LORD, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him? This utterance of the Psalmist is a classical expression of the two aspects which we always meet beside each other in the religious contemplation of mannamely, his lowliness, powerlessness, and need of help, in contrast to the divine loftiness; and again, on the other hand, his highness and dignity in contrast to the other creatures, his affinity with God and his being made in conformity with the image of God. The latter side we find expressed in most religions under different legendary forms. To it belong, in the first place, the many legends of the divine descent of men, whether it be of all men or at least the primeval ancestors of a particular people, or even of individual prominent persons, heroes, kings, and wise men, of prehistoric times. To it further belong the legends of the creation of men by special divine contrivance. For example, according to the Biblical legend, God, with His own hands, formed the body of Adam out of earth and breathed into him the breath of life, so that man thus appears as a mixed product of earthly matter and divine spirit. In the later legend of the creation in the Bible, contained in Genesis i., God created man after His own image and likeness as the close and crown of the whole work of creation, with the destination to rule over the earth and animals. By the Image of God is here meant the whole superiority of man over the subhuman creation, his higher bodily and spiritual equipment, which makes him capable of lordship over the earth.
The same thought of the distinguishing dignity of man is further expressed in the legends of an initial ideal state, a Golden Age of innocence and happiness, from which men sank by their own guilt into their present sorrowful condition. Well known is the legend in Hesiod of the Golden Age under the lordship of Kronos, when the happy human race lived free from cares and toils, in untroubled youth and cheerfulness, with a superabundance of the gifts which the earth furnished of herself: the race was indeed not immortal, but it experienced death even as a soft sleep. After the dying out of this happy race, then followed the Ages which became worse and worse: the Silver Age, the Brazen Age, and the Iron Age, each always more imperfect than the preceding one, both in moral worth and in natural wellbeing. In the legend of Prometheus, Epimetheus, and Pandora, the transition out of the state of nature into civilisation appears on the one hand as an achievement of the striving spirit of man, which knows how to procure for itself the heavenly gift of fire. But on the other hand, it also appears as an act of godless insolence, which the titanic man Prometheus must atone for by torturing bonds, till, becoming conscious of the impotence of his defiance, he is released out of his distress by the merciful help of the divine man Heracles, and is reconciled with the heavenly ones; while human weakness and wantonnessrepresented in Epimetheusare punished by the box of Pandora out of which proceed all the evils and diseases which had been as yet unknown to the simple life of nature. According to the Persian legend, likewise, the first human pair was a good creation of the all-wise Spirit, Ahura, who had breathed into them his own breath. But soon the primeval men allowed themselves to be seduced by the hostile spirit Angromainyu into lying and idolatry, whereby the evil spirits obtained power over them and the earth, and spoiled the good creation. According to the Hebrew legend, which seems to have close relations with the Babylonian, the first parents found themselves at the beginning in the Garden of Eden under happy relationships, at peace with God and nature, and in childish innocence not ashamed of their nakedness. But when they transgressed the prohibition not to eat of the tree of knowledge, then they indeed really became knowing, for they began to be ashamed of their nakedness; but they had to atone for this progress in culture by the loss of the happiness of Paradise, in place of which came labour, pain, and death. Then, indeed, they made many useful and artistic inventions, but with every further step in civilisation they always removed further from God. Thus, according to this narrative too, a happy state of childlike innocence and naturalness forms the beginning; it is lost by man's own guilt, and in its place comes the career of culture with its titanic striving after equality with God and with manifold miseries, distress, and death. Wellhausen has strikingly summed up the common ground-thought of all these legends in the proposition, It is the yearning-song which goes through all the peoples: having attained to historical civilisation, they feel the worth of the goods which they have sacrificed for it. Already the later Jewish theology, and still more the Christian theology since Augustine, interpreted the sense of the narrative of Genesis iii., contrary to the original meaning of its words, as signifying that the primeval state was not merely a state of childish innocence, but a state of moral and religious perfection, wisdom, and holiness; and that there was brought in by the Fall, not merely the external evils of life, but a complete perversion of human nature, with loss of the divine image, and all freedom for good, and the dominion of evil lust and of demons.
To the scientific view, it is self-evident that all such legends of an ideal state of humanity at the beginning are devoid of claim to any historical value. They contradict too palpably the fundamental law of all human history, that mankind must gradually win all truth and goodness through hard labour and constant struggle with rude nature. According to all that the science of antiquity has enabled us to know or to conjecture concerning the circumstances of the oldest prehistoric period, we must think of the primeval men, the further we go back, as engaged in an ever harder struggle for existence, as slowly overcoming nature by toilsome labour, and as only gradually struggling out of the rudest conditions of life into an elementary civilisation. The Golden Age of the beginning is therefore, as certainly as the millennial kingdom of the end, an ideal image in which the pious poetry of different peoples has deposited the wishes and hopes in which they sought to raise themselves above the wants of their actual life. But it is just in this that the high significance of all these legends consists. They testify that it is essential to humanity to form Ideals, and to hold them up before the reality as its antitype and the goal of its striving.
In the capability of and the impulse to the formation of Ideals we may discern the distinguishing essential mark of man. The beast follows the unchangeable instincts of his nature, which uniformly shape his life in every generation. It has no history, no progress, because it is not able to form Ideals beyond its actual condition at any time. Man, on the contrary, has a history, a development mounting upwards, because he is not satisfied with any given state as ultimate and definitive; but in his thinking he sketches the image of a better and ever better state, and this drives him restlessly on to strive higher and higher from one goal to another. This capability of forming Ideals rests primarily upon the capability of thinking as suchi.e., of abstracting from the individual given representations, and combining them by the free activity of the synthetic imagination; and further, upon the impulse of reason to bring the manifold contents of consciousness into a single form corresponding to the unity of the self, to order the representations, feelings, and desires according to a norm lying in the thinking self, to shape the multiple and confused into the unity of a harmonious whole. This rational impulse towards the ordering of consciousness and life is endlessly active, because its goal can never be otherwise than relatively attainedthat is, in an always only partial and ever unstable equilibrium of the psychological powers in relation with each other and with the external world. Hence every Ideal, every type sketched in thought of an order of life that ought to be, shows itself to be insufficient as soon as it is reached, and with, this there is immediately given the necessity for the formation of a new and higher Ideal. In this infinite striving after something better than what is, is precisely exhibited man's destination for the unconditionally good, for his assimilation with the perfect Ideal, or God; and in this active destination to God is shown his descent from God, his being formed in the image of God, and his divine sonship. This, therefore, already dwells in man from the beginning, and forms his true nature as man; but it is not present in him from the beginning as an actual state of perfection, but only as a potentiality and impulse to become actually, through his own activity, that for which he bears in himself the divine capacity as a rational being. Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect. This is the infinite task of the human race, which it is not able to fulfil at any time otherwise than relatively and approximately, and from the fulfilment of which it was furthest removed at the beginning of its history.
If we ask now, In what does the Ideal of human perfection consist? only a formal definition can be given of it. For the real determination of that perfection becomes gradually more distinct to us only with the advancing development of human nature in history, and yet it can never be completely conceived, because the absolutely perfect transcends all experience. The Ideal of human perfection may perhaps be formally defined as the complete and harmonious realisation of all human capacities in a common life of humanity, such that in it all the several members (groups and individuals) are ends in themselves, and at the same time equally subservient members and instruments of the whole. That the Ideal is not to be thought of as merely individual but as universal, follows from this, that the reason which demands it is the same universal endowment in allnamely, the divine image in man; and that its actualisation in the individual would not be possible at all without its actualisation in the community, with which the individual is united by his social instincts in such solidarity that all disharmony in the formation of life in the community exerts a hindering influence also upon the harmonious formation of the life of the individual. But on the other hand, the Ideal is not to be thought merely as a social Ideal, as, for instance, a rational order of society, in which the individual persons would come into consideration only as means subservient to the whole, without the Ideal of man becoming actualised in and for his own life. In such a view it would be forgotten that reason is only active as an impulse in the consciousness of individual persons, and that its direct aim is by subordination of the sensuous to the spiritual impulses, and of the egoistic to the altruistic impulses, to establish in every personal life that harmonious order which we designate as morally good disposition or virtue. This can of course only happen through individuals living together with the community to whose ends they have subserviently to subordinate themselves. But the value of the objective ends of society is measured only by their furthering the personal life of all their members in the direction of the common Ideal of humanity. These two sides of the absolute Ideal of humanitynamely, the individual and universalwe find combined in the Christian idea of the kingdom, of God, as the organised community of the children of God. Here the individual free personalities are filled and impelled by the divine spirit of goodness and truth; but even as such they are at the same time devoting themselves in love to the common end of the whole, to the will of God, which is over all and in all, and is binding them all to each other and making every one free in himself. Now, in so far as the kingdom of God is the universal realisation of the end of humanity, it forms the highest common good of all men; and participation in it, therefore, also includes the full self-satisfaction or happiness of every one. Personal happiness as a feeling of the inner harmony of life ought, indeed, not to be the final end of our moral strivingfor that should only be God's kingdom and righteousnessbut it is withal the accessory and the sign of faithful and successful labour for God's purpose, as Christ says: Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you.
But this again raises the question, How can the absolute Ideal of the kingdom of God be the practical goal of our acting? How are we to derive from this universal idea definite directions for our individual conduct? Have there not been at all times much nearer and narrower ideas and goals to be striven after, by which men were determined in their thinking and acting? Undoubtedly; but let us not forget that all the limited ideals of human striving, in so far as men actually strove after rational ends, were and are nothing else but stations upon the infinite way to the actualisation of the absolute Ideal. This Ideal must necessarily resolve itself for the consciousness of men into the manifold relative Ideals which, partly along with each other and partly after each other, determine the living and striving of men. Side by side with each other we find the various Ideals of the individual peoples, always according to their natural endowment and place in the world. Again, in every people the moral collective will differentiates itself according to the individual classes and callings, according to families, and last of all even according to individuals. These coexisting moral goals stand to each other in a complementary relation like the parts of an organism. But changing Ideals also appear after one another like the changing phases in the development of the organic life. Every age has its peculiar Ideal, its special conception of the purpose of life, its estimation of the goods of life, and its particular labour at such a definite task of life as is demanded by the historical situation of its time. The more powerfully a definite Ideal of life rules the thinking and feeling of the whole community, so much the more does it stamp its special impress on the morals and laws, on the political and ecclesiastical institutions, and even on the art and science, of the age. It strives to embody itself in the common orders of life of the peoples, and to secure for itself lasting dominion. But this always succeeds only for a limited space of time. When an Ideal has attained to dominion, and has seemingly founded its authority firmly for all time in fixed institutions, the defects also forthwith make themselves visible which are connected with the dominion of every limited Ideal. Then a reaction arises in the mood of the peoples; critical reflection awakens; doubt of the absolute truth of the previous Ideal of life and of the orders of life that have sprung from it takes possession first of individuals, and then of ever greater masses of men, and in the conflict with the old there arises a new Ideal, the goal of the striving of coming generations. This in its turn again passes through the same circle of aspiring, conquering, and ruling, and of being combated and overcome. These transformations of human Ideals in the succession of ages form the true kernel of history, its spiritual substance, which all external events subserve as its means and expression.
Each of these changing Ideals is indeed for its time the ruling authority, which rightly lays claim to the devotion and labour of all; for it is the determinate form in which the absolute rational destination of humanity comes to consciousness on the stage of its development at the time, and in which it can and ought to actualise itself. But it is not yet on that account in itself the absolutely true and good, whose right would be universal and eternal; and where it gives itself out as this, its relative right becomes unright, its conditioned truth becomes untruth, which succumbs to the criticism of the mind that sees farther. On this rests the good right of all endeavours at reformation. But in this connection it is not to be overlooked that criticism of the relative Ideal of the time and of its embodiment in the existing orders of society is only justified in so far as it rests upon the knowledge of a higher Ideal, and in so far as it will and can serve to further the formation of the existing conditions into a better order. To such a critical reform it is always only the leading spirits, the gifted prophets of higher truth, who are called. They are the instruments of Providence in the education of humanity unto the absolute Ideal. For that reason their acting, although it puts itself in opposition to the authority of the existing conditions, is yet not arbitrary and immoral, but has the highest sanction of the divine will, which reveals itself in their conscience as a divine calling, before the unconditional obligation of which all other considerations, even those of the common duties of everyday life, give way. But how can this higher right, whose legitimation lies at first only in the breast of the prophet and reformer himself, be proved to others? The public Proof of the Spirit and of Power is effected only by history itself, which makes the deeds of the reformers the land-marks of new epochs of humanity. But before this can happenat the beginning of the movement of reformwho will blame the common man if he can see in the bold innovators only violators of the holy order of right, of moral practice, and of faith, and if he fights for conscience' sake against what is yet in truth the cause of God?
What is most profoundly tragic in the world's history is that the divinely good and true can everywhere only introduce itself into reality by hard struggle, and that its most violent opponents are always, not the unideal egoists, but those who cling to the Ideals of the past and are not yet able to grasp those of the future. They have a zeal for God, but not of knowledge. If we would not become accomplices with them, we must be on our guard against the unideal moral positivism, which would find the good only in conformity to the order of society that exists at the time. We should never forget that all positive right, as well as all positive faith, is only relatively good and true, an expression for the time of the stage of development reached by the human mind, which is destined still to advance to higher goals. We shall then be able to find the criterion of the moral value of all acting only in its having for its motive the realisation of the absolute Ideal of humanity, through furtherance of its normal moral development and removal of the hindrances to it. In other words, the moral value of our acting consists in this, that it is conscious and willed co-operation with the divine purpose of history: the education of mankind into a kingdom of God, in which righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost are to reign.
With the human capacity for the forming of Ideals, the capacity for the bad is inseparably connected. For the beast there is no badness, because its natural impulses and instincts are the laws of its life. But in the case of man, who has to order his desires by his reason, who as a thinking being sets ends to himself which are above immediate desire and independent of it, and who derives from the common ends common rules of acting according to which the social life of men is regulated, there is given the possibility of the disagreement of the self-will of individuals with the order of the whole,in other words, we have here the possibility of badness. The bad, therefore, presupposes the idea of the good, or of what ought to be. To the man who is awakening to moral consciousness this always presents itself empirically at first in the form of moral practice and laws. Yet the idea of the good is not on that account identical with the objective moral practice of the society of the time, but has its deeper ground in the a priori demand of reason for a harmonious ordering of the active manifestations of the will, in each and in all. In the correlation of this internal endowment and those external facts of conscience and of practice consists the moral order of the world, in which we have already, in a former Lecture, recognised the revelation of the holy, just will of God. Accordingly the bad will have to be defined as the violation of the God-willed moral order of the world, by the self-will of individuals.
The opinion that badness is mere negation, want, and limit, has been often repeated from the time of Plato, and it has been especially represented by Spinoza; but it cannot be accepted as correct. As a matter of fact, physical badness is not mere want of power, for it rather consists in the disharmony of the powers and organs of life. In like manner, badness is not mere want of spiritual power, either of the will or of the understanding; for it is just in the worst forms of badness that uncommon energy of will and acuteness of understanding are often actually found. In opposition to the opinion of Socrates that badness rests upon ignorance, Aristotle already called the fact to mind that the doing of the good is not always combined with the knowing of it, seeing that it depends also on the passions. If badness consisted only in the want of knowledge, then those who are theoretically most cultivated must also be morally the best, which no one will venture to assert. And what, then, would be the meaning of the expression of the apostle Paul when he says, The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do? This self-contradiction between the actual ego and the better self, of the Ideal which is well known and recognised as the better which ought to bethis self-contradiction between rational will and self-willis something quite different from mere not-knowing or deficient insight. Such a want of insight is found in the infant child, yet no one would judge its condition to be one of imputable guilt. Not less inappropriate is the frequent definition of badness as sensuousness; for the faculty of sense in itself is neither good nor bad, but, like all that is natural, indifferent. Any sensuous function only becomes bad when it appears in a moral being in disagreement with the moral order; and therefore it is just this violation of order that is bad, and not the sensuous faculty in itself. What is correct in this view is only this, that among the manifestations of badness, allowing the unbridled sway of the sensuous impulses is one of the most frequent, but it is neither the only nor even the worst manifestation of badness. Vices like lying and hypocrisy, avarice, the lust of power, jealousy, cruelty, fanaticism, do not spring out of the sensuous nature, and just as little can they be referred to weakness of the spirit, seeing that they are often combined with extraordinary strength of understanding and will: they rest rather upon the dominion of the egoistic, and suppression of the altruistic impulses of our nature. This form of the bad is therefore worse than the sensuous, because it is more spiritual. The proper nature and the deepest principle of the bad unveils itself more immediately in this spiritual form than in the other sensuous formsnamely, as that self-wilfulness which seeks its own, unconcerned about the moral order or the ends and normal laws of the world as a whole.
The doctrine of the Church has explained the origin of badness from the Fall of our first parents in Paradise, and a brief state of perfect sinlessness was thought to have preceded the Fall. How little claim this ideal representation of the state of man at the beginning has to historical truth has been already remarked. But the further difficulty now presents itself, as to how, under the assumption of a perfectly sinless beginning, we are to conceive the possibility of the Fall? Badness could not arise out of a pure will of goodness, because no motives to it would exist, and without such no imputable action is thinkable. And this has been actually recognised by the Church Fathers, as they mostly sought to explain the Fall of our first parents from motives of pride, or unbelief, or concupiscence. But they have not considered that with the assumption of such motives they already admitted an internal existence of evil before the Fall, and thus the explanation of the origin of evil from the Fall breaks down. Nor is this difficulty diminished by the interpolation of an external tempter, whom (since the time of the Wisdom of Solomon) it has been customary to think of as Satan, embodied in the serpent. But apart from the fact that thereby the first origin of the bad is thrust away from mankind back to the realm of spirits in the world beyond, where it becomes utterly inexplicable, the Fall would become not a whit more conceivable by following this circuitous route through the realm of demons. For all external incitements only become temptation by their letting loose an inner impulse to the bad, in the stirrings of which the real temptation first exists. As James truly says, Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Hence, even if we were willing to accept as a fact a temptation of our first parents by Satan, yet it must always again be regarded as having found a point of attachment in the inner bad lust and inclination of the first parents; and here we stand again before the same difficulty, without having obtained any help whatever from the hypothesis of a tempting Satan. The position accordingly will remain thus: that a first act of sin always already presupposes some inner condition of being sinful; and it therefore cannot be the first cause, but only the first manifestation, of sin.
But just as inconceivable as the Fall itself, would be also the consequences of it as they are described in the doctrine of the Church. No analogy of experience extends far enough to explain the corruption of the whole nature of the species in consequence of the single first deed of our first parents. Habitual tendencies of character do not proceed from individual actions, but only out of frequent repetitions of them. But that the free first use of freedom could have abolished this freedom itself, and thereby destroyed the moral capacity of man, is wholly unthinkable. Nor have the dogmatic theologians of the Church known how to help themselves out of the difficulty of this dilemma. Either the moral capacity and freedom (the Divine Image) belonged to the specific nature of man, and then it could not be lost; or it was lost, and then it could not belong to the Specific nature, but was a mere accident of it (a donum superadditum, as the dogmatic theology of the Catholic Church teaches). The further assertion that contemporaneously with the moral nature of man his bodily nature was also corrupted by the Fall and made subject to death, presupposes that without the Fall the human body would have been immortalan assumption which stands in manifest contradiction to all the laws of the order of nature. Besides, it may be recalled that according to the doctrine of the Bible throughout, perishableness belongs to the nature of all flesh, and consequently also to the nature of the fleshly body of man. Flesh and blood, says Paul, cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor can the corruptible put on incorruption; yet he says nowhere that this condition did not come in till after the Fall, but he ascribes perishableness to the flesh generally as a property belonging to its essential nature. Again, the consequences of the Fall, which are inconceivable in a natural way, have been sought to be explained by a punitive miracle of the divine omnipotence. By this appeal to the supernatural the difficulties springing from natural experience would be indeed removed; but there arise immediately in their place almost even greater moral difficulties, such as, How are we to bring it into accordance with the divine justice, goodness, and wisdom, that He should have punished the first transgression of our first parents, who were still entirely inexperienced and untried, at once with the total corruption of the bodily and spiritual nature of the species, and consequently should have again annihilated His own work of creation? Nor can so singular an opinion appeal for its support to Holy Scripture. For when the apostle Paul says that God hath concluded all in unbelief, that He may have mercy upon all, he cannot possibly have been of opinion that the sin of our first parents had been a traversing of the divine world-plan, or that it had brought about an alteration of the capacities originally implanted by the creation. Rather has Paul manifestly thought of the sin of man as included within the whole of the divine government of the world, and of the saving plan of redemptionnamely, as the state of the natural humanity which necessarily precedes redemption and is to be removed by it, seeing that natural humanity could not, according to the eternal order of the world, be at first spiritual, or already so from the very beginning (1 Cor. xv. 46). Original perfection viewed as the state of man at the beginning is therefore as much a dogmatic fiction as is the consequent complete corruption. To the abstract ideal representation of the beginning corresponds the equally abstract caricature of the corruption following it. We shall rather have to think of the state of our first parents according to the analogy of the childlike innocence of all religionsthat is, as a state in which good and bad, the impulses of the flesh and of the spirit, were already existent and active. But the consequences of the distinction of the two were then still wholly or almost wholly wantinga state which is as far removed from moral perfection as from moral depravity, as it stands just upon the threshold of the passage from morally indifferent naturality to conscious morality.
Accordingly we cannot explain the origin of the bad from the Fall of our first parents, which cannot be established as a historical fact. But we can just as little give assent to that indifferentism according to which every man is viewed as wholly good by nature, and as having himself caused his becoming bad by an act of his own groundless arbitrary will. This view starts from the indifferentist conception of freedom, which rests upon a false abstraction. The real will is never an empty possibility as indeterminism presupposes, a possibility which can determine itself equally well on any side, and which after every action would be again equally empty and indetermined. Out of such indeterminateness a morally imputable acting could never proceed; for this presupposes conscious grounds of determination, and there can only be such for a will which has its determinate content in certain impulses and inclinations. Freedom is self-determination of the will, not in the sense of a determination out of groundless contingency, but self-determination on the ground of its own determined being, its temperament or character. As the man is, so he acts. The good tree brings forth good fruit, and the corrupt tree can bring forth only evil fruit. Undoubtedly all willing and doing react again upon the being who wills and does, improving or corrupting the condition of the character in some degree. The development of the moral life, as of all life generally, just consists in this, that all is fruit and all is seed, that inner and outer enter into constant interaction with each other, and that all experience and acting enter as co-operating factors into the formation of character, out of which again the later acting proceeds as fruit. Only in this rests the possibility of a moral influencing of the will by education and instruction. Were every action a groundless arbitrary act of the indifferent will, it would be useless to impress upon man the best principles, as they would really give his character no determined direction, and consequently could never become permanent grounds for the determination of his acting. Then also no reliance upon any man would be possible; for any one, although he passed hitherto as the best of men, might the next moment by his groundless arbitrary will decide for the worst actions. But that the position is quite otherwise in reality we all know from daily experience. The more exactly we know men, the more certainly are we able also to calculate beforehand their mode of acting in the future. Whatever we may think theoretically regarding the freedom of the will, in the practical intercourse with men we always act and judge on the positive assumption that the individual actions of men are as certainly determined by their constant condition of will or sentiment, as the fruits of a tree are determined by its nature. In like manner we desire from the poet that he portray characters which develop their moral nature in a series of consistent actions; and the more he succeeds in this, so that all the individual external manifestations of a person coalesce into the whole of a unique and specifically determined character, so much the more does such poetic invention make upon us the æsthetically satisfying impression of the truth of life. Does there not lie in this an involuntary testimony to the fact that the theory of the liberum arbitrium indifferenti is an abstraction foreign to life and untrue?
We have seen that the explanation of the bad from the indifferent arbitrary will of individuals is untenable, on account of the psychological incorrectness of this conception. But it may be added that this mode of explanation also presupposes a superficial conception of the bad. Out of the freedom of the individual will there could continually proceed only individual bad actions, which through very frequent repetition might possibly also have bad inclinations as their consequence. But it is a very old experience, and one attested in manifold ways by the sacred Scriptures of almost all religions, that evil inclinations do not first arise out of free acting, but already precede it; nay more, that they have their roots in the deepest ground of human nature. For the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth. Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts. Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. These passages in the Bible are the expression of the same universal human experience which led Kant to the doctrine of the radical badness or of the perversity of the highest maxims of our willan experience which cannot possibly be explained by reference to individual free acts of will, seeing that it rather precedes them; for earthly man when he awakes to moral consciousness always finds in himself already the propensity of a self-will that is contrary to law. If, however, this inclination were to be explained as arising out of the freedom of the individual, this could only be done by means of the predeterministic theory, which derives the origin of the bad from an intelligible act of freedom, presupposed as prior to the life in time. Plato had already in half-figurative allusions taught a fall of the souls pre-existing in the ideal world; and the Christian Church-father Origen had attached himself to it, without, however, finding approval on this point among the ecclesiastical theologians. In modern times the philosophers Kant, Schelling, and Schopenhauer have explained the bad from an intelligible act of freedom, and indeed from the same act; which, (according to Schelling and Schopenhauer) also at the same time effectuates the temporal existence and condition of the individual soul. But what are we to think of as meant by such a mystical deed, an act through which the subject of it first comes into existence? Is it not this, that perhaps under this singular disguise there is concealed the simple thought that the origin of the bad lies not so much in a doing of the individual freedom as rather in the rise of itthat is to say, in the process of development through which the natural man becomes a moral man, and the merely potentially rational man becomes an actually rational man?
Let us, then, descend from the dangerous heights of transcendental speculation to the solid ground of experience, and let us try to discover the ground of the bad in the psychological presuppositions of the moral will. There is implanted in the nature of man a multiplicity of impulses of a lower and higher kind, which are at first all natural, neither good nor bad, but morally indifferent as it were, the raw material for the moral formation of the personal life. We distinguish as the chief kinds, the sensuous and the spiritual, the egoistic and the altruistic or social impulses. As the distinctive nature of man consists in his spiritual capacity, the sensuous impulses are destined to subordination under the spiritual impulses; and as the ends of society are of higher value than those of individuals, the egoistic impulses are destined to subordination under the social. But the state of man at the beginning does not correspond to this order, which is demanded by the rational nature of man. Because man as a natural being enters into existence with the mere capacity for rationality, the lower impulses preponderate over the higher in him from the beginning. This is natural, and in itself is not yet bad, but the germ of badness lies undoubtedly in this initial preponderating of the lower impulses. For as soon as the demands of reason, exhibited at first as commands of an external authority, are addressed to the child, forthwith there shows itself a discord between this obligation and his own will, which seeks to assert itself in its previous sensible and selfish direction. The real energy of the natural impulses does not immediately give way before the representations of the prohibiting foreign will, whose higher right at the beginning is not yet recognised, and at most is darkly felt. Nay more, the impulses disturbed in their naïve satisfaction by the prohibition, react at first the more strongly against the limitation enjoined upon them; and therefore the prohibition, instead of breaking the egoism of the self-will, rather incites it to defiant resistance and passionate appetency. Thus the man awaking to moral consciousness, finds himself from the beginning in a direction of will opposed to moral obligation; he finds in himself the propensity of a self-willed resistance to the moral order, which precedes all free action. This is the radical badness, which therefore has its ground simply in the fact, that in the development of man out of naturality the lower impulses have already won a power of self-assertion and resistance before the reason could yet come to its valid position and authority. As this propensity of the self-will is grounded in the specific nature of man, it may be designated as inborn, hereditary, or original sinfulness. This universal propensity is further supplemented by the particular unfavourable predispositions which consist in an abnormal strength or weakness of one or other inclination, by which the moral order of life is sensibly made more difficult from the outset.
These particular unfavourable dispositions likewise rest upon hereditariness, and are therefore to be reckoned as belonging to the innate abnormity or original sin. And, finally, there are combined with the innate evil many other kinds of acquired evilsbad examples of the surrounding society, and a false order of society, with conditions that make life more difficult for whole social classes, by which the impulse of self-preservation and liberty is inevitably incited to help itself by force or cunning, in the aggravated struggle for existence. All moral abnormities in the social institutions, practices, dogmas, and opinions, all the errors and wrong tendencies involved in the want of culture or of hyperculture, work with a morally depraving influence upon the education and development of individuals. The innate abnormity is thus heightened in manifold ways by acquired errors due to history; and all this together forms a morally abnormal habit of the will, which, taking precedence of all free acts, puts the man under the governing power of the bad. This tangled web of evil dispositions, woven as it is out of many threads, forms what the doctrine of the Church has designated original sin, and what Kant has called radical badness. The earnest truth expressed in these conceptions, which is entirely independent of the mythical Fall of Adam, ought least of all to be denied or mistaken by our time, which everywhere lays such great emphasis upon the solidarity of individuals with their social milieu, and upon their hereditary burden.
On the other hand, the ecclesiastical judgment of the natural man suffers from exaggeration and excess, which is mainly to blame for the fact that its true kernel has been so frequently rejected. It is an exaggeration when original sin is considered as personally imputable guilt; and it is going too far when it is held to be the whole state of the natural man, and yet the actually present good, the original grace, is overlooked. That can only be imputed to man as guilt which is grounded in his own self-determination; and this is just what original sin is not, seeing that it has its ground beyond the individual being and will, or at least beyond his conscious moral self-activity. In so far as it is grounded in the universal generic nature, it could not be designated at all as guilt, but only as disease (vitium). Yet in this pure naturalness it never occurs in reality, but always in. some form or other of historical development, and consequently as a mixed product of nature and of the activity of earlier generations. In so far as the latter participates in it, the sinfulness of society at any time is a consequence of earlier actual sin and guilt, and consequently is itself also actual sin and guilt, only not of the individual, who gets it as an evil inheritance from his ancestors, but of the whole of mankind who have co-operated in its production for generations. Hence we may say with Schleiermacher, that original sin is the common deed and common guilt of the human race. But the individual always participates in this collective guilt in the measure in which he also takes part with his personal doing in the collective act that is directed to the furtherance of the bad. And this happens up to a certain degree inevitably in the case of every individual, who, having been born into the sinful society, grows up under its influence to moral responsibility. Then the inherited badness will always carry itself on in his own willing and doing, which, in so far as it is known as what ought not to be, is to be imputed to him as his own actual sin and guilt. In the conflict of the good and evil principles, which begins immediately with the first demands of moral authority, it is not possible that the good can always conquer from the beginning, as the yet wholly undeveloped reason stands powerless in opposition to the sensuous selfish inclination. Reason can only gradually become strong in conflict with the irrational natural impulse, while the inborn good germs are developed through the educating influence of the good, which is present in society. For, as on the side of the bad the individual does not stand upon his own footing alone, but carries part of the burden of sin and guilt which is accumulated in society as the inheritance from past generations, so neither on the side of the good has he been consigned merely to his own natural power and capacity, but he is supported and borne up by the common spirit of the good, which has formed itself in the moral community under the divine education of mankind as a historical inheritance from the past, and which in the advancing conflict against the ungodly forces authenticates itself as the victorious, world-conquering power. It is essential to the religious point of view to think of the conflict of the good and evil principle, not as an individual process proceeding exclusively in the individual soul and depending on the subjective force of the free will, but to regard it as a universal world-conflict passing down through history, a conflict which God's spirit itself carries on against all ungodly work and being, not outside of humanity but in it and through it, and by creating and preserving a community of goodness and of the good as a bulwark and weapon against the bad. And hence the Christian combines with the humble consciousness of his own weakness courageous confidence in the power of God, which is mighty in the weak. The utterance of the Psalmist concerning man's lowliness and dignity from which we started to-day, finds confirmation and deeper emphasis in the words of the apostle, Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God (2 Cor. iii. 5).