EDUARD VON HARTMANN (1842–1906)

The Religion of the Future
(
London:  W. Stewart & Co., 1886):  73, 74, 75

 

[73] “The man who carries within himself metaphysical conceptions of such a nature that his emotions are positively affected by them possesses Religion. Whether he is slightly or deeply moved, whether he receives such impressions occasionally and by accident, or expressly seeks them and abandons himself entirely to their influence,—all that depends upon his natural religious disposition and the culture which he has received. But it is very rare to a man quite destitute of the elements of a religious disposition, though with some persons, the feelings aroused by certain metaphysical conceptions may remain in the purely instinctive and unconscious stage, while, in others, these same ideas evoke powerful emotion. Now there is a Science of Metaphysics. But it is not given to all men to attain to Science, least of all to the scientific study of Metaphysics. And yet every man, as Schopenhauer has so beautifully shown, has need of Metaphysics; every man has need of metaphysical ideas in order to satisfy his need of Religion. And therefore arises the necessity of a set of metaphysical conceptions which can be communicated and transferred to the minds of others in a way different from that of Science; it must be, too, a system of Metaphysics which will serve to satisfy, even in those persons who are strangers to Science, directly, the need of Metaphysics, and, indirectly, the religious need.

This Metaphysic, which we might call popular Metaphysic, is Religion. However, Religion consists of something more than the metaphysical ideas of the masses; it contains the [74] capability of discerning the means and directions for arousing, in a strong and lasting from, the religious sentiment with this Metaphysic for its foundation,—that is to say, religious cultus; and, secondly, Religion contains the deductions drawn from this Metaphysic for the practical conduct of men, in other words, religious Ethics. Cultus belongs to Religion alone; but Morality constitutes a domain which Religion shares not only with Science properly so called,—as is the case as regards Metaphysic,—but also with custom, the origin and development of which are often unconscious. In custom, Morality appears as something fixed, empirical, unconscious, and palpably resting on no principle. It is only in Science, as far as Science attaches Morality to metaphysical principles, and in Religion, which fulfils the same office, that moral precepts find a justification, and this justification opposes a barrier, at least theoretically, to the assaults of the arbitrary individual.

Thus we see that Religion constitutes the whole of the Philosophy of the masses, since the other elements in Philosophy affect the masses little or not at all. In fine, Religion comprises all the Idealism of the masses, Art not being accessible to them, except under a form too coarse to elevate them to artistic Idealism. Every ideal (or, speaking more exactly, all ideals of an ideal nature, to the exclusion of the materialistic ideal of a Social-Democratic Utopia), and every tendency of the heart towards the Ideal, become incarnate among the masses as Religion. It is Religion alone which constantly reminds the masses that there is something higher that eating and drinking and sexual intimacy, that this transient world of the senses is not the All in All, but only the manifestation of an eternal, super-sensuous principle of which we see here only the confused shadow. To keep alive this sentiment in the hearts of simple masses – be it only as a dark foreboding – is the task common to all Religions when they have raised themselves above the primitive stage of rude, natural Religion.

[75] The world of metaphysical ideas must always be, to the religious man, the living source whence the excitement of the emotions in worship and the influence on the will in moral action arise. When this source is dried up, worship is petrified into dead, meaningless ceremonies, and religious Morality becomes converted into abstract precepts or sentimental phrases by which no living soul on earth could be influenced. On the other hand, Metaphysics lose their religious character as soon as they cease to be a direct stimulus to the emotions and to the will, and become mere theory or pseudo-Science; pure Science, indeed, among philosophy, but pseudo-Science among theologians who confine their attention to interpreting and systematizing the traditional dogmas. The masses are by no means clear in their ideas about the various elements which go to make up Religion, but they instinctively feel that it is the unity of all these notions, which is the object of their search in Religion. The masses do not know Metaphysics by name, but they do know what they require of Religion, namely, that it should give them the truth; not all the truths as they lie scattered in the various special Sciences, but the truth which the Universal Science, Philosophy, strives to attain, the one and eternal truth able to satisfy their unconscious need of Metaphysics. Not that it can be ever imparted to the masses in all its full extent and depth, even supposing that Science had really found and formulated it. No, the super sensuous cannot so easily be made intelligible to the human understanding. The essence of Truth is a Mystery, and will ever remain so; its expression will be always only symbolical, never exhaustive or scientific, whether the symbols consist of abstract notions or of images and figures.

[Submitted by James A. Santucci]