Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/168

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more than the ignorant, for the same reason that fools are generally happier than people of sense, and the savage happier than the civilized races. Happiness, in fact, is in an inverse ratio to the quantity of existence, and the more developed, the less coarse, a man's nervous system is, the more he suffers; now, the progress of humanity, wealth, culture of mind, multiply man's needs and refine his nervous sensibility. Wretchedness grows, then, with the consciousness of wretchedness. But, thanks to the sovereign wisdom of the unconscious principle that rules the universe, the world will at last arrive, through social cataclysms and by force of that very conviction of its misery, at annihilation, which will be the term of all its woes.

Hartmann seems, therefore, to concede the position to those who argue that religions and creeds in general are all that has made human life endurable and civilization possible. There will be more minds ready to accept his testimony in favor of the usefulness of illusions than there will be to adopt that Utopia of annihilation which in his view must take their place in the future. Three grand illusions have in turn sustained humanity, up to this day: The first, the illusion of childhood and the ancient world, consisted in the dream that happiness might be actually attained by the individual, and during the present life. The second illusion, which replaced this, was the fancy that the individual will attain happiness after his death, in a life transcending the present. The last is the grand modern illusion, that of progress, which teaches that happiness, as it cannot be the individual's aim, either in this life or in another, must be sought for the species in the future of humanity, in the evolution of the world. To all these illusions succeeds the deception of humanity's old age, reaching the term of its development of consciousness, and recognizing at last that happiness is nothing else than the absence of pain, and can only be realized by the annihilation of being.

Hartmann takes care to warn his readers that they deceive themselves if they look for consolation and hope in philosophy. For such objects, books of religion exist. But philosophy pursues truth exclusively, careless whether its acquirement sustains or contradicts the sentiments inspired by the illusions of instinct. Philosophy is hard, cold, insensible as stone. Floating in the ether of pure thought, it gravitates toward the icy knowledge of existence, its causes, and its nature. And if man fails in the moral strength to endure the overwhelming results of his thought, if his heart yields to the spasm of despair, if he gives himself up to desolation, what will philosophy do? Will it revive his courage? No! it will merely note down these facts of despair and desolation as a precious contribution to its materials for physiological observation. And when, on the other hand, meditation upon the truth fills stronger souls with sacred indignation and noble rage, a repressed wrath against this empty masquerade of existence or if that wrath breaks into bursts of Mephistophelian humor, or pours