I find one ought to be clear about these two intellectual trends, or perhaps it would be better to say states of mind: I mean the devout and the free-thinking. Faith is the vehicle of knowledge, intellect secondary. Your pure science is a myth. A belief, a given conception of the universe, an idea—in short, a will, is always in existence; which it is the task of the intellect to expound and demonstrate.
An original ideal state of man, a condition without government and without force, an unmediated condition as the child of God, in which there was neither lordship nor service, neither law nor penalty, nor sin nor relation after the flesh; no distinction of classes, no work, no property: nothing but equality, brotherhood, and moral perfectitude.
It is simply to divert yourself that you wrench God and nature apart, and divide the world into two hostile camps? It cannot help being what it is: dualistic. Dualism, antithesis, is the moving, the passionate, the dialectic principle of all Spirit. To see the world as cleft into two opposing poles—that is Spirit. All monism is tedious. You only want to have Spirit synonymous with democratic progress.
The antithesis between God and man is sustained, and man’s being is dual; from which it follows that the problem of his soul consists in the conflict between the spiritual and the material, to which all social problems are entirely secondary.
It was you Italians that invented banking and exchange, which may God forgive you! But the English invented the economic social theory, and the genius of humanity can never forgive them that.
Along with industry —money and finance, which in antiquity ranked higher than agriculture and manual labour—you reject freedom. For it is clear, so clear as to be evident to the meanest intelligence, that all social relations, public and private, would be attached to the soil. If only the soil can maintain life, then only the possession of it can confer freedom.
Humane enough, anti-commercial enough, to feel that all commercial activity was a danger to the soul of man and its salvation. They hated money and finance, and called the empire of capital fuel for the fires of hell. The fundamental economic principle that price is regulated by the operation of the law of supply and demand, they have always despised from the bottom of their hearts; and condemned taking advantage of chance as a cynical exploitation of a neighbour’s need. Even more nefarious, in their eyes, was the exploitation of time; the montrousness of receiving a premium for the passage of time—interest, in other words—and misusing to one’s own advantage and another’s disadvantage a universal and God-given dispensation.
All motion is in circles. “In space and time, as we learn from the law of periodicity and the conservation of mass”. How then can progress be conceived of, in closed motion without constant direction? You ought not to brood and dream, Engineer. You must resolve to trust to the instincts of your youth and your blood, urging you in the direction of action. And also your training in natural science is bound to link you to progressive ideas. And in the sphere of the higher mathematics, from the teaching of our eighteenth century, learn that man was originally good, happy, and without sin, that social errors have corrupted and perverted him, and that he can and will once more become good, happy, and sinless, by dint of labour upon his social structure.
You will find that when people discuss and express their views nothing ever comes of it but confusion worse confounded. I tell you, it doesn’t matter in the least what a man’s views are, so long as he is a decent chap. The best thing is to have no opinions, and just do one’s duty.
All works of art whose function it is to express the soul and the emotions are always so ugly as to be beautiful, and so beautiful as to be ugly. That is a law. Their beauty is not fleshly beauty, which is merely insipid—but the beauty of the spirit. Moreover, physical beauty is an abstraction, only the inner beauty, the beauty of religious expression, has any actuality.
Evening he gazed at the stars, to sit on the bench listen with bent head to the sound of the torrent and gaze at the secluded scene, with the hosts of blue aquilegias blooming in its depths. He sat there to be alone: to recall and go over in his mind the events and impressions. They were many, varied, and hard to classify; so interwoven and mingled they seemed, as almost to obscure any clear distinction between the concrete fact and the dreamed or imagined. What wonder his unstable heart stood still or wildly throbbed when he gazed at it, and then, to the sound of the rushing waters, leaning with crossed arms against the smooth back of his bench, his head inclined upon one shoulder, among the blossoming aquilegias, began to turn over everything in his mind!
It hovered before his eyes—the image of the human form divine, the masterpiece of organic life—as once upon that frosty, starry night when he had plunged so profoundly into the study of it. His contemplation of its inner aspect was bound up in the young man’s mind with a host of problems and discriminations. True, down in the plain he had never been aware of them, nor probably ever would have been. It was up here that the thing came about, where one sat piously withdrawn, looking down from a height of five thousand feet or so upon the earth and all that therein was—and it might be, also, by virtue of one’s physical condition, with one’s body brought, as it were, into higher relief by the toxins that were released by the localized inner infection to burn, a dry heat, in the face.
Is it freedom that is the law of love of one’s kind, or is it nihilism and all uncharitableness? Devotion, retirement—there is something in it, it sounds reasonable.
I will characterize man for you with a single word. He is a voluptuary.