Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Spinoza, Leibnitz and Fichte by C. H. A. Bjerragaard 1900

Spinoza, Leibnitz and Fichte by C. H. A. Bjerragaard 1900

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Friedrik Ruckert interpreted the world problem when he wrote:

The World and I wage war; in God the strife is o'er;
For World and I in God are one for evermore.

I may also say that he sang the jubilate of this discovery in the following verses:

The light of God hath come into this world of night;
We are aroused, and can no longer sleep for light.
No longer can we sleep the world's benumbing sleep.

The world mystery is that of Oneness, of Being; and the divine mystery is this as said and sung by a "lofty saint":

God Himself grows in Thee, O Thou devout believer!
In Thee renews Himself, while He reneweth Thee.

These two mysteries have been the pivot of all thinking, the enthusiasm of all song, and the problems of philosophy. Art, too, has attempted to express them and they have given new activity to science in our day. Nature's transparencies reflect forms of them which we can only understand as symbols. The soft melancholy of the eye of the horse and dog, the stately cathedrals of clouds at sunrise or sunset, all alike express or bring forth the Being. The solemnity of a bright starlit night and the fear that falls upon the human heart at high noon when the sun threatens to destroy the breath, both force upon us the profoundest acknowledgment of a greater and a smaller world, but they also prophesy of ideal conditions in which Unity reigns.

Now, as ever, in the face of these manifestations of the Great, the True, the Good and the Beautiful, the human mind lands in its reasonings upon the thought of the Self, and it renews its allegiance to these ideals by a declaration of the desire to be true to self (Self).

Of modern philosophers none have defined the art of life better than Spinoza, Leibnitz and Fichte. Each from a different point of view has shown us Being in forms so directly connected with our personal existence that we cannot any longer afford to be ignorant of methods leading directly to self-knowledge and self-assertion. Let me, therefore, in part at least, set forth their doctrines from the standpoint of Ethics or the art of living.

With Rene Descartes (1596-1650) came a reassertion of the Socratic "Know thyself." Self-knowledge is so important because in man there is a divine and universal principle which is the measure of things and the expression of the divine quaternary of the great, good, true and beautiful. With Descartes begins modern thought and life considered as philosophy. The individual is asserted as against "the whole." He traces for us the unconscious process by which we build up the world of experience and thus he shows us the value of it. People ordinarily build up their world like a sleeper and have no reflective consciousness of their positions nor of their powers. Philosophy must therefore begin by an awakening: We must doubt everything till that thing is understood. But what is the ever unchangeable, the true basis from which to understand? That is the ego, says Descartes. Whatever I abstract, whatever else I reduce to a thought, the ego, self, I cannot abstract or reduce to a thought. It is Thought. Cogito ergo sum—I think, therefore I am. I am the subject of my thinking and remain such. I am the unity of thinking and being. My thinking is co-extensive with my existence. I cannot consider a not-Me as having a reality; it can be no more than my own postulated opposite, because thought can only be its own object. It was charged against Descartes that such subjective idealism was no more than tautology; that thinking presupposed an opposite as condition for its existence and that such opposite, if it were not the world, must be God. Descartes answered that because we find God in our minds, we find anything else. In other words, he identifies God and Mind. It is the notion of self which presupposes and conditions the notion of God. Descartes, however, did not accept the logic of his own reasoning. It was reserved for Spinoza to carry the theory of identity of mind and God to its full realization.

Spinoza holds that it is the highest virtue to "preserve one's own being" (Eth., iv., 22). The effort for self-preservation is the essence of the thing, because "if any virtue could be conceived as prior thereto, the essence of a thing would have to be conceived as prior to itself, which is obviously absurd. Therefore no virtue can be conceived as prior to this endeavor to preserve one's own being." The sum of this reading is pure self-assertion and self-seeking. If this self-affirmation became the conscious effort of the low and vulgar, they would of course be what we call devils. The teaching is therefore not for the vulgar or those not awakened. It is an occult instruction and only for those centred in the amor Dei intellectualis, for those who have discovered the secret of self.

What is the characteristic of one awakened? Let the reader think of sleep and awakening from it and he will see it quicker and more fully than words can describe it. The awakened is a self; is a monad, unformed and imperishable, unaffected from without, and its interior cannot be changed by another creature. It can and it does change continually from its own volition. It is a multiplicity in unity; but a monad has neither parts, nor figure, nor extension and is not divisible. The monad is the element of things, the soul of things, and is Soul. And this is the doctrine of Leibnitz.

The universe is full of monads, is a plenum of souls. It contains no empty space. There is no generation and no death in the universe. There is, however, expansion and contraction and this movement is the breathing of self.

Can there be a more awe-inspiring philosophy of self and life? What individualism! What boldness of self in asserting itself as the measure of things and as the soul of things? Who is equal to it? Does it not show even the best of men how far yet they are from perfection? But none should therefore turn pessimistic. On the contrary, this philosophy ought to be an incentive to renewals of endeavor.

Both Spinoza and Leibnitz have been condemned and laughed at. Only the free understand freedom. Hence Pharisees and Philistines alike have execrated such teachings. The same was Fichte's fate.

Fichte was the legitimate heir to the two great teachers already mentioned, and with them he forms a triangle of fundamentals: Being, Self and Freedom. Fichte is a type and teacher of our inner activity, which is an insatiable craving for universal life, a craving that shall need for its satisfaction all of an endless existence. Hear the motif and you know what organ sounds:

"Supreme and Living Will; named by no name, compassed by no thought! I may well raise my soul to Thee, for Thou and I are not divided. Thy voice sounds within me, mine resounds in Thee; and all my thoughts, if they be but good and true, live in Thee also. In Thee, the Incomprehensible, I myself, and the world in which I live, become clearly comprehensible to me; all the secrets of my existence are laid open, and perfect harmony arises in my soul."

This same Fichte in the same work, "The Vocation of Man," talks also like a demonic voice from desert places. Hear his cry:

"There is within me an impulse to absolute, independent self-activity. Nothing is more insupportable to me than to be merely by another, for another, and through another; I must be something for myself alone. This impulse I feel along with the perception of my own existence; it is inseparably united to my consciousness of myself."

These words have no uncertain sounds; they are almost rebellious; they reverberate the great abyss of abysses that opens out into the world in a human soul. They are the tokens of a restless will and the throes of the birth of a soul. On the tongue of the nihilist they are condemned, in the song of the lyric poet or in the dying utterances of the epic hero they are exalted, and, wafted to us on angel wings, they are sublime. As they are, they are thoroughly human, and taken together with the above-quoted devotion, they are the Confessions of the Ego.

The Ego is

"The light of God come into this world of night."
It is the Ego of which it can be said that
"God Himself grows in Thee, O thou devout believer!"
It is the Ego who sings
"For World and I in God are one for evermore!"

In other words, the Ego who is Light, Life and Love is also Being, Self and Freedom, and the three philosophers who embody these are Spinoza, Leibnitz and Fichte.

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