Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/153

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149
IBSEN, EMERSON AND NIETZSCHE
Let a stoic arise who shall reveal the resources of man and tell men they are not leaning willows, but can and must detach themselves—that a man is the word made flesh—and that the moment he acts from himself, tossing the laws, the books, idolatries and customs out of the window—we. . . thank and revere him.

Further on in the same essay he says again:

The secret of fortune is joy in our own hands. Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man. For him all doors are flung wide. Him all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with desire.

This is all open and unmistakable individualism, and that it is individualism on the religious basis is clear when, in the same connection, he speaks of a greater self-reliance as "a new respect for the divinity in man."

This, indeed, is in an essay that suggests the note of personal aggressiveness, but we shall not find it otherwise in the essays on "Love" and "Friendship." In the one he says:

Thus we are put in training for a love which knows not sex, nor person, nor partiality, but which seeketh virtue and wisdom everywhere. . . . We are often made to feel that our affections are but tents of a night. Though slowly and with pain, the objects of the affections change, as the objects of thought do.

In the other he says as the conclusion of the whole matter:

I do then with my friends as I do with my books: I would have them where I can find them, but I seldom use them. We must have society on our own terms, and admit or exclude it on the slightest cause. I can not afford to speak much with my friend. If he is great he makes me so great that I can not descend to converse.

Here even the offices of what are normally the most unselfish of the personal relations of life are conceived of as having their aim and end in the development of self. Life finds its fulfilment in an approximation to the divine possibilities that are the natural heritage of every human being, and in attaining to that one must not permit himself to be materially hindered by consideration for others. Part of the divine perfection is doubtless expressed for Emerson in the Sermon on the Mount, but it seems clear that he contributes his share toward that questioning of the ethical system of Christianity which now centers upon that portion of the gospel. He does not put himself explicitly in opposition to the beatitudes, but he exalts a spirit and a philosophy in which their teaching is more or less negligible. This, perhaps, is little more than saying that with Emerson protestant theology had passed out of the stage of bondage to the letter, but the forces at work in the change were those of a deeper regard for the powers and capabilities of the inner man, a deeper wish that there should be no check upon their expansion to their fullest possibilities. How large these were in his conception of them may be seen in the essay on "History."

I can find Greece, Palestine, Italy, Spain and the Islands—the genius and creative principle of each and of all eras, in my own mind.