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Thoughts during the Time of War

On-line since: 30th June, 2014


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Part 2

Whoever has allowed Fichte's manner of spirit to work upon him, senses in all following time that he has taken something into his soul that has still an other effect entirely than the ideas and words of this thinker. These ideas and words transform themselves in the soul. They become a power that is essentially more than the remembrance of what was received directly from Fichte. A power that has something of the quality of living beings. It grows in the soul. And in it, the soul feels a never dwindling means of strength. If one senses the special quality of Fichte this way, one can never separate from this sensation the mental representation of the inner essential being-ness with which the German soul spoke through Fichte. How one stands toward Fichte's world view does not matter here. It is not the content, it is the power by which this world view is created. That power is what one feels. Whoever wants to follow Fichte as a thinker must enter into seemingly cold regions of ideas. Into regions in which the power of thinking must cast aside much that is otherwise dear to it, in order merely to find it possible that a man can put himself into such a relationship toward the world as Fichte had. But if one has followed Fichte thus, then one feels how the power that held sway in his thinking streamed into the life-giving words with which, in a destiny-bearing time, he sought to enflame his people to world-effective deed. The warmth in Fichte's Speeches to the German Nation is one with the light that shone for him in his energetic thought work. And the connection of this light with this warmth appears in Fichte's personality as that by which he is one of the most authentic embodiments of German essential being. This German essential Being had first to make Fichte into the thinker he was, before it could speak through him the penetrating Speeches to the German Nation. But after it had created such a thinker as Fichte, this German essential Being could not speak otherwise to the nation than happened in these speeches. Again it matters less  w h a t  Fichte said in these speeches than, rather,  h o w  German-ness, through them, placed itself before the consciousness of the people. A thinker who in his world view is far removed from Fichte's trains of thought, Robert Zimmermann, must speak the words: “As long as in Germany a heart beats that is able to feel the shame of foreign tyranny, the memory of the courageous one will live on, who at the moment of deepest humiliation, in the midst of French-occupied Berlin, before the eyes and ears of the enemies, among spies and informers, under took to raise the power of the German people, broken from without by the sword, upright again from within by the spirit, and at the same instant when the political existence of this people seemed to be annihilated forever, to create it anew, by the enthusiastic thought of universal education, in future generations.”

One need not have the aim of awakening sentimental feelings if, to characterize the special quality of how Fichte is connected with the deepest essential being of being German, one portrays the last hours in the life of the thinker. — Fichte's wife, the life companion who truly was not only worthy of him, who fully measured up to his greatness, had done hospital service for five months under the most difficult conditions, and had thereby contracted lazaret fever. The wife recovered. Fichte himself fell prey to the disease and succumbed to it. His son described the manner of Fichte's dying. The last report that the dying one received was that delivered by the son, of Blucher's crossing of the Rhine, of the advance of the allies against the French enemy. The soul wresting itself from the thinker's body lived entirely in the profound joy over these events; and as the formerly icy-sharp thinking passed over in the dying one into fever fantasies, he felt himself among the midst of the fighters. How the image of the philosopher stands before the soul, who — right over into the fever fantasies clouding the consciousness — is like the Entity, revealing itself, of the will and working of his people! And how in Fichte the German philosopher is one with every stirring of life of the whole man. The son hands the dying one a medicine. The dying one gently pushes back what is proffered; he feels himself entirely one with the world-historical working of his people. In such feeling he concludes his life with the words: I need no medicine; I feel that I have recovered. He had “recovered” in the feeling of participating in his soul in the experience of the elevation of the German essential Being.

From the upward glance to Fichte's personality, one is allowed to draw the power to speak about German essential being. For his striving was to make this essential being astir, as an actively working power, right into the sources of his special nature. And in the contemplation of his personality it comes clearly to light that he felt his own work of spirit connected with the deepest roots of the German essential being. These roots themselves, though, he sought in the foundations of the working of spirit which he beheld behind all of the world's outer, sense-accessible functionings. He could not conceive of German working with out a connection of this working with the spirituality illuminating the world through and through and warming it through and through. He saw the essential being of German-ness in the welling forth of the life expressions of the people from the primal source of the originally spiritually alive. And what he himself understood as world view that issues from this primal source in the sense of the German quality, he spoke out about it thus: “It — this world view — glimpses time and eternity and infinity, as they come into being out of the appearing and becoming visible of that One that is in itself simply invisible, and only in this its invisibility is grasped, rightly grasped.” — “All persistent existence appearing as not spiritual life is but an empty shadow cast from seeing, transmitted in multiple ways by nothingness, as opposed to which, and by whose recognition as nothingness transmitted in multiple ways, seeing itself is to rise to the recognizing of its own nothingness, and to the acknowledgment of the invisible as the only true being.”

In his Speeches to the German Nation, Fichte seeks to grasp all truly German life expressions this way, out the source of spiritual life, and to receive out of this source the words themselves with which he speaks of these life expressions. — One will perhaps pause with special feelings at one passage in these Speeches, if from their tone and bosom depth, one has imbued oneself with the feeling perception: how this man stands with his whole soul within the viewing of the spiritual essential being of the world! How this standing with his soul within the spiritual world is for him such an immediate reality as for the outer man the standing within the material world by means of the senses! One may think how ever one does about the characterization of his time as developed by Fichte in the Speeches; if one hears of this characterization through his words, it cannot matter whether one agrees with what is said or not, but what a magical breath of human ethos one feels. — Fichte talks of the age he would like to help to bring about. He uses a simile. And this simile is where one is held fast with one's feelings in the sense hinted at. He says: “The age appears to me like an empty shade, who is standing above its corpse, which a host of diseases has just driven it out of, and lamenting, and is unable to tear its gaze from the once so beloved sheath, and despairingly tries all means of re-entering that housing-place of plagues. Though the enlivening airs of the other world, into which the departed has entered, have already received her, and surround her with warm breath of love, though secret voices of her sisters are already greeting her joyfully and welcoming her, though there is already a stirring and an expanding in her inner being in all directions, to develop the glorious shape to which she is to grow: yet she has no feeling for these airs as yet, or hearing for these voices, or if she had, she is consumed in pain at her loss, with which she believes she has at the same time lost herself.”

The question is natural: how is the mood of a soul who, in a contemplation of the age and the changing of the ages, is driven to such a comparison? Fichte is talking here about the existence of the human soul after its separation from the body by death, the way a person otherwise talks about a material process that plays itself out before his senses. To be sure, Fichte is using a simile. And a simile must not be exploited in such a way that one would like to prove something by it about a significant view of the person who utters the simile. But the simile points to a mental representation that lives in the soul of the simile-maker with regard to an object or process. Here, with regard to the experiences of the human soul after death. Without wanting to claim anything about how Fichte would have made a pronouncement about the validity of such a mental representation if he had done so in the context of his world view, one can never-the-less lead this mental representation before one's soul. Fichte speaks of the human soul as of a being so independent of the body that this being separates from the bodily nature in death, and is able to look consciously at the separated body the way the man in the sense world looks at an object or process with his eyes. Apart from this looking at the body which one has left, the new environment which the soul enters when it has separated from the body is hinted at too. That modern form of the science of the spirit which talks about these things on the basis of certain soul experiences is allowed to find something significant in this Fichtean simile. What this science of the spirit strives for is a recognition concerning the spiritual worlds entirely in the sense of the type of recognition that is acknowledged by modern natural science as justified concerning the natural world. Though this form of spirit science is presently still seen by many as a dreaming, as a wild flight of fancy; yet so it also went for many people for a long time with the view, contradicting the senses, of the orbit of the earth around the sun. It is essential that this science of the spirit has as its basis a real recognizability of the spiritual world. A recognizability that rests not on concepts thought out, but on experiences of the soul of man that are really to be achieved. As he can know nothing of the properties of hydrogen who knows only water, which has hydrogen in it, so he can know nothing of the true being of the human soul who experiences the soul only the way it is when it is in connection with the body. Yet the science of the spirit leads to this: that the spiritual-and-soul re leases itself for its own perception from the physical-and-bodily, as by the methods of the chemist hydrogen can be released from water. Such a release of the soul happens not by false mystical flights of fancy, but by rigorously healthy intensified inner experiencing of certain soul faculties, which, though always pre sent in every soul, remain unnoticed and unconsidered in normal life and in nor mal science. By such strengthening and enlivening of soul forces, the soul of man can come to an inner experiencing in which it beholds a spiritual world, as it beholds with the senses the material world. It then knows itself to be indeed “outside of the connection with the body” and equipped with what — to use Goethean expressions — one can call “eyes of spirit” and “ears of spirit.” Spirit science talks of these things not at all in a pseudo-mystical sense, but in such a way that for it, the progression from the usual view of the sense world to the viewing of the spiritual world becomes a definite process inherent in the essential being of the nature of man, which to be sure one must call forth by one's own inner experiencing, by a definitely directed self-activation of the soul. But with respect to this too, the science of the spirit is allowed to feel itself in unison with Fichte. When in 1813 in autumn he delivered his Doctrine before listeners as ripe fruit of his spirit striving, he spoke the following as introduction: “This doctrine presupposes a completely new inner sense instrument, by which a new world is given that for the ordinary person does not exist at all.” Fichte does not at all mean by this an “organ” that exists only for “chosen,” not for “ordinary people,” but an “organ” that anyone can acquire, but which for man's ordinary recognizing and perceiving does not come to consciousness. With such an “organ,” man is now really in a spiritual world, and is able to speak about life in this world as by his senses about material processes. For anyone who puts himself into this position, it becomes natural to speak about the life of the soul the way it is done in the Fichtean simile quoted. Fichte makes the comparison not out of a general belief, but by a standing within the spiritual world that has been  e x p e r i e n c e d . One must sense in Fichte a personality that in every stirring of life consciously feels itself one with the holding sway of a spiritual world, and beholds itself standing within this world as the man of the senses does in the material world. Now, that this is the mood of soul that he has the German basic tenor of his world view to thank for, Fichte distinctly states. He says: “The true philosophy that has come to an end within itself, and has truly penetrated beyond appearance to its core, ... proceeds from the one, pure, divine life — as life outright, which remains that for all eternity, and in eternity always remains one, but not as from this or that life; and it sees how merely in the appearance this life closes and again opens, endlessly on, and only in consequence of this law comes to an existence, and to a Something at all. For it, existence comes about, which the other (here Fichte means un-German philosophy) takes as given in advance. And so this philosophy (Fichte means the one he professes) is in the quite proper sense only German, that is, original; and conversely, were someone but to be come a true German, he would not be able to philosophize otherwise than thus.”

It would be wrong to quote these words of Fichte's in characterization of his soul mood without at the same time calling to mind the others that he spoke in the same context of the speech: “Anybody who believes in spiritual-intellectual activity, and freeness of this spiritual-intellectual activity, and wants the eternal further education of this spiritual-intellectual activity by freeness, he, wherever he was born, and whatever language he speaks, is of our lineage, he belongs to us, and he will join us.” — In the time when Fichte saw German nationality threatened by western foreign rule, he felt the necessity of declaring that he sensed the essential-being quality of his world view as a gift extended to him as if by the German Folk Spirit. And he unreservedly brought it to expression that this sensation had led him to the recognition of the tasks he was allowed to accord the German Folk within the evolution of humanity, in the sense that from the recognition of these tasks the German may derive his right and his vocation to all that he intends and fulfills in the context of peoples. That he may seek in this recognition the source from which there flows to him the power to get involved in this evolution as a German with all that he has and is.

Whoever in the present time has taken up Fichte's soul mood into the life of his own soul, will find in the world view of this thinker a power which does not let him remain at this world view. Which leads him, in his striving for spiritual-intellectual activity, to a viewpoint that shows the connections of man with the world differently from how Fichte presented them. He will be able to gain by Fichte the ability to see the world differently from how Fichte saw it. And he will sense just this manner of striving in a Fichtean way as a profound relation ship with this thinker. Such a one will also certainly not reckon among the ideals which he would like to stand up for unconditionally the plan of education that Fichte in his Speeches to the German Nation characterized as the one that appeared salutary to him. And so it is with much that Fichte wanted to advance as content of his views. But the soul mood that from him communicates itself to the soul that can meet with him works like a spring still flowing in the present in full freshness. His world view strives for the strongest exertion of the powers of thought that the soul can find in itself, in order to discover in man what shows man's being as “higher man” in man in connection with the spirit foundation of that world which lies beyond all sense experience. Certainly that is the way of every striving for a world view that does not want to see in the sense world itself the basis of all being. But Fichte's special quality lies in the power he wants to give to thought out of the depths of the essential being of man. So that this thought find by itself the firmness that lends it weight in the spiritual world. A weight that maintains it in the regions of soul life, and in which the soul can feel the eternity of her experiencing, yes, so create this eternity by willing it that this willing is allowed to know itself to be connected with the eternal spirit life.

Thus does Fichte strive for “pure humanity” in his world view. In this striving he is allowed to know himself to be at one with all that is human, wherever and however it ever makes its appearance on the earth. And in a time heavy with destiny, Fichte uttered the word: “Were someone but to become a true German, he could not philosophize other than thus.” And through all that he says in the Speeches to the German Nation, the extension of this thought sounds through like a foundation tone: If only someone is a true German, he will out of his German-ness find the path upon which an understanding of all human reality can ripen. For it is not that Fichte thinks he is allowed to see only the world view in the light of this thought. Because he is a thinker, he gives as an example what kind of thinker he by his German-ness had to become. But he is of the opinion that this fundamental essential being of German-ness must speak itself out in every German, wherever he has his place in life.

The passion of the war wants to deny Germans the right to speak about the German element the way Fichte did. From the countries living at war with the Germans, personalities who occupy a high position in the spiritual life of these countries also speak out of this passion. Philosophers use the power of their thinking to corroborate — in unison with the opinion of the day — the judgment that the German ethnic element itself has estranged itself from that willing that lived in personalities of Fichte's quality, and has fallen prey to what is designated with the now popular word “barbarism.” And if the German voices the thought that this ethnic element did after all produce people of that quality, then probably the utterance of such a thought will be designated as most superfluous. For one would probably like to reply that all of that is not what is being talked about. That one knows how to honor it that the Germans have had Goethe, Fichte, Schiller, etc. in their midst; but that their spirit does not speak out of what the Germans are bringing about in the present. And so the passionate critics of the German essential being will probably even manage to find the words: out of the dreamy quality of the Germans — which we have always evaluated correctly — why shouldn't dreamers still turn up today as well who, in response to the words with which we meet what the German weapons do to us, answer with a characterization of the German essential being given them by their Fichte in a past that is lost to them; which characterization he himself would probably change, though, if he saw how the German manner is today.

There will come times that will acquire a calm judgment about whether the condemnation of German willing spoken out of passion does not correspond to blind inebriation, equivalent in its reality-value with a dream, and whether next to that, the “dreaming” that still speaks about present German willing in Fichte's manner does not perhaps signify that waking state which does not insert between itself and the events the passions, hostile to reality, which lull judgment to sleep.

Working out of no other spirit than that in whose name Fichte spoke can the willing appear to the German which the German people must develop in the fight forced upon it by the enemies of Germany. As if in a far-spread fortress, the opponents hold the body enclosed which is the expression of what Fichte characterized as the German Spirit. That Spirit which the German warrior feels himself as a fighter for, whether he does this in conscious recognition of this Spirit, or takes his stand in the battle out of the subconscious powers of his soul.

“Who wanted this war?” so ran a question posed to the Germans by many opponents, which presupposed, as self-evident answer, that the Germans wanted it. Yet to such a question, not passion may reply. Also not the judgment that wants to draw conclusions only from the facts that preceded the war in the very most recent time. What happened in this very most recent time is rooted deeply in the currents of European will impulses. And an answer to the above question can be sought only in the impulses that have long been set against the German element.

Here only such impulses are to be pointed to as are so well known, in their general essence, that it can seem fully superfluous to speak about them when one wants to say something about the causes of the coming about of the present war. There are, however, two points of view from which the seemingly superfluous can appear desirable after all. The one results when one considers that in the forming of a judgment about important facts, what matters cannot be solely that one knows something, but from what bases one forms one's judgment. One is led to the second point of view when, in the contemplation of im pulses of peoples, one wants to recognize in what manner they are rooted in the life of the peoples. From the insight into this manner, there results a feeling perception about the strength with which these impulses live on in time, and take effect at the moment that is favorable to them.

Ernest Renan is one of the leading spirits of France in the second half of the Nineteenth Century. This author of a Life of Jesus and of the Apostles wrote in an open letter during the war in the year 1870 to the German author of a Life of Jesus, David Friedrich Strauss: “I was at the Seminaire St. Sulpice, around the year 1843, when I began to get to know Germany through the writings of Goethe and Herder. I believed I was entering a temple, and from that moment on, all that until then I had held to be a splendor worthy of the Godhead only made upon me the impression of wilted and yellowed paper flowers.” Further the French man writes in the same letter: “in Germany” there has “for a century come about one of the most beautiful spiritual developments known to history, a development which, if I may venture the expression, has added a level of depth and ex tension to the human spirit, so that whoever has remained untouched by this new development is to him who has gone through it as one who knows only elementary mathematics is to him who is experienced in differential calculus.” And this leading Frenchman brings clearly to expression in the same letter what this Germany, before whose life of spirit “all that until then” he “had held to be a splendor worthy of the Godhead only made upon” him “the impression of wilted and yellowed paper flowers,” would have to expect from the French if it did not conclude the war of then with a peace agreeable to Renan's fellow countrymen. He writes: “The hour is solemn. There are in France two currents of opinion. The ones judge thus: Let us make an end to this hated business as quickly as possible; let us give away everything, Alsace, Lorraine; let us sign the peace accord; but then, hatred unto death, preparations without rest, alliance with anyone convenient, unlimited permissiveness toward all Russian overreachings; one single goal, one single driving force for life: the struggle of obliteration against the German race. Others say: Let us save France's integrity, let us develop the constitutional institutions, let us make good our mistakes, not by dreaming of revenge for a war in which we were the unjust attackers, but by concluding a treaty with Germany and England whose effect will be to lead the world further on the path of free civilized morality.” Renan himself calls attention to this: that France was the unjust attacker in the war of then. And so it is not necessary to put forward the easily demonstrable historical fact that Germany had to wage that war to put in its bounds the constant disturber of its work. Now, one can disregard to what extent Germany was striving for Alsace-Lorraine as a region of related ethnic stocks; one need only emphasize the necessity which Germany was put into by this: that it could only get itself some calm at the hands of the French if with the Alsace-Lorraine region it took away from its neighbor the possibility of disturbing this calm so easily in the future as had often happened in the past. But thereby a brake was put on the second current in France spoken of by Renan; not this one had prospects for its goal of “leading the world further on the path of free civilized morality,” but the other, whose “single goal, single driving force,” for life was: “the struggle of obliteration against the German race.” There were men who in some of what has happened since the War of 1870 believed they recognized signs that a bridging of the conflicts was possible on a peaceful path. In the course of the last years many voices that sounded in this tone could be heard. Yet the impulse directed against the German people lived on, and there remained alive the driving force: “alliance with anyone convenient, unlimited permissiveness toward all Russian overreachings; ... the struggle of obliteration against the German race.” Out of the same spirit, sounds are issuing again at present through quite a few of the leading minds of France. Renan continues his contemplation about the two previously portrayed currents in the French people with the words: “Germany will decide whether France will choose this political strategy or that one; it will thereby decide at the same time about the future of civilized morality.” One must really first convert this sentence into the German meaning to appraise it rightly. It means: France has proven to be an unjust attacker in the war; in the event that Germany, after a victory over France, does not conclude a peace that leaves France unimpededly in the position to become such an unjust attacker again as soon as it pleases, then Germany is deciding against the civilized morality of the future. What is decided, out of such an understanding, concerning “hatred unto death, preparations without rest, alliance with anyone convenient, unlimited permissiveness toward all Russian overreachings,” what is decided concerning the “single driving force for life: the struggle of obliteration against the German race,”  t h a t  and nothing else provides the basis for an answer to the question: “Who wanted this war?”

As to whether the “alliance” will be found, there too, men capable of taking a look at the impulses directed against Germany were already giving an answer back when Renan spoke out in the sense characterized. A man who seeks a look forward from the then present into the future of Europe, Carl Vogt, writes during the War of 1870: “It is possible that even if its territory is left intact, France will take advantage of the opportunity to whet the nicked blade sharp again; it is probable that with no annexation, it will have more than enough to do with its own internal affairs, and will consider a renewed war all the less, since a powerful current of peace must take hold in the hearts and minds; it is certain that it will set aside all scruples should an annexation take place. Which wager then should the statesman choose?” — It is easy to see that the answer to this question depends also upon one's view about the coming European conflicts. By itself, France will not dare, even in the longer term, to brave the fight against Germany anew, the blows have been too heavy and thorough for that, — but as soon as another enemy arises, it will be able to put to itself the question whether it is in a position to join in, and on whose side. — As far as I'm concerned, I am not in doubt for a moment that a conflict between the Germanic and the Slavic world is approaching and that in it, Russia will take over the leadership on the one side. This power is preparing even now for this eventuality; the national Russian press spits fire and flames against Germany. The German press is already letting its calls of warning resound. A long time has passed since Russia collected itself after the Crimean War, and as it seems, it is now found advisable in Petersburg to take up the Oriental question once again ... If the Mediterranean is someday supposed to become, according to the more pompous than true expression, a “French lake,” Russia has the at least much more positive aim of making the Black Sea a Russian lake, and the Sea of Marmara a Russian pond. That Constantinople .... needs to become a Russian city, is an established goal of “the Russian policy,” which finds its “supporting lever” in “Pan-Slavism.” (Carl Vogt's Political Letters, Biel 1870.) To this judgment of Carl Vogt's about what he foresees for Europe, there could be added those of not a few other personalities, gleaned from the contemplation of European directions of willing. They would make what is to be indicated here more vividly insistent, and yet speak of the same fact: that already in 1870 an observer of these directions of willing had to point to the East of Europe if he wanted to answer for himself the question: Who will want to wage a war against Middle Europe sooner or later? And his gaze had to fall upon France when he asked: who will want to wage this war together with Russia against Germany? Vogt's voice comes especially into consideration because in the letter in which he so speaks, he says some unfriendly things to Germany. He can truly not be accused of bias in favor of Germany. But his words are proof that the question: who will want this war? had long been answered by the facts  b e f o r e  those causes were at work which Germany's opponents would so like to hear as an answer when they raise the question: Who wanted this war? That it took more than forty years from then to the outbreak of the war, is not thanks to France.


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