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Lecture 10: The Religious View of the World

2. Optimism and Pessimism

WHAT is the origin of evil? whence has it come? This question has ever moved mankind, and it has been a leading motive in the formation of religious and philosophical theories. We may divide the answers to this question into three classes: (1) Evil has been referred back to an extra-divine principle—namely, either to one or many evil spirits, or to fate, or to matter—at all events to a principle limiting the divine power; (2) it has been referred to a want or defect in the Deity Himself, either to His imperfect wisdom or imperfect goodness; (3) it has been referred to human culpability, either to a universal imperfection of human nature or to particular transgressions of the first men.

It is easy to understand how in the nature-religions the beneficial and prejudicial operations of nature were ascribed to heterogeneous causes, and that the evil malevolent Gods and spirits were opposed to those that were good and beneficent. This dualism is found in some form in all nature-religions; the relationship of the evil world of spirits to the good, and the significance of the former for man, shaped itself very differently in the different religions, according to the more optimistic or more pessimistic disposition or mood of the peoples in question. In the case of savage tribes under unfavourable conditions of life, such as the African negroes, or in the case of half-civilised races which were maltreated by secular or priestly tyranny, like the Mexicans or the Indian Çiva-worshippers, or even in the case of the medieval Christians, the pessimistic mood predominates so much that their religion is more an agony of terror before the bad God than worship of the good God. The Egyptians and Western Semites thought less pessimistically, but always still badly enough of the power of the bad principle. In the cult of Osiris, of Adonis, Sandon, and Melkarth, the two hostile principles stand side by side on such a footing of equality that in the circle of the year alternately the one and the other conquers without a final victory being ever reached, and this is the purely naturalistic view of the world as void of history and purposeless.

Among the Iranians and Persians the hard struggle for existence which was forced upon them, by their geographical and historical situation, is likewise reflected in their dualistic heightening of the universal Indo-Germanic opposition of spirits contrasted as light and dark, beneficial and prejudical. The concentrating of the latter into one personal head in Angromainyu (Ahriman), who is almost on a footing of equality with Ahuramazda, was perhaps a consequence of the moralising of the old Iranian nature-religion by Zarathustra. Yet this dualism is not an absolute one, as the victory of Ahura is hoped for at the end of the world. Till then his worshippers have to take an active part in the struggle against the hostile kingdom of spirits, by the exercise of all religious and civil virtues. Civil morality holds good as an essential means for the fulfilment of the religious purpose, the victory of Ahura over Ahriman; but both this end and means still move essentially on the ground of the natural interests of the people; Ahura's honour is identical with the lordship of the Persian state. Corresponding to the rigid organisation and the martial spirit of the Persian military monarchy is the concentration of the hostile spirit-hosts in the personal heads—Ahura and Ahriman. Reflection is not yet directed to the fate of individuals in distinction from the whole of the people, or to the discrepancy between virtue and happiness; and thus the system still lacks the motives for the individual deepening of the religious view of the world.

The Greeks of the Homeric time are the classical example of naïve youthful optimism. So much the more instructive is the sudden dialectical change and moral order of the world, so much the more did their observation of the misrelation between fate and guilt become to them a painful riddle, which was not solved, but only made more acute, by the popular belief in fate or in the envy of the Gods. In the case of Sophocles especially every tragedy was a new exhibition of this mystery of the world, a new question raised as to the unintelligible rule of the Gods. Sophocles expressed his own doubt of the justice of the world in the words of Antigone: “How can I, in my wretchedness, still look to the Gods? whom can I invoke as a helper, as an ally, seeing that I have drawn upon myself the curse of godlessness by my fear of the Gods?” These doubts sought at first their solution in the idea of retribution in the world beyond, by which Hades, hitherto thought of as indifferent, was differentiated into places of reward and punishment. But in the same measure in which the life in the future world gained in interest and worth, the life in the present world lost value. This is already distinctly betrayed in the words of Antigone when she says that she has to give more heed to the departed, with whom she will always be in future, than to those of this world. These moods and views, which were pre-eminently cherished in the cult of the mysteries, were fully carried out after Socrates by the idealistic philosophy. Plato taught that the terrestrial world is only a shadowy and deformed copy of the world of ideas, and that our body is a prison, out of which the soul, which springs from above, has to raise itself to the world of ideas. The earthly life had, for this thinker, only the significance of a preparation for the better life in the world beyond. The Stoics likewise, although starting from other theoretical presuppositions, yet came practically to a quite similar estimation of the natural goods of life. The wise man, as they taught, can only find the highest good of full rest of soul in liberation from all natural passions, in the mortification of the heart, and indifference to all cares and joys. The rational self-consciousness returns here into itself from all that is external as from something alien and hostile, in order to find, in its own pure inwardness and freedom, harmony with itself and with the absolute world-reason, and therewith the highest good. But in this proud self-glorification and depreciation of the external world, the solitary Ego empties itself of all definite content, even of all moral values and ends; there remains only the abstract self, which is null and worthless in its emptiness. Hence this world-despising pessimism of the Stoics is always on the point of despising and throwing away even the individual's own life, as equally worthless with the rest of the world. As the world was formerly negated for the sake of the self, so even the self is at last negated along with the rest of the world. In such absolute pessimism and illusionism did the original absolute optimism of the Greeks end.

Quite analogous, but still more logical and extreme, in the case of the Indians, was the passage from the original optimism of the deification of nature into the final absolutely pessimistic negation of the world. Politics, religion, and philosophy here contributed in equal parts to bring the Indian people, which had once been full of the joy of life and activity, to contempt of the world and to disgust of life. Their civil life was without lasting and great ends—a constant change of petty tyrants, who split up society by the barriers of the castes, without national common feeling. Nor did the world beyond furnish here, as in the Greek mysteries, a scant comfort for the sad life of the present, as the doctrine of the transmigration of souls threatened to prolong the circulation of wretched existence without end. The Brahmanic philosophy had always been strong only in the abstracting and resolving of all that is particular into an empty universality, whose highest is Brahma. Instead of conceiving and ordering the chaos of existence under a supreme principle, it sublimated it into an All-One, of which nothing can be further said than that it is the alone existing being, while the world of the particular is empty seeming and deception. From this speculative negation of the world Gautama Buddha then drew its practical and popular consequence. All life, according to Buddha, is suffering; for it is desire of the soul for goods that are naught, and which by their transitoriness prepare a constant illusion. Hence man has to make himself free from all desiring, to become wishless and hopeless, in order to find peace, rest, Nirvâna. But with this evacuation of all the content of life, man at last also loses himself. This consequence, which the Stoics occasionally drew by practical suicide, Buddha drew as a demand in principle, not indeed for bodily but for spiritual self-mortification. Whoever would become free from the evil of the illusion of the external world, must at last also become free from the fundamental evil, from the illusion of one's own existence. All willing and thinking must die out and expire from want of spiritual nourishment, and then the peace of the Nirvâna first takes up its abode, a peace which no breath of evil any more affects. This is the most radical pessimism thinkable; but it contains at the same time its own reductio ad absurdum. For it is a self-contradiction that the self-conscious Ego should think itself as not being, and should will as not willing. Thus we have seen how, among the Greeks and Indians, the original optimism of a crude idolatry of the world turned round at last in a quite similar way into an extreme pessimism, which again shows itself to be untenable, because it cannot be carried out without self-contradiction. With this, history has itself already pronounced the judgment that neither upon the one nor upon the other side alone can the truth be found.

But history has also shown the positive overcoming of both errors in the development of the religion of Israel. This people also started from a simple optimism. “God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good;” and He gave over the earth and what is in it to men, that they should govern it. In particular, God chose the people of Israel to be His own people, and He concluded a covenant with it with mutual obligation. Israel was to be God's holy people, and in consideration of this the possession of the land of Canaan and all earthly prosperity was promised to it. This idea of the covenant of God ruled the historical pragmatism of the prophets of Israel. From this point of view they explained the evils from which their people had often to suffer as just punishments of God for the unfaithfulness of Israel, but yet at the same time as means for the purification of the people, in order to lead it towards its ideal of a holy people of God. The basis of their ethical monotheism forbade them to think of a blind fate, or of the envy of the Deity. But this explanation of evils from the retributive justice of God sufficed only so long as the religious reflection was limited to the people as a whole. On the other hand, as soon as the postulate of just retribution was applied to individuals, it was impossible to avoid seeing that it was the most just—those who participated least in the guilt of the people, nay, even those who had resisted it most staunchly—who had often nevertheless to suffer most, while the unjust enjoyed good fortune. With this position there was also raised for the Jewish piety the question of the theodicy, which on the basis of ethical monotheism has its peculiar difficulty—namely, How is the experienced misrelation of morality and fate to he made to tally with the government of an almighty and a just God? The author of the Book of Job has struggled with this problem, but he was unable to solve it. The explanation of the friends of Job, that his misfortunes pointed to hidden guilt, is declared to be false, seeing that God Himself recognises the innocence of Job. But the question as to the ground of his misfortunes is simply smitten down in the poetical conclusion as unjustified and insoluble for the human understanding: “I will lay mine hand upon my mouth and be silent, for these things are too high for me, and cannot be understood.” In the narrative conclusion, on the other hand, Job is at last richly indemnified by reparation of all his losses. And thus the narrator falls back again into the old theory of retribution, whose insufficiency, because of its contrariety to experience, had just been the occasion of the whole raising of the problem. While in the Book of Job doubt still struggles with faith, in the Book of Ecclesiastes despair of the just government of the world is the ruling mood: “All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean. So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun; and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” Amid this lamentation of the present, the questioning gaze does indeed direct itself to the world beyond; but here too it ends with anxious doubt: “Who knoweth whether the spirit of man goeth upward?”

Yet with such hopeless resignation the Jewish piety could not stop; for its essence was a hopeful idealism, a trusting in the faithfulness and righteousness of God, who must yet at last lead His good cause and that of His faithful ones to victory, although the way to this goal leads through suffering. During the suffering time of the Exile, when the most pious had to endure the greatest suffering, yet also contributed most by their patient perseverance to the salvation and establishment of the people, there was formed the new ideal of the “pious endurer” (Anav), who, under external debasement, poverty, and oppression, nevertheless ceases not to wait for the consolation of Israel, and who does not allow himself to be shaken in his pious trust in God, although he no longer himself experiences external prosperity. The inner certainty of fellowship with his God is his consolation and compensation even in continuing external misfortune: “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever” (Ps. lxxiii. 25, 26). Thus did the Jewish piety purify itself in the case of individuals in the fire of affliction from the dross of its earthly mercenariness, and it gained in its internal deepening a self-certainty and satisfaction which was independent of the chance of external fatalities, and was no longer exposed to doubt. It is true that it was indeed always only but a few select spirits who were able to raise themselves to such religious idealism; and even for them the hope still stood fast that the cause of God could not be for ever the vanquished one, but that it must some day conquer even in the external world, and right come to power and dominion. But the more the reality appeared to stand in contradiction with this postulate, so much the more did the hope of a miraculous future, when it was contrasted with the present course of the world, direct itself towards a super-terrestrial world beyond, to a “kingdom of the Saints” coming down from heaven to earth, in the glory of which those who had died in the intervening time should also obtain their share by their resurrection from the dead. Since the time of the Maccabees the Jewish faith rose above the distress of the present to the hope of a transcendent adjustment, which transported into the far distance its original earthly realism and optimism. At the same time, however, this displacement of the religious ideal into a future that was to be miraculously established, and which did not naturally cohere with the present, had the consequence that now the present appeared always only the gloomier in contrast to this high-flying ideal representation of the future. The Apocalyptic transcendence of the future Messianic age had corresponding to it, as its obverse side, the dominion of the realm of demons in the earthly present.

As little as the hope of a resurrection, had the fear of demons been an original element of the Hebrew religion. Even if it were the case that the belief in spirits was not foreign to the ancient Hebrews, it had undoubtedly nothing to do with the Jahve-religion. There was first formed in the post-Exilian time, probably under the influence of the Persian dualism, the idea of a kingdom of impure hostile spirits with Satan or Beelzebub at their head. In Job he still stands among the sons of God as the accuser of the pious, but yet strictly subordinated to God. According to 1 Chronicles xxi. 1, Satan induced David to undertake the fatal numbering of the people; the author of which, according to the earlier notion (2 Samuel xxiv. 1), had, however, been God Himself. We see from this how the idea of the Devil was a welcome expedient for the need of an advanced religious reflection, to put God out of relation to the evil and badness of the world. In the Apocryphal and Apocalyptic writings of the last pre-Christian time, the demonology occupies always larger room. The whole of heathenism was regarded by the Jews as the sphere of the dominion of the demons; and when the heathen empire of the Romans reduced the Jewish people also under its sceptre, Satan appeared forthwith as “the prince of this world,” to whom God has assigned the present world-age, but in order to take again into His hands the government of the world on the occasion of the miraculous establishment of the Messianic kingdom in the new age. So comfortless and godless did the actual world appear to the Jews of the last century before the destruction of Jerusalem, that they could see in it only the kingdom of Satan, the direct opposite of the kingdom of God, which on that very account was to enter into existence only through miraculous catastrophes. The view that the real world is very good, from which Israel had started in the time of the prophets, had given place here too, not less than with the Greeks and Indians, to a pessimistic despair of the real world. Yet what distinguished this Jewish pessimism from the Greek and Indian was the firm hope that the misery would not last for ever, but that a new better world would soon dawn, in which God would wipe away all tears from the eyes of the pious.

Christianity also started from this same pessimistic view of the world, but it made it the foil of its doctrine of redemption and salvation. It did not weaken the feeling for the great power of the physical and moral evils in the world, but it put in prospect the overcoming of them through the kingdom of God which is dawning, and it set its forces to work. Jesus knew by the healing power of His word over those who were diseased in body and soul, whom He also regarded as tormented by demons, that the kingdom of God had now come (Luke xi. 20); that a stronger One had come to rule over Satan and his kingdom, who would bind him, and spoil his house. He saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven (Luke x. 18)—that is to say, He saw his power over the world broken by the force of the faith which in full surrender to God gives freedom from the power of men and demons: “All things are possible to him that believeth.” Jesus was far from the shallow optimism which ignores the power of the bad and expects an easy victory of the good without a struggle. He knew that suffering was His own lot and that of His followers in the world; but He knew also that sufferings borne in pious obedience to God become means for the victory of the good, for the salvation of the individual and of the whole: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the Gospel's, the same shall save it. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark viii. 35, x. 45). In this certainty of faith that even the worst evils of the world are at last only means for the good purposes of God, lay the victory which has overcome the world—which in the first place overcame it internally, in that it made the pious man free from the terror of the world, and made him strong for the struggle against all godless things. And the same mood passes through the whole of the New Testament, and especially through the Epistles of the apostle Paul. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God. If God be for us, who can be against us? I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God. As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (Romans viii. 28, 38 f.; 2 Cor. vi. 10 f.) This is the fundamental mood of the Christian in presence of the evils of the world—as far removed from shallow optimism, which does not, or will not, see the power of evil and badness, and to which much frivolity or hardness of heart belongs, as from the despondent pessimism which despairs of the victory of the good in the world, and consequently also paralyses the power for earnest conflict and deadens the heart in dull indifference.

The Christian view of the world proves itself to be the true view also by the fact that it combines the highest idealism, belief in the world-governing power of the good, with the common-sense realism which sees the world as it actually is. The Christian is not an abstract idealist who in visionary optimism holds the world simply to be excellent, all that is actual to be rational, and even evil and badness to be mere seeming, or a shadow fitted for beautifying the whole picture. His heart is not so hard and unfeeling that he does not feel his own and others' suffering as real woe; his conscience is not so obtuse that he could approve evil and see peace where there is no peace. On the contrary, because he never judges men and things according to the external appearance, but according to the internal reality, he perceives wrong and error in much that appears to others as right and good; his attitude towards reality is always in a certain respect critical and polemical, because he measures it by his ideal, and he cannot overlook the distance of the actuality from what ought to be. But with all this, to him it is not less firmly established that the world, in spite of all its imperfectness, is the work of God, the object of His redeeming love, the place of His coming kingdom. On the one hand, he knows that we are not to love the world nor what is in it, for the world with its fashion passes away; and, on the other hand, he believes that God has loved the world and reconciled it with Himself,—that all is from God, and through Him, and to Him! In this wonderful antinomy lies the enigma, lies the strength of Christianity. The practical solution of this enigma was indeed always present in the immediate experience of the pious soul, in the faith which felt God's power present in all human weakness, in the love which put forth its hand to further the divine kingdom upon earth, and in the hope which soared over the afflictions of time to the glory which is yet to be revealed in us. Nevertheless, there lay in that antinomy a problem for the religious reflection, the solution of which could not be quite satisfactorily attained at the very outset.

In the primitive Christianity the pessimistic polemical side of the Christian estimation of the world strongly predominated, and it expressed itself in an ascetic attitude, not merely towards the life of sense, but also towards the higher life of the world. The primitive Christianity loosened man from the earthly bonds and interests of society, from family and country, from law and State, from art and science, by showing him his true home in heaven. This partly arose from the historical relationships of the society of the time, in which even the higher human endeavours had undergone such deep moral corruption that no other than a polemical attitude towards them was possible, unless the Christian ideal was to be lowered by false compromises. But the ground of the world-denying pessimism and asceticism of the primitive Christianity lay partly also in the abstract supernaturalism which it had taken possession of as an inheritance from the Jewish Apocalyptic. For, according to the Apocalyptic representation of the kingdom of God, that kingdom was not to grow out of the historical life of man, but was to break its continuity, and to enter into existence by a direct divine intervention from heaven. From this it followed naturally that the present world, up to the coming of Christ and His heavenly kingdom, still appeared as the mere opposite of that kingdom, as a place of powers hostile to God. Augustine called the Roman empire a civitas diaboli; and the whole Greek culture was, in the eyes of Tertullian, a pompa diaboli. Thus there was continued in Christianity the dualist-pessimistic view of the world which had been the final result of the ancient development of civilisation, and this view was carried forward in it for centuries. Not that the specifically Christian truth of the reconciliation of God and of the world had on that account been forgotten; but it was, as it were, hermetically sealed in the mystery of its dogma and worship. To the real world outside of the Church this truth did not hold good; for that world remained, in the eyes of the Christians, after as before the coming of Christ, God-forsaken and governed by demons. The terror of the devil and diabolical magic grew in the middle ages to an even more morbid height than it had ever reached in the pre-Christian world, having been intensified by the struggle of the Church with the heathenism outside as well as within its boundaries, and by the amalgamation of heresy with witchcraft, in connection with which the Church used the popular superstition as a weapon for the suppression of her opponents.

In the sixteenth century began the reaction from this dualistic pessimistic view of the world, and it started at the same time from two sides. In the Renaissance the world established its claim to the independent worth of the goods of civilisation outside of the Church, of scientific truth and artistic beauty; in the Reformation Christianity loosened itself from its ecclesiastical bonds and its ascetic enmity to the world. The gulf between the kingdom of God and the world was bridged over by that kingdom being no longer limited to the Church, but extended to the moral community generally, and by the world being liberated from the ban of unholiness, and being recognised as the nursery-ground of the moral goods of Christianity. Certainly there was still much wanting to the complete and logical carrying through of this view of the desecularising and reconciliation of the world with Christianity. There acted as a hindrance to it the continuing authority of the old ecclesiastical dogma with its abstract supernaturalism, whose natural consequence was the dualism of the spiritual and the secular. Besides this, the medieval terror of the devil lasted in Protestantism for three centuries, and bore its evil fruits in the horrors of the prosecutions of witches. It was the second Renaissance at the end of the eighteenth century that first carried out theoretically and practically the reconciliation of spirit and nature which had begun in the sixteenth century; and in connection with it, it is easy to understand that the recoil from the ecclesiastical supernaturalism led at first to a half-heathen naturalism and optimistic deification of the world. Rousseau's preaching of the excellence of human nature and of the return to the simplicity of the state of nature as the means of salvation from all evils, found everywhere enthusiastic followers. But when the French Revolution had translated this theory into practice, the disillusion was the more bitter the more naïve the enthusiasm for nature had been. Then there followed after the optimism of the eighteenth century the poetical world-pain of Byron, which Schopenhauer has raised to the philosophical creed of pessimism.

Certainly one is justified in seeing in the pessimistic philosophy of Schopenhauer and his followers a product and reflection of the mood of the age, which, disillusionised from the transcendental Utopias of abstract idealism and sobered down, has become realistic and resigned. Nevertheless, it ought not to be overlooked that this philosophy is in certain respects a consequence of the Kantian dualism, which held the good to be unattainable and the true to be incognisable. There is, according to Kant, such an absolute discordance between reason and the sensibility, that the ideas of the pure reason only entangle the understanding, which is bound to the senses, in insoluble dialectical contradictions, and that the moral demands of reason find themselves in eternal conflict with the actual desire of the sensible nature of man; so that duty and inclination can never go together, and the highest good set up as a task by reason must always be only an ideal goal, and never realised. If this be so, it was a very natural inference that was drawn by Schopenhauer—namely, that the substance of the world is the irrational will, and that its existence is therefore in irreconcilable discord with the rational idea and is consequently an evil, before whose insuperable power nothing remains to us but the resigned “negation of the will to live,” the Buddhistic Nirvâna. But we have already seen how this theory led in the Indian philosophy itself to absurdity: the same thing may be here noticed again under a new point of view. If all our willing is an effluence of the irrational world-will, then all our purposive conceptions or ideals are in like manner irrational, have therefore no claim to truth and validity, nor can they be applied as a rule for the estimation of reality. With this, however, falls away all possibility of a rational estimation of reality; and consequently Schopenhauer's negative judgment regarding the worth of the world becomes also groundless and arbitrary. Or conversely: if we are to be in a position to pronounce rational judgments (whatever be their issue) concerning the worth of the world, then we must measure it by an ideal conception of whose rational truth we are convinced; but if we are able to form rational ideal conceptions, then our willing cannot be wholly reasonless; but if there is reason in our willing, which is a weak and limited effluence of the world-will, there must also surely be reason in the world-will; but then the world, as a product of the rational world-will, cannot be an irrational evil, but must be a means for the realising of the ideal, which could not be our purposive thought, unless it were also the primal purposive thought of the world-will itself, and therefore the final cause of the real. In short, pessimism as a philosophy breaks to pieces on the inner contradiction that it denies the rationality of the world and yet assumes the rationality of its judging about the world, which is yet also a constituent element of the whole; or that it denies the tendency of the world to the good, and yet in its own forming of ideals it proves actually the existence and activity of that very tendency. Hence pessimism as a form of thought always appears when thinking performs its inexorable criticism on the objective world, but the subject is so completely merged in this critical process that it forgets itself therein, and does not perceive that it already has in itself what it seeks and misses without; nay more, that its seeking it is itself a sign of the hidden existence of what is sought for, and consequently the guarantee also of its coming to be found.

The rising of this consciousness was the salvation which Christianity brought to the pessimistically world-weary humanity, with its message that the kingdom of God is not merely a future far-off ideal, but that it is already a present reality within, in the hearts of the children of God. The opposition of reality and Ideal, of the world and the kingdom of God, is indeed not denied, yet it is no longer the whole truth, but only one side of it,—the starting-point, which is to be, and can be, raised to unity. But the theoretical mediation of the two sides contained in the Christian principle was not yet possible under the presuppositions of the Apocalyptic supernaturalism. For us it becomes possible through the conception of development, which enables us to know in the real the becoming of the ideal, and in the ideal the final cause of the real. These two things stand equally established to us,—that the kingdom of God, or the ideal of the universal highest good, transcends all bounded reality, and yet that the reality always already participates in it in some measure, in so far as it contains the germs out of which the Ideal is to develop itself. From this point of view even the evil of the world loses its painful sting, and transforms itself into a co-operating means for the bringing forth of the good.

That the good can only develop itself in conflict with its opposite, and consequently at the price of pain, can be most clearly recognised when we reflect upon the personal life. If man is to attain to a morally good will corresponding to the rational order of the universe, the natural impulses must be restrained and overcome in their immediate exercise, and made subject to the higher end. Without the struggle with one's own nature, without the pain of self-conquest, no virtue is possible. ‘O μὴ δαρεὶς ἄνθρωπος οὐ παιδεύεται. Nor is this to be accomplished merely by a single heroic act of renunciation of the self-will, but the moral ideal demands daily new labour upon ourselves and the sacrifice of self-subdual. With every step in the progress of moral insight grow also the demands and tasks of the moral life; no standing still, no idle letting alone, is permitted. It is only the faithful one who perseveres unweariedly in toil and conflict, who wins the crown of moral perfection. But what holds true of the individual life, holds in a still greater degree of the whole life of the peoples and of mankind. For the more complicated a moral organism is, so much the more difficult is it to establish and to preserve the harmonious order of its manifold directions of will. Here it is not merely individual natural impulses that stand over against each other, but the morally justified interests of life in the different groups of society struggle with each other for the supremacy; the wellbeing of the people as a whole must be purchased by sacrifice of the individuals. The severest conflicts and sufferings for the people, however, grow out of the progress of the moral and religious modes of thinking and feeling. When old practices and dogmas are felt to be untrue and unright, and new ideals of a civil or ecclesiastical kind are endeavouring to obtain validity, then arises the struggle between the existing order, which has been consecrated by the authority of the Fathers, and the bearers of the new ideas. Here it is not wrong that stands against right, but it is the right of the past which stands against the right of the future. It is the idea which has embodied itself in the actuality of the public life, and which has authenticated its vitality—which indeed it has already more or less exhausted—it is this idea which stands in opposition to the other idea which would now first realise itself, and which has yet to prove its capacity of life. These are the hardest, the truly tragic, oppositions and struggles of the world's history, out of which the bitterest pains of humanity have grown at all times. But how could humanity have been spared these sufferings if it is to develop all its innate capacities and approach the ideal of an all-embracing harmony, the ideal of a divine-human organism or kingdom? “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?” This fate of the greatest of the sons of men is typical of the fate of the whole of mankind. Viewed in its light, the whole history of the world appears as a single magnificent Theodicy, and all the sufferings of peoples and individuals are transfigured into means of salvation. All the battlefields of the world's history, and all the martyr-pyres of the Church's past, become sacrificial altars upon which man has offered his sacrifices in order to purchase his redemption from the slavery of vanity, and his elevation to the glory of the liberty of the children of God.

If we can thus combine the worst evils which accrue to humanity from its own historical development, with the teleology of the divine order of the world and salvation, then the comparatively smaller evils which arise to it from the order of nature will no longer present any insuperable difficulty. In so far as man is a natural being, he must also share the lot of all flesh; he must suffer death and other natural evils. And to these evils he is exposed even more than the beasts, because he is more finely—and therefore more sensitively—organised, and because he is more helpless and defenceless in his isolation than they are. But this very physical defencelessness of his compelled him from the beginning to enter into social union, and led him thereby into the path of civilisation. His more sensitive organism, however, is connected with his intelligence, in which he possesses the victorious weapon for the domination of nature. The sufferings inflicted by external nature, which the beast only passively endures, become for man means of stimulation which incite his senses to lasting attention and his understanding to reflection, to meditative observation and anticipative calculation. But by means of observation and reflection man gradually learns in the course of time by listening to nature to make out her laws, and to employ her forces for his own ends. The whole history of civilisation is an advancing victory of the human spirit over crude nature, a victory which he would never have reached without the constant spur of physical evils. Nature thus proves herself, not less in her beneficial than in her prejudicial operations, the means which excellently serves the end of the spirit,—the granite foundation upon whose fast-ordered structure man is able to erect the edifice of his civilisation, the temple of the eternal spirit. How then can we complain about this order of nature which bears the whole human existence with all its spiritual goods, because out of its ordered course in detail there also proceeds many a check and destruction to the happiness of human life? Ought not the experience of the inevitableness of natural evils, which indeed, in spite of all the progress of civilisation, are yet not wholly spared to any mortal, rather serve to give us the wholesome warning that man's highest goal and good is not to be sought in the world of sense, but in the world of the spirit, whose eternal good things are not affected by the happenings and changes of the course of nature?

If we take all these considerations together, we shall now be able to say that the true religious optimism, as Christianity understands it, does not consist in this, that the actual is to be held without further consideration as good, nor that the evil in it is to be ignored; but it consists in this, that the actual world is to be viewed as a teleological process of development, through which the good, the divine world-purpose, always realises itself more and more—a process of development from which, however, evils are so little excluded that they rather serve as necessary and wholesome means for the good, which can only realise itself through their subdual. In this view of the world, in which resignation and trust are combined, consists also the kernel of the religious belief in Providence. In some sense or other it is found in all religions, inasmuch as belief in some sort of divine government in human things is inseparably connected with the belief in God generally. But upon heathen soil the belief in Providence always remains wavering and uncertain, partly because of the want of the unity of the divine will, and partly, in particular, because of the want of a single and moral world-purpose. Plato and the later Stoics—Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius—approached most nearly to the Biblical belief in Providence, yet even they did not attain to the clear thought of a positive moral final end of the world; and hence in their belief in Providence the mood of resignation always again breaks through above that of trust. It was in the ethical Monotheism of the Hebrew prophets that the belief in Providence first rose to the conviction of a divine government of the world which aimed at the realising of moral final ends. Nevertheless these ends were at first rather national than purely and universally human. In the Psalms the prophetic belief in Providence individualised itself into the consciousness of a personal union with God, and consequently also into a divine guidance of the individual life. Christianity has spiritually deepened the belief in Providence exhibited in the Psalms, and it has partly expanded it universally; for it has found the life-purpose of the individual in his participation in the universal spiritual good of the kingdom of God, the final end of the divine government of the world. The individual belief in Providence contained in the Psalms is combined in Christianity with the social belief in which it took form in the Prophets. Now, however, it is no longer nationally limited, but is expanded so as to embrace mankind as a whole, and so that the spiritual salvation of all is recognised as the purpose of the divine love, for the realisation of which the whole course of the world is ordered by the divine wisdom. And according to this its religious kernel, the belief in Providence is unassailable, and has no refutation to fear either from experience or from scientific knowledge of the world.

The belief in Providence, however, inevitably comes into conflict with the realistic view of the world whenever Providence is referred to egoistically limited ends, which depend upon natural conditions, and which consequently could be brought about only by the interferences of an abstract supernatural Omnipotence with the ordered course of nature. Where such interferences by Providence are expected, disillusions cannot fail to come, and these have as their consequence doubt of Providence generally. It is a quite natural dialectic, in which one may almost perceive a just Nemesis, that the presumptuous supernaturalism which would put the omnipotence of the government of the world at the disposal of the individual for his own narrow limited purposes, reverts under the disillusions of actual experience into the radical unbelief of a naturalism which recognises nothing higher behind the causal necessity of the course of nature, and ends in heathen comfortlessness. On the other hand, if Providence is apprehended in the truly Christian sense that the whole natural and historical order of the world is the means for the realisation of the universal highest end,—the ideal humanity,—then not only does this religious view of the world stand in no contradiction with the intellectual knowledge of the connection of things in conformity with law, but the two views complete each other, as teleology and causalism form all over only the two sides of the one truth. For the mechanism of the causal connection is nowhere an end in itself. It is not the ultimate meaning of the world, but only the ministering instrument (μηχανή) for the system of spiritual and moral ends which stands over it. If, then, according to the Christian belief in Providence, the whole of the world in its course in time is ordered to serve the highest end of the divine government of the world, or the kingdom of the divinely-good, as the means of its realisation, then it is self-evident that all individual happening, which belongs to the connection of the whole and is naturally caused in it, can and must also serve as a ministering means for that same highest end. And seeing that in the universal purpose, as the common highest good of humanity, the true good of all individuals is also included, it is a logical conclusion that all events which affect the individual in his particular course of life are to be viewed and turned to account as furthering means also for the fulfilment of his highest personal purpose in life. As Paul says, “All things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans viii. 28). To him who estimates life generally from the highest point of view of the divine purpose, all the experiences of life obtain the significance of a God-ordered means of education and salvation. This sentiment, which combines resignation with elevation, humbleness with confidence and power, is the practical verification of the religious view of the world. “Our faith is the victory which has overcome the world.”