In the first place, let him who desires to be met with the same honest purpose which I presume leads him here, cast back a kindly glance upon our former lecture. It appears that many of this assembly have not been able altogether to follow the greater part of that which I said at the beginning of my previous address. In so far as this may have any other cause than want of acquaintance with the style, voice, and manner of the lecturer, and the novelty of the whole situation,—all of which may be overcome by a few minutes’ custom,—allow me, as some consolation should the like happen again, to add the following:—That which some of my hearers have been unable thoroughly to comprehend, does not so much belong to the subject itself, as to the practice of the art which we now employ,—the art of philosophizing. It is serviceable to us in finding an introduction and commencement in the circle of other knowledge from which to set forth our subject, and in strictly defining our point of separation from this system of knowledge; it is a part of the account which we teachers and masters must render of our manner of working. Every other art,—as poetry, music, painting,—may be practised without the process showing forth the rules according to which it is conducted;—but in the self-cognizant art of the philosopher no step can be taken without declaring the grounds upon which it proceeds; and in it theory and practice go hand in hand. It was necessary for me to proceed in this way on the former occasion, and in similar circumstances I must proceed in the same way again. But if any one choose to admit beforehand, and without further proof, that I proceed correctly and according to the rules of my art, and will calmly and candidly test, by his own natural sense of truth, that which I have laid down as the foundation of the edifice, such an one will lose nothing essential by thus missing the scientific explanation; and it will be perfectly sufficient for our present purpose if, out of that which we laid down in our former lecture, he has thoroughly understood and accepted the following propositions, and has retained them in his memory, so that he may connect with them what we have further to lay before you.
He must, I say, thoroughly understand, accept, and keep in mind the following:—The life of the Human Race does not depend upon blind chance; nor is it, as is often superficially pretended, everywhere alike, so that it has always been as it is now and will always so remain; but it proceeds and moves onward according to a settled plan which must necessarily be fulfilled, and therefore shall certainly be fulfilled. This plan is—that the Race shall in this Life and with freedom mould and cultivate itself into a pure and express Image of Reason. The whole Life of Man is divided—I am now supposing that the strict derivation of this has not been thoroughly understood or has been forgotten,—the whole Life of Man is divided into five principal Epochs:—that in which Reason governs in the form of blind Instinct; that in which this Instinct is changed into an external ruling Authority; that in which the dominion of this Authority, and with it that of Reason itself, is overthrown; that in which Reason and its laws are understood with clear consciousness; and finally, that in which all the relations of the Race shall be directed and ordered by perfect Art and perfect Freedom according to Reason:—and, in order to impress these different Epochs firmly upon your memory by means of a sensuous representation, we made use of the universally known picture of Paradise. Further, he must understand that the Present Age, to which especially our present purpose refers, must fall within one or other of these five Epochs; that we have now to set forth the fundamental Idea of this Epoch, distinguishing it from the other four, which, except for the purposes of illustrating our own, we may here lay out of view; and that from this fundamental Idea we must deduce the peculiar phenomena of the Age as its necessary consequences. At this point our second lecture begins.
And so let us set forth with declaring at what point of the whole Earthly life of the Race we place our Present Age. I, for my part, hold that the Present Age stands precisely in the middle of Earthly Time; and as we may characterize the two first Epochs of our scheme (in which Reason rules first directly as Instinct, and then indirectly as Instinct through Authority) as the one Epoch of the dominion of blind or unconscious Reason;—and in like manner the two last Epochs in our scheme (in which Reason first appears as Knowledge, and then, by means of Art, enters upon the government of Life) as the one Epoch of the dominion of seeing or conscious Reason;—so the Present Age unites the ends of two essentially different Worlds,—the World of Darkness and that of Light,—the World of Constraint and that of Freedom,—without itself belonging to either of them. In other words, the Present Age, according to my view of it, stands in that Epoch which in my former lecture I named the third, and which I characterized as the Epoch of Liberation—directly from the external ruling Authority,—indirectly from the power of Reason as Instinct, and generally from Reason in any form; the Age of absolute indifference towards all truth, and of entire and unrestrained licentiousness:—the State of completed Sinfulness. Our Age stands, I think, in this Epoch, taken with the limitations which I have already laid down,—namely, that I do not here include all men now living in our time, but only those who are truly products of the Age, and in whom it most completely reveals itself.
Let this then be now said, and said once for all. It was needful that I should say this once, for this my declared opinion is the only ground why I select for investigation that Epoch which I now take up, leaving the other four out of view;—otherwise I must have entered upon all five, or at least selected some other one for consideration. But I can here only announce this opinion, not prove it. The proof lies out of the domain of the philosopher, and belongs to that of the observer of the world and of men;—and this character I do not wish to assume here. I have said this now once for all.—I now proceed calmly and without restriction, as beseems a philosopher, to that higher principle which we have already laid down as the fundamental principle of any Age whatsoever, not as something of our own devising, but as deduced from the general conception of an Earthly Life; and from thence infer whatever may justly be inferred as to the form and phenomena of a life founded upon this principle. Whether the life which now exists before your eyes resemble that which I, guided only by the laws of syllogistic reasoning, shall deduce a priori from that principle,—this inquiry, as I have already said, belongs to you;—you must resolve it upon your own responsibility, and whatever you may or may not say on the subject, I shall have no part in it. If, according to your judgment, I have hit the mark, it is well;—if not, we shall at least have philosophized; and philosophized, if not upon the present, yet upon some other possible and necessary Age;—and so our labour not be wholly lost.
The Present Age, I have said, without further explanation; and it is sufficient at the outset if, without any stricter definition, these words shall be understood to mean the time in which we, who now live and think and speak to each other, do actually exist and live. It is by no means my purpose at present to mark out the centuries, or even cycles, which may have elapsed since that which I call the Present Age first appeared in the world. Obviously, an Age can only be judged and understood by observation of those nations who stand at the head of the civilization of their time: but as civilization has wandered from people to people, so with this civilization an Age too may have wandered from people to people, remaining unchangeably one and the same in principle amid all variety of climate and of soil; and so likewise, in virtue of the purpose of uniting all nations into one great commonwealth, may the Age be arrested and detained on the stage during a considerable period of chronological Time, and thus, as it were, the Time-current be compelled to a pause. Especially may this be the case with an Age like that which we have to describe, throughout which adverse worlds meet and struggle with each other, slowly striving to attain an equilibrium, and thereby to secure the peaceful extinction of the elder time. But, it is only after we have acquired a more intimate knowledge of the principle of the Age, and have learned at the same time how history is to be questioned and what we have to seek from her, that it will be useful or proper for us to adduce from the history of the actual world whatever may be necessary for our purpose and may serve to guard us from error. Not whether our words, had they been uttered centuries ago, would then have depicted reality,—nor whether they shall picture it forth after centuries have passed away,—but only whether they now represent it truly, is the question which is proposed for your final decision.
So much by way of preface to our first task,—to unfold the principle of the Age;—now to the solution of this problem. I have laid down this principle as Liberation from the compulsion of the blind Authority exercised by Reason as Instinct;—Liberation being understood to mean the state in which the Race gradually works out its own Freedom,—now in this, now in that individual,—now from this, now from that object, with respect to which Authority has hitherto held it in chains;—not that in which it already is free, but at most only that in which those who stand at the head of the Age, and seek to guide, direct, and elevate the others, are, or imagine themselves to be, free. The instrument of this liberation from Authority is Understanding; for the characteristic of Instinct as opposed to Understanding consists in this,—that it is blind; and the characteristic of Authority, by means of which Instinct has governed in the preceding Age, is this,—that it demands unquestioning faith and obedience. Hence the fundamental maxim of those who stand at the head of this Age, and therefore the principle of the Age, is this,—to accept nothing as really existing or obligatory but that which they can understand and clearly comprehend.
With regard to this fundamental principle, as we have now declared and adopted it without further definition or limitation, this third Age is similar to that which is to follow it,—the fourth, or Age of Reason as Knowledge;—and by virtue of this similarity prepares the way for it. Before the tribunal of Knowledge, too, nothing is accepted but the Conceivable. Only in the application of the principle there is this difference between the two Ages,—that the third, which we shall shortly name that of Empty Freedom, makes its fixed and already acquired conception the measure of existence; while the fourth—that of Knowledge—on the contrary, makes existence the measure, not of its acquired, but of its desiderated belief. To the former there is nothing but what it already comprehends: the latter strives to comprehend, and does comprehend, all that is. The latter—the Age of Knowledge—penetrates to all things without exception;—to the Conceivable, and even to that which still remains absolutely Unconceivable accepting it as Unconceivable:—to the first, the Conceivable, so as thereby to order the relations of the Race;—to the second, the Unconceivable, in order to assure itself that all the Conceivable is exhausted, and that it is now in possession of the limits of the Conceivable. The former—the Age of Empty Freedom—does not know that man must first through labour, industry, and art, learn how to know; but it has a certain fixed standard for all conceptions, and an established Common Sense of Mankind always ready and at hand, innate, and ever present without trouble on its part;—and those conceptions and this Common Sense are to it the measure of the efficient and the real. It has this great advantage over the Age of Knowledge, that it knows all things without having learned anything; and can pass judgment upon whatever comes before it at once and without hesitation,—without needing any preliminary enquiry:—‘Whatever I do not immediately comprehend by the conceptions which already dwell within me, is nothing,’—says Empty Freedom:—‘Whatever I do not comprehend through the Absolute, Self-comprehensive Idea, is nothing,’—says Knowledge.
You perceive that this Age is based upon an already present conception,—an innate Common Sense, which pronounces irrevocably upon its whole system of knowledge and belief; and if we could thoroughly analyze this inborn conception or sense, which is thus to it the root of everything else, we should then, undoubtedly, be able to take in the whole system of the beliefs of the Age at a single glance, perceive the inmost spirit beneath all its outward wrappings, and bring it forth to view. Let it be now our task to acquire this knowledge;—and for this purpose I now invite you to the comprehension of a deep-lying proposition.
This namely:—The third Age throws off the yoke of Reason as Instinct ruling through the imposition of outward Authority. This Reason as Instinct, however, as we have already remarked, embraces only the relations and life of the Race as such, not the life of the Individual. In the latter the natural impulse of self-preservation and personal wellbeing alone prevails. Hence an Age which has thrown off Reason as Instinct, without accepting Reason in any other form in its stead, has absolutely nothing remaining except the life of the Individual, and whatever is connected with or related to that. Let us further explain this weighty conclusion, which is of essential importance to our future inquiries.
We have said that Reason as Instinct, and generally Reason in any form, embraces only the life and relations of the Race. To wit,—and this is a principle the proof of which cannot be brought forward here, but which is produced only as an axiom borrowed from the higher philosophy where the strict proof of it may be found,—there is but One existing Life, even in reference to the subject; i.e. there is everywhere but One animating power, One living Reason;—not, as we are accustomed to hear the unity of Reason asserted and admitted, that Reason is the one homogeneous and self-accordant faculty and property of reasonable beings, who do nevertheless exist already upon their own account, and to whose being this property of Reason is only superadded as a foreign ingredient, without which they might, at any rate, still have been;—but, that Reason is the only possible independent and self-sustaining Existence and Life, of which all that seems to us to exist and live is but a modification, definition, variety, and form. To you this principle is not altogether new, for it was already contained in the definition of Reason which I laid before you in our first lecture, to which I then particularly directed your attention and besought you to fix it in your mind. And now to explain this principle somewhat further, so that I may at least make it historically clear to you, although I cannot prove it in this place:—it is the greatest error, and the true ground of all the other errors which make this Age their sport, that each individual imagines that he can exist, live, think, and act for himself, and believes that he himself is the thinking principle of his thoughts; whereas in truth he is but a single ray of the one universal and necessary Thought. I shall not by any means be surprised if it should appear to you that in making this assertion I have uttered a monstrous paradox. I know too well that such an opinion must arise, because we can only speak of the present Age to the present Age;—and, if I do not err, the fundamental character of the Age consists in this, that it knows not the principle of which I have spoken, or holds it, when announced, in the highest degree incredible and absurd. This principle is, however, absolutely incontrovertible upon any other ground than that of the mere feeling of personality; the existence of which as a fact of consciousness we by no means deny, since we ourselves experience it as well as others. But we do most earnestly deny the validity of this feeling when the question respects truth and real existence, in the firm conviction that such questions must be decided upon quite other grounds than the deceptive revelations of consciousness; and we are perfectly able, in the proper time and place, to justify this our denial upon decisive grounds. Here, however, we can only announce this principle, and historically communicate it to you; and it is necessary to do this, because only by means of it can we separate ourselves from the Age and rise superior to it; and no one can truly characterize the Age, or comprehend its characteristics, who does not so raise himself above it. Hence I must entreat you to accept this principle in the meantime upon trust, until I shall be able to lead you, in a popular way, at least to a tacit admission of it, which I shall do in my next lecture.
It is only by and to mere Earthly and Finite perception, that this one and homogeneous Life of Reason is broken up and divided into separate individual persons; the ground of which division, as well as its form and mode, are to be found in the higher philosophy;—which individual persons exist and are in no other way than in this Earthly and Finite perception, and by means of it;—not at all in themselves, or independent of Earthly and Finite perception. You see here the origin of the division of the One Life of Reason into individual life, and the ground of the necessity which there is, for all who have not raised themselves by Knowledge above mere Earthly and Finite perception, to continue in the faith of this personal existence.
(In order that this principle may not be misunderstood in a sense entirely opposed to my meaning, I add the following;—but merely in passing, and without any connexion with my present subject:—The Earthly and Finite perception, as the foundation and scaffolding of the Eternal Life, as well as all that is contained therein,—and therefore, all the individual persons into whom the One Reason is divided by this Earthly and Finite perception,—endures, at least in memory, in the Eternal Life itself. Hence, far from anything arising out of my principle against the continuation of personal existence, this principle furnishes the only sufficient proof of it. And—to express it briefly and distinctly—persons endure through Eternity as they exist now, i.e. as the necessary phenomena of Earthly and Finite perception; but in all Eternity they can never become,—what they never were nor are,—independent beings.)
After this short digression, let us return to our task. The One and homogeneous Life of Reason of which we have spoken, dividing itself to mere Earthly and Finite perception into different individual lives, and hence assuming the form of the collective life of a Race, is, as above stated, founded at first upon Reason as Instinct, and as such regulated by its own essential law;—and this continues until Knowledge steps in and clearly comprehends this law in all its varied aspects, demonstrates and establishes it, and so makes it evident to all men;—and after Knowledge has done its part, then by Art is it built up into Reality. In this fundamental law lie all those higher Ideas which belong to the One Life, or to the form which the One Life here assumes,—viz. the Race:—which Ideas altogether transcend Individuality, and indeed radically subvert it. Where this fundamental law does not prevail under one form or another, there can Humanity never attain to the One Life,—to the Race; and hence nothing remains but Individuality as the only actual and efficient power. An Age which has set itself free from Reason as Instinct, the first principle of the Life of the Race, and does not yet possess Knowledge, the second principle of that Life, must find itself in this position:—with nothing remaining in it but mere naked Individuality. The Race, which alone possesses real existence, is here changed into a mere empty abstraction which has no true life, except in the artificial conception of some individual founded only on the strength of his own imaginings; and there is no other Whole, and indeed no other conceivable Whole, except a patchwork of individual parts, possessing no essential and organic Unity.
This individual and personal life, which is thus all that remains in such an Age, is governed by the impulse towards self-preservation and personal well-being; and Nature goes no further in man than this impulse. She bestows upon the animals a special instinct to guide them to the means of their preservation and well-being, but she sends forth man almost wholly uninstructed on this point, and refers him for guidance to his understanding and his experience; and therefore it could not fail that this latter should in the course of time, during the first two Epochs, assume a cultivated form, and gradually become an established art;—the art, namely, of promoting to the utmost self-preservation and personal well-being. This form of Reason,—this standard of conceptions,—the results, present in the general consciousness of the Time, of the art of Being and Well-Being, is what the third Age encounters at its advent;—this is the universal and natural Common Sense, which it receives without labour or toil of its own, as its hereditary patrimony; which is born with it like its hunger and its thirst, and which it now applies as the undoubted measure of all existence and all worth.
Our first problem is solved;—the significance of the Third Epoch is, as we promised that it should be, dragged forth from its concealment and brought forward into open day, and we cannot now fail in likewise reproducing its systems of faith and practice with as much accuracy and sequence as it could itself exhibit in their construction. In the first place,—the fundamental maxim of the Age, as already announced, is now better defined, and it is clear that from its asserted principle ‘What I do not comprehend, that is not,’ there must necessarily follow this other:—‘Now I comprehend nothing whatever except that which pertains to my own personal existence and well-being; hence there is nothing more than this, and the whole world exists for nothing else than this,—that I should be, and be happy. Whatever I do not comprehend as bearing upon this object, is not,—does not concern me.’
This mode of thought is either operative only in a practical way, as the concealed and unconscious, but nevertheless true and real, motive of the ordinary doings of the Age,—or it elevates itself to theory. So long as it only assumes the first form, it cannot easily be laid hold of and compelled to avow its real nature, but generally retains a sufficient number of lurking holes and ways of escape; it has not yet become a specific Epoch, but is only in the early stages of its development. So soon, however, as, having become theory, it understands itself, admits its own proper significance, and loves, approves, and takes pride in itself, and indeed accounts itself the highest and only truth, then does it assume the distinct Epochal character, reveal itself in all the phenomena of the Age, and may now be thoroughly comprehended by its own admissions. We prefer to approach the subject at its clearest point, and shall therefore begin our description of the Third Age at its latter stage—when its mode of thought has elevated itself to theory.
We have already remarked that Nature has not bestowed upon man, as it has upon animals, a particular instinct whereby he may be led to the means of his preservation and well-being. This being the case, and also because nothing can be learned upon this subject from a priori Ideas, which relate only to the One and Everlasting Life of the Race, it follows, that in this province nothing remains for man but to try, or to let others try at their own proper cost, what is good for him and what evil, and to note the result for his guidance at a future time. Hence it is quite natural and necessary that an Age whose whole theory of the world is exhausted in the means of personal existence, should value Experience as the only possible source of Knowledge, since those very means, which are all that such an Age can or will recognise, are only to be recognised through Experience. In mere Experience,—from which however we must carefully distinguish scientific Observation and Experiment, with which an a priori Idea is always associated, that, namely, of the object of inquiry,—in mere Experience there is contained nothing but the means of physical preservation, and on the other hand these means can only be recognised by Experience:—hence it is Experience alone from which this Age derives its views of the world; and the world again, as seen by it, points to Experience as its sole original;—and thus they react upon each other with the same result. Such an Age is thus obliged to deny and deride all the knowledge which we possess a priori and independent of Experience, and the assertion that from knowledge itself, without intermixture of any sensuous element, new knowledge may originate and flow forth. Did it possess Ideas of a higher world and its order, then it would easily understand that these are founded on no Experience whatever, since they transcend all Experience; or if, on the other hand, it had but the fortune to possess a nature wholly animal, it would then not be obliged laboriously to seek, by means of Experience, its knowledge of the world,—that is, the means of its physical preservation,—but it would possess these a priori in the animal instinct; since in fact the ox grazing on the meadow leaves untouched those grasses which are hurtful to his nature, without ever having tasted them and discovered by experience their pernicious qualities; and in like manner takes to those which are healthful to him without previous trial; and consequently, if we were to ascribe knowledge to him, possesses a knowledge absolutely a priori and independent of all Experience. Only in the middle state between humanity and animalism is Experience, that wherein our race ranks below the animals, and in its superiority to which the meanest insect may be an object of envy to man, if destitute of a priori conceptions of an Eternal World,—only in this middle state, I say, is Experience elevated to be the crown and standard of humanity, and such an Age steps boldly forward and asks,—‘Might it but know then how any knowledge whatever is possible except by Experience?’ as if by this question, indeed, every one would be frightened, retreat within himself, and give no other answer than the desired one.
In so far as this Age admits the possibility of anything lying beyond the confines of the mere knowledge of the physical world, although it does so in a somewhat inconsequential manner, and only because such things are also present in Experience, and on account of such Experience are taught in the Schools, it becomes its highest wisdom to doubt of everything, and in no matter to take a part either on the one side or the other. In this neutrality, this immoveable impartiality, this incorruptible indifference to all truth, it places its most excellent and perfect wisdom; and the charge of having a system appears to it as a disgrace by which the reputation of a man is irretrievably destroyed. Such scientific cobwebs are only devised in order that young persons of the lower classes, who have no opportunity of seeing the great world, may, by amusing themselves with them, develop their capacities for active life. For this purpose every opinion and every proposition, affirmative as well as negative, are equally available; and it is a contemptible blunder to mistake jest for earnest, and to interest oneself for any side of such a controversy as if it were something of importance.
With respect to the influence which it exerts upon Nature and its employment of her powers and products, such an Age looks everywhere only to the immediately and materially useful,—to that, namely, which is serviceable for dwelling, clothing, and food,—to cheapness, convenience, and, where it attains its highest point, to fashion; but that higher dominion over Nature whereby the majestic image of Man as a Race is stamped upon its opposing forces,—I mean the dominion of Ideas, in which the essential nature of Fine Art consists,—this is wholly unknown to such an Age; and even when the occasional appearance of men of more spiritual nature may remind it of this higher sovereignty, it only laughs at such aspirations as mere visionary extravagance; and thus Art itself, reduced to its most mechanical forms, is degraded into a new vehicle of fashion, the instrument of a capricious luxury, alien to the Eternities of the Ideal world. With respect to the legislative constitution of States and the government of Nations, such an Age either, impelled by its hatred to the old, constructs political fabrics upon the most airy and unsubstantial abstractions, and attempts to govern degenerate men by means of high-sounding phrases without the aid of firm and inflexible power; or, impelled by its idol Experience, it hastens, on every emergency, whether of great or small importance,—being convinced beforehand of its own utter inability to determine upon a course of action for itself,—to consult the chronicles of the Past, to read there how others have formerly acted under similar circumstances, and takes from thence the law of its own conduct;—and in this way constructs its political existence out of a confused patchwork gathered from many different Ages long since dead, thereby openly displaying a clear consciousness of its own utter nothingness. With respect to Morality, it proclaims this as the only Virtue,—that we should pursue our own individual interests, at furthest adding thereto those of others (either as bound in honour so to do, or else from mere inconsequence) so far as they are not inconsistent with our own; and this as the only Vice,—to fail in the pursuit of our own advantage. It maintains, and—since it can have no difficulty in discovering an ignoble motive for every action, inasmuch as it is quite unacquainted with aught that partakes of nobleness,—it even pretends to prove, that all men who live or have ever lived have actually thought and acted in this way, and that there is absolutely no other motive of action in man than Self-Interest;—compassionating those who assume the existence of any other as silly fools who are as yet ignorant of the world and of men. Lastly, with respect to Religion, it also is changed into a mere Doctrine of Happiness, designed to remind us that man must be temperate in enjoyment in order that his enjoyments may be lasting and varied; a God is deemed necessary only in order that he may care for our welfare, and it is our wants alone which have called him into existence and determined him to be. Whatever it may chance to retain of the super-sensual elements of any already existing system of Religion owes this forbearance only to the need there may be of a curb for the unbridled populace, which however the cultivated classes do not require; and to the want of a more efficient means of supplementing the deficiencies of the Police or of judicial Evidence. In short,—and to express the matter in one word,—such an Age has reached its highest point of development when it has attained a clear conviction that Reason, and with Reason all that lies beyond mere sensuous personal Existence, is only an invention of certain idle individuals called Philosophers.
So much for the general delineation of the Third Age, the individual features of which we shall set forth and examine in detail in our future addresses. Only one other characteristic we shall notice at present, which inasmuch as it affects the form of the whole Epoch, cannot be passed over here;—this, namely,—that this Age, in its best representatives, is so confident, so firmly assured of the truth of its views, that in this respect it is not surpassed even by the certainty of scientific conviction. It looks down with unspeakable pity and compassion upon those earlier Ages in which men were still so weak-minded as to allow themselves to be seduced from pleasures which were offered to their immediate enjoyment by a spectre which they named Virtue, and by a dream of a super-sensual world;—upon those Ages of darkness and superstition, when they, the representatives of a new Age, had not yet appeared,—had not yet fathomed and thoroughly laid open the depths of the human heart,—had not yet made the great and astounding discovery, and loudly proclaimed and universally promulgated it,—that this heart is at bottom nothing but a base puddle. It does not oppose, but only compassionates and good-naturedly smiles at those who, living in it, yet reject its opinions; and calmly settles itself in the philanthropic hope that they too may one day raise themselves to the same point of view, when they shall have been matured by age and experience; or when they shall have studied, as thoroughly as its own representatives have done, that which it calls History. But here, although this is lost upon those representatives, Knowledge is their master, inasmuch as the latter perfectly comprehends its opponents' mode of thought, can reconstruct it from its separate parts, is able to restore it, should it unfortunately be lost to the world, and even finds it to be perfectly just when considered from its proper point of view. Thus, were we to speak in the name of Knowledge, the supposed impregnability of the mode of thought which we have now described arises precisely in this way;—that, considered from the point of view where its advocates are placed, it is perfectly just; and however frequently they may reexamine the chain of their conclusions they will never discover any break in its sequence. If there be absolutely nothing but the sensuous existence of Individuality, without any higher life of the Race; then there can be no other source of knowledge but Experience, for we are obviously informed concerning this sensuous existence only by Experience; and just on that account every other pretended source of knowledge, and whatever may flow there from, must of necessity be a mere dream and phantom of the brain;—whereby indeed is left unexplained the actual possibility of such dreaming, and of so conjuring out of the brain what in reality the brain does not contain; from which explanation, however, our representatives wisely abstain, satisfied with the experience that such dreams are. And that there actually is nothing except this sensuous individual existence, they know very well from this;—that however often and deeply they have fathomed the abysses of their own being, they have never been able to discover therein aught but the feeling of their own personal and sensuous existence.
And thus it follows from all that has been said, that this manner of thinking is by no means founded upon an error of reasoning or of judgment, which may be remedied by pointing out to the Age the mistake into which it has fallen, and reminding it of the rules of logic which it has transgressed; but it is founded upon the altogether defective character of the Age itself, and of those in whom this character most distinctly shows itself. While it and they are what they are, they must necessarily think as they now think; and if they are to think otherwise than they do think, they must first of all become something different from what they are.
To close our lecture with the only consoling view which the subject affords:—It is a happiness that even the most inveterate champions of this manner of thinking are always, against their own thought and will, something better than their speech proclaims them; and that the spark of a higher life in Man, however it may be concealed, is yet never extinguished, but gleams on with silent and secret power until material is presented to it at which it may kindle and burst forth into bright and steady flame. To fan this spark of a higher life, and as far as possible to furnish it with materials for its activity, is also one of the objects of these lectures.