in exchange. He completed the work which Martin Luther had begun. Luther was too much of a politician and too little of a theologian for his task; moreover he never was able altogether to throw off the monk's cowl. To the last he believed in the Real Presence in the Sacrament, and hardly knew what dogmas he should accept and what he should reject. Kant was the master who taught Christianity in all its beauty of simplicity. The kingdom of God is in you! There was no cowl to smother Kant.

The foundation-stone of the nineteenth century was laid by Christ himself. For many centuries after His death upon the Cross, ignorant men, barbarians, under the cloak of religion, were at pains to hide that stone in an overwhelming heap of rubbish. Kant laid it bare, and revealed it to the world: his reward was the execration of men who were not worthy to unloose the latchet of his shoes: but the tables are turned now. His morning has indeed dawned, and the twentieth century is recognising the true worth of the man who, more than any other, has influenced the thought of the educated world. Goethe, indeed, said of Kant that he had so penetrated the minds of men that even those who had not read him were under his influence.

The last section of Chamberlain's ninth chapter is devoted to Art. He has kept one of his most fascinating subjects for the end. And who is better qualified to write upon it than he? Here is not the conventional aspect of Art contained in the technical dictionaries and encyclopredias, "in which the last judgment of Michael Angelo, or a portrait of Rembrandt by himself, are to be seen cheek by jowl with the lid of a beer-mug or the back of an arm-chair." Art is here treated as the great creative Power, a Kingdom of which Poetry and Music, twin sisters, inseparable, are the enthroned Queens. To Chamberlain, as it was to Carlyle, the idea of divorcing Poetry from Music is inconceivable. "Music," wrote Carlyle, "is well said to be the speech of angels; in fact nothing among the utterances allowed to man is felt to be so divine. It brings us near to the Infinite." "I give Dante my highest praise when I say of his Divine Comedy that it is in all senses genuinely a song." Again: "All old Poems, Homer's and the rest, are authentically songs. I would say in strictness, that all right Poems are; that whatsoever is not sung is properly no Poem, but a piece of Prose cramped into jingling lines, to the great injury of the grammar, to the great grief of the reader for the most part!" so spoke Carlyle, and so speaks Chamberlain, with the masterly competence of a man who as critic and disciple, for he is both, has sat at the feet of the great Tone-Poet of our times. [5]

The hurry and bustle of this fussy age have largely robbed us of true enthusiasm, for which men substitute catchwords and commonplaces. All the more delight is there in meeting it in such sayings as this, coming straight from the heart of a man who is never in a hurry, whose convictions are the result of measured thought. "A Leonardo gives us the form of Christ, a Johann Sebastian Bach his voice, even now present to us." The influence of Religion upon Art, and in reflex action, that of Art upon Religion has never been better shown than in these words. Religion inspired the artists, furnished them with their subject; the artists, so inspired, have touched the hearts of thousands, infusing them with some perception, some share of their own inspiration.

Who can say how many minds have been turned to piety by the frescoes of Cimabue and Giotto picturing the life of St. Francis at Assisi? Who can doubt the influence of the Saint upon the painters of the early Italian school? Who has not felt the religious influence of the architect, the painter, the sculptor? Two great principles are laid down for us by Chamberlain in regard to Art. First: Art must be regarded as a whole: as a "pulsing blood- system of the higher spiritual life." Secondly: all Art is subordinated to poetry. But not that which has been written is alone poetry: the creative power of poetry is widespread. As Richard Wagner said, "the true inventor has ever been the people. The individual cannot invent, he can only make his own that which has been invented." This I take it is the true spirit of folk-lore. If you think of it, the epic of Homer, the "mystic unfathomable song," as Tieck called it, of Dante, the wonders of Shakespeare, all prove the truth of Wagner's saying. The matter is there: then comes the magician: he touches it with his wand, and it lives! That is true creative art, the art which in its turn inspires, fathering all that is greatest and noblest in the world. It is the art upon which the culture of the nineteenth century has been founded and built.

Rich indeed have been the gifts which have been showered upon mankind between the thirteenth and the nineteenth centuries. New worlds have been discovered, new forces in nature revealed. Paper has been introduced, printing invented. In political economy, in politics, in religion, in natural science and dynamics there have been great upheavals all paving the way for that further progress for which we are apt to take too much credit to ourselves, giving too little to those glorious pioneers who preceded us, to the true founders of the century.

I have endeavoured to give some idea of the scope of Chamberlain's great work. I am very sensible of my inadequacy to the task, but it was his wish that I should undertake it, and I could not refuse. I console myself with the thought that even had I been far better fitted for it, I could not within the limits of these few pages have given a satisfying account of a book which embraces so many and so various subjects, many of which I had of necessity to leave untouched. Indeed, I feel appalled at the range of reading which its production must have involved; but as to that the book is its own best witness. We are led to hope that some day the history of the Foundations of the Nineteenth Century may be followed by an equally fascinating analysis of the century itself from the same pen. It will be the fitting crown of a colossal undertaking. It may be doubted whether there is any other man equipped as Chamberlain is to erect such a monument in honour of a great epoch. To few men has been given in so bountiful a measure the power of seeing, of sifting the true from the false, the essential from the insignificant; comparison is the soul of observation, and the wide horizon of Chamberlain's outlook furnishes him with standards of comparison which are denied to those of shorter sight: his peculiar and cosmopolitan education, his long researches in natural history, his sympathy and intimate relations with all that has been noblest in the world of art -- especially in its most divine expression, poetry and music -- point to him as the one man above all others worthy to tell the further tale of a culture of which he has so well portrayed the non-age, and which is still struggling heavenward. But in addition to these qualifications he possesses, in a style which is wholly his own, the indescribable gift of charm, so that the pupil is unwittingly drawn into a close union with the teacher, in whom he sees an example of the truth of Goethe's words, which Chamberlain himself more than once quotes:

Hochstes Gluck der Erdenkinder
Ist nur die Personlichkeit.
[Only the personality is the highest happiness of the children of earth.]—
January 8, 1909

NOTE. This introduction was in print before the writer had seen Dr. Lees' translation. There may, therefore, be some slight discrepancies in the passages quoted.



1. It was a common creed of the days of my youth that all the great musical composers were of Jewish extraction. The bubble has long since been pricked. Joachim, who was a Jew, and as proud of his nationality as Lord Beaconsfield himself, once expressed to Sir Charles Stanford his sorrow at the fact that there should never have been a Jewish composer of the first rank. Mendelssohn was the nearest approach to it, and after him, Meyerbear. But in those days Mendelssohn, in spite of all his charm, is no longer counted in the first rank. Some people have thought that Brahms was a Jew, that his name was a corruption of Abrahams. But this is false. Brahms came of a Silesian family, and in the Silesian dialect Brahms means a reed. (See an Interesting paper in Truth of January 13, 1909). In poetry, on the other hand, the Jew excelled. The Psalms, parts of Isaiah, the sweet idyll of Ruth are above praise. The Book of Job is extolled by Carlyle as the finest of all poems, and according to Chamberlain poetry is the finest of all arts. In the plastic arts, as in music, the Jew has been barren.

2. It is strange to see how great tidal waves of intellectual and creative power from time to time flood the world. Take as another example the sixteenth century, the era of the artistic revival in Italy, of the heroes of the Reformation. What a galaxy of genius is there. To cite only a few names; Ariosto, Tasso, Camoens. Magellan, Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, St. Francis Xavier, St. Ignatius Loyola, Rabelais, Shakespeare, Bacon. The best works of Indian art are produced under the reign of the Moghul Akbar, Damascus turns out its finest blades; the tiles of Persia, and the porcelain of China under the Ming Dynasty, reach their highest perfection; while in far Japan Miyochin, her greatest artist in metal, is working at the same time as Benvenuto Cellini in Florence and Rome. Such epidemics of genius as those of the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries are mysteries indeed. This, however is but an aside, though as I think one worthy of note.

3. The Christian religion, I would point out here, is not the only one which has suffered in this way. Nothing can be simpler, nothing purer in its way than Buddhism as the Buddha taught it. Yet see what the monks have made of it! The parallel is striking.

4. Immanuel Kant, by Chamberlain. Bruckmann, Munich, 1905, The book which Chamberlain tells me that he himself considers the "most important" of his works. It is published in German.

5. It is curious to note that of the three greatest English poets of our day, Tennyson, whose songs are music itself, knew no tune, Swinburne, whose magic verses read with the lilt of a lovely melody, had not the gift of Ear, while Browning, the rugged thinker, the most unvocal of poets, never missed an opportunity of listening to music in its most exalted form.
Site Admin
Posts: 33203
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, by Houston St

Postby admin » Tue Oct 18, 2016 9:31 pm


THE translator desires to express his great obligation to Miss Elizabeth A. J. Weir, M.A., for reading through the manuscript; to his colleagues, Dr. Schlapp of Edinburgh, Dr. Scholle of Aberdeen, and Dr. Smith of Glasgow, for correcting portions of the proof; and above all to Lord Redesdale for his brilliant and illuminating introduction. Apart, however, from this, it is only just to say that Lord Redesdale has carefully read and re-read every page and revised many important passages.

The publisher wishes to associate himself with the translator in making this entirely inadequate acknowledgment to Lord Redesdale for the invaluable assistance that he has so generously rendered.
Site Admin
Posts: 33203
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, by Houston St

Postby admin » Tue Oct 18, 2016 9:37 pm

Part 1 of 2


Alles beruht auf Inhalt, Gehalt und Tuchtigkeit eines zuerst aufgestellten Grundsatzes und auf der Reinheit des Vorsatzes. [Google translate: Everything is based on content, content, and fitness of a first principle established and the purity of intent.]


THE work of which this is the first Book is one that is not to be made up of fragments patched together, but one that has been conceived and planned out from the beginning as a complete and finished whole. The object, therefore, of this general introduction must be to give an idea, of the scheme of the whole work when it shall have been brought to an end. It is true that this first book is, in form, complete in itself; yet it would not be what it is if it had not come into existence as a part of a greater conception. It is this greater conception that must be the subject of the preface to the "part which, in the first instance, is the whole."

There is no need to dwell in detail upon the limitations which the individual must admit, when he stands face to face with an immeasurable world of facts. The mastery of such a task, scientifically, is impossible; it is only artistic power, aided by those secret parallels which exist between the world of vision and of thought, by that tissue which -- like ether -- fills and connects the whole world, that can, if fortune is favourable, produce a unity here which is complete, and that, too, though only fragments be employed to make it. If the artist does succeed in this, then his work has not been superfluous: the immeasurable has been brought within the scope of vision, the shapeless has acquired a form. In such a task the individual has an advantage over a combination of men, however capable they may be, for a homogeneous whole can be the work only of an individual mind. But he must know how to turn this advantage to good account, for it is his only one. Art appears only as a whole, as something perfect in itself; science, on the other hand, is bound to be fragmentary. Art unites and science disconnects. Art gives form to things, science dissects forms. The man of science stands on an Archimedean point outside the world: therein lies his greatness, his so-called objectivity; but this very fact is also the cause of his manifest insufficiency; for no sooner does he leave the sphere of actual observation, to reduce the manifoldness of experience to the unity of conception and idea, than he finds himself hanging by the thin thread of abstraction in empty space. The artist, on the contrary, stands at the world's centre (that is, at the centre of his own world), and his creative power takes him as far as his senses can reach; for this creative power is but the manifestation of the individual mind acting and reacting upon its surroundings. But for that reason also he cannot be reproached for his "subjectivity": that is the fundamental condition of his creative work. In the case before us the subject has definite historical boundaries and is immutably fixed for ever. Untruth would be ridiculous, caprice unbearable; the author cannot say, like Michael Angelo, "Into this stone there comes nothing but what I put there":

in pietra od in candido foglio
che nulla ha dentro, et evvi ci ch'io voglio!

On the contrary, unconditional respect for facts must be his guiding star. He must be artist, not in the sense of the creative genius, but only in the limited sense of one who employs the methods of the artist. He should give shape, but only to that which is already there, not to that which his fancy may mirror. Philosophical history is a desert; fanciful history an idiot asylum. We must therefore demand that the artistic designer should have a positive tendency of mind and a strictly scientific conscience. Before he reasons, he must know: before he gives shape to a thing, he must test it. He cannot look upon himself as master, he is but a servant, the servant of truth.

These remarks will probably suffice to give the reader some notion of the general principles which have been followed in planning this work. We must leave the airy heights of philosophic speculation and descend to the earth. If in such undertakings the moulding and shaping of the materials at hand is the only task which the individual can entrust to himself, how is he to set about it in the present case?

The Nineteenth Century! It seems an inexhaustible theme, and so it really is; and yet it is only by including more that it becomes comprehensible and possible of achievement. This appears paradoxical, but it is nevertheless true. As soon as our gaze rests long and lovingly upon the past, out of which the present age developed amid so much suffering, as soon as the great fundamental facts of history are brought vividly home to us and rouse in our hearts violent and conflicting emotions with regard to the present, fear and hope, loathing and enthusiasm, all pointing to a future which it must be our work to shape, towards which too we must henceforth look with longing and impatience -- then the great immeasurable nineteenth century shrivels up to relatively insignificant dimensions; we have no time to linger over details, we wish to keep nothing but the important features vividly and clearly before our minds, in order that we may know who we are and whither we are tending. This gives a definite aim with a fair prospect of attaining it: the individual can venture now to begin the undertaking. The lines of his work are so clearly traced for him that he only requires to follow them faithfully.

The following is the outline of my work. In the "Foundations" I discuss the first eighteen centuries of the Christian era with frequent reference to times more remote; I do not profess to give a history of the past, but merely of that past which is still living; as a matter of fact this involves so much, and an accurate and critical knowledge of it is so indispensable to everyone who wishes to form an estimate of the present, that I am inclined to regard the study of the "Foundations" of the nineteenth century as almost the most important part of the whole undertaking. A second book would be devoted to this century itself: naturally only the leading ideas could be treated in such a work, and the task of doing so would be very much lightened and simplified by the "Foundations," in which our attention had been continually directed to the nineteenth century. A supplement might serve to form an approximate idea of the importance of the century; that can only be done by comparing it with the past, and here the "Foundations" would have prepared the ground; by this procedure, moreover, we should be able to foreshadow the future -- no capricious and fanciful picture, but a shadow cast by the present in the light of the past. Then at last the century would stand out before our eyes clearly shaped and defined -- not in the form of a chronicle or an encyclopaedia, but as a living "corporeal" thing.

So much for the general outline. But as I do not wish it to remain as shadowy as the future, I shall give some more detailed information concerning the execution of my plan. As regards the results at which I arrive, I do not feel called upon to anticipate them here, as they can only carry conviction after consideration of all the arguments which I shall have to bring forward in their support.


In this first book it has been my task to endeavour to reveal the bases upon which the nineteenth century rests; this seemed to me, as I have said, the most difficult and important part of the whole scheme; for the reason I have devoted two volumes to it. In the sphere of history understanding means seeing the evolution of the present from the past; even when we are face to face with a fact which cannot be explained further, as happens in the case of every pre-eminent personality and every nation of strong individuality at its first appearance on the stage of history, we see that these are linked with the past, and it is from this point of connection that we must start, if we wish to form a correct estimate of their significance. If we draw an imaginary line separating the nineteenth from all preceding centuries, we destroy at one stroke all possibility of understanding it critically. The nineteenth century is not the child of the former ages -- for a child begins life afresh -- rather it is their direct product; mathematically considered, a sum; physiologically, a stage of life. We have inherited a certain amount of knowledge, accomplishments, thoughts, &c., we have further inherited a definite distribution of economic forces, we have inherited errors and truths, conceptions, ideals, superstitions: many of these things have grown so familiar that any other conditions would be inconceivable; many which promised well have become stunted, many have shot up so suddenly that they have almost broken their connection with the aggregate life, and while the roots of these new flowers reach down to forgotten generations, their fantastic blossoms are taken for something absolutely new. Above all we have inherited the blood and the body by which and in which we live.

Whoever takes the admonition "Know thyself" seriously will soon recognise that at least nine-tenths of this "self" do not really belong to himself. And this is true also of the spirit of a century. The preeminent individual, who is able to realise his physical position in the universe and to analyse his intellectual inheritance, can attain to a relative freedom; he then becomes at least conscious of his own conditional position, and though he cannot transform himself, he can at least exercise some influence upon the course of further development; a whole century, on the other hand, hurries unconsciously on as fate impels it: its human equipment is the fruit of departed generations, its intellectual treasure -- corn and chaff, gold, silver, ore and clay -- is inherited, its tendencies and deviations result with mathematical necessity from movements that have gone before. Not only, therefore, is it impossible to compare or to determine the characteristic features, the special attributes and the achievements of our century, without knowledge of the past, but we are not even able to make any precise statement about it, if we have not first of all become clear with regard to the material of which we are physically and intellectually composed. This is, I repeat, the most important problem.


My object in this book being to connect the present with the past, I have been compelled to sketch in outline the history of that past. But, inasmuch as my history has to deal with the present, that is to say, with a period of time which has no fixed limit, there is no case for a strictly defined beginning. The nineteenth century points onward into the future, it points also back into the past: in both cases a limitation is allowable only for the sake of convenience, it does not lie in the facts. In general I have regarded the year 1 of the Christian era as the beginning of our history and have given a fuller justification of this view in the introduction to the first part: but it will be seen that I have not kept slavishly to this scheme. Should we ever become true Christians, then certainly that which is here merely suggested, without being worked out, would become an historical actuality, for it would mean the birth of a new race: perhaps the twenty-fourth century, into which, roughly speaking, the nineteenth throws faint shadows, will be able to draw more definite outlines. Compelled as I have been to let the beginning and the end merge into an undefined penumbra, a clearly drawn middle line becomes all the more indispensable to me, and as a date chosen at random could not be satisfactory in this case, the important thing has been to fix the turning-point of the history of Europe. The awakening of the Teutonic peoples to the consciousness of their all-important vocation as the founders of a completely new civilisation and culture forms this turning-point; the year 1200 can be designated the central moment of this awakening.

Scarcely anyone will have the hardihood to deny that the inhabitants of Northern Europe have become the makers of the world's history. At no time indeed have they stood alone, either in the past or in the present; on the contrary, from the very beginning their individuality has developed in conflict with other individualities, first of all in conflict with that human chaos composed of the ruins of fallen Rome, then with all the races of the world in turn; others, too, have exercised influence -- indeed great influence -- upon the destinies of mankind, but then always merely as opponents of the men from the north. What was fought out sword in hand was of but little account; the real struggle, as I have attempted to show in chaps. vii. and viii. of this work, was one of ideas; this struggle still goes on to-day. If, however, the Teutons were not the only peoples who moulded the world's history, they unquestionably deserve the first place: all those who from the sixth century onwards appear as genuine shapers of the destinies of mankind, whether as builders of States or as discoverers of new thoughts and of original art, belong to the Teutonic race. The impulse given by the Arabs is short-lived; the Mongolians destroy, but do not create anything; the great Italians of the rinascimento were all born either in the north saturated with Lombardic, Gothic and Frankish blood, or in the extreme Germano-Hellenic south; in Spain it was the Western Goths who formed the element of life; the Jews are working out their "Renaissance" of to-day by following in every sphere as closely as possible the example of the Teutonic peoples. From the moment the Teuton awakes, a new world begins to open out, a world which of course we shall not be able to call purely Teutonic -- one in which, in the nineteenth century especially, there have appeared new elements, or at least elements which formerly had a lesser share in the process of development, as, for example, the Jews and the formerly pure Teutonic Slavs, who by mixture of blood have now become "un-Teutonised" -- a world which will yet perhaps assimilate great racial complexes and so lay itself open to new influences from all the different types, but at any rate a new world and a new civilisation, essentially different from the Helleno-Roman, the Turanian, the Egyptian, the Chinese and all other former or contemporaneous ones. As the "beginning" of this new civilisation, that is, as the moment when it began to leave its peculiar impress on the world, we can, I think, fix the thirteenth century. Individuals such as Alfred the Great, Charlemagne, Scotus Erigena and others had long ago proved their Teutonic individuality by their civilising activity. It is, however, not individuals, but communities, that make history; these individuals had been only pioneers. In order to become a civilising power the Teuton had to awaken and grow strong in the exercise far and wide of his individual will in opposition to the will of others forced upon him from outside. This did not take place all at once, neither did it happen at the same time in all the spheres of life; the choice of the year 1200 as turning-point is therefore arbitrary, but I hope, in what follows, to be able to justify it, and my purpose will be gained if I in this way succeed in doing away with those two absurdities -- the idea of Middle Ages and that of a Renaissance -- by which more than by anything else an understanding of our present age is not only obscured, but rendered directly impossible.

Abandoning these formulae which have but served to give rise to endless errors, we are left with the simple and clear view that our whole civilisation and culture of to-day is the work of one definite race of men, the Teutonic. [1] It is untrue that the Teutonic barbarian conjured up the so-called "Night of the Middle Ages"; this night followed rather upon the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the raceless chaos of humanity which the dying Roman Empire had nurtured; but for the Teuton everlasting night would have settled upon the world; but for the unceasing opposition of the non-Teutonic peoples, but for that unrelenting hostility to everything Teutonic which has not yet died down among the racial chaos which has never been exterminated, we should have reached a stage of culture quite different from that witnessed by the nineteenth century. It is equally untrue that our culture is a renaissance of the Hellenic and the Roman: it was only after the birth of the Teutonic peoples that the renaissance of past achievements was possible and not vice versa; and this rinascimento, to which we are beyond doubt eternally indebted for the enriching of our life, retarded nevertheless just as much as it promoted, and threw us for a long time out of our safe course. The mightiest creators of that epoch -- a Shakespeare, a Michael Angelo -- do not know a word of Greek or Latin. Economic advance -- the basis of our civilisation -- takes place in opposition to classical traditions and in a bloody struggle against false imperial doctrines. But the greatest mistake of all is the assumption that our civilisation and culture are but the expression of a general progress of mankind; not a single fact in history supports this popular belief (as I think I have conclusively proved in the ninth chapter of this book); and in the meantime this empty phrase strikes us blind, and we lose sight of the self-evident fact -- that our civilisation and culture, as in every previous and every other contemporary case, are the work of a definite, individual racial type, a type possessing, like everything individual, great gifts but also insurmountable limitations. And so our thoughts float around in limitless space, in a hypothetical "humanity," and we pass by unnoticed that which is concretely presented and which alone effects anything in history, the definite individuality. Hence the obscurity of our historical groupings. For if we draw one line through the year 500, and a second through the year 1500, and call these thousand years the Middle Ages, we have not dissected the organic body of history as a skilled anatomist, but hacked it in two like a butcher. The capture of Rome by Odoacer and by Dietrich of Berne are only episodes in that entry of the Teutonic peoples into the history of the world, which went on for a thousand years: the decisive thing, namely, the idea of the unnational world-empire, far from receiving its death-blow thereby, for a long time drew new life from the intervention of the Teutonic races. While, therefore, the year 1 -- the (approximate) date of the birth of Christ -- is a date which is ever memorable in the history of mankind and even in the mere annals of events, the year 500 has no importance whatever. Still worse is the year 1500, for if we draw a line through it we draw it right through the middle of all conscious and unconscious efforts and developments -- economic, political, artistic, scientific -- which enrich our lives to-day and are moving onward to a still distant goal. If, however, we insist on retaining the idea of "Middle Ages" there is an easy way out of the difficulty: it will suffice if we recognise that we Teutons ourselves, together with our proud nineteenth century, are floundering in what the old historians used to call a "Middle Age" -- a genuine "Middle Age." For the predominance of the Provisional and the Transitional, the almost total absence of the Definite, the Complete and the Balanced, are marks of our time; we are in the "midst" of a development, already far from the starting-point and presumably still far from the goal.

What has been said may in the meantime justify the rejection of other divisions; the conviction that I have not chosen arbitrarily, but have sought to recognise the one great fundamental fact of all modern history, will be established by the study of the whole work. Yet I cannot refrain from briefly adducing some reasons to account for my choice of the year 1200 as a convenient central date.


If we ask ourselves when it is that we have the first sure indications that something new is coming into being, a new form of the world in place of the old shattered ruin, and of the prevailing chaos, we must admit that they are already to be met with in many places in the twelfth century (in Northern Italy even in the eleventh), they multiply rapidly in the thirteenth -- the glorious century, as Fiske calls it -- attain to a glorious early full bloom in the social and industrial centres in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, in art in the fifteenth and sixteenth, in science in the sixteenth and seventeenth, and in philosophy in the seventeenth and eighteenth. This movement does not advance in a straight line; in State and Church fundamental principles are at war with each other, and in the other spheres of life there is far too little consciousness to prevent men from ever and anon straying from the right path; but the all-important question we have to ask ourselves is, whether it is only interests that clash, or whether ideals, suggested by a definite individuality, are floating before the eyes of men; these ideals we do possess approximately since the thirteenth century; but we have not yet attained them, they are floating before us in the distance, and to this fact is due the feeling that we are still very deficient in the moral equilibrium and the aesthetic harmony of the ancients, but it is at the same time the basis of our hope for better things. When we glance backwards we are indeed entitled to cherish high hopes. And, I repeat, if when looking back we try to discover when the first shimmer of those rays of hope can be clearly seen, we find the time to be about the year 1200. In Italy the movement to found cities had begun in the eleventh century, that movement which aimed at the same time at the furtherance of trade and industry and the granting of far-reaching rights of freedom to whole classes of the population, which had hitherto pined under the double yoke of Church and State; in the twelfth century this strengthening of the core of the European population had become so widely spread and intensified that at the beginning of the thirteenth century the powerful Hansa and the Rhenish Alliance of Cities could be formed. Concerning this movement Ranke writes (Weltgeschichte, iv. 238): "It is a splendid, vigorous development, which is thus initiated ... the cities constitute a world power, paving the way for civic liberty and the formation of powerful States." Even before the final founding of the Hansa, the Magna Charta had been proclaimed in England, in the year 1215, a solemn proclamation of the inviolability of the great principle of personal freedom and personal security. "No one may be condemned except in accordance with the laws of the land. Right and justice may not be bought nor refused." In some countries of Europe this first guarantee for the dignity of man has not to this day become law; but since that June 15, 1215, a general law of conscience has gradually grown out of it, and whoever runs counter to this is a criminal, even though he wear a crown. I may mention another important point in which Teutonic civilisation showed itself essentially different from all others: in the course of the thirteenth century slavery and the slave trade disappeared from European countries (with the exception of Spain). In the thirteenth century money begins to take the place of natural products in buying and selling; almost exactly in the year 1200 we see in Europe the first manufacture of paper -- without doubt the most momentous industrial achievement till the invention of the locomotive. It would, however, be erroneous to regard the advance of trade and the stirring of instincts of freedom as the only indications of the dawn of a new day. Perhaps the great movement of religious feeling, the most powerful representative of which was Francis of Assisi (b. 1182) is a factor of deeper and more lasting influence; in it a genuinely democratic impulse makes itself apparent; the faith and life of men like Francis call in question the tyranny of Church as of State, and deal a death-blow to the despotism of money. "This movement," one of the authorities [2] on Francis of Assisi writes, "gives men the first forewarning of universal freedom of thought." At the same moment the avowedly anti-Catholic movement, that of the Albigenses, came into dangerous prominence in Western Europe. In another sphere of religious life some equally important steps were taken at the same time: after Peter Abelard (d. 1142) had unconsciously defended the Indo-European conception of religion against the Semitic, especially by emphasising the symbolic character of all religious ideas, two orthodox schoolmen, Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus, made in the thirteenth century an admission which was just as dangerous for the church dogma by conceding, in agreement with each other (though they were otherwise opponents), the right of existence to a philosophy which differed from theology. And while theoretical thinking here began to assert itself, other scholars, among whom Albertus Magnus (b. 1193) and Roger Bacon (b. 1214) are especially conspicuous, laid the foundations of modern natural science by turning the attention of men from logical disputes to mathematics, physics, astronomy and chemistry. Cantor (Vorlesungen uber Geschichte der Mathematik, 2 Aufl. ii. 3) says that in the thirteenth century "a new era in the history of mathematical science" began; this was especially the work of Leonardo of Pisa, who was the first to introduce to us the Indian (falsely called Arabian) numerical signs, and of Jordanus Saxo, of the family of Count Eberstein, who initiated us into the art of algebraic calculation (also originally invented by the Hindoos). The first dissection of a human body -- which was of course the first step towards scientific medicine -- took place towards the end of the thirteenth century, after an interval of one thousand six hundred years, and it was carried out by Mondino de' Luzzi, of Northern Italy. Dante, likewise a child of the thirteenth century, also deserves mention here -- indeed very special mention. "Nel mezzo del cammindi nostra vita" is the first line of his great poem, and he himself, the first artistic genius of world-wide importance in the new Teutonic epoch of culture, is the typical figure at this turning-point of history, the point at which she has left behind her "the half of her way," and, after having travelled at break-neck speed downhill for centuries, sets herself to climb the steep, difficult path on the opposite slope. Many of Dante's sentiments in the Divina Comedia and in his Tractatus de monarchia appear to us like the longing glance of the man of great experience out of the social and political chaos surrounding him, towards a harmoniously ordered world; and such a glance was possible as a sure sign that the movement had already begun; the eye of genius is a ray of light that shows the way to others. [3]

But long before Dante -- this point must not be overlooked -- a poetical creative power had manifested itself in the heart of the most genuine Teutonic life, in the north, a fact in itself sufficient to prove how little need we had of a classical revival to enable us to create incomparable masterpieces of art: in the year 1200, Chrestien de Troyes, Hartmann von Aue, Wolfram von Eschenbach, Walther von der Vogelweide, Gottfried von Strassburg were writing their poems, and I mention only some of the most famous names, for, as Gottfried says, "of the nightingales there are many more." And up to this time the questionable separation of poetry and music (which originated from the worship of the dead letters) had not taken place: the poet was at the same time singer; when he invented the "word" he invented for it at the same time the particular "tone" and the particular "melody." And so we see music too, the most original art of the new culture, develop just at the moment when the peculiar individuality of this culture began to show itself in a perfectly new form as polyphonic harmonious art. The first master of note in the treatment of counterpoint is the poet and dramatist Adam de la Halle (b. 1240). With him -- and so with a genuinely Teutonic word -- and sound-creator -- begins the development of music in the strict sense, so that the musical authority Gevaert can write: "Desormais l'on peut considerer ce treizieme siecle, si decrie jadis, comme le siecle initiateur de tout l'art moderne." [Google translate: Now we can consider this the thirteenth century, when once decried as the initiator of any century modern art.] Likewise in the thirteenth century those inspired artists Niccolo Pisano, Cimabue and Giotto revealed their talents, and to them we are indebted, in the first place, not merely for a "Renaissance" of the plastic and graphic arts, but above all for the birth of a perfectly new art, that of modern painting. It was also in the thirteenth century that Gothic architecture came into prominence (the "Teutonic style" as Rumohr rightly wished to call it): almost all masterpieces of church architecture, the incomparable beauty of which we to-day admire but cannot imitate, originate in that one century. In the meantime (shortly before 1200), the first purely secular university had been founded in Bologna, at which only jurisprudence, philosophy and medicine were taught. [4] We see in how many ways a new life began to manifest itself about the year 1200. A few names would prove nothing; but the fact that a movement embraces all lands and grades of society, that the most contradictory phenomena point backwards to a similar cause and forwards to a common goal, proves that we have here to deal not with an accidental and individual thing but with a great, general process which is maturing with unconscious imperativeness in the inmost heart of society. And that peculiar "decline in historical sense and historical understanding about the middle of the thirteenth century," to which different scholars have wonderingly called attention, [5] should be taken also, I think, in this connection: under the guidance of the Teutonic peoples men have just begun a new life; they have, so to speak, turned a corner in their course and even the nearest past has completely vanished from their sight: henceforth they belong to the future.

It is most surprising to have to chronicle the fact that exactly at this moment, when the new European world was arising out of chaos, the discovery of the remaining parts of the world also began, without which our blossoming Teutonic culture could never have developed its own peculiar power of expansion: in the second half of the thirteenth century Marco Polo made expeditions of discovery and thereby laid the foundations of our still incomplete knowledge of the surface of our planet. What is gained by this is, in the first place and apart from the widening of the horizon, the capability of expansion; this, however, denotes only something relative; the most important thing is that European authority may hope within a measurable space of time to encompass the earth and thereby no longer be exposed, like former civilisations, to the plundering raids of unlooked for and unbridled barbaric powers.

So much to justify my choice of the thirteenth century as separating-line.

That there is, nevertheless, something artificial in such a choice I have admitted at the very beginning and I repeat it now; in particular one must not think that I attribute a special fateful importance to the year 1200: the ferment of the first twelve centuries of the Christian era has of course not yet ceased, it still confuses thousands and thousands of intellects, and on the other hand we may cheerfully assert that the new harmonious world began to dawn in the minds of individuals long before 1200. The rightness or wrongness of such a scheme is revealed only by its use. As Goethe says: "Everything depends on the fundamental truth, the development of which reveals itself not so easily in speculation as in practice: this is the touch-stone of what has been admitted by the intellect."


In consequence of this fixing of the turning-point of our history, this book, which treats of the period up to the year 1800, falls naturally into two parts: the one deals with the period previous to the year 1200, the other the period subsequent to that year.

In the first part -- the origins -- I have discussed first the legacy of the old world, then the heirs and lastly the fight of the heirs for their inheritance. As everything new is attached to something already in existence, something older, the first fundamental question is, "What component parts of our intellectual capital are inherited?" the second, no less important, is, "Who are we?" Though the answering of these questions may take us back into the distant past, the interest remains always a present interest, because in the whole construction of every chapter, as well as in every detail of the discussion, the one all-absorbing consideration is that of the nineteenth century. The legacy of the old world forms still an important -- often quite inadequately digested -- portion of the very youngest world: the heirs with their different natures stand opposed to one another to-day as they did a thousand years ago; the struggle is as bitter, as confused as ever; the investigation of the past means therefore at the same time an examination of the too abundant material of the present. Let no one, however, regard my remarks on Hellenic art and philosophy, on Roman history and Roman law, on the teaching of Christ, or, again, on the Teutonic peoples and the Jews, &c., as independent academic treatises and apply to them the corresponding standard. I have not approached these subjects as a learned authority, but as a child of to-day that desires to understand the living present world; and I have formed my judgments, not from the Aristophanic cloud-cuckoo-land of a supernatural objectivity, but from that of a conscious Teuton whom Goethe not in vain has warned:

Was euch nicht Ingehort
Musset ihr meiden;
Was euch das Inn're stort,
Durft ihr ni ht leiden!

In the eyes of God all men, indeed all creatures, may be equal: but the divine law of the individual is to maintain and to defend his individuality. I have formed my idea of Teutonicism on a scale quite as large; which means in this case "as large-heartedly as possible," and have not pleaded the cause of any particularism whatever. I have, on the other hand, vigorously attacked whatever is un-Teutonic, but -- as I hope -- nowhere in an unchivalrous manner.

The fact that the chapter on the entry of the Jews into western history has been made so long may perhaps demand explanation. For the subject of this book, so diffuse a treatment would not have been indispensable; but the prominent position of the Jews in the nineteenth century, as also the great importance for the history of our time of the philo- and anti-semitic currents and controversies, made an answer to the question, "Who is the Jew?" absolutely imperative. Nowhere could I find a clear and exhaustive answer to this question, so I was compelled to seek and to give it myself. The essential point here is the question of religion; and so I have treated this very point at considerable length, not merely in the fifth, but also in the third and in the seventh chapters. For I have become convinced that the usual treatment of the "Jewish question" is altogether and always superficial; the Jew is no enemy of Teutonic civilisation and culture; Herder may be right in his assertion that the Jew is always alien to us, and consequently we to him, and no one will deny that this is to the detriment of our work of culture; yet I think that we are inclined to underestimate our own powers in this respect and, on the other hand, to exaggerate the importance of the Jewish influence. Hand in hand with this goes the perfectly ridiculous and revolting tendency to make the Jew the general scapegoat for all the vices of our time. In reality the "Jewish peril" lies much deeper; the Jew is not responsible for it; we have given rise to it ourselves and must overcome it ourselves. No souls thirst more after religion than the Slavs, the Celts and the Teutons: their history proves it; it is because of the lack of a true religion that our whole Teutonic culture is sick unto death (as I show in the ninth chapter), and this will mean its ruin if timely help does not come. We have stopped up the spring that welled up in our own hearts and made ourselves dependent upon the scanty, brackish water which the Bedouins of the desert draw from their wells. No people in the world is so beggarly-poor in religion as the Semites and their half-brothers the Jews; and we, who were chosen to develop the profoundest and sublimest religious conception of the world as the light, life and vitalising force of our whole culture, have with our own hands firmly tied up the veins of life and limp along like crippled Jewish slaves behind Jehovah's Ark of the Covenant! Hence my exhaustive treatment of the Jewish question: my object was to find a broad and strong foundation for so important a judgment.

The second part -- the gradual rise of a new world -- has in these "Foundations" only one chapter devoted to it, "from the year 1200 to the year 1800." Here I found myself in a sphere which is pretty familiar even to the unlearned reader, and it would have been altogether superfluous to copy from histories of politics and of culture which are within the reach of all. My task was accordingly limited to shaping and bringing into clearer range than is usually the case the too abundant material which I could presume to be known -- as material; and here again my one consideration was of course the nineteenth century, the subject of my work. This chapter stands on the border-line between the two parts, that now published and what is to follow; many things which in the preceding chapters could only be alluded to, not fully and systematically discussed, such for instance as the fundamental importance of Teutonicism for our new world and the value of our conceptions of progress and degeneration for the understanding of history, find complete treatment here; on the other hand, the short sketch of development in the various spheres of life brings us hurriedly to the nineteenth century, and the tabular statement concerning knowledge, civilisation and culture, and their various elements points to the work of comparison which forms the plan of the supplement and gives occasion for many an instructive parallel: at the same moment as we see the Teuton blossom forth in his full strength, as though nothing had been denied him, and he were hurrying to a limitless goal, we behold also his limitations; and this is very important, for it is upon these last characteristics that his individuality depends.

In view of certain prejudices I shall probably have to justify myself for treating State and Church in this chapter as subordinate matters -- or, more properly speaking, as phenomena among others, and not the most important. State and Church form henceforth, as it were, only the skeleton: the Church is an inner bone structure in which, as is usual, with advancing age an always stronger tendency to chronic anchylosis shows itself; the State develops more and more into the peripheric bone-cuirass, so well known in zoology, the so-called dermatoskeleton; its structure becomes always massier, it stretches over the "soft parts" until at last in the nineteenth century it has grown to truly megalotheric dimensions and sets apart from the true course of life and, if I may say so, "ossifies" an extremely large percentage of the effective powers of humanity as military and civil officials. This is not meant as criticism; the boneless and invertebrate animals have never, as is well known, played a great part in the world; it is besides far from my purpose to wish to moralise in this book; I wish merely to explain why in the second part I have not felt obliged to lay special stress upon the further development of Church and State. The impulse to their development had already been given in the thirteenth century, when nationalism having prevailed over imperialism, the latter was scheming how to win back what was lost; nothing essentially new was added later; even the movements against the all too prevalent violation of individual freedom by Church and State had already begun to make themselves felt very forcibly and frequently. Church and State serve from now onwards, as I have said, as the skeleton -- now and then suffering from fractures in arms and legs but nevertheless a firm skeleton -- yet take comparatively little share in the gradual rise of a new world; henceforth they follow rather than lead. On the other hand, in all European countries in the most widely different spheres of free human activity there arises from about the year 1200 onwards a really recreative movement. The Church schism and the revolt against State decrees are in reality rather the mechanical side of this movement; they spring from the deeply felt need, experienced by newly awakening powers, of making room for themselves; the creative element, strictly speaking, has to be sought elsewhere. I have already indicated where, when I sought to justify my choice of the year 1200 as turning-point: the advance in things technical and industrial, the founding of commerce on a large scale on the thoroughly Teutonic basis of stainless uprightness, the rise of busy towns, the discovery of the earth (as we may daringly call it), the study of nature which begins diffidently but soon extends its horizon over the whole cosmos, the sounding of the deepest depths of human thought, from Roger Bacon to Kant, the soaring of the spirit up to heaven, from Dante to Beethoven: it is in all this that we may recognise the rise of a new world.
Site Admin
Posts: 33203
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, by Houston St

Postby admin » Tue Oct 18, 2016 9:38 pm

Part 2 of 2


With this study of the gradual rise of a new world, approximately from the year 1200 to the year 1800, these "Foundations" come to a close. The detailed plan of the "Nineteenth Century" lies before me. In it I carefully avoid all artificial theorising and all attempts to find an immediate connection between the two parts. It is quite sufficient that the explanatory account of the first eighteen centuries has been already given; even though frequent and express reference to it be not necessary, it will prove itself as the indispensable introduction; the supplement will then be devoted to drawing parallels and to the calculation of comparative values. Here I shall confine myself to considering one by one the most important phenomena of the century; the principal features of political, religious and social organisation, the course of development of the technical arts, the progress of natural science and the humanities, and, lastly, the history of the human mind as a thinking and creative power; everywhere, of course, only the principal currents will be emphasised and nothing but the highest achievements mentioned.

The consideration of these points is led up to by an introductory chapter on the "New Forces" which have asserted themselves in this century and have given to it its characteristic physiognomy, but which could not be treated adequately within the limits of one of the general chapters. The press, for instance, is at the same time a political and a social power of the very first rank; its stupendous development in the nineteenth century it owes primarily to industry and art. I do not refer so much to the production of newspapers by timesaving machinery, &c., as to telegraphy, which supplies the papers with news, and to railways, which spread printed matter everywhere. The press is the most powerful ally of capitalism; on art, philosophy and science it cannot really exercise a distinct determining influence, but even here it can hasten or delay, and so exercise in a high degree a formative influence upon the age. This is a power unknown to previous centuries. In the same way technical developments, the invention and perfection of the railway and the steamboat, as also of the electric telegraph, have exercised no small influence upon all spheres of human activity and wrought a great change in the face of our earth and in the conditions of life upon it: quite direct is the influence on strategy and consequently upon politics, as well as on trade and industry, while science and even art have also been indirectly affected: the astronomers of all lands can with comparative ease betake themselves to the North Cape or the Fiji Islands to observe a total eclipse of the sun, and the German festival plays in Bayreuth have, towards the end of the century, thanks to the railway and the steamboat, become a living centre of dramatic art for the whole world. Among these forces I likewise reckon the emancipation of the Jews. Like every power that has newly dropped its fetters, like the press and quick transit, this sudden inroad of the Jews upon the life of the European races, who mould the history of the world, has certainly not brought good alone in its train; the so-called Classical Renaissance was after all merely a new birth of ideas, the Jewish Renaissance is the resurrection of a Lazarus long considered dead, who introduces into the Teutonic world the customs and modes of thought of the Oriental, and who at the same time seems to receive a new lease of life thereby, like the vine-pest which, after leading in America the humble life of an innocent little beetle, was introduced into Europe and suddenly attained to a world-wide fame of serious import. We have, however, reason to hope and believe that the Jews, like the Americans, have brought us not only a new pest but also a new vine. Certain it is that they have left a peculiar impress upon our time, and that the "new world" which is arising will require a very great exercise of its strength for the work of assimilating this fragment of the "old world." There are still other "new forces" which will have to be discussed in their proper place. The founding of modern chemistry, for example, is the starting-point of a new natural science; and the perfecting of a new artistic language by Beethoven is beyond doubt one of the most pregnant achievements in the sphere of art since the days of Homer; it gave men a new organ of speech, that is to say, a new power.

The supplement is intended, as I have said, to furnish a comparison between the "Foundations" and the book which is to follow. This comparison I shall carry out point by point in several chapters, using the scheme of the first part; this method will, I think, be found to lead to many suggestive discoveries and interesting distinctions. Besides, it paves the way splendidly for the somewhat bold but indispensable glance into the future, without which our conception would not acquire complete plasticity; it is only in this way that we can hope to gain a bird's-eye view of the nineteenth century and so be able to judge it with perfect objectivity; this will be the end of my task.

Such then is the extremely simple and unartificial plan of the continuation. It is a plan which, perhaps, I may not live to carry out, yet I am obliged to mention it here, as it has to no small degree influenced the form of the present book.


In this general introduction I must also discuss briefly some specially important points, so that later we may not be detained by out-of-place theoretical discussions.

Almost all men are by nature "hero-worshippers" and no valid objection can be urged against this healthy instinct. Simplification is a necessity of the human mind; we find ourselves involuntarily setting up a single name in place of the many names representative of a movement; further, the personality is something given, individual, definite, while everything that lies beyond is an abstraction and an ever-varying circle of ideas.

We might therefore put together the history of a century by a mere list of names: it seems to me, however, that a different procedure is necessary to bring out what is really essential. For it is remarkable how slightly the separate individualities stand out in relief from each other. Men form inside their racial individualities an atomic but nevertheless very homogeneous mass. If a great spirit were to lean out from among the stars and, bending in contemplation over our earth, were capable of seeing not only our bodies but also our souls, the human population of any part of the world would certainly appear to him as uniform as an ant-heap does to us: he would of course distinguish warriors, workers, idlers and monarchs, he would notice that the one runs hither, the other thither, but on the whole his impression would be that all individuals obey, and must obey, a common impersonal impulse. Extremely narrow limits are set to the influence as well as to the arbitrariness of the great personality. All great and lasting revolutions in the life of society have taken place "blindly." A remarkable personality, as, for example, that of Napoleon, can lead us astray on this point, and yet even his, when closely examined, appears as a blindly working Fate. Its possibility is explained by previous events: had there been no Richelieu, no Louis XIV., no Louis XV., no Voltaire, no Rousseau, no French Revolution -- there would have been no Napoleon! How closely linked, moreover, is the life-achievement of such a man with the national character of the whole people, with its virtues and its failings: without a French people, no Napoleon! The activity of this commander is directed in particular towards the outside world, and here again we must say: but for the irresolution of Friedrich Wilhelm III., but for the want of principle in the House of Habsburg, but for the troubles in Spain, but for the criminal treatment of Poland just previously, no Napoleon had been possible! And if, in order to be quite clear on this point, we consult the biographies and correspondence of Napoleon, to see what were his aims and aspirations, we shall find that all of them remained unrealised, and that he sank back into the indistinguishable homogeneous mass, as clouds dissipate after a storm, as soon as the community rose to oppose the predominance of individual will. On the other hand, the radical change of our whole economic conditions of life, which no power on earth could prevent, the passing of a considerable portion of the property of nations into new hands, and further, the thorough remodelling of the relations of all parts of the earth, and so of all men, to one another, which we read of in the history of the world, took place in the course of the nineteenth century as the result of a series of technical discoveries in the sphere of quick transit and of industry, the importance of which no one even suspected. We need only read in this connection the masterly exposition in the fifth volume of Treitschke's Deutsche Geschichte. The depreciation of landed property, the progressive impoverishment of the peasant, the advance of industry, the rise of an incalculable army of industrial proletarians, and consequently of a new form of Socialism, a radical change of all political conditions: all this is a result of changed conditions of traffic and has been brought about, if I may so express it, anonymously, like the building of an ant's nest, in which each ant only sees the individual grains which it laboriously drags to the heap. The same, however, is true of ideas: they hold man in a tyrannical grasp, they clutch his mind as a bird of prey its quarry and no one can resist them; so long as any particular conception is dominant, nothing can be accomplished outside the sphere of its magic influence; whoever cannot feel as it dictates is condemned to sterility, however talented he may be. This we have seen in the second half of the nineteenth century in connection with Darwin's theory of evolution. This idea had already begun to appear in the eighteenth century, as a natural reaction from the old theory of the immutability of species, which Linnaeus had brought to formal perfection. In Herder, Kant and Goethe we meet with the idea of evolution in characteristic colouring; it is the revolt of great minds against dogma: in the case of the first, because he, following the course of Teutonic philosophy, endeavoured to find in the development of the idea "nature" an entity embracing man; in the case of the second, because he as metaphysician and moralist could not bear to lose the conception of perfectibility, while the third, with the eye of the poet, discovered on all sides phenomena which seemed to him to point to a primary relationship between all living organisms, and feared lest his discovery should evaporate into abstract nothingness if this relationship were not viewed as resting upon direct descent. This is how such thoughts arise. In minds of such phenomenal breadth as Goethe's, Herder's and Kant's there is room for very different conceptions side by side; they are to be compared with Spinoza's God, whose one substance manifests itself simultaneously in various forms; in their ideas on metamorphosis, affinities and development, I can find nothing contrary to other views, and I believe that they would have rejected our present dogma of evolution, as they did that of immutability. [6] I return to this point in another place. The overwhelming majority of men with their display of ant-like activity are quite incapable of viewing things in such an original manner; productive power can be generated only by simple healthy specialisation. A manifestly unsound system like that of Darwin exercises a much more powerful influence than the deepest speculations, just because of its "practicability." And so we have seen the idea of evolution develop itself till it spread from biology and geology to all spheres of thought and investigation, and, intoxicated by its success, exercised such a tyranny that any one who did not swear by it was to be looked upon as a simpleton. I am not here concerned with the philosophy of all these phenomena; I have no doubt that the spirit of man as a whole expresses itself appropriately. I may, however, appropriate Goethe's remark, "what especially impresses me is the people, a great mass, a necessary inevitable existence" and thus establish and explain my conviction, that great men are in reality the flower of history and not its roots. And so I consider it proper to portray a century not so much by an enumeration of its leading men as by an emphasising of the anonymous currents, from which it has derived its peculiar and characteristic stamp in the various centres of social, industrial and scientific life.


There is, however, one exception. When we are dealing not with the mere power of observation, of comparison, of calculation, or with the inventive, industrial or intellectual activity struggling for existence, but with a purely creative activity, then Personality is everything. The history of art and philosophy is the history of individual men, the history of the really creative men of genius. Here nothing else counts. Whatever outside this is achieved within the sphere of philosophy -- and much of importance is so achieved -- belongs to science; in art it belongs to mechanical art, that is, to industry.

I lay all the more stress on this point, because at the present day regrettable confusion prevails with regard to it. The idea and consequently the word "Genius" originated in the eighteenth century; they arose from the necessity of possessing a particular defining expression for "specifically creative minds." No less a thinker than Kant calls our attention to the fact that "the greatest discoverer in the sphere of science differs only in degree from the ordinary man; the Genius, on the other hand, differs specifically." This remark of Kant's is beyond doubt just, but we make the one reservation, that of extending -- as we cannot help doing -- the term "work of genius" to every creation, in which the imagination plays a formative and predominant part, and in this connection the philosophic genius deserves the same place as the poetic or the plastic. Here let me say that I give to the word philosophy its old, wide signification, which embraced not only the abstract philosophy of reason, but natural philosophy, the philosophy of religion, and all thought which rises to the dignity of a philosophy of life. If the word genius is to retain a sense, we must employ it only of men who have everlastingly enriched our intellectual store by powerful creations of their imagination, but it must be applicable to all such without exception. Not only the Iliad and Prometheus Bound, the Adoration of the Cross and Hamlet, but also Plato's World of Ideas and Democritus' World of Atoms, the Chandogya's tat-twam-asi and Copernicus' System of the Heavens are works of immortal genius; for just as indestructible as matter and power are the flashes of light which radiate from the brains of men endowed with creative power; they never cease to reflect for each other the generations and the nations, and if they sometimes pale for a time, they shine out brightly once more when they strike a creative eye. In recent years it has been discovered that in the depths of the ocean, to which the sunlight does not penetrate, there are fishes which light up this world of darkness electrically; even thus is the dark night of human knowledge lighted up by the torch of genius. Goethe lit a torch with his Faust, Kant another with his conception of the transcendental ideality of time and space: both were creators of great imaginative power, both were men of genius. The scholastic strife about the Konigsberg thinker, the battles between Kantians and anti-Kantians seem to me of just as much moment as the work of the zealous Faust critics: what is the use of logical hair-splitting here? What in such a case is the meaning of the phrase, "to be right"? Blessed are they who have eyes to see and ears to hear! If the study of the stone, the moss, the microscopic infusorium fills us with wonder and admiration, with what reverence must we look up to the greatest phenomenon that nature presents to us -- Genius!


I must here add a remark of some importance. Though we are to concern ourselves particularly with general tendencies, not with events and personages, still the danger of too wide generalisations must not be overlooked. We are but too prone to sum up prematurely. It is this tendency that makes men so often hang, as it were, a ticket round the neck of the nineteenth century, even though they must know that it is utterly impossible by means of a single word to be just both to ourselves and to the past. A fixed idea of this kind is quite sufficient to render a clear comprehension of historical development impossible.

Quite commonly, for example, the nineteenth century is called the "century of natural science." When we remember what the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries have achieved in this very sphere, we must surely hesitate before bestowing any such title on the nineteenth. We have but continued to build and by our industry have discovered much, but whether we can point to a Copernicus and a Galileo, to a Kepler and a Newton, to a Lavoisier and a Bichat [7] appears to me at least doubtful. Cuvier's activity attains indeed to the dignity of philosophical importance, and the powers of observation and invention of men like Bunsen (the chemist) and Pasteur come remarkably near genius; of imperishable fame are men like Louis Agassiz, Michael Faraday, Julius Robert Mayer, Heinrich Hertz and perhaps some few others; but we must at least admit that their achievements do not surpass those of their predecessors. Some years ago a University teacher of the medical faculty with a fine reputation for theoretical as well as practical work remarked to me, "In the case of us scholars nowadays it is not so much a question of brain convolutions as of perseverance." It would indeed be false modesty, and an emphasising of the unimportant, to designate the nineteenth century the "century of perseverance." All the more so, since the designation of "the century of the rolling wheel" would certainly be quite as justifiable for an epoch which has produced the railway and the bicycle. Better, certainly, would be the general term "the century of science," by which would be understood that the spirit of accurate investigation which received its first encouragement from Roger Bacon had put all departments of study under its yoke. This spirit, however, if the matter be fully considered, will be found to have brought about less surprising results in the sphere of natural science, in which since earliest times the exact observation of the heavenly bodies formed the basis of all knowledge, than in other spheres, in which arbitrary methods had hitherto been the order of the day. Perhaps it would be a true and apt characterisation of the nineteenth century -- though at the same time an unfamiliar one to most educated people -- to style it the "century of philology." First called into being towards the end of the eighteenth century by such men as Jones, Anquetil du Perron, the brothers Schlegel and Grimm, Karadzic and others, comparative philology has in the course of a single century made quite extraordinary progress. To establish the organism and the history of language means not merely to throw light upon anthropology, ethnology and history, but particularly to strengthen human minds for new achievements. And while the philology of the nineteenth century thus laboured for the future, it unearthed buried treasures of the past, which are among the most valuable possessions of mankind. It is not necessary to feel sympathy for the pseudo-Buddhistical sport of half-educated idlers in order to recognise clearly that the discovery of the divine doctrine of understanding of the ancient Indians is one of the greatest achievements of the nineteenth century, destined to exercise an enduring influence upon distant ages. To this has been added the knowledge of old Teutonic poetry and mythology. Everything that tends to strengthen genuine individuality is a real safety anchor. The brilliant series of Teutonic and Indian scholars has, half unconsciously, accomplished a great work at the right moment; now we too possess our "holy books," and what they teach is more beautiful and nobler than what the Old Testament sets forth. The belief in our strength, which the history of the nineteenth century gives us, has been intensified to an incalculable extent by this discovery of our independent capacity for much that is of the highest, and to which our relation was hitherto one of subjection: in particular the myth of the peculiar aptitude of the Jew for religion is finally exploded; for this later generations will owe a debt of gratitude to the nineteenth century. This is one of the greatest and most far-reaching achievements of our time, and so the title "the century of philology" would be in a certain sense justified. In this connection we have mentioned another of the characteristic phenomena of the nineteenth century. Ranke had prophesied that our century would be a century of nationality; that was a correct political prognostic, for never before have the nations stood opposed to each other so clearly and definitely as antagonistic unities. It has, however, also become a century of races, and that indeed is in the first instance a necessary and direct consequence of science and scientific thinking. I have already said at the beginning of this introduction that science does not unite but dissects. That statement has not contradicted itself here. Scientific anatomy has furnished such conclusive proofs of the existence of physical characteristics distinguishing the races from each other that they can no longer be denied; scientific philology has discovered between the various languages fundamental differences which cannot be bridged over; the scientific study of history in its various branches has brought about similar results, especially by the exact determination of the religious history of each race, in which only the most general of general ideas can raise the illusion of similarity, while the further development has always followed and still follows definite, sharply divergent lines. The so-called unity of the human race is indeed still honoured as a hypothesis, but only as a personal, subjective conviction lacking every material foundation. The ideas of the eighteenth century with regard to the brotherhood of nations were certainly very noble but purely sentimental in their origin; and in contrast to these ideas to which the Socialists still cling, limping on like reserves in the battle, stern reality has gradually asserted itself as the necessary result of the events and investigations of our time. There are many other titles for which much might be said: Rousseau had already spoken prophetically of a "siecle des revolutions," others speak of a century of Jewish emancipation, century of electricity, century of national armies, century of colonies, century of music, century of advertisement, century of the proclamation of infallibility. Lately I found the nineteenth century described in an English book as the religious century, and could not quite dispute the statement; for Beer, the author of the Geschichte des Welthandels, the nineteenth century is the "economic" century, whereas Professor Paulsen in his Geschichte des gelehrten Unterrichts (2 Auff. ii. 206) calls it the saeculum historicum, in contrast to the preceding saeculum philosophicum, and Goethe's expression "ein aberweises Jahrhundert" could be applied quite as well to the nineteenth century as to the eighteenth. No such generalisation possesses any real value.


These remarks bring me to the close of this general introduction. But before I write the last line I should like to place myself, according to an old custom, under the protection of highly honoured men.

Lessing writes in his Briefe, die neueste Litteratur betreflend, that "history should not trouble with unimportant facts, should not burden the memory, but enlighten the understanding." Taken generally, this is saying too much. But in the case of a book which is directed not to historians but to the educated layman, the remark is perfectly justified. To enlighten the understanding, not to teach in the real sense of the word, but to suggest, to stimulate thoughts and conclusions, that is my aim.

Goethe differs somewhat from Lessing in his conception of the task of the historian. He says, "The best thing that we get from history is the enthusiasm it arouses." These words, too, I have kept in mind in the course of my work, for I am convinced that understanding, however well enlightened, avails little, if not united to enthusiasm. The understanding is the machine; the more perfect every detail in it, the more neatly every part fits into the other, the more efficient will it be, but only potentially, for, in order to be driven, it requires the motive-power, and the motive-power is enthusiasm. Perhaps, however, it is difficult to take Goethe's hint and wax enthusiastic over the nineteenth century, simply for this reason, that self-love is so contemptible; we wish to test ourselves strictly, and tend to under-estimate rather than over-estimate; may future ages judge us more leniently. I find it difficult to grow enthusiastic because the material element is so predominant in this century. Just as our battles have generally been won not by the personal superiority of individuals but by the number of the soldiers, or to put it more simply by the amount of food for powder, so in the very same way have treasures in gold and knowledge and discoveries been piled up. Things have increased in numbers and in bulk, men have collected but not sifted; such, at any rate, has been the general tendency. The nineteenth century is essentially a century of accumulation, an age of transition and of the provisional; in other respects it is neither fish nor flesh; it dangles between empiricism and spiritism, between liberalismus vulgaris, as it has been wittily called, and the impotent efforts of senile conservatism, between autocracy and anarchism, doctrines of infallibility and the most stupid materialism, worship of the Jew and Anti-Semitism, the rule of the millionaire and proletarian government. Not ideas, but material gains, are the characteristic feature of the nineteenth century. The great thoughts that have cropped up here and there, the mighty creations of art, from Faust, Part II., to Parsifal, have brought undying fame to the German people, but they are for future times. After the great social revolutions and the momentous intellectual achievements (at the close of the eighteenth and the early dawn of the nineteenth century) material for further development had again to be collected. And so this too great preoccupation with the material banished the beautiful almost entirely from life; at the present moment there exists perhaps no savage, at least no half-civilised people, which does not to my mind possess more beauty in its surroundings and more harmony in its existence as a whole than the great mass of so-called civilised Europeans. It is therefore, I think, necessary to be moderate in our enthusiastic admiration for the nineteenth century. On the other hand it is easy to feel the enthusiasm spoken of by Goethe, as soon as our glance rests not upon the one century alone but embraces all that "new world" which has been slowly unfolding for centuries. Certainly the commonly accepted idea of "progress" has by no means a sound philosophical foundation; under this flag sail almost all the refuse wares of our time; Goethe, who never tires of pointing to enthusiasm as the motive element in our nature, declares his conviction nevertheless to be that "Men become wiser and more discerning, but not better, happier and more vigorous, or if they do become so, it is only for a time." [8] But what could be more elevating than consciously to work towards such an epoch, in which, if only for a time, mankind will be better, happier and more vigorous? And when we regard the nineteenth century not as something isolated but as part of a much greater period of time, we discover soon that out of the barbarism which followed upon the downfall of the old world, and out of the wild ferment called forth by the shock of opposing forces, some centuries ago a perfectly new organisation of human society began to develop, and that our world of to-day -- far from being the summit of this evolution -- simply represents a transition stage, a "middle point" in the long and weary journey. If the nineteenth century were really a summit, then the pessimistic view of life would be the only justifiable one: to see, after all the great achievements in the intellectual and material spheres, bestial wickedness still so widespread, and misery increased a thousandfold, could cause us only to repeat Jean Jacques Rousseau's prayer: "Almighty God, deliver us from the sciences and the pernicious arts of our fathers! Grant us ignorance, innocence and poverty once more as the only things which can bring happiness and which are of value in Thine eyes!" If, however, as I have said, we see in the nineteenth century a stage in the journey, if we do not let ourselves be blinded by visions of "golden ages," or by delusions of the future and the past, if we do not allow ourselves to be led astray in our sound judgment by utopian conceptions of a gradual improvement of mankind as a whole, and of political machinery working ideally, then we are justified in the hope and belief that we Teutonic peoples, and the peoples under our influence, are advancing towards a new harmonious culture, incomparably more beautiful than any of which history has to tell, a culture in which men should really be "better and happier" than they are at present. It may be that the tendency of modern education to direct the glance so unceasingly to the past is regrettable, but it has the advantage that one does not require to be a Schiller to feel with him that "no single modern man can vie with the individual Athenian for the prize of manhood." [9] For that reason we now direct our glance to the future, to that future the character of which is beginning to dawn upon us, as we are gradually becoming aware of the real significance of the present era which embraces the last seven hundred years. We will vie with the Athenian. We will form a world in which beauty and harmony of existence do not, as in their case, depend upon the employment of slaves, upon eunuchs, and the seclusion of women! We may confidently hope to do so, for we see this world slowly and with difficulty rising up around our brief span of life. And the fact that it does so unconsciously does not matter; even the half-fabulous Phoenician historian Sanchuniathon says in the first part of his first book, when speaking of the creation of the world: "Things themselves, however, knew nothing of their own origin." The same holds true to-day; history endlessly illustrates Mephisto's words, "Du glaubst zu schieben und du wirst geschoben." When, therefore, we look back at the nineteenth century, which certainly was driven more than it drove, and in most things deviated to an almost ridiculous extent from the paths it had originally intended to pursue, we cannot help feeling a thrill of honest admiration and almost of enthusiasm. In this century an enormous amount of work has been done, and that is the foundation of all "growing better and happier"; this was the morality of our age, if I may so express myself. And while the workshop of great creative ideas was seemingly unproductive, the methods of work were perfected in a manner hitherto undreamt of.

The nineteenth century is the triumph of method. In this more than in any political organisation we see a victory of the democratic principle. Men as a whole rose hereby a step higher, and became more efficient. In former centuries only men of genius, later only highly gifted men could accomplish anything; now, thanks to method, everyone can do so. Compulsory education, followed by the imperative struggle for existence, has provided thousands to-day with the "method" to enable them, without any special gift, to take part in the common work of the human race as technicians, industrials, natural investigators, philologists, historians, mathematicians, psychologists, &c. The mastery of so colossal a material in so short a space of time would otherwise be quite unthinkable. Just consider what was understood by "philology" a hundred years ago! Where was there such a thing as true "historical investigation"? We meet with exactly the same spirit in all spheres which lie far remote from science: the national armies are the most universal and simple application of method and the Hohenzollerns are in so far the democrats of the nineteenth century that they set the fashion for others: method in arm and leg movement, but at the same time method in education of the will, of obedience, of duty, of responsibility. Skill and conscientiousness have in consequence -- unfortunately not everywhere, but nevertheless in many spheres -- decidedly increased: we make greater demands on ourselves and on others than we did of old; in a sense a general technical improvement has taken place -- an improvement which extends even to men's habits of thinking. This amelioration of conditions can hardly fail to have a bearing upon morality: the abolition of human slavery outside Europe -- at least in the officially recognised sense of the word -- and the beginning of a movement to protect animal slaves are omens of great significance. And so I believe that in spite of all doubts a just and loving contemplation of the nineteenth century must both "enlighten the understanding" and "awaken enthusiasm." To begin with, we consider only its "Foundations," that is, the "sum of all that has gone before" -- that Past out of which the nineteenth century has laboriously but successfully extricated itself.



1. Under this designation I embrace the various portions of the one great North European race, whether "Teutonic" in the narrower Tacitean meaning of the word, or Celts or genuine Slavs -- see chap. vi. for further particulars.

2. Thode, Franz von Assisi, p. 4.

3. I am not here thinking of the details of his proofs, coloured as they are by scholasticism, but of such things as his views on the relation of men to one another (Monarchia, I. chaps. iii. and iv.) or on the federation of States, each of which he says shall retain its own individuality and its own legislature. While the Emperor, as “peacemaker" and judge in matters that are "common and becoming to all," shall form the bond of union (I. chap. xiv.) In other things Dante himself, as genuine "middle" figure, allows himself to be very much influenced by the conceptions of his time and dwells in poetical utopias. This point is more fully discussed in chap. vii., and especially in the introduction to chap. viii. of this book.

4. The theological faculty was not established till towards the end of the fourteenth century (Savigny).

5. See Dollinger, Das Kaiserlum Karls des Grossen (Akad. Vestrage iii. 156).

6. Compare in this connection Kant's extremely complete exposition which forms the concluding portion of the division "On the regulative use of ideas of pure reason" in his Critique of pure Reason. The great thinker here points to the fact that the idea of a “continuous gradation of creatures" did not and cannot originate from observation but from an interest of reason. "The steps of such a ladder, as experience can supply them to us, are far, too far, removed from one another, and what we suppose to be little distinctions are commonly in nature itself such wide clefts that on such observations as intentions of nature we can lay no stress whatever (especially when things are so manifold, since it must always be easy to find certain resemblances and approximations)." In his criticism of Herder he reproaches the hypothesis of evolution with being one of those ideas “in the case of which one cannot think anything at all." Kant, whom even Haeckel calls the most important predecessor of Darwin, had thus gone so far as to supply the antidote to the dogmatic abuse of such a hypothesis.

7. He died in 1802.

8. Eckerman, October 23, 1828.

9. This famous sentence is only conditionally true; I have submitted it to a thorough criticism in the last chapter, to which I here refer in order to avoid misconceptions.
Site Admin
Posts: 33203
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, by Houston St

Postby admin » Tue Oct 18, 2016 9:45 pm


Und keine Zeit und keine Macht zerstuckelt Gepragte Form, die lebend sich entwickelt.


Das Edelste, was wir besitzen, haben wit nicht von uns selbst; unser Verstand mit seinen Kraften, die Form in welcher wir denken, handein und sind, ist auf uns gleichsam herabgeerbet.


"THE WORLD," says Dr. Martin Luther, "is ruled by God through a few heroes and pre-eminent persons." The mightiest of these ruling heroes are the princes of intellect, men whom without sanction of diplomacy or force of arms, without the constraining power of law and police, exercise a defining and transforming influence upon the thought and feeling of many generations, men who may be said to be all the more powerful the less power they have, but who seldom, perhaps never, ascend their throne during their lifetime; their sway lasts long, but begins late, often very late, especially when we leave out of account the influence which they exercise upon individuals and consider the moment when that which filled their life begins to affect and mould the life of whole peoples. More than two centuries elapsed before the new conception of the Cosmos, which we owe to Copernicus, and which was bound to revolutionise all human thought from its foundations, became common property. Men as important among his contemporaries as Luther said of Copernicus that he was "a fool who turned upside down the whole art of astronomia." Although his system of the world was already taught in antiquity; although the works of his direct predecessors, Regiomontanus and others, had prepared everything that made the last discovery inevitable, so that one might safely say that the Copernican system was only awaiting for its completion the spark of inspiration in the brain of the "most pre-eminent"; although it was here not a question of baffling problems in metaphysics and morals, but of a simple and, moreover, a demonstrable conception; although no material interest whatever was threatened by the new doctrine, much time was needed for this conception, which was in so many important respects of a revolutionary character, to travel from the brain of its author into that of a few other privileged men, and, ever spreading, finally take possession of the whole of mankind. It is well known how Voltaire in the first half of the eighteenth century fought for the recognition of the great triad -- Copernicus, Kepler, Newton -- but as late as the year I779 the worthy Georg Christoph Lichtenberg felt himself compelled to undertake a campaign in the Gottingisches Taschenbuch, against the "Tychonians," and it was not till the year of grace one thousand eight hundred and twenty- two that the Congregation of the Index authorised the printing of books which teach that the earth moves!

I make this statement in advance that the reader may comprehend in what sense the year 1 is here chosen as the starting-point of our age. It is no random date, chosen for reasons of convenience, or because the outward course of political events had stamped this year as particularly noteworthy; it has been adopted because the simplest logic compels us to trace a new force back to its origin. It is a matter of "history" how slowly or how quickly it grows into an effective power; the actual life of the hero is, and cannot but be, the living source of all subsequent developments.

The birth of Jesus Christ is the most important date in the whole history of mankind. [1] No battle, no dynastic change, no natural phenomenon, no discovery possesses an importance that could bear comparison with the short earthly life of the Galilean; almost two thousand years of history prove it, and even yet we have hardly crossed the threshold of Christianity. For profoundly intrinsic reasons we are justified in calling that year the "first year," and in reckoning our time from it. In a certain sense we might truly say that "history" in the real sense of the term only begins with the birth of Christ. The peoples that have not yet adopted Christianity -- the Chinese, the Indians, the Turks and others -- have all so far no true history; all they have is, on the one hand, a chronicle of ruling dynasties, butcheries and the like: on the other the uneventful, humble existence of countless millions living a life of bestial happiness, who disappear in the night of ages leaving no trace behind; whether the kingdom of the Pharaohs was founded in the year 3285 or in the year 32850 is in itself of no consequence; to know Egypt under one Rameses is the same as to know it under all fifteen Ramesides. And so it is with the other pre-Christian nations (with the exception of those three -- of which I shall speak presently -- that stand in organic relation to our Christian epoch); their culture, their art, their religion, in short their condition may interest us, achievements of their intellect or their industry may even have become valuable parts of our own life, as is exemplified by Indian thought, Babylonian science and Chinese methods; their history, however, purely as such, lacks moral greatness, in other words, that force which rouses the individual man to consciousness of his individuality in contrast to the surrounding world and then -- like the ebb and flow of the tide -- makes him employ the world, which he has discovered in his own breast, to shape that which is without it. The Aryan Indian, for example, though he unquestionably possesses the greatest talent for metaphysics of any people that ever lived, and is in this respect far superior to all peoples of to-day, does not advance beyond inner enlightenment: he does not shape; he is neither artist nor reformer, he is content to live calmly and to die redeemed -- he has no history. No more has his opposite, the Chinaman -- that unique representative of Positivism and Collectivism; what our historical works record as his "history" is nothing more than an enumeration of the various robber bands, by which the patient, shrewd and soulless people, without sacrificing an iota of its individuality, has allowed itself to be ruled: such enumerations are simply "criminal statistics," not history, at least not for us: we cannot really judge actions which awaken no echo in our breast.

Let me give an example. While these lines are being written [1897], the civilised world is clamorously indignant with Turkey; the European Powers are being compelled by the voice of public opinion to intervene for the protection of the Armenians and Cretans; the final destruction of the Turkish power seems now only a question of time. This is certainly justified; it was bound to come to this; nevertheless it is a fact that Turkey is the last little corner of Europe in which a whole people lives in undisturbed prosperity and happiness. It knows nothing of social questions, of the bitter struggle for existence and other such things; great fortunes are unknown and pauperism is literally nonexistent; all form a single harmonious family, and no one strives after wealth at the expense of his neighbour. I am not simply repeating what I have read in newspapers and books, I am testifying to what I have seen with my own eyes. If the Mohammedan had not practised tolerance at a time when this idea was unknown to the rest of Europe, there would now be idyllic peace in the Balkan States and in Asia Minor. Here it is the Christian who throws in the leaven of discord; and with the cruelty of a ruthlessly reacting power of nature, the otherwise humane Moslem rises and destroys the disturber of his peace. In fact, the Christian likes neither the wise fatalism of the Mohammedan nor the prudent indifferentism of the Chinese. "I come not to bring peace, but a sword," Christ himself said. The Christian idea can, in a certain sense, be said to be positively anti-social. Now that the Christian has become conscious of a personal dignity otherwise never dreamt of, he is no longer satisfied with the simple animal instinct of living with others; the happiness of the bees and the ants has now no charm for him. If Christianity be curtly characterised as the religion of love, its importance for the history of mankind is but superficially touched upon. The essential thing is rather this: by Christianity each individual has received an inestimable, hitherto unanticipated value -- even the "hairs on his head are all numbered by God" (Matthew x. 30); his outward lot does not correspond to this inner worth; and thus it is that life has become tragic, and only by tragedy does history receive a purely human purport. For no event is in itself historically tragic; it is only rendered tragic by the mind of those who experience it; otherwise what affects mankind remains as sublimely indifferent as all other natural phenomena. I shall return soon to the Christian idea. My purpose here has been merely to indicate, first, how deeply and manifestly Christianity revolutionises human feeling and action, of which we still have living proofs before our very eyes; [2] secondly, in what sense the non-Christian peoples have no true history, but merely annals.


History, in the higher sense of the word, means only that past which still lives actively in the consciousness of man and helps to mould him. In pre-Christian times, therefore, it is only when it concerns peoples which are hastening towards the moral regeneration known as Christianity that history acquires an interest at once scientific and universally human. Hellas, Rome, Judea alone of the peoples of antiquity are historically important for the living consciousness of the men of the nineteenth century.

Every inch of Hellenic soil is sacred to us, and rightly so. On the other side of the strait, in Asia, not even the men had or yet have a personality; here, in Hellas, every river, every stone is animate and individualised, dumb nature awakes to self-consciousness. And the men by whom this miracle was performed stand before us, from the half-fabulous times of the Trojan War on to the supremacy of Rome, each one with his own incomparable physiognomy: heroes, rulers, warriors, thinkers, poets, sculptors. Here man was torn: man capable of becoming a Christian. Rome presents in many respects the most glaring contrast to Greece; it is not only geographically but also mentally more distant from Asia, that is, from Semitic, Babylonian and Egyptian influences; it is not so bright and easily satisfied, not so flighty. Possession is the ambition of the people as it is of the individual. The Roman mind turns from the sublimely intuitive in art and philosophy to the intellectual work of organisation. In Greece a single Solon, a single Lycurgus in a way created fundamental laws of State as dilettanti, from purely individual conviction of what was right, while later a whole people of glib amateurs forcibly took the supreme power into their own hands; in Rome there grew up a long-lived community of sober, serious legislators, and while the outward horizon -- the Roman Empire and its interests -- continually widened, the horizon of internal interests grew most perilously narrower. Morally, however, Rome stands in many respects higher than Greece: the Greek has from the earliest times been what he is to-day, disloyal, unpatriotic, selfish; self-restraint was foreign to him and so he has never been able either to control others or to submit with dignified pride to being controlled. On the other hand, the growth and the longevity of the Roman state point to the shrewd, strong, conscious political spirit of the citizens. The family and the law that protects it are the creations of Rome. And indeed this is true of the family in the narrower sense of an institution laying the foundation of every higher morality, as well as in the extended sense of a power which unites the whole of the citizens into one firm state capable of self-defence; only from the family could a permanent state arise, only through the state could that which to-day we call civilisation become a principle of society capable of development. All the states of Europe are grafts on the Roman stem. And however frequently of old, as to-day, might prevailed over right, the conception of right is our inheritance from the Roman. Meanwhile, just as the day is followed by the night (the sacred night, which reveals to our eye the secret of other worlds, worlds above us in the firmament of heaven and worlds within ourselves, in the depths of our silent hearts), so the glorious positive work of the Greeks and Romans demanded a negative completion; and this was provided by Israel. To enable us to see the stars, the light of day must be extinguished; in order to become truly great, to attain that tragic greatness which, as I have said, alone gives vivid purport to history, man had to become conscious not only of his strength but also of his weakness. It was only by clear recognition and unsparing accentuation of the triviality of all human action, the pitiableness of reason in its heavenward flight, the general baseness of human feelings and political motives, that thought was able to take its stand upon a totally new foundation, from which it was to discover in the heart of man capacities and talents, that guided it to the knowledge of something that was sublimer than all else; Greeks and Romans would never by their methods have reached this sublimest goal; it would never have occurred to them to attach so great importance to the life of the single individual. If we contemplate the outward history of the people of Israel, it certainly offers at the first glance little that is attractive; with the exception of some few pleasing features, all the meanness of which men are capable seems concentrated in this one small nation; not that the Jews were essentially baser than other men, but the grinning mask of vice stares at us from out their history in unveiled nakedness; in their case no great political sense excuses injustice, no art, no philosophy reconciles us to the horrors of the struggle for existence. Here it was that the negation of the things of this world arose, and with it the vague idea of a higher extra- mundane vocation of mankind. Here men of the people ventured to brand the princes of this earth as "companions of thieves," and to cry out upon the rich, "Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth." That was a different conception of right from that of the Romans, to whom nothing seemed more sacred than property. But the curse extended not merely to the mighty, but also to "them that are wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight," and likewise to the joyous heroes, who "drink wine," and have chosen the world as their sporting place. So speaks an Isaiah already in the eighth century before the birth of Christ. [3] But this first outcry against what is radically evil in man and in human society rings louder and louder in the course of the following centuries from the soul of this strange people: it grows in earnestness, until Jeremiah cries out, "Woe unto me, O mother, that thou hast given me birth!" Finally the negation becomes a positive principle of life, and the sublimest of prophets suffers on the cross out of love. Now it matters not whether we adopt the attitude of a believing Christian or simply that of the objective historian; one thing is certain, that in order to understand the figure of Christ, we must know the people who crucified Him. One point of course must be kept in mind: in the case of the Greeks and Romans their deeds were their positive and permanent achievement; in the case of the Jews, on the other hand, it was the negation of the deeds of this people that was the only positive achievement for mankind. But this negation is likewise an historical fact, a fact indeed that has "grown historically." Even if Jesus Christ, as is extremely probable, was not descended from the Jewish people, [4] nothing but the most superficial partisanship can deny the fact that this great and divine figure is inseparably bound up with the historical development of that people.

Who could doubt it? The history of Hellas, that of Rome, and that of Judea have had a moulding influence upon all centuries of our era and still had a living influence upon the nineteenth century. Indeed they were not merely living, but also life-retarding influences, inasmuch as they obstructed our free view into the purely human sphere in many directions by a fence of man's height. This is the unavoidable fate of mankind: what advances him, at the same time fetters him. And so the history of these peoples must be carefully noted by anyone who proposes to discuss the nineteenth century.

In the present work a knowledge of pure history, of the chronology of the world, has been assumed. I can attempt only one thing here, viz., to define with the greatest possible brevity what are the most essential distinguishing marks of this "legacy of the old world". This I shall do in three chapters, the first of which treats of Hellenic art and philosophy, the second of Roman law, and the third of the advent of Jesus Christ.


Before concluding these introductory remarks, one more warning! The expression, this or that "had to" happen, slipped from my pen a moment ago; perhaps it will recur in what follows. Thereby I am far from admitting that the philosophy of history has any right to dogmatise. The contemplation of the past from the point of view of the present admits the logical conclusion that certain events "had to" happen at that time, in order that the present should become what it has become. The subtle question as to whether the course of history might have been different from what it was would be out of place here. Scared by the dreary clamour of so-called scientism, most of our modern historians have handled this subject with timidity. And yet it is clear that it is only when considered sub specie necessitatis that the present acquires an instructive significance. Vere scire est per causas scire, says Bacon; this way of viewing things is the only scientific one; but how shall it be successfully applied if necessity is not everywhere recognised? The phrase "had to" expresses the necessary connection of cause and effect, nothing more; it is with such examinations as these that we men gild the main beams of our narrow intellectual sphere, without imagining that thereby we have flown out into the open air. The following should, however, be borne in mind: if necessity be a shaping power, then round this central point wider and wider circles form themselves, and no one can blame us if, when our purpose demands it, we avoid the long circuitous path, in order that we may take our stand as near as possible to the axis which while causing motion is itself hardly moved -- that point where what appears to be an arbitrary law almost merges into undeniable necessity.



1. The fact that this birth did not take place in the year 1, but in all probability some years before, is for us here of no special consequence.

2. It is altogether erroneous to think one must attribute such effects not to the awakened soul-life, but merely to race; the Bosniac of pure Servian descent and the Macedonian of Grecian stock are, as Mohammedans, just as fatalistic and anti-individualistic in their mode of thinking as any Osmanli whatever.

3. See Isaiah. chaps. i. and v.

4. For the proof that Christ was no Jew (in the sense of Jew by race) and also for the exposition of his close relation to the moral life of the real Jewish people, see chap. iii.; chap. v. then deals more fully with the Jewish people.
Site Admin
Posts: 33203
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, by Houston St

Postby admin » Tue Oct 18, 2016 9:58 pm

Part 1 of 4


Nur durch den Menschen tritt der Mensch in das Tageslicht des Lebens ein.


MUCH wit has been spent in defining the difference between man and beast, but the distinction between man and man seems to me to be even more important, preparing the way, as it does, for the recognition of a fact of greater significance. The moment a man awakens to a consciousness of freely creative power, he crosses a definite boundary and breaks the spell which showed how closely, in spite of all his talent and all his achievements, he was related even in mind to other living creatures. Through art a new element, a new form of existence, enters into the cosmos.

In expressing this as my conviction, I put myself on the same footing as some of Germany's greatest sons. This view of the importance of art corresponds, too, if I am not mistaken, to a specific tendency of the German mind; at any rate so clear and precise a formulation of this thought, as we find in Lessing and Winckelmann, Schiller and Goethe, Holderlin, Jean Paul and Novalis, in Beethoven and Richard Wagner, would hardly be met with among the other members of the related Indo-Teutonic group. In order to do justice to this view, we must in the first place know exactly what is here meant by "art." When Schiller writes, "Nature has formed creatures only, art has made men," we surely cannot believe that he was thinking here of flute-playing or verse-writing? Whoever reads Schiller's writings (especially of course his Briefe uber die asthelische Erziehung des Menschen) carefully and repeatedly, will recognise more and more that the idea "art" means to the poet-philosopher something very vivid, something glowing in him, as it were, and yet a very subtle thing, which can scarcely be confined within a brief definition. A man must have misunderstood him if he believes himself free of such a belief. Let us hear what Schiller says, for an understanding of this fundamental idea is indispensable not merely for the purpose of this chapter, but also for that of the whole book. He writes: "Nature does not make a better beginning with man than with her other works: she acts for him, while he cannot yet act for himself as a free intelligent being. But what precisely makes him a man is the fact that he does not stand still as mere nature made him, but is endowed with the capacity of retracing with the aid of reason the steps which nature anticipated with him, of transforming the work of necessity into a work of his free choice and of raising the physical necessity to a moral one." First and foremost then it is the eager struggle for freedom which, according to Schiller, betokens the artistic temperament. Man cannot escape necessity, but he "transforms" it, and, in so doing, shows himself to be an artist. As such he employs the elements, which nature offers him, to create for himself a new world of semblance; but a second consideration follows from this, which must not on any account be overlooked: by placing himself "On his aesthetic standpoint," as it were, "outside the world and contemplating it," man for the first time clearly sees this world, the world outside himself! The desire to tear himself away from nature had indeed been a delusion, but it is this very delusion which is now bringing him to a full and proper consciousness of nature: for "man cannot purge the semblance from the real without at the same time freeing the real of the semblance." It is only when man has begun to invent artistically that he also begins to think consciously, it is only when he himself builds that he begins to perceive the architectonics of the universe. Reality and semblance are at first mixed up in his consciousness; the conscious, freely creative dealing with the semblance is the first step towards attaining to the freest and purest possible cognition of reality. True science -- a science that not only measures and records, but contemplates and perceives -- owes its origin, according to Schiller, to the direct influence of the artistic efforts of man. Then for the first time philosophy finds a place in the human intellect; for it hovers between the two worlds. Philosophy is based at once on art and on science: it is, if I may so express myself, the latest artistic elaboration of a reality which has been sifted and purified. But this does not by any means exhaust the import of Schiller's conception of art. For "beauty" (that freely transformed, new world) is not simply an object, in it rather there is mirrored also "a condition of our subject": "Beauty is, in truth, form, because we contemplate it, but it is at the same time life, because we feel it. In a word, it is at once a state and an achievement." [1] To feel artistically, to think artistically denotes then a particular condition of man in general; it is a phase of feeling, or rather attitude of mind -- still better, perhaps, a latent store of power, which must everywhere act as a "freeing," "transforming," "purging" element in the life of the individual man, as well as in the life of a whole nation, even where art, science and philosophy are not directly concerned. Or, to present this relation to ourselves from a different side, we can also -- and indeed here too with Schiller [2] -- say, "From being a successful instrument, man became an unsuccessful artist." That is the tragedy of which I spoke in the introductory remarks.

We must, I think, admit that this German conception of "man becoming man" goes deeper, embraces more, and throws a brighter light upon that future of mankind after which we have to strive than any narrowly scientific or purely utilitarian one. However that may be, one thing is certain: whether such a view is to have unconditional or merely conditional validity, it is of the very greatest service for a study of the Hellenic world and the sure revelation of its principle of life; for though in this subjective formulation it may be a characteristically German conception, it leads back in the main to Hellenic art and to Hellenic philosophy, which embraced natural science, and proves that Hellenism lived on in the nineteenth century not merely outwardly and historically, but also as an inherent force that has helped to mould the future. [3]


Not every artistic activity is art. Numerous animals evince extraordinary skill in the construction of dwellings; the song of the nightingale vies successfully with the natural song of the savage; capricious imitation we find highly developed in the animal kingdom, and that too in the most various spheres -- imitation of activity, of sound, of form -- and here it must also be remembered that we know next to nothing of the life of the higher apes; [4] language, that is, communication of feelings and judgments from one individual to another, is widespread throughout the whole animal kingdom and the means adopted are so incredibly sure that not only anthropologists but also philologists [5] do not consider it superfluous to warn us against thinking that vibration of the human vocal chords -- or for that matter sound in general -- is the only thing that can be called language. [6] By instinctively uniting into civic organisations, no matter how complex and intricate they may be, the human race similarly achieves nothing which is in principle an advance on the exceedingly complex animal communities; modern sociologists, indeed, consider the origin of human society as having a close organic connection with the development of the social instincts in the surrounding animal kingdom. [7] If we consider the civic life of the ants, and see by what daring refinements they ensure the practical efficiency of the social mechanism and the faultless fitting of all parts into each other -- as an example I shall mention only the removal of the baneful sexual impulse in a large percentage of the population, and that too not by mutilation, as is the case with our wretched makeshift castration, but by shrewd manipulation of the fecundating germs -- then we must admit that the civic instinct of man is not of a high standard; compared with many animal species we are nothing but political blunderers. [8] Even in the special exercise of reason we can indeed recognise a peculiar specific feature of man, but hardly a fundamentally new natural phenomenon. Man in his natural condition uses his superior reason exactly as the stag his speed of foot, the tiger his strength, the elephant his weight; it is his finest weapon in the struggle for existence, it takes the place of agility, bulk and so many other things that he lacks. The times are past when men had the effrontery to deny that animals have reason; not only do the ape, the dog and all higher animals manifest conscious reflection and unerring judgment, but insects have been experimentally proved to do the same: a colony of bees, for example, placed in unaccustomed and absolutely new surroundings, adopts new measures, tries this and that, till it has found what suits it. [9] There is no doubt that if we investigate with more care and insight the psychological life -- so far practically unknown to us -- of animals from remote classes, we shall everywhere find similar things.

Thus the comparatively enormous development of the human brain [10] gives us after all only a relative superiority. Man does not walk upon earth like a God, but as a creature among other creatures, perhaps it would be no exaggeration to say as primus inter pares; for it is difficult to comprehend why a higher differentiation, with its countless disadvantages, should be forthwith regarded as higher "perfection"; the relative perfection of an organism should be judged, in my opinion, by its suitability to given conditions. Through all the fibres of his nature man is organically and closely connected with his surroundings; all this is blood of his blood; if we think him apart from nature, he is a fragment, an uprooted stem.

What now distinguishes man from other beings? Many will answer, his inventive power: it is the instrument which shows him to be prince among the animals. Yet even with this he still remains an animal among animals. Not only the anthropoid, but also the common ape, invents simpler instruments (anyone can obtain information on this point by referring to Brehm's Tierleben), and the elephant is, if perhaps not in invention, yet in the employment of instruments a real master. (See Romanes, Die geistige Entwickelung im Tierreich, pp. 389 ff.) The most ingenious dynamo machine does not raise men one inch over the earth- surface which is common to all creatures; all such things denote merely a new accumulation of strength in the struggle for existence; man becomes thereby in a way a more highly potentiated animal. Instead of going to bed, he illumines with tallow candles, oil, gas or electricity; he thereby gains time and can do more work; but there are likewise countless animals which procure light for themselves, many by phosphorescence, others, particularly the deep sea fishes, by electricity; [11] we travel by bicycle, by train, and shall perhaps soon travel by airship -- the bird of passage and the inhabitant of the sea had brought travelling long ago into fashion, and just like them, men travel in order to subsist. The incalculable superiority of man shows itself certainly in this, that he can invent all these things rationally and can unite individual discoveries, so as to make still further progress. The impulse to imitate and the capacity for assimilation which one certainly finds in all mammals are in his case of so high a standard that the same thing becomes, so to speak, a different thing; in analogous manner we see in chemical substances that frequently the addition of a single essentially similar atom, accordingly a simple numerical addition, fundamentally changes the qualities of the substance in question; if one adds oxygen to oxygen, a new compound, ozone, is formed (02 + 01 = 03). One should, however, not forget that all human discoveries rest on assimilation and imitation; man "finds out" (er-findet) what is there and has only awaited his coming, just as he "discovers" what hitherto was covered with a veil; nature plays at "hide and seek" and "blind man's bluff" with him. Quod invenitur, juit, says Tertullian. The fact that he understands this, that he seeks what is hidden, and bit by bit reveals and finds so much, certainly testifies to the possession of incomparable gifts; but if he did not possess them, he would indeed be the most miserable of creatures, for there he stands weaponless, powerless, wingless; bitter necessity is his incentive, the faculty of invention his salvation.

Now man becomes truly man, a creature differing from all animals, even human ones, when he reaches the stage of inventing without necessity, when he exercises his incomparable gifts of his own free will and not because nature compels him, or -- to use a deeper and more suitable expression -- when the necessity which impels him to invent enters his consciousness, no longer from outside, but from his inner self; when that which was his salvation becomes his sanctuary. The decisive moment is when free invention consciously appears, that is, therefore, when man becomes artist. The study of surrounding nature, as, for example, of the starry heavens, may have made great strides, and a complex cult of gods and spirits have been formed without thereby anything fundamentally new entering into the world. All this proves a latent capacity; essentially, however, it is nothing more than the half-unconscious exercise of an instinct. It is only when an individual man, like Homer, invents the gods of his own free will as he wishes them to be; it is only when an observer of nature, like Democritus, from free creative power invents the conception of the atom; when a pensive seer, like Plato, with the wilfulness of the genius superior to the world throws overboard all visible nature and puts in its place the realm of ideas that man has created; it is only when a most Sublime Teacher proclaims, "Behold the kingdom of Heaven is within you" -- it is only then that a completely new creature is born, that being of whom Plato says, "He has generative power in his soul rather than in his body," it is only then that the macrocosm contains a microcosm. The only thing that deserves to be called culture is the daughter of such "creative freedom," or in a word "art," and with art philosophy -- genuine, creative philosophy and science -- is so closely related that both must be recognised as two sides of the same being; every great poet has been a philosopher, every philosopher of genius a poet. That which lies outside this microcosmic life of culture is nothing more than "civilisation," that is, a more and more highly potentiated, increasingly more industrious, easier and less free ant-like state-existence, certainly rich in blessing and in so far desirable, nevertheless a gift of the ages, in the case of which it frequently remains exceedingly questionable whether the human race does not pay more for it than it receives from it. Civilisation is in itself nothing, for it denotes something merely relative; a higher civilisation could be regarded as a positive gain (i.e., an "advance") only when it led to an increasingly intensive intellectual and artistic shaping of life and to an inner moral enlightenment. Because this seemed to him not to be the case with us, Goethe, as the most competent judge, could make the melancholy confession, "These times are worse than one thinks." On the other hand, the undying importance of Hellenism lies in this, that it understood how to create for itself an age better than any that we can conceive, an age incomparably better, if I may so express it, than its own backward civilisation deserved. To-day all ethnographists and anthropologists distinguish clearly between morals and religion, and recognise that both in a certain sense are independent of each other; it would be just as useful to learn to distinguish clearly between culture and civilisation. A highly developed civilisation is compatible with a rudimentary culture: Rome, for example, exemplifies a wonderful civilisation with very insignificant and quite unoriginal culture. Athens, on the other hand (with its free citizens) reveals a stage of culture in comparison with which we Europeans of the nineteenth century are in many respects still barbarians, and this is united with a civilisation which -- in comparison with ours -- may with perfect justice be termed really barbaric. [12] Compared with all other phenomena of history, Hellenism represents an exuberantly rich blossoming of the human intellect, and the reason of this is that its whole culture rests on an artistic basis. The freely creative work of human imagination was the starting-point of the infinitely rich life of the Hellenes. Their language, religion, politics, philosophy, science (even mathematics), history and geography, all forms of imaginative invention in words and sounds, their whole public life and the whole inner life of the individual -- everything radiates from this work, and everything finds itself in it once more as in a figurative and at the same time organic centre, a centre which reduces the greatest divergencies in characters, interests and endeavours to reach a living conscious unity. At this central point stands Homer.


The fact that the existence of the poet Homer has been open to doubt will give later generations no very favourable idea of the intellectual acumen of our epoch. It is exactly a century ago since F. A. Wolf published his hypothesis; since that time our neo-Alexandrians have bravely "sniffed and shovelled away," till at last they arrived at the conclusion that Homer was merely a pseudo-mythical collective term and the Iliad and the Odyssey nothing more than a skilful pasting together and re-editing of all sorts of poems.... Pasted together by whom? and by whom so beautifully edited? Well, naturally by learned philologists, the ancestors of the modern ones! The only matter for surprise is that, as we are once more in possession of such an ingenious race of critics, these gentlemen have not taken the trouble to piece together for us poor wretches a new Iliad. There is truly no lack of songs, no lack of genuine, beautiful folksongs; is there, perhaps, a lack of paste, of brainpaste? The most competent judges in such a question are clearly the poets, the great poets; the philologist clings to the shell which has been exposed to the caprice of centuries; but the congenial glance of the poet, on the other hand, penetrates to the kernel and perceives the individual creative process. Now Schiller, with his unerring instinct, immediately stigmatised as "simply barbaric" the view that the Iliad and the Odyssey were not, in all essential points of their construction, the work of a single inspired individual. Indeed, in his excitement, he so far oversteps the mark that he calls Wolf a "stupid Devil"! The opinion of Goethe is almost more interesting. His much-lauded objectivity manifested itself, among other things, in this, that he unreservedly and unresistingly let himself be influenced by an impression; Wolf's great philological merits and the mass of correct statements which his expositions contained, misled the great man; he felt convinced and declared this openly. But later, when he again had the opportunity of studying the Homeric poems thoroughly -- and viewed them no longer from a philologico-historical but from a purely poetic standpoint -- he retracted his over-hasty endorsement of the "subjective trash" (as he now called it), for now his knowledge was precise; behind these works there stands a "glorious unity, a single, higher poetical sense." [13] But the philologists too, in their necessarily roundabout way, have come to the same view, and Homer enters the twentieth century, the fourth millennium of his fame, greater than ever. [14]

For besides many philologising nonentities, Germany has produced an undying race of really great linguistic and literary scholars; F. A. Wolf himself was one of them; he never lowered himself to the absurd idea afterwards propounded, that a great work of art could be produced by the united efforts of a number of insignificant men or directly from the vague consciousness of the masses, and he would be the first to learn with satisfaction of the successful issue that finally attended the protracted scientific researches. Even if as great a genius as Homer himself had devoted himself to improving and embellishing Homer's works -- this is of course almost a senseless supposition -- the history of all art teaches us that genuine individuality defies all imitation; but the farther the critical investigations of the nineteenth century advanced, the more was every capable investigator compelled to realise that even the most important imitators, completers and restorers of the epics of Homer all differed from him in this, that not one of them approached even in the slightest degree his commanding genius. Disfigured though they were by countless misconceptions, copyists' mistakes, and still more by the supposed improvements of irrepressible wiseacres and the interpolations of well-meaning followers, the more the patchwork of the present form of these poems was shown up by the polishing work of research, the more they testified to the incomparable divine creative power of the original artist. What marvellous power of beauty must have been possessed by works which could so successfully defy for centuries the stormy social conditions, and for a still longer time the desecrating tempest of narrow-mindedness, mediocrity and pseudo-genius, that even to-day, from the midst of the ruins, the ever youthful charm of artistic perfection greets us like the good fairy of our own culture! At the same time other investigations, which had gone their own independent way -- historical and mythological studies -- clearly proved that Homer must have been an historical personage. It has, in fact, been shown that in these poems both saga and myth have been treated very freely and according to definite principles of conscious artistic shaping. To mention only the most essential point: Homer was a remarkable simplifier, he unravelled the tangled clue of popular myths, and from the planless medley of popular sagas, which had a different form in every district, he wove certain definite forms in which all Hellenes recognised themselves and their gods, although this very delineation was quite new to them. What we have now discovered after so much toil the ancients knew very well; I quote in this connection the remarkable passage in Herodotus: "From the Pelasgians the Hellenes took their gods. But whence each of the gods comes, whether they were always there, what their form is, we Hellenes only know as it were since yesterday. For it is Hesiod and Homer, in the first place, who created for the Greeks their race of gods, who gave the gods their names, distributed honours and arts among them, and described their forms. The poets, however, who are supposed to have lived before these two men, in my opinion at least, really came after them" (Book II. 53). Hesiod lived about a hundred years after Homer and was directly influenced by him; with the exception of this little error the simple naive sentence of Herodotus contains all that the gigantic critical work of a century has brought to light. It has been proved that the poets who according to the priestly tradition lived before Homer -- e.g., Orpheus, Musaeos, Eumolpos from the Thracian school, or Olen and others of the Delian school -- in reality lived after him; [15] and it is likewise proved that the religious conceptions of the Greeks have been drawn from very different sources; the Indo-European inheritance forms the main capital; to this were added all kinds of motley Oriental influences (as Herodotus had also shown in the passage which precedes that above quoted): upon this chaos a hand was now laid by the one incomparable man with the sovereign authority of the freely creative, poetic genius, and out of it he formed by artistic means a new world; as Herodotus says: he creates for the Greeks their race of gods.

May I here be permitted to quote the words of Erwin Rohde, [16] recognised as one of the most learned of living Hellenists: "The Homeric epic can only be called folk-poetry because it is of such a nature that the whole Greek-speaking people willingly took it up and could make it their own, not because the 'people' in any mystic way were engaged in its production. Many hands have been at work on the two poems, but all in the direction and in the sense which the greatest poetic genius among the Greeks, and probably of mankind, and not the people or the saga, as one certainly hears maintained, gave to them. In Homer's mirror Greece appears united and uniform in belief, in dialect, in constitution, customs and morals. One may, however, boldly maintain that this unity cannot in reality have existed; the elements of Panhellenism were doubtless present, but it was the genius of the poet alone that collected and fused them together in a merely imaginary whole." [17] Bergk, whose whole rich scholastic life was devoted to the study of Greek poetry formulates the opinion: "Homer draws chiefly from himself, from his own inner soul; he is a truly original spirit, not an imitator, and he practises his art with full consciousness" (Griech. Litteraturgesch., p. 527). Duncker, too, the historian, remarks that "what was lacking in the imitators of Homer -- what accordingly distinguished this one man -- was the comprehensive eye of genius." [18] And to close these quotations in a worthy manner I refer to Aristotle, in whom one must admit some competence, so far as critical acumen is concerned. It is striking and consoling to see that he too discovers the distinguishing-mark of Homer to be his eye; in the eighth chapter of his Poetics (he is speaking of the qualities of poetic action), he says: "But Homer, just as he is different in other things also, seems here too to have seen aright, either by art or by nature." A profound remark! which prepares us for the surprising outburst of enthusiasm in the twenty-third chapter of the Poetics: Homer is above all other poets divine.


I have felt bound to prove this, even at the cost of some detail; not because it is of importance for the subject treated in this book, whether one man named Homer wrote the Iliad, or in how far the poem, which to-day is so entitled, may correspond to the original poem; the special proof is a side issue. It is, on the other hand, essential for my whole work that I should emphasise the incomparable importance of personality in general; it is likewise essential to recognise the fact that every work of art always and without exception presupposes a strong individual personality, -- a great work of art a personality of the first rank, a Genius; it is, finally, imperative that we should grasp the fact, that the secret of the magic power of Hellenism lies locked in this idea "personality." For indeed if we would understand what Hellenic art and Hellenic thought have meant for the nineteenth century, if we would know the secret of so lasting a power, we must realise especially that it is the power of great personalities that, coming down from that vanished world, still influences us with the freshness of youth.

Hochstes Gluck der Erdenkinder
Ist nur die Personlichkeit;

says Goethe; this greatest gift -- hochstes Gluck -- the Greeks possessed as no other people ever did, and it is this very thing that surrounds them with that sunny halo which is peculiarly theirs. Their great poems and their great thoughts are not the work of anonymous commercial companies, as are the so-called art and wisdom of the Egyptians, Assyrians, Chinese, e tutti quanti; the life-principle of this people is heroism; the individual steps forward alone: boldly crossing the boundary of what is common to all, he leaves behind all that civilisation which has accumulated instinctively, unconsciously and uselessly, and fearlessly hews out a path in the ever-deepening gloom of the primeval forest of accumulated superstitions, -- he dares to have Genius! And this daring gives rise to a new conception of manhood; for the first time man has "entered into the daylight of life."

The individual, however, could not accomplish this alone. Personalities can clearly reveal themselves as such, only when surrounded by other personalities; action receives a conscious existence only after reaction has taken place; the genius can breathe only in an atmosphere of genius. If then a single, surpassingly great, incomparably creative personality has undoubtedly been the condition and absolutely indispensable primum mobile of the whole Grecian culture, we must recognise as the second characteristic factor in this culture the fact that the surroundings proved themselves worthy of so extraordinary a personality. That which is lasting in Hellenism, that which keeps it alive to-day and has enabled it to be a bright ideal, a consolation and a hope to so many of the best men in the nineteenth century, can be summed up in one word: it is its element of Genius. What would a Homer have availed in Egypt or Phoenicia? The one would have paid no heed to him, the other would have crucified him; yes, even in Rome ... but here we have the experimental proof before our eyes. Has all the poetry of Greece succeeded in striking even a single spark out of this sober, inartistic heart? Is there among the Romans a single true poetic genius? Is it not pitiful that our schoolmasters are condemned to embitter the fresh years of our childhood by compulsory admiration of these rhetorical, unnatural, soulless, hypocritical imitations of genuine poetry? And is this example alone not enough to prove -- a few poets more or less make really no difference -- how all culture is linked to art? What is one to say to a history which embraces more than 1200 years and does not show a single philosopher, not even a philosopher in miniature? What to a people which has to conceal its own modest claims in this respect by the importation of the latter-day persecuted, anaemic Greeks, who, however, are not philosophers at all but merely very commonplace moralists? How low must the quality of genius have sunk when a good Emperor, who wrote maxims in his leisure hours, is commended to the reverence of coming generations as a thinker! [19] Where is there a great, creative natural scientist among the Romans? Surely not the industrious encyclopaedist, Pliny? Where is there a mathematician of importance? Where a meteorologist, a geographer, an astronomer? All that was achieved under the sway of Rome, in these and other sciences, is derived without exception from the Greeks. But the poetical fountain had dried up, and so too, bit by bit, creative thinking and creative observation were exhausted, even among the Greeks of the Roman Empire. The life-giving breath of genius was gone; neither in Rome nor in Alexandria was there anything of this manna of the human spirit for the ever upward-soaring Hellenes; in the one city the superstition of utility, in the other, scientific elephantiasis, gradually choked every movement of life. Learning indeed steadily increased, the number of known facts multiplied continually, but the motive-power, instead of increasing, decreased, where increase was badly needed. Thus the European world, in spite of its great progress in civilisation, underwent a gradual decline in culture -- sinking down into naked bestiality. Nothing probably is more dangerous for the human race than science without poetry, civilisation without culture. [20]

In Hellas the course of events was quite different. So long as art flourished, the torch of genius flashed up heavenward in all spheres. The power, which in Homer had fought its way to a dominant individuality, recognised in him its vocation, narrowed down in the first instance to the purely artistic creation of a world of beautiful semblance. Around the radiant central figure arose a countless army of poets and a rich gradation of poetical styles. Immediately after Homer's time and later, originality formed the hall-mark of Greek creation. Inferior powers naturally took their direction from those of greater eminence; but there were so many of the latter, and these had invented so infinitely manifold forms, that the lesser talent was enabled to choose what was exactly fitted to it, and thus achieve its highest possibilities. I am speaking not only of poetry in words wedded to music, but also of the unexampled glory of the poetry that delights the eye, which grew up beside the other, like a dearly beloved younger sister. Architecture, sculpture, painting, like epic, lyric and dramatic poetry, like the hymn, the dithyramb, the ode, the romance, and the epigram, were all rays of that same sun of art, only differently refracted according to the individual eye. It is surely ridiculous that schoolmen cannot distinguish between true culture and ballast, and should inflict on us interminable lists of unimportant Greek poets and sculptors; the protest -- ever growing in violence -- which began to be made against this at the end of the nineteenth century, must be welcome; but before we consign the many superfluous names to a deserved oblivion, we would express our admiration of the phenomenon as a whole; it gives evidence of a supremacy of good taste which is always desirable, of a fineness of judgment never since equalled, and of a widespread creative impulse. Greek art was a truly "living" thing, and so it is alive to-day. That which lives is immortal. It possessed a solid, organic central point, and obeyed a spontaneous and therefore unerring impulse, which knitted into one creative artistic whole of the most varied luxuriance the most trifling fragments, and even the wildest excrescences. In short -- if I may be forgiven for the apparent tautology -- Hellenic art was an artistic art, and no individual, not even a Homer, could make it that; it could only become such by the united efforts of a whole body of artists. Since that time nothing similar has happened, and so it is that Greek art not only still lives, works and preaches in our midst, but the greatest of our artists (of our artistic creators of actions, sounds, words, figures) have in the nineteenth century as in former ages felt themselves drawn to Greece as to a home. Among us the man of the people has only an indirect knowledge of Greek art; for him the gods have not, as for Epicurus, ascended a still higher Olympus; they have been hurled down and dashed to pieces by rude Asiatic scepticism and rude Asiatic superstition; but he meets them on our fountains and theatre curtains, in the park, whither he resorts on Sundays for fresh air, and in the museums, where sculpture has always had a greater attraction for the masses than painting. The "man of culture" carries fragments of this art in his head as the undigested material of education: names rather than living conceptions; yet he meets it too frequently at every step, to be able ever to lose sight of it completely; it has a greater share in the building of his intellect than he himself is aware of. The artist, on the other hand -- and here I mean every artistic mind -- cannot help turning eyes of longing to Greece, not merely because of the individual works which arose there -- for among us too many a glorious thing has been created since the year 1200: Dante stands alone, Shakespeare is greater and richer than Sophocles, the art of a Bach would have been a complete novelty for a Greek -- no, what the artist finds there and misses here is the artistic element, artistic culture. Since the time of the Romans, European life has had a political basis: and now it is gradually becoming economic. Whereas among the Greeks no free man could venture to be a merchant, among us every artist is a born slave: art is for us a luxury, a realm of caprice; it is not a State necessity, and it does not lay down for our public life the law that the feeling for beauty should pervade everything. Even in Rome it was the caprice of a single Maecenas that called poetry into life, and since that time the greatest achievements of the most glorious minds have depended largely on a Pope's passion for building, on the conceit of a prince educated in the classics, or on the extravagant taste of a pompous commercial guild. Now and then a lifegiving breath was wafted from higher spheres, as, for example, from the religious New Birth which the great and saintly Francis of Assisi tried to bring about -- a movement which gave the first impetus to our modern art of painting -- or from the gradual awakening of the German soul to which we owe that glorious new art German music. But what has become of the pictures? The wall-paintings were covered over with plaster because they were thought ugly; the pictures were torn from the sacred places of worship and hung side by side on the walls of museums; and then -- because otherwise the evolution up to these most treasured masterpieces could not have been scientifically explained -- the plaster was scratched off, well or badly as the case might be, the pious monks were turned out and cloisters and campi santi became a second class of museums. Music fared little better; I have myself been present at a concert where J. S. Bach's "Passion of Matthew" was given. It was in one of the capitals of Europe -- which, moreover, is specially famed for its educated musical taste -- and here every "number" was followed by applause and the Chorale "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden" was actually received with cries of "Da capo"! We have much that the Greeks did not possess, but such instances are clear yet painful proofs of how much is lacking in us that they possessed. One can well understand how Holderlin could exclaim to the artist of to-day:

Stirb! Du suchst auf diesem Erdenrunde.
Edler Geist, umsonst dein Element!
(Die! Thou seekest on this earthly ball.
In vain, O noble mind, thine element!)

It is not lack of inner strength or of originality that draws the heart of the artist of to-day to Greece, but the consciousness and the experience that the individual, by himself, cannot be really original. For originality is quite different from caprice; originality is the free pursuit of the path involuntarily marked out for itself by the particular nature of the personality in question; but the artist can only find this freedom where he is surrounded by a thoroughly artistic culture; such a culture he cannot find to-day. It would of course be absolutely unjust to deny to our European world of to-day artistic impulses: the interest in music shows that men's minds are in a mighty ferment, and modern painting is laying hold upon well-defined but at the same time extensive circles, and rousing an enthusiasm which amounts to an almost uncanny passion, but all this remains outside the life of the nations, it is a supplement -- for hours of leisure and men of leisure; and so fashion and caprice and manifold hypocrisy are predominant, and the atmosphere in which the genuine artist lives lacks all elasticity. Even the most powerful genius is now bound, hemmed in, repelled on many sides. And so Hellenic art lives on in our midst as a lost ideal, which we must strive to recover.


Under a happier star Hellenic philosophy and natural science enjoy with us children of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries a hospitality gladly and gratefully bestowed. Here too it is not a question of mere lares, or worship of ancestry; on the contrary, Hellenic philosophy is very much alive among us, and Hellenic science, so helpless on the one hand, and so incredibly powerful in intuition on the other, compels us to take in it not merely an historical but also a living interest. The pure joy excited in us by contemplating Greek thought may be due, to some extent, to the consciousness that we have advanced so much further here than our great ancestors. Our philosophy has become more philosophical, our science more scientific: an advance which, unfortunately, we do not find in the domain of art. So far as philosophy and science are concerned, our modern culture has shown itself worthy of its Hellenic origin; we have a good conscience.

It cannot pertain to my purpose here to point out connections of which every educated man must be aware. These connections, so far as philosophy is concerned, are purely genetic, since it was only through contact with Greek thought that modern thought awoke, acquiring from it indeed that power of contradiction and independence which was the last to reach maturity: so far as mathematics, the foundation of all science, are concerned, they were equally genetic; in the case of the sciences of observation [21] they were less genetic, and in former years rather a hindrance than a help. My one task must be to explain in a few words what secret power gave these old thoughts such a tenacious spirit of life.

How much of what has been done since has passed into everlasting oblivion, while Plato and Aristotle, Democritus, Euclid and Archimedes still live on in our midst, inspiring and teaching us, and while the half-fabulous form of Pythagoras grows greater with every century! [22] And I am of opinion that what gives everlasting youth to the thought of a Democritus, a Plato, a Euclid, an Aristarchus [23] is that same spirit, that same mental power which makes Homer and Phidias ever young: it is the creative and -- in the widest sense of the word -- the really artistic element. For the important thing is that the conception by which man seeks to master the inner world of his Ego, or the outer world, and assimilate them in himself, should be sharply defined and shaped with absolute clearness. If we glance back at about three thousand years of history, we shall see that while the human mind has certainly been broadened by the knowledge of new facts, it has been enriched only by new ideas, that is, by new conceptions. This is that creative power, of which Goethe speaks in the Wanderjahre, which "glorifies nature" and without which in his opinion "the outer world would remain cold and lifeless." [24] But its creations are lasting only when beautiful and perspicuous, that is, artistic.

As imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes.

But only those conceptions which have been transformed into shapes form a lasting possession of human consciousness. The supply of facts is ever changing, hence the centre of gravity of the Actual (if I may so express it) is subject to constant shifting; besides, about the half of our knowledge or even more is provisional: what was yesterday regarded as true is false to-day; nor can the future change anything in this respect, since the multiplication of the material of knowledge keeps pace with the extension of knowledge itself. [25] On the other hand, that which man in the capacity of artist has formed, the figure into which he has breathed the breath of life, does not decay. I must repeat what I have already said: what lives is immortal. We know that to-day most zoologists teach the theory of immortality -- physical immortality -- of the germ-plasma; the gulf between organic and inorganic, that is, between living and dead nature, which at the beginning of the nineteenth century was thought to have been bridged, becomes deeper every day; [26] this is not the proper place for a discussion on the subject; I merely adduce this fact by way of analogy, to justify me in extending to the intellectual sphere the sharp distinction which I have drawn between organised and inorganised conceptions, and in expressing my conviction that nothing which the style of the creative artist has formed into a living figure has ever yet died. Cataclysms may bury such figures, but centuries later they once more emerge in perpetual youth from their supposed grave; it frequently occurs also that the children of thought, like their brothers and sisters, the marble statues, become maimed, broken or even completely shattered; that is, however, a mechanical destruction, not death. And thus Plato's theory of ideas, more than one thousand years old, has been a living factor in the intellectual life of the nineteenth century, an "origin" of very many thoughts; almost every philosophical speculation of importance has been connected with it at one point or another. In the meantime the spirit of Democritus has been paramount in natural science: fundamental as were the alterations that had to be made on his brilliant theory of atoms in order to adapt it to the knowledge of to-day, he still remains the inventor, the artist. It is he who, to use the language of Shakespeare, has by the force of his imagination bodied forth "the forms of things unknown," and then "turned them to shapes."


Instances of the manner in which Hellenic creative power has given life and efficacy to thought are not difficult to find. Take Plato's philosophy. His material is not new; he does not sit down, like Spinoza, to evolve a logical system of the world out of the depths of his own consciousness; nor does he with the splendid simplicity of Descartes reach into the bowels of nature, in the delusion that he will there find as explanation of the world a kind of clockwork; he rather takes here and there what seems to him the best -- from the Eleatics, from Heraclitus, the Pythagoreans, Socrates -- and forms out of this no really logical, but certainly an artistic whole. The relation of Plato to the former philosophers of Greece is not at all unlike that of Homer to past and contemporary poets. Homer, too, probably "invented" nothing, just as little as Shakespeare did later on; but from various sources he laid hold of that which suited his purpose and welded it into a new whole, something thoroughly individual, endowed with the incomparable qualities of the living individual and burthened with the limitations, failings, and peculiarities inseparably bound up with his nature -- for every individual says with the God of the Egyptian mysteries: "I am who I am," and stands before us a new, inscrutable, unfathomable thing. [27] Similar is Plato's philosophy. Professor Zeller, the famous historian of Greek philosophy, expresses the opinion that "Plato is too much of a poet to be quite a philosopher." It would probably be difficult to extract any definite sense out of this criticism. Heaven knows what a philosopher in abstracto may be. Plato was himself, and no one else, and his example shows us how a mind had to be fashioned in order that Greek thought might yield its highest fruit. He is the Homer of this thought. If a competent man were to analyse the doctrine of Plato in such a way that we could clearly see what portions are the original property of the great thinker, not merely by the process of reproduction through genius but as entirely new inventions, then the poetical element in his work would certainly become specially clear. For Montesquieu, too (in his Pensees), calls Plato one of the four great poets of mankind. Especially that which is blamed as inconsistent and contradictory would reveal itself as an artistic necessity. Life is in itself a contradiction: la vie est l'ensemble des fonctions qui resistent a la mort, said the great Bichat; each living thing has therefore something fragmentary about it, something which might be called arbitrary; the addition which man makes to it -- a free, poetical and only conditionally valid addition -- is the sole thing that makes the joining of the two ends of the magic girdle possible. Works of art are no exception. Homer's Iliad is a splendid example of this, Plato's philosophy a second, Democritus' theory of the world a third of equal importance. And while the philosophies and theories so finely carved by the "logical" method disappear one after the other in the gulf of time, these old ideas take their place in all the freshness of youth, side by side with the most recent. Clearly it is not "objective truth," but the manner in which things receive shape, l'ensemble des fonctions, as Bichat would say, that is the decisive thing.

Still another remark in reference to Plato; again it is only a hint -- for the space at my disposal will not allow of lengthy treatment -- but enough, I hope, to leave nothing vague. That Indian thought has exercised an influence of quite a determinative character upon Greek philosophy is now a settled fact; our Hellenists and philosophers have, it is true, long combated this with the violent obstinacy of prejudiced scholars; everything was supposed to have originated in Hellas as autochthon; at most the Egyptians and the Semites were allowed to have exercised a moulding influence -- whereby philosophy would in truth have had little to gain; the more modern Indologists, however, have confirmed the conjectures of the oldest (particularly of that genius Sir William Jones). It has been fully proved in regard to Pythagoras especially that he had a thorough knowledge of Indian doctrines, [28] and as Pythagoras is being recognised more and more as the ancestor of Greek thought, that in itself means a great deal. Besides, direct influence upon the Eleatics, Heraclitus, Anaxagoras, Democritus, &c., has been shown to be most probable. [29] In these circumstances it cannot be surprising that so lofty a spirit as Plato forced his way through much misleading extraneous matter and -- especially in reference to some essential points in all genuine metaphysics -- endorses in every detail some of the sublimest views of Indian thinkers. [30] But compare Plato and the Indians, his works and their works! Then we shall no longer wonder why Plato lives and influences, while the Indian philosophers live indeed but do not directly affect the wide world and the progress of mankind. Indian thought is unsurpassed in depth and comprehensive many-sidedness; if Professor Zeller thought that Plato was "too much of a poet to be quite a philosopher," we see from the example of the Indian what becomes of a philosopher when a thinker is too "completely" a philosopher to be at the same time something of a poet. This pure thinking of the Indians lacks all capacity of being communicated -- and we find this simply but at the same time profoundly expressed by the Indians themselves, for according to their books the highest and final wisdom can be taught only by silence. [31] How different the Greek! Cost what it might, he must "body forth the forms of things unknown and give them shape." Read in this connection the laboured explanation in Plato's Theoetetus, where Socrates ultimately admits that we may possess truth without being able to explain it, but that this is not knowledge; what knowledge is remains certainly undecided at the end (a proof of Plato's profundity!); however, in the culminating-point of the dialogue it is termed "right conception," and the remark is made that we must be able to give a reasoned explanation of right conception; we should also read in this connection the famous passage in the Timaeus, where the cosmos is compared to a "living animal." It must be conceived and endowed with shape: that is the secret of the Greek, from Homer to Archimedes. Plato's theory of ideas bears exactly the same relation to metaphysics as Democritus' theory of atoms to the physical world: they are creations of a freely creative, shaping power and in them, as in all works of art, there wells up an inexhaustible fountain of symbolical truth. Such creations bear the same relation to material facts as the sun to the flowers. Hellenic influence has not been an unqualified blessing: much that we have received from the Greeks still weighs like a nightmare upon our struggling culture. But the goodly inheritance which we hold from them has been first and foremost this flower-compelling sunshine.


It was under the direct influence of Plato that Aristotle, one of the mightiest sages that the world has ever seen, shot up into the empyrean. The nature of his intellect accounts for the fact that in certain respects he developed as the opposite of Plato: but without Plato he would never have become a philosopher, at any rate not a metaphysician. A critical appreciation of this great man would take me too far; I could not do it adequately even if I were to limit myself to the scope and object of this chapter. I could not, however, pass him by unnoticed, and I take it for granted that no one fails to admire the creative power that he revealed in his logical Organon, his Animal History, his Poetics, &c. These have been the admiration of all ages. To appropriate a remark of Scotus Erigena: it was in the sphere of naturalium rerum discretio that he achieved unparalleled results and won the gratitude of the most distant generations. Aristotle's greatness lies not in the fact that he was right -- no man of the first rank has made more frequent or more flagrant mistakes -- but in the fact that he knew no peace, till he had wrought in all spheres of human life and evolved order out of chaos. [32] In so far he is a genuine Hellene. Certainly we have paid dear for this "order." Aristotle was less of a poet than perhaps any of the great philosophers of Greece; Herder says of him that he was perhaps the driest writer that ever used a stylus; [33] he must, I fancy, be "philosopher enough" even for Professor Zeller; certainly he was this in a sufficient degree -- thanks to his Hellenic creative power -- to sow more persistent error in the world than any man before or after him. Till a short time ago he had paralysed the natural sciences at all points; philosophy and especially metaphysics have not yet shaken off his yoke; our theology is, if I might call it so, his natural child. In truth, this great and important legacy of the old world was a two-edged sword. I shall return shortly in another connection to Aristotle and Greek philosophy; here I shall only add that the Greeks certainly had great need of an Aristotle to lay emphasis upon empiric methods and in all things to recommend the golden mean; in their brilliant exuberance of pride and creative impulse they were inclined to dash upwards and onwards with thoughtless disregard of the serious ground of reality, and this in time was bound to have a baneful influence; it is nevertheless characteristic that Aristotle, Greek as he was, exercised comparatively little influence, to begin with, on the development of Greek intellectual life; the healthy instinct of a people that rejoiced in creating rebelled against a reaction which was so fatally violent, and had perhaps a vague feeling that this pretended empiricist brought with him as his curative medicine the poison of dogma. Aristotle was, of course, by profession a doctor -- he was a fine example of the doctor who kills to cure. But this first patient of his had a will of his own; he preferred to save himself by flying to the arms of the neo-Platonic quack. But we, hapless posterity, have inherited as our legacy both doctor and quack, who drench our healthy bodies with their drugs. Heaven help us!
Site Admin
Posts: 33203
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, by Houston St

Postby admin » Tue Oct 18, 2016 10:00 pm

Part 2 of 4


One word more about Hellenic science. It is only natural that the scientific achievements of the Greeks should hardly possess for us anything more than an historical interest. But what cannot be indifferent to us is the perception of the incredible advances which were made in the correct interpretation of nature when newly discovered artistic capacities began to develop and exercise influence. We are involuntarily reminded of Schiller's statement that we cannot separate the phantom from the real without at the same time purging the real of the phantom.

If there is a sphere in which one might expect less than nothing from the Greeks, it is that of geography. What we remember having read in their poems -- the wanderings of Odysseus and of Io, &c. -- seemed to us rather confused and was rendered still more confusing by contradictory commentaries. Moreover, up to the time of Alexander, the Greeks did not travel far. But if we glance at Dr. Hugo Berger's Geschichte der wissenschaftlichen Erdkunde der Griechen, a strictly scientific work, we shall be lost in amazement. At school we learn at most something of Ptolemaeus, and his geographical map strikes us as almost as curious as his heavenly spheres encased in each other; that, however, is all the result of a period of decay, of a science wonderfully perfect, which, however, had become weak in intuition, the science of a raceless chaos of peoples. Let us, on the other hand, inquire into the geographical conceptions of the genuine Greeks, from Anaximander to Eratosthenes, and we shall understand Berger's assertion: "The achievements of the remarkably gifted Greek nation in the sphere of scientific geography are indeed worth investigating. Even to-day we find their traces at every step and cannot do without the foundations laid by them" (i. p. vi.). Particularly striking are the comparatively widespread knowledge and the healthy conceptive power possessed by the ancient Ionians. There was serious falling off later, due especially to the influence of "the despisers of physics, meteorology and mathematics, the cautious people, who would believe only their own eyes or the credible information gained at first hand by eye- witnesses" (i. 139). Still later, investigators had further to contend with so deeply rooted scientific prejudices that the voyages of the "first North Pole explorer," Pytheas (a contemporary of Aristotle), with their accurate descriptions of the coasts of Gaul and Britain, their narratives of the sea of ice, their decisive observations with regard to the length of day and night in the northern latitudes were declared by all scholars of antiquity to be lies (iii. 7, compare the opinion of men of to-day, iii. 36). Philipp Paulitschke in his work, Die geographische Erforschung des afrikanischen Kontinents (second edition, p. 9) calls attention to the fact that Herodotus possessed a more accurate conception of the outlines of Africa than Ptolemaeus. The latter, however, was considered an "authority." Thereby hangs a tale, and it is with genuine regret that I establish the fact that we have inherited from the Hellenes not only the results of their "remarkable ability," as Berger puts it, but also their mania for creating "authorities" and believing in them. In this connection the history of palaeontology is specially instructive. With the artless simplicity of unspoiled intuitive power the ancient Greeks had, long before Plato and Aristotle, noticed the mussels on mountain-tops, and recognised even the impressions of fishes for what they are; upon these observations men like Xenophanes and Empedocles had based theories of historical development and geocyclic doctrines. But the authorities declared this view to be absurd; when the facts multiplied, they were simply explained away by the grand theory of vis plastica: [34] and it was not till the year 1517 that a man ventured once more to express the old opinion, that the mountain-tops once lay beneath the sea: "in the year of the Reformation, accordingly, after 1500 years, knowledge had reached the point at which it had stood in classical antiquity." [35] Fracastorius' idea received but scant support, and should it be desired to estimate -- it is really very difficult after the advance of science -- how great and venerable a power of truth lay in the seeing eye of these ancient poets (Xenophanes and Empedocles were in the first place poets and singers), I recommend the student to consult the writings of the free-thinker Voltaire and to see what abuse he hurled at the palaeontologists even as late as the year 1768. [36] Just as amusing are the frantic efforts of his scepticism to resist evidence. Oysters had been found on Mont Cenis: Voltaire is of opinion that they fell from the hats of Roman pilgrims! Hippopotamus bones had been dug up not far from Paris: Voltaire declares un curieux a eu autrefois dans son cabinet le squelette d'un hippopotame! Evidently scepticism does not suffice to clear a man's sight. [37] On the other hand, the oldest poems provide us with examples of peculiar discernment. Even in the Iliad, for instance, Poseidon is called the "shaker of the earth," this god, that is, water and especially the sea, is always mentioned as the cause of earthquakes: that is exactly in accordance with the results arrived at by science to-day. However, I wish merely to point to such features as a contrast to the ignorance of those heroes of a pretended "age of enlightenment." -- Much more striking examples of the freeing of the real from the phantom are met with in the sphere of astrophysics, especially in the school of Pythagoras. The theory of the spherical shape of the earth is found in the earliest adepts, and even a great deal that is fantastic in the conceptions of these ancients is rich in instruction, because it contains in a manner in nuce what afterwards proved to be correct. [38] And so in the case of the Pythagoreans, as time went on, to the theory of the earth as a sphere and the inclination of its orbit, there was added that of its revolving on its axis, and that of motion round a central point in space, vouched for from Philolaeus, a contemporary of Democritus, onward; a generation later the hypothetical "central fire" had been replaced by the sun. Not of course as a philosopher, but as an astronomer. Aristarchus had at a later time (about 250 B.C.) founded the heliocentric system upon clear lines and had undertaken to calculate the distance from sun and moon, and recognised in the sun (1900 years before Giordano Bruno) one of the countless fixed stars. [39]

What imaginative power, what capacity of bodying forth, as Shakespeare calls it, this presupposes is clearly seen by later history: Bruno had to pay for his imaginative power with his life, Galileo with his freedom; it was not till the year 1822 (2000 years after Aristarchus) that the Roman Church took the work of Copernicus off the Index and sanctioned the printing of books which taught that the earth moves, without, however, annulling or in any way lessening the validity of the Papal bulls, in which it is forbidden to believe in the motion of the earth. [40] We must, moreover, always bear in mind that it was the Pythagoreans, who were decried as mystagogues, who led up to this brilliant "purging the real of phantom," and they were supported by the idealist Plato, particularly towards the end of his life, whereas the herald of the sole saving grace of induction, Aristotle, attacked the theory of the motion of the earth with the whole weight of his empiricism. "The Pythagoreans," he writes, in reference to the theory of the earth's turning on its axis, which he denied, "do not deduce grounds and causes from phenomena observed, but endeavour to make phenomena harmonise with views and assumptions of their own; they thus attempt to interfere with the formation of the world" (De Coela, ii. 13). This contrast should certainly give pause to many of our contemporaries; for we have no lack of natural scientists who still cling to Aristotle, and in our newest scientific theories there is still as much stiff-necked dogmatism as in the Aristotelian and Semitic doctrines grafted upon the Christian Church. [41] -- The progress of mathematics and especially of geometry affords us in quite a different form a proof of the life-giving influence of Greek creative power. Pythagoras is the founder of scientific mathematics in Europe; that he owed his knowledge, especially the so-called "Pythagoreans theorem," the idea of irrational magnitudes, and -- very probably -- also his arithmetic, to the Indians is of course an established fact, [42] and with regard to abstract arithmetical calculation, the so-called "Arabian cyphers" which we owe to the Aryan Indians, Cantor says, "Algebra attained among the Indians to a height which it has never been able to reach in Greece." [43] But see to what transparent perfection the Greeks have brought formal mathematics, geometry! In the school of Plato was educated Euclid, whose Elements of Geometry are such a perfect work of art that it would be exceedingly regrettable if the introduction of simplified and more modern methods of teaching were to remove such a jewel from the horizon of educated people. Perhaps I should be expressing my partiality for mathematics too simply if I confessed that Euclid's Elements seem to me almost as fine as Homer's Iliad. At any rate I may look upon it as no accident that the incomparable geometrician was also an enthusiastic musician, whose Elements of Music, if we possessed them in the original form, would perhaps form a worthy counterpart to his Elements of Geometry. And here I may recognise the cognate poetical spirit, that power of bodying forth and of giving an artistic form to conceptions. This sunbeam will not readily be extinguished. Let me here make a remark which is of the highest importance for our subject: it was the almost pure poetry of arithmetical theory and geometry that caused the Greeks at a later time to become the founders of scientific mechanics. As in the case of everything Hellenic so here too the meditation of many minds received shape and living power in the life-work of one single all-powerful genius: the "century of mechanics" has, I think, every reason to venerate Archimedes as its father.


Inasmuch as I am only concerned here with the achievements and the individuality of the Greeks in so far as they were important factors in our modern culture and living elements of the nineteenth century, much must be omitted, though in connection with what has been said, one would be tempted to go into more detail. Rohde told us above that creative art was the unifying force for all Greece. Then we saw art -- widening gradually to philosophy and science -- laying the foundations of a harmony of thinking, feeling and knowing. This next spread to the sphere of public life. The endless care devoted to the development of beautiful, powerful human frames followed artistic roles; the poet had created the ideals, which people henceforth strove to realise. Everyone knows how great importance was attached to music in Greek education; even in rough Sparta it was highly honoured and cultivated. The great statesmen have all a direct connection with art or philosophy: Thales, the politician, the practical man, is at the same time lauded as the first philosopher and the first mathematician and astronomer; Empedocles, the daring rebel, who deals the death- blow to the supremacy of the aristocracy in his native city, the inventor of public oratory (as Aristotle tells us), is also poet, mystic, philosopher, natural investigator and evolutionist. Solon is essentially a poet and a singer; Lycurgus was the first to collect the Homeric poems and that too "in the interests of the State and of morality." [44] Pisistratus is another instance: the creator of the Theory of Ideas is statesman and reformer; it was Cimon who prepared for Polygnotus a suitable sphere of activity, and Pericles did the same for Phidias. As Hesiod puts it, "Justice (Dike) is the maiden daughter of Zeus" [45] and in this observation is contained a definite philosophy embracing all state relations, a philosophy which though also religious is mainly artistic; all literature, too, even the most abstruse writings of Aristotle, and even remarks like that of Xenophanes (meant, indeed, as a reproach) that the Greeks were accustomed to derive all their culture from Homer, [46] testify to the same fact. In Egypt, in Judea, and later in Rome we see the law-giver laying down the rules of religion and worship; among the Teutonic peoples the king decrees what his people shall believe; [47] in Hellas the reverse holds good: it is the poet, the "creator of the race of gods," the poetical philosopher (Anaxagoras, Plato, &c.), who understands how to lead all men to profound conceptions of the divine and the moral. And those men who -- in the period of its greatness -- give the land its laws, have been educated in the school of these same poets and philosophers. When Herodotus gives each separate book of his history the name of a Muse, when Plato makes Socrates deliver his finest speeches only in the most beautiful spots inhabited by nymphs, and represents him as closing dialectical discussions with an invocation to Pan -- "Oh, grant that I may be inwardly beautiful and that my outward appearance may be in harmony with the inner!" -- when the oracle at Thespiae promises a "land rich in fruits of the soil" to those who "obey the agricultural teaching of the poet Hesiod" [48] -- such traits (and we meet them at every step) point to an artistic atmosphere permeating the whole life: the memory of it has descended to us and coloured many an ideal of our time.


Hitherto I have spoken almost solely of a positive beneficial inheritance. It would, however, be entirely one-sided and dishonest to let the matter rest there. Our life is permeated with Hellenic suggestions and achievements and I fear that we have adopted the baneful to a greater extent than the good. If Greek intellectual achievements have enabled us to enter the daylight of human life, Greek achievements have, on the other hand -- thanks perhaps to the artistic creative power of this remarkable people -- also played a great part in casting a mist over the light of day and hiding the sun behind a jealous mask of clouds. Some items of the Hellenic inheritance which we have dragged into the nineteenth century, but which we had been better without, need not be touched upon until we come to deal with that century; some other points must, however, be taken up here. And in the first place let us consider what lies on the surface of Greek life.

That to-day, for example, -- when so much that is great and important claims our whole attention, when we have piled up endless treasures of thought, of poetry and above all of knowledge, of which the wisest Greeks had not the faintest idea and to a share of which every child should have a prescriptive right -- that to-day we are still compelled to spend valuable time learning every detail of the wretched history of the Greeks, to stuff our poor brains with endless registers of names of vainglorious heroes in ades, atos, enes, eiton, &c., and, if possible, wax enthusiastic over the political fate of these cruel, short-sighted democracies, blinded with self-love, and based upon slavery and idleness, is indeed a hard destiny, the blame for which, however, if we do but reflect, lies not with the Greeks but with our own shortsightedness. [49] Certainly the Greeks frequently set an example of heroism, though indeed frequently also of the opposite; but courage is the commonest of all human virtues, and the constitution of such a State as the Lacedaemonian would lead us rather to conclude that the Hellenes had to be forced to be brave, than that they naturally possessed the proud contempt of death which distinguishes every Gallic circus-fighter, every Spanish toreador and every Turkish Bashi-bazouk. [50] "Greek history," says Goethe, "has in it little that is gratifying -- besides, that of our own days is really great and stirring; the battles of Leipzig and Waterloo, for example, after all throw into the shade Marathon and others like it. Our own heroes, too, are not behindhand; the French marshals, and Blucher and Wellington may well be put side by side with those of antiquity." [51] But Goethe does not go nearly far enough. The traditional history of Greece is, in many points, a huge mystification: we see that more clearly every day; and our modern teachers -- under the influence of a "suggestion" that has completely paralysed their honesty -- have falsified it worse than the Greeks themselves. With regard to the battle of Marathon, for example, Herodotus admits quite honestly that the Greeks were in this battle put to flight, where they were opposed by Persians and not Hellenes (iv. 113) ; how this fact is always explained away by us! And with what infantile credulity -- though we know quite well how utterly unreliable Greek numbers are -- all our historians still copy from the old stories the number of 6400 Persian slain and 192 Hoplites who met their death bravely, but omit to mention what Herodotus in the same chapter (vi. 117) relates with inimitable artlessness how an Athenian became blind with fright in that battle. This "glorious victory" was in reality an unimportant skirmish, in which the Greeks had rather the worst than the best of it. [52] The Persians, who had come to Greece in Ionian ships, not of their own accord, but because they were invited by the Greeks, returned in all tranquillity to Ionia with several thousand prisoners and rich booty, because these ever fickle allies thought the moment unfavourable (see Herodotus, vi. 118). [53] In the same way the whole description of the later struggle between Hellas and the Persian empire is falsified, [54] but after all we must not criticise the Greeks too harshly for this, as the same tendency [55] has manifested and still manifests itself among all other nations. However, if Hellenic history is really to mould the intellect and the judgment, it would need, one would fancy, to be a true, just history, grasping events by their deepest roots and revealing organic connections, not the immortalisation of half-invented anecdotes and views, which could only be excused by the bitterness of the struggle for existence, and the crass ignorance and infatuation of the Greeks. Glorious indeed is the poetic power by which gifted men in that land sought to inspire with patriotic heroism a fickle, faithless, corruptible people inclined to panic, and -- where the discipline was firm enough, as in Sparta -- actually succeeded in doing so. Here too we see art as the animating and moving power. But that we should impose as truth upon our children the patriotic lies of the Greeks, and not merely on our children, but also -- in works like Grote's -- should force them as dogmas upon the judgment of healthy men and let them become an influential factor in the politics of the nineteenth century, is surely an extreme abuse of our Hellenic legacy, after Juvenal 1800 years ago mockingly had said:

creditur quidquid Graecia mendax audet in historia.

Still worse does it seem to me to force us to admire political conditions, which should rather be held up as an example to be avoided. It is no business of mine to take any side, either that of Great Greece or of Little Greece, of Sparta or of Athens, either (with Mitford and Curtius) that of the nobility, or (with Grote) of the Demos; where the political characters, individually or as a class, are so pitiful, no lofty political conditions could exist. The belief that we even received the idea of freedom from the Hellenes is a delusion; for freedom implies patriotism, dignity, sense of duty, self-sacrifice, but from the beginning of their history to their suppression by Rome, the Hellenic States never cease to call in the enemies of their common fatherland against their own brothers; indeed, within the individual States, as soon as a statesman is removed from power, away he hurries, it may be to other Hellenes, or to Persia or to Egypt, later to the Romans, in order to reduce his own city to ruin with their help. Numerous are the complaints of the immorality of the Old Testament; to me the history of Greece seems just as immoral; for among the Israelites we find, even in their crimes, character and perseverance, as well as loyalty to their own people. It is not so with the Greeks. Even a Solon goes over at last to Pisistratus, denying the work of his life, and a Themistocles, the "hero of Salamis," bargains shortly before the battle about the price for which he would betray Athens, and later actually lives at the court of Artaxerxes as "declared enemy of the Greeks," but rightly regarded by the Persians as a "crafty Greek serpent" and of little account; as for Alcibiades, treachery had become with him so entirely a life-principle that Plutarch can jokingly say that he changed colour "quicker than a chameleon." All this was so much a matter of course with the Hellenes that their historians do not disturb themselves about it. Herodotus, for instance, tells us with the greatest tranquillity how Miltiades forced on the battle of Marathon by calling the attention of the commander-in-chief to the fact that the Athenian troops were inclined to go over to the Persians, and urging him to attack as soon as possible, that there might not be time to put this "evil design" into execution; half an hour later, and the "heroes of Marathon" would have marched with the Persians against Athens. I remember nothing like this in Jewish history. In such a soil it is manifest that no admirable political system could flourish. "The Greeks," says Goethe again, "were friends of freedom, yes, but each one only of his own freedom; and so in every Greek there was a tyrant." If anyone wishes to make his way to the light through this primeval forest of prejudices, phrases and lies, which have grown up luxuriantly in the course of centuries, I strongly recommend him to read the monumental work of Julius Schvarcz, Die Demokratie von Athen, in which a statesman educated theoretically as well as practically, who is at the same time a philologist, has shown once for all what importance is to be attached to this legend. The closing words of this full and strictly scientific account are: "Inductive political science must now admit that the democracy of Athens does not deserve the position which the delusion of centuries has been good enough to assign to it in the history of mankind" (p. 589). [56]

One single trait moreover suffices to characterise the whole political economy of the Greeks -- the fact that Socrates found it necessary to prove at such length that to be a statesman one must understand something of the business of State! He was condemned to death for preaching this simple elementary truth. "The cup of poison was given purely and simply to the political reformer," [57] not to the atheist. These ever-gossiping Athenians combined in themselves the worst conceit of an arrogant aristocracy and the passionate spitefulness of an ignorant impudent rabble. They had at the same time the fickleness of an Oriental despot. When, shortly after the death of Socrates, as the story goes, the tragedy Palamedes was acted, the assembled spectators burst into tears over the execution of the noble, wise hero; the tyrannical people lamented its mean act of vengeance. [58] Not a jot more did it listen to Aristotle and other wise men, on the contrary it banished them. And these wise men! Aristotle is wondrous acute and as a political philosopher as worthy of our admiration as the great Hellenes always are, when they rise to artistically philosophical intuition; he, however, played no part as a statesman, but calmly and contentedly watched the conquests of Philip, which brought ruin on his native land, but procured for him the skeletons and skins of rare animals; Plato had the success in statesmanship which one would expect from his fantastic constructions. And even the real statesmen -- a Draco, a Solon, a Lycurgus, yes, even a Pericles -- seem to me, as I said already in the preface to this chapter, rather clever dilettanti than politicians who in any sense laid firm foundations. Schiller somewhere characterises Draco as a "beginner" and the constitution of Lycurgus as "schoolboyish." More decisive is the judgment of the great teacher of Comparative History of Law, B. W. Leist: "The Greek, without understanding the historical forces that rule the life of nations, believed himself to be completely master of the present. Even in his highest aspirations he looked upon the actual present of the State as an object in which the philosopher might freely realise his theory, taking over from history as a guide only so much as might suit this theory." [59] In this sphere the Greek, lack all consistency and self-control; no being is more immoderate than the Hellene, the preacher of moderation (Sophrosyne) and the "golden mean"; we see his various constitutions sway hither and thither between hyperfantastic systems of perfection and purblind prejudice for the interests of the immediate present. Even Anacharsis complained, "In the councils of the Greeks it is the fools who decide." And so it is clear we should seek to admire and emulate not Greek history in truth, but Greek historians, not the heroic acts of the Greeks -- which are paralleled everywhere -- but the artistic celebration of their deeds. It is quite unnecessary to talk nonsense about Occident and Orient, as if "man" in the true sense could arise only in a definite longitude; the Greeks stood with one foot in Asia and the other in Europe; most of their great men are Ionians or Sicilians; it is ridiculous to seek to oppose their fictions with the weapons of earnest scientific method, and to educate our children with phrases; on the other hand, we shall ever admire and emulate in Herodotus his grace and naturalness, a higher veracity, and the victorious eye of the genuine artist. The Greeks fell, their wretched characteristics ruined them, their morality was already too old, too subtle and too corrupt to keep pace with the enlightenment of their intellect; the Hellenic intellect, however, won a greater victory than any other intellect has won; by it -- and by it alone -- "man entered into the daylight of life"; the freedom which the Greek hereby won for mankind was not political freedom -- he was and remained a tyrant and a slave-dealer -- it was the freedom to shape not merely instinctively but with conscious creative power -- the freedom to invent as a poet. This is the freedom of which Schiller spoke, a valuable legacy, for which we should be eternally grateful to the Hellenes, one worthy of a much higher civilisation than theirs and of a much purer one than ours.

It has been necessary for me to discuss these matters as paving the way for a last consideration.


If we realise the fact that the educationist has the power to restore dead bodies to life and to force mummies as models upon an active, industrious generation, then we must on closer investigation see that others can do the same thing in a still higher degree, since among the most living portions of our Hellenic inheritance we find a really considerable part of our Church doctrine -- not indeed its bright side, but the deep shade of weird and stupid superstition, as well as the arid thorns of scholastic sophistry, bereft of all the leaves and blossoms of poetry. The angels and devils, the fearful conception of hell, the ghosts of the dead (which in this presumably enlightened nineteenth century set tables in motion to such an extent with knocking and turning), the ecstatically religious delirium, the hypostasis of the Creator and of the Logos, the definition of the Divine, the conception of the Trinity, in fact the whole basis of our Dogmatics we owe to a great extent to the Hellenes or at least to their mediation; at the same time we are indebted to them for the sophistical manner of treating these things: Aristotle with his theory of the Soul and of the Godhead is the first and greatest of all schoolmen; his prophet, Thomas Aquinas, was nominated by the infallible Pope official philosopher of the Catholic Church towards the end of the nineteenth century (1879); at the same time a large proportion of the logic- chopping free-thinkers, enemies of all metaphysics and proclaimers of a new "religion of reason," like John Stuart Mill and David Strauss, &c., based their theories on Aristotle. Here, as is evident, we have to deal with a legacy of real living force, and it reminds us that we should speak with humility of the advances made in our time.

The matter is an exceedingly complicated one; if in this whole chapter I have had to be satisfied with mere allusions, I shall here have to confine myself to hinting at allusions. And yet in this very matter relations have to be pointed out, which, so far as I know, have never been revealed in their proper connection. I wish to do this with all modesty, and yet with the utmost precision.

It is the common practice to represent the religious development of the Hellenes as a popular superstitious polytheism, which in the consciousness of some preeminent men had gradually transformed itself into a purer and more spiritualised faith in a single God; -- the human spirit thus advancing from darkness to ever brighter light. Our reason loves simplifications: this gradual soaring of the Greek spirit, till it was ripe for a higher revelation, is very much in tune with our inborn sluggishness of thought. But this conception is in reality utterly false and proved to be false; the faith in gods, as we meet it in Homer, is the most elevated and pure feature of Greek religion. This religious philosophy, though, like all things human, compassed and limited in many ways, was suited to the knowledge, thought and feeling of a definite stage of civilisation, and yet it was in all probability as beautiful, noble and free as any of which we have knowledge. The distinguishing mark of the Homeric creed was its intellectual and moral freedom -- indeed, as Rohde says, "almost free-thinking"; this religion is the faith acquired through artistic intuition and analogy (that is, purely by way of genius) in a cosmos -- an "order of the world," which is everywhere perceived, but which we are never able to think out or comprehend, because we after all are ourselves elements of this cosmos -- an order which nevertheless reflects itself of necessity in everything, and which therefore in Art becomes visible and directly convincing. The conceptions which are held by the people, and have been produced by the poetical and symbolising faculty of each simple mind as yet innocent of dialectics, are here condensed and made directly visible, and that, too, by lofty minds, which are still strong enough in faith to possess the most glowing fervour and at the same time free enough to fashion according to their own sovereign artistic judgment. This religion is hostile to all faith in ghosts and spirits, to all clerical formalism; everything of the nature of popular soul-cult and the like which occurs in the Iliad and the Odyssey is wonderfully cleared, stripped of all that is terrible, and raised to the eternal truth of something symbolical; it is equally hostile to every kind of sophistry, to all idle inquiries regarding cause and purpose, to that rationalistic movement, therefore, which has subsequently shown itself in its true colours as merely the other side of superstition. So long as these conceptions, which had found their most perfect expression in Homer and some other great poets, still lived among the people, the Greek religion possessed an ideal element; later (particularly in Alexandria and Rome) it became an amalgam of Pyrrhonic, satirical, universal scepticism, gross superstitious belief in magic and sophistical scholasticism. The fine structure was undermined from two different quarters, by men who appeared to possess little in common, who, however, later joined hands like brothers, when the Homeric Parthenon (i.e., "temple of the Virgin") had become a heap of ruins within which a philological "stone-polishing workshop" had been set up: it was these two parties that had found no favour with Homer, priestly superstition and hypersubtle hunting after causality. [60]

The results of anthropological and ethnographic study allow us, I think, to distinguish between superstition and religion. Superstition we find everywhere, over the whole earth, and that too in definite forms which resemble each other very much in all places and among the most different races, and which are subject to a demonstrable law of development; superstition cannot in reality be eradicated. Religion, on the other hand, as being a collective image of the order of the world as it hovers before the imagination, changes very much with times and peoples; many races (for instance the Chinese) feel little or no religious craving: in others the need is very pronounced; religion may be metaphysical, materialistic or symbolistic, but it always appears -- even where its external elements are all borrowed -- in a completely new, individual form according to time and country, and each of its forms is, as history teaches us, altogether transitory. Religion has something passive in it; while it lives it reflects a condition of culture; at the same time it contains arbitrary moments of inestimable consequence; how much freedom was manifested by the Hellenic poets in their treatment of the material of their faith! To what an extent did the resolutions of the Council of Trent, as to what Christendom should believe and should not believe, depend on diplomatic moves and the fortune of arms! This cannot be said of superstition; its might is assailed in vain by power of Pope and of poets; it crawls along a thousand hidden paths, slumbers unconsciously in every breast and is every moment ready to burst out into flame; it has, as Lippert says, "a tenacity of life which no religion possesses"; [61] it is at the same time a cement for every new religion and an enemy in the path of every old one. Almost every man has doubts about his religion, no one about his superstition; expelled from the direct consciousness of the so- called "educated" classes, it nestles in the innermost folds of their brains and plays its tricks there all the more wantonly, as it reveals itself in the mummery of authentic learning, or of the noisiest freethinking. We have had plenty of opportunity [62] of observing all this in our century of Notre Dame de Lourdes, "Shakers," phrenology, odic force, spirit photographs, scientific materialism, and "healing priestcraft," [63] &c. To understand rightly the Hellenic inheritance we must learn to make a distinction there too. If we do so, our eyes will open to the fact that even in Hellas, at the brilliant epoch of the glorious art-inspired religion, an undercurrent of superstitions and cults of quite a different kind had never ceased to flow: at a later period, when the Greek spirit began to decline and the belief in gods was a mere form, it broke out in a flood and united with the rationalistic scholasticism which had in the meantime been abundantly fed from various sources, till finally it presented in pseudo-Semitic neo-Platonism the grinning caricature of lofty, free intellectual achievements. This stream of popular belief, restrained in the Dionysian cult, which through tragedy reached the highest artistic perfection, flowed on underground by Delphi and Eleusis; the ancient soul-cult, the awe-stricken and reverent remembrance of the dead formed its first and richest source; with this became gradually associated, by inevitable progression (and in various forms) the belief in the immortality of the soul. Doubtless the Hellenes had brought the original stock of their various superstitions from their former home; but new elements were constantly added, partly as Semitic [64] imports from the coasts and islands of Asia Minor, but with more permanent and disturbing influence from that North which the Greeks thought they despised. It was not poets that proclaimed these sacred "redeeming" mysteries but Sibyls, Bacchides, female utterers of Pythian oracles; ecstatic frenzy took hold of one district after the other, whole nations became mad, the sons of the heroes who had fought before Troy whirled round in circles like the Dervishes of today, mothers strangled their children with their own hands. It was these people, however, who fostered the real faith in souls, and even the belief in the immortality of the soul was spread by them from Thrace to Greece. [65] In the mad Bacchantic dance the soul for the first time [among the Greek people] separated itself from the body -- that same soul about which Aristotle from the stillness of his study had so much that was edifying to tell us; in the Dionysian ecstasy man felt himself one with the immortal gods and concluded that his individual human soul must also be immortal, a conclusion which Aristotle and others at a later time attempted ingeniously to justify. [66] It seems to me that we are still suffering from something of this vertigo! And for that reason let us attempt to come to a sensible conclusion regarding this legacy which clings so firmly to us.

To this belief in a soul Hellenic poetry as such has contributed nothing; it reverently adapted itself to the conventional -- the ceremonious burial of Patroclus, for instance, who otherwise could not enter on his last rest -- the performance of the necessary acts of consecration by Antigone beside the corpse of her brother -- and nothing more. It did unconsciously help to promote the belief in immortality, by maintaining that the gods must be conceived not indeed as uncreated but, for their greater glorification, as undying -- an idea quite foreign to the Aryan Indians. [67] The idea of sempiternity, that is, the immortality of an individual who at some time had come into being, was in consequence familiar to the Greeks as an attribute of their gods; poetry probably found it already existing, but at any rate it was first raised to a definite reality by the power of poetical imagination. Art had no greater share in it than this. Art rather endeavours as far as possible to remove, to temper, to minimise that "belief in daemons which has everywhere to be taken as primeval," [68] the conception of a "lower world," the story of "islands of the blest" -- in short, all those elements which, growing up out of the subsoil of superstition, force themselves on the human imagination -- and all this in order to gain a free, open field for the given facts of the world and of life, and for their poetically religious, imaginative treatment. Unlike art, popular belief, not being satisfied with a religion so lofty and poetic, preferred the teaching of the barbarous Thracians. Neither was it accepted by philosophy, which held a position inferior to such poetical conceptions, until the day came when it felt itself strong enough to set history against fable, and detailed knowledge against symbol; but the stimulus in this direction was not drawn by philosophy from itself nor from the results of empiric science, which had nowhere dealt with the doctrines of souls, the entelechies of Aristotle, immortality and the rest; it was received from the people, partly from Asia (through Pythagoras), partly from Northern Europe (as Orphic or Dionysian cult). The theory of a soul separable from the living body and more or less independent; the theory easily deduced therefrom of bodiless and yet living souls -- those, for example, of the dead, which live on as mere souls, as also of a "soul-possessed" divine principle (quite analogous to the Nous of Anaxagoras, that is, of power distinct from matter) -- furthermore, the theory of the immortality of this soul -- all these are, to begin with, not results of quickened philosophical thought, nor do they form in any sense an evolutional development, a glorification of that Hellenic national religion which had found its highest expression in the poets; it is rather that people and thinker here put themselves in opposition to poet and religion. And though obeying different impulses, people and thinker played into each other's hands, and together caused the decline and fall of poetry and religion. And when the crisis thus brought about was past, the result was that philosophers had taken the place of artists as the heralds of religion. To begin with, both poets and philosophers had of course derived their material from the people; but which of the two, I ask, has employed it the better and more wisely? Which has pointed the way to freedom and beauty, and which to bondage and ugliness? Which has paved the way for healthy empiric science and which has checked it for almost twenty centuries? In the meantime, from quite another direction, from the midst of a people that possessed neither art nor philosophy, a religious force had entered the world, so strong that it could bear, without breaking down, the madness of the whirling dance that had been elevated to a system of reason -- so full of light that even the dark power of purely abstract logic could never dim its radiance -- a religious power, qualified by its very origin to promote civilisation rather than culture; had that power not arisen, then this supposed elevation to higher ideals would have ended miserably in ignominy, or rather its actual wretchedness would never have remained concealed. If anyone doubts this, let him read the literature of the first centuries of our era, when the State-paid, anti-Christian philosophers entitled their theory of knowledge "Theology" (Plotinus, Proclus, &c.), let him see how these worthies in the leisure hours which remained to them after picking Homer to pieces, commenting on Aristotle, building up Trinities, and discussing the question whether God had the attribute of life as well as of being, and other such subtleties, wandered from one place to another in order that they might be initiated into mysteries, or admitted as hierophants into Orphic societies -- the foremost thinkers sunk to the grossest belief in magic, or if such reading appalls him, let him take up the witty Heinrich Heine of the second century, Lucian, and complete the information there given by the more serious but no less interesting writings of his contemporary Apuleius [69] -- and then say where there is more religion to be found and where more superstition, where there is free, sound, creative human power and where fruitless, slovenly working of the treadmill in a continual circle. And yet the men who stand in that Homeric circle seem to us childishly pious and superstitious, these on the other hand enlightened thinkers! [70]

One more example! We are wont according to old custom to commend Aristotle more warmly for his teleological theory of the universe than for anything else, whereas we reproach Homer with his anthropomorphism. If we did not suffer from artificially produced atrophy of the brain, we should be bound to see the absurdity of this. Teleology, that is, the theory of finality according to the measure of human reason, is anthropomorphism in its highest potency. When man can grasp the plan of the cosmos, when he can say whence the world comes, whither it goes and what the purpose of each individual thing is, then he is really himself God and the whole world is "human"; this is expressly stated by the Orphics and Aristotle. But the poet's attitude is quite different. Every one quotes, and has done so even from the times of Heraclitus and down to those of Ranke, the charge which Xenophanes made against Homer that he forms the gods like Hellenes, but that the negroes would invent a black Zeus and horses would think of the gods as horses. No remark could be more senseless or superficial. [71] The reproach is not even correct in fact, since the gods in Homer appear in all possible forms. As K. Lehrs says in his fine but unfortunately almost forgotten book, Ethik und Religion der Griechen (pp. I36-7): "The Greek gods are by no means images of men, but antitypes. They are neither cosmic potencies (as the philosophers first regarded them) nor glorified men! They frequently occur in animal form and only bear as a rule the human form as being the noblest, most beautiful and most suitable, but every other form is in itself just as natural to them." Incomparably more important, however, is the fact that in Homer and the other great poets all teleology is wanting; for undeniable anthropomorphism did not appear till this idea did. Why should I not represent the gods in the image of man? Should I introduce them into my poem as sheep or beetles? Did not Raphael and Michael Angelo do the very same thing as Homer? Has the Christian religion not accepted the idea that God appeared in human form? Is the Jehovah of the Israelites not a prototype of the noble and yet quarrelsome and revengeful Jew? It would surely not be advisable to recommend to the imagination of the artist the Aristotelian "being without size which thinks the thing thought." On the other hand, the poetical religion of the Greeks does not presume to give information about the "uncreated" and to "explain according to reason" the future. It gives a picture of the world as in a hollow mirror and thinks thereby to quicken and to purify the spirit of man, and nothing more. Lehrs demonstrates, in the book mentioned above, how the idea of teleology was introduced by the philosophers, from Socrates to Cicero, but found no place in Hellenic poetry. "The idea of beautiful order, harmony, cosmos, which pervades Greek religion, is," he says (p. 117), "a much higher idea than that of teleology, which in every respect has something paltry about it." To bring the matter quite home to us, I ask, which is the anthropomorphist, Homer or Byron? Homer, whose personal existence could be doubted, or Byron, who so powerfully grasped the strings of the harp and attuned the poetry of our century to the melody, in which Alps and Ocean, Past and Present of the human race only serve to mirror, and form a frame for the individual Ego? I should think it almost impossible for each of us to-day, surrounded as we are by human actions and permeated with the dim idea of an ordered Cosmos to remain to so small a degree anthropomorphic, so very "objective" as Homer.
Site Admin
Posts: 33203
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Return to Ancien Regime

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 8 guests