Rome and Jerusalem/Tenth Letter
Another dilemma-Experimental sciences-Philosophy and Religion-Progress and periodic circulation-A genetic comparison of the organic, cosmic life with the social-Moral necessity or holiness-Epochs of social evolution: the paleontological times of the formation of the embryo, birth period and birth travail, age of maturity.
Just as you confronted me on a former occasion with the dilemma: "Humanitarianism or Nationalism," and reproached me for sympathizing with national aspirations, in spite of the fact that they contradict the humanitarian tendencies of our time, so do you now propound another dilemma: "Freedom or Necessity. You think it pure fatalism to consider humanity as a higher organism, and to observe in the history of nations the operation of the same eternal laws which govern the history of the earth and Nature. You think that in cosmic and organic life, moral laws do not obtain; here only natural forces operate, which are predetermined, and which can be calculated beforehand. But it is different with social life. Even this life is regulated by natural conditions, but it is the goal of man, who is a free being, to overcome the fatalism of Nature with his free-will actions, which are the basis of morality and progress in the higher sense.
I am pleased to see that you are well versed in the higher philosophical conceptions of German thought. I agree with you in your view of human life and believe, also, that moral freedom is the destiny of man as well as of humanity. But to me this goal of humanity is identical with the recognition of God, which Judaism proclaimed at the very beginning of its history, and to the spread and development of which it has always contributed, and which, since Spinoza, it has made accessible to all historical nations. This knowledge of God, which in its first manifestations as the spirit of historical humanity, had not been fully conceived, but only perceived through unanalyzed sense impressions and intuitive experience, and which heretofore had appeared only as wisdom and light, must henceforth, on the basis of the already acquired wisdom and light, progress and become an exact science, which draws its knowledge not only from internal and external experience, but also examines it critically.
In order to forestall your criticism of my Jewish view of the world through arguments based upon speculative philosophy, I have no other choice but to prove to you that philosophic speculation is not the last word in mental development, as little as is industrial speculation and dominance of Capital the goal of material development. Exact science, which recognizes only observation, experience, work and research, as the only legitimate means of acquiring mental and material wealth, and considers speculation to be only a combination of mental trickery and unfounded hypothesis must, in my case, become the supreme authority to which I appeal. I will show you, that although exact science which recognizes only eternal natural laws, seems to be in apparent contradiction to philosophy, which raises spirit above nature, and to religion, which sanctifies both spirit and nature insofar as it subordinates them both to a single being, yet it finally changes into that perfect knowledge., which conceives the laws of nature and history as one and the same, and where all contradiction disappears. But I must first make you understand that even this apparent contradiction between science and philosophy and religion had its justification, and was a necessary stage in the history of human development.
Even to-day, science, philosophy and religion are not reconciled to one another. On the contrary, to-day, when we are on the eve of a new historical era, just as in the corresponding critical transition period from antiquity to the Middle Ages, the seemingly irreconcilable antagonism between religion, philosophy and experimental science, is more marked than it was in the heyday of the ancient or medieval world, which hardly knew such an antagonism. The basis of this theoretical contradiction, just as the practical antagonism in social life, lies in the unequal development of the various classes of humanity, in the relations between the dominant and subservient races and classes, in the division of material and intellectual labor, and in the acquisitions resulting from this division. This inequality of development, advancing with the progress of civilization, was the rock upon which ancient society foundered. In the material and mental spheres, and especially in the latter, these contrasts, which ruined the ancient world, are more sharply defined to-day than they were at the close of the age of antiquity, when the division of labor was not as minutely developed as it is in our present transition period. The result is that today, as in the ancient world, not only is religion in conflict with philosophy, but philosophy is also antagonistic to exact 'science. And yet, as you will yourself admit, truth in experimental science cannot be different from truth in philosophy or in religion. But as long as the reconciliation between these various spheres of knowledge is not accomplished, it will be a difficult matter for me to prove to you, in a few lines, or even to make it plausible to you, that science, philosophy and religion do not mutually exclude each other; that at the worst, they only ignore each other; and that finally, they will support each other and with united forces help the progress of mankind..
Let us, then, first make clear to ourselves the oft-misunderstood concepts of "Freedom" and "Progress," which are so often carelessly used.
The belief in a rational, and therefore cognizable, divine Law, as revealed to humanity in the teaching and life of Judaism, this belief in a divine Providence, in a place of creation, is not a blind, fatalistic belief in destiny, although it excludes arbitrary and lawless freedom. I do not assert, with the materialists, that the organic and spiritual world is subjected, like the inorganic world, to the same laws as an external mechanism. On the contrary, I affirm that cosmic mechanical phenomena have the same plan, the same purposefulness, and spring out of the same sacred life as organic and spiritual phenomena. Nature and humanity are subordinated to the same divine law. The difference is, that Nature follows this law blindly, while man, when perfectly developed, obeys it consciously and voluntarily. Another important difference, the non-observance of which gives rise to a misunderstanding of the concepts of "freedom'; and "Progress," lies in this, that while the natural sphere of life of the organic and cosmic world, which is the basis of our social, human sphere of life, has already accomplished its own development, humanity is still in the midst of its life-creating process. As long as human society is still occupied in the production of its own organism, man, in his creative capacity, considers himself as an irresponsible and unfettered being, although he, like Nature, is subordinated, in his very creation, to the eternal divine laws. The false conception of human freedom as arbitrariness arises mainly from the fact that we do not as yet know either the laws regulating the development of social life or its goal; and we cannot know this law from experience so long as we are still in the midst of the stream of development.
But though science is still silent concerning the law governing the development of social life, the religious genius discovered it long ago. We Jews have always, from the beginning of our history, cherished the faith in a future Messianic epoch. This belief is symbolically expressed, in. our historical religion, by the Sabbath festival. The celebration of the Sabbath is the embodiment of the great idea which has always animated us, namely, that the future will bring about the realization of the historical Sabbath, just as the past gave us the natural Sabbath. In other words, that History, like Nature, will finally have her epoch of harmonious perfection. The Biblical story of the Creation is told only for the sake of the Sabbath ideal. It tells us, in symbolic language, that when the creation of the world of Nature was completed, with the calling into life of the highest organic being of the earth-Man-and the Creator celebrated his natural Sabbath, there at once began the work -days of History. Then, also, began the history of creation of the social world, which will celebrate its Sabbath after the completion of its world-historical labor, by introducing the Messianic epoch. Here, in this conception, you can see the high moral value of the Mosaic genesis history, in which supernaturalists have discovered a system of science. As you see, my esteemed friend, the very biblical Sabbath-law in itself inspires us with a feeling of certainty that the uniform, eternal, divine law governs alike both the world of Nature and the world of History. It is only to those people who cannot conceive the manifestation of the religious genius of the Jews that the historical development of humanity appears as lawless, indeterminate, infinite "Progress" when contrasted with the life of Nature which, though it has not reached the end of its development, is yet governed by strict laws which are calculable. You see, however, that this apparent difference between the laws of Nature and those of history, is only the result of a subjective conception which cannot rise to an understanding of the great universal, divine laws. We can as little think of the freedom of the created being of History as mere lawless arbitrariness, as we can speak of the historical progress as infinite.
We call every being free, in the natural sense, which can develop its own destiny, its inner calling, according to its natural inclinations, without any external restraint. That being is free, in the moral sense, which follows its calling with consciousness and will, whose will coincides with the divine law will. Every other form of will is only arbitrariness, which does not partake of the divine essence of willing, but owes its existence to passions and natural instincts. This ability to follow the desires and passions which lead astray from the path of reason and morality, man possesses only when his inner essence is not sufficiently developed. Man can certainly not be proud of this negative ability, which is no more than a disease, a disease indicating a lack of development. This ability does not raise him above the animal, but on the contrary puts him below it; for animal life, as well as plant life, is already developed and perfected.
"Man," says Goethe, "errs as long as he strives." But there is no striving without a purpose. The goal to which humanity, in the course of its historical development, strives is the recognition of the laws which govern all the three life-spheres, the social, organic and cosmic.
The law of the universe is the law of generation and development, or to use a better-known expression, "the law of progress." The complete and perfect operation of this law, in all. the three life-spheres, is not yet known. In order to recognize fully the workings of this law, we still miss a part of its field of operation-the last phase of development of the social life. The law of history, therefore, cannot as yet become scientifically known. The ways of Providence are still but dimly outlined for us. But, thanks to the religious genius of the Jews and its divine Revelation, which continually manifested itself in various forms: first in prophetic utterances, then in mysticism, and finally in philosophic speculation-the human spirit was constantly brought nearer to the recognition of this law. It is, however, still necessary that the law of history should be investigated and its operations defined by the experimental sciences.
What modern science knows about the law of generation and development operating in the three life-spheres, the cosmic, organic and social, I have already discussed elsewhere. But I have come to the conclusion, through my scientific and historical studies, that there is only one law governing all movement and life phenomena of all the spheres of the universe, the organisms of the earth and the nations of history. There is as little infinite, indeterminate progress in the social human world, as there is in the plant and animal world, at the end of which stands the natural, undeveloped man. Here, as in the cosmic life-sphere, the field of operation of which is infinite space, everything is generated, develops, accomplishes its aim in life, and then decays and dissolves in order to arise again to a new life entity in the eternal, infinite, unified and divine cycle of universal life. What we call "progress" is no more than the development of a being from the germ stage to the mature life stage. At this stage each being reaches its destination.
Just as beings vary, just as the difference between the single atom and the entire world-sphere, between the lowest organic infusorium and the highest earthly being Man-is wide and great, so various and wide is the difference between their ages of life maturity and consequently between their goals and destinations. But nothing living remains unchanged in time and space, nothing is eternal, everything comes into existence, and ultimately disappears after it has carried out its mission in order to arise again to a new form of like the great planetary bodies originated and developed in a space and time of such magnitude that we have no standard of comparison wherewith to measure it. Organic life, which began to develop on these bodies after they had already cooled off and their surface had become rigid, consumed the entire paleontological age in its development and perfection. Finally, man, who began his spiritual, humane and social development at the ripe age of the organic life sphere, will reach his destination only after humanity will have completed its historical development which, though it has not reached its end as yet, is still not unlimited and infinite.
Whatever arises in time requires, of course, a certain time for its development, but it must reach its completion and perfection in a finite and determinate time. We recognize only one eternal, timeless and spaceless, absolute being. We infer its existence through the one absolute law governing natural and historical life, the revelation of which only Judaism possessed. Out of the unified recognition of this law a unified life will necessarily follow; for knowledge and action, or theory and life, are inseparable. Dualism, struggle, and even victory of virtue exist only during the historical development of the recognition of God, but not after its perfection. During this development, we are only able to strive after morality; but after the recognition of God, or his law is perfected within us, we must live morally. This moral necessity is holiness. Judaism, which from the beginning of its history revealed the unity and sacredness of the divine law in Nature and history, has, therefore, from the beginning, put forth the demand that holiness should become an ideal of life, and its prophets have always heralded the coming of the epoch when men will arrive at the full knowledge of God.
We must not represent either the sacred essence of God, or even our own God-like essence, in terms of time and space. The perfect recognition is, in reality, the overcoming of spatiality and temporality, namely, the historical development of the divine law in the cosmic, organic and social life spheres. We display our imperfect development and immature knowledge when we represent eternity as time continuance. Such representations prove only that our relation to holiness is not as yet perfect. The revelations of the holy spirit point to no other future but to the mature age of the social world. This age will begin, according to our historical religion, with the Messianic era. This is the era in which the Jewish nation and all the other historical nations will arise again to a new life, the time of the "resurrection of the dead," of "the coming of the Lord," of the "New Jerusalem," and of all the other symbolic expressions, the meaning of which is no longer misunderstood.
The Messianic era is the present age, which began to germinate with the teachings of Spinoza, and finally came into historical existence with the great French Revolution. With the French Revolution, there began the regeneration of those nations which had acquired their national historical religion only through the influence of Judaism.
The social life-sphere, like the cosmic and the" organic, is divided in its development into three epochs, which in their intrinsic structure are analogous in all the three life spheres. The first manifestation of history, that of ancient Judaism and Paganism, is the paleontological epoch of social life. It corresponds, on the one hand, to the embryological epoch in the history of development of organic life on this earth, which terminated in the tertiary period with the birth of the present existing organisms; and, on the other hand, it is analogous, in the cosmic sphere, to the epoch of world formation, the age of comets and nebulae, an age which finally culminated in the birth and rise of the astral bodies.
The second manifestation of history that of medieval Judaism, Christianity and Islam, is the epoch of the birth of modern Society. It corresponds, in the organic sphere, to the period of the birth of the present existing organisms, and in the cosmic world to the time of the birth of the planetary bodies.
The third manifestation of history, namely, the present age of the social life-sphere, corresponds to the epoch of perfected organisms in the organic sphere and that of the developed planetary system in the cosmic.
This age of maturity began, in the cosmic sphere, with the satellites or double stars and ended with the perfection of the solar systems; in the organic sphere, it began with the prehistoric period, and finally came to completion in the historic races of mankind. In the social sphere, it is not yet completed; it is at present developing its last race and class struggle, in order to bring about a reconciliation of all opposites and to establish an equilibrium between production and consumption, and finally to reach that perfected and harmonious course of life which characterizes every age of maturity.
You will find, esteemed friend, the world-view, here outlined, to be the underlying basis of all my works. I have never held any other since I became a writer. It is the soul of my aspirations. Its realization is my life work, and at the opportune moment I hope to develop it further. The narrow limits of a letter do not allow more de tailed discussion of such a broad subject. Besides, I am at present too much interested in the fate of my own people to devote myself to the solution of a problem which, though intrinsically connected with the future of Judaism, must first await the solution of the Jewish national problem.