Hegel's Lectures on Aesthetics
What up to this point we have dealt with, in Part I, concerned the actuality of the Idea of the beautiful as the Ideal of art, but [no matter] under how many aspects we also developed the Concept of the ideal work of art, still all our distinctions bore only on the ideal work of art in general. But, like the Idea, the Idea of the beautiful is a totality of essential differences which must issue as such and be actualized. Their actualization we may call on the whole the particular forms of art, as the development of what is implicit in the Concept of the Ideal and comes into existence through art. Yet if we speak of these art forms as different species of the Ideal, we may not take ‘species’ in the ordinary sense of the word, as if here the particular forms came from without to the Idea as their universal genus and had become modifications of it: on the contrary, ‘species’ should mean nothing here but the distinctive and therefore more concrete determinations of the Idea of the beautiful and the Ideal of art itself. The general character of [artistic] representation, i.e., is here made determinate not from without but in itself through its own Concept, so that it is this Concept which is spread out into a totality of particular modes of artistic formation.
Now, in more detail, the forms of art, as the actualizing and unfolding of the beautiful, find their origin in the Idea itself, in the sense that through them the Idea presses on to representation and reality, and whenever it is explicit to itself either only in its abstract determinacy or else in its concrete totality, it also brings itself into appearance in another real formation. This is because the Idea as such is only truly Idea as developing itself explicitly by its own activity; and since as Ideal it is immediate appearance, and indeed with its appearance is the identical Idea of the beautiful, so also at every particular stage on which the Ideal treads the road of its unfolding there is immediately linked with every inner determinacy another real configuration. It is therefore all one whether we regard the advance in this development as an inner advance of the Idea in itself or of the shape in which it gives itself existence. Each of these two sides is immediately bound up with the other. The consummation of the Idea as content appears therefore simultaneously as also the consummation of form; and conversely the deficiencies of the artistic shape correspondingly prove to be a deficiency of the Idea which constitutes the inner meaning of the external appearance and in that appearance becomes real to itself. Thus if in this Part we encounter art-forms at first which are still inadequate in comparison with the true Ideal, this is not the sort of case in which people ordinarily speak of unsuccessful works of art which either express nothing or lack the capacity to achieve what they are supposed to represent; on the contrary, the specific shape which every content of the Idea gives to itself in the particular forms of art is always adequate to that content, and the deficiency or consummation lies only in the relatively untrue or true determinateness in which and as which the Idea is explicit to itself. This is because the content must be true and concrete in itself before it can find its truly beautiful shape.
In this connection, as we saw already in the general division of the subject [on pp. 76-81], we have three chief art-forms to consider:
(i) The Symbolic. In this the Idea still seeks its genuine expression in art, because in itself it is still abstract and indeterminate and therefore does not have its adequate manifestation on and in itself, but finds itself confronted by what is external to itself, external things in nature and human affairs. Now since it has only an immediate inkling of its own abstractions in this objective world or drives itself with its undetermined universals into a concrete existence, it corrupts and falsifies the shapes that it finds confronting it. This is because it can grasp them only arbitrarily, and therefore, instead of coming to a complete identification, it comes only to an accord, and even to a still abstract harmony, between meaning and shape; in this neither completed nor to be completed mutual formation, meaning and shape present, equally with their affinity, their mutual externality, foreignness, and incompatibility.
(ii) But, secondly, the Idea, in accordance with its essential nature, does not stop at the abstraction and indeterminacy of universal thoughts but is in itself free infinite subjectivity and apprehends this in its actuality as spirit. Now spirit, as free subject, is determined through and by itself, and in this self-determination, and also in its own nature, has that external shape, adequate to itself, with which it can close as with its absolutely due reality. On this entirely harmonious unity of content and form, the second art-form, the classical, is based. Yet if the consummation of this unity is to become actual, spirit, in so far as it is made a topic for art, must not yet be the purely absolute spirit which finds its adequate existence only in spirituality and inwardness, but the spirit which is still particular and therefore burdened with an abstraction. That is to say, the free subject, which classical art configurates outwardly, appears indeed as essentially universal and therefore freed from all the accident and mere particularity of the inner life and the outer world, but at the same time as filled solely with a universality particularized within itself. This is because the external shape is, as such, an external determinate particular shape, and for complete fusion [with a content] it can only present again in itself a specific and therefore restricted content, while too it is only the inwardly particular spirit which can appear perfectly in an external manifestation and be bound up with that in an o, inseparable unity.
Here art has reached its own essential nature by bringing the Idea, as spiritual individuality, directly into harmony with its bodily reality in such a perfect way that external existence now for the first time no longer preserves any independence in contrast with the meaning which it is to express, while conversely the inner [meaning], in its shape worked out for our vision, shows there only itself and in it is related to itself affirmatively.
(iii) But, thirdly, when the Idea of the beautiful is comprehended as absolute spirit, and therefore as the spirit which is free in its own eyes, it is no longer completely realized in the external world, since its true determinate being it has only in itself as spirit. It therefore dissolves that classical unification of inwardness and external manifestation and takes flight out of externality back into itself. This provides the fundamental typification of the romantic art-form; the content of this form, on account of its free spirituality, demands more than what representation in the external world and the bodily can supply; in romantic art the shape is externally more or less indifferent, and thus that art reintroduces, in an opposite way from the symbolic, the separation of content and form. In this way, symbolic art seeks that perfect unity of inner meaning and external shape which classical art finds in the presentation of substantial individuality to sensuous contemplation, and which romantic art transcends in its superior spirituality.
The symbol, in the meaning of the word used here, constitutes the beginning of art, alike in its essential nature and its historical appearance, and is therefore to be considered only, as it were, as the threshold of art. It belongs especially to the East and only after all sorts of transitions, metamorphoses, and intermediaries does it carry us over into the genuine actuality of the Ideal as the classical form of art. Therefore from the very start we must at once distinguish the symbol in its own independent characteristic form, in which it serves as the decisive type for artistic vision and representation, from that sort of symbolism which is just reduced to a mere external form, explicitly not independent. In this latter mode we do find the symbol recurring in the classical and romantic art-forms, in just the same way as single aspects even in the symbolic may assume the shape of the classical Ideal or present the beginning of romantic art. But, in that event, this interplay of characteristics always affects only subsidiary productions and individual traits, without constituting the proper soul and determining nature of entire works of art.
On the other hand, when the symbol is developed independently in its own proper form, it has in general the character of sublimity, because at first, on the whole, it is only the Idea which is still measureless, and not freely determined in itself, that is to be given shape, and therefore it cannot find in concrete appearance any specific form corresponding completely with this abstraction and universality. But in this non-correspondence the Idea transcends its external existence instead of having blossomed or been perfectly enclosed in it. This flight beyond the determinateness of appearance constitutes the general character of the sublime.
As for what, to begin with, concerns the formal [side of our subject], we have now to explain in purely general terms what is understood by ‘symbol’.
Symbol as such is an external existent given or immediately present to contemplation, which yet is to be understood not simply as it confronts us immediately on its own account, but in a wider and more universal sense. Thus at once there are two distinctions to make in the symbol: (i) the meaning, and (ii) the expression thereof. The first is an idea or topic, no matter what its content, the second is a sensuous existent or a picture of some kind or other.
1. Now the symbol is prima facie a sign. But in a mere sign the connection which meaning and its expression have with one another is only a purely arbitrary linkage. In that case this expression, this sensuous thing or picture, so far from presenting itself, brings before our minds a content foreign to it, one with which it does not need to stand in any proper affinity whatever. So in languages, for example, the sounds are a sign of some idea, feeling, etc. But the predominant part of the sounds in a language is linked purely by chance with the ideas expressed thereby, so far as their content is concerned, even if it can be shown, by an historical development, that the original connection was of another character; and the difference between languages consists chiefly in the fact that the same idea is expressed by a difference in sounds. Another example of such signs is afforded by the colours (les couleurs) which are used in cockades and flags to express the nationality to which an individual or a ship belongs. Such colours likewise have in themselves no quality in common with their meaning, i.e. with the nation which is represented by them. Therefore, when symbol is taken in this sense as a mere sign with such an indifference between meaning and its expression, we may not take account of it in reference to art, since art as such consists precisely in the kinship, relation, and concrete interpenetration of meaning and shape.
2. Therefore it is a different thing when a sign is to be a symbol. The lion, for example, is taken as a symbol of magnanimity, the fox of cunning, the circle of eternity, the triangle of the Trinity. But the lion and the fox do possess in themselves the very qualities whose significance they are supposed to express. Similarly the circle does not exhibit the endlessness or the capricious limitation of a straight or other line which does not return into itself, a limitation likewise appropriate enough for some limited space of time; and the triangle as a whole has the same number of sides and angles as that appearing in the idea of God when the determinations which religion apprehends in God are liable to numeration. Therefore in these sorts of symbol the sensuously present things have already in their own existence that meaning, for the representation and expression of which they are used; and, taken in this wider sense, the symbol is no purely arbitrary sign, but a sign which in its externality comprises in itself at the same time the content of the idea which it brings into appearance. Yet nevertheless it is not to bring itself before our minds as this concrete individual thing but in itself only that universal quality of meaning [which it signifies].
3. Further, thirdly, we must notice that, although the symbol, unlike the purely external and formal sign, should not be wholly inadequate to its meaning, still conversely in order to remain a symbol it must not be made entirely adequate to that meaning. This is because even if, on the one hand, the content, which is the meaning, and the shape, which is used for the signalization thereof, harmonize in one property, still, on the other hand, the symbolic shape contains yet other characteristics of its own utterly independent of that common quality which the symbolic shape signified once; just as, similarly, the content does not need to be an abstract one like strength or cunning, but may be a more concrete one which now for its part may contain qualities, again peculiar to itself, different from the first property which constitutes the meaning of its symbol, and, in the same way, still more different from the other peculiar characteristics of this [symbolic] shape. So, for example, the lion is not only strong, the fox not only cunning, but God especially has quite different properties from those which can be comprised in number, a mathematical figure, or an animal shape. Therefore the content remains also indifferent to the shape which portrays it, and the abstract determinacy which it constitutes can equally well be present in infinitely many other existents and configurations. Likewise a concrete content has in it many characteristics which other configurations containing the same characteristic may serve to express. Exactly the same holds good for the external existent in which some meaning or other is expressed symbolically. It too, as a concrete thing, similarly has in it numerous characteristics for which it may serve as a symbol. So, for example, the obviously best symbol for strength is of course the lion, but nevertheless the bull or a horn can serve too, and, conversely, the bull over again has a mass of other symbolical meanings. But altogether endless is the mass of figures and pictures used as symbols to represent God.
Now it follows from all this that the symbol by its very nature remains essentially ambiguous.
(a) In the first place, the look of a symbol as such raises at once the doubt whether a shape is to be taken as a symbol or not, even if we set aside the further ambiguity in respect of the specific meaning which a shape is supposed to signify amongst the several meanings for which it can often be used as a symbol through associations of a more remote kind.
What we have before us at first sight is, in general, a shape, a picture which gives us only the idea of an immediate existent. A lion, for example, an eagle, the colours, present themselves and can count as satisfying in themselves. Hence the question arises whether a lion, whose picture is brought before us, is to express and mean only itself or whether besides it is supposed to portray and signify something still further, the more abstract meaning of mere strength or the more concrete meaning of a hero or a season or agriculture; whether such a picture, as we say, is to be taken literally or at the same time metaphorically, or even perhaps only metaphorically.
The latter is the case, e.g., with symbolical expressions in speech, with words like begreifen, schliessen, and so forth. When these signify spiritual activities [i.e. comprehending or concluding], we have immediately before our minds only their meaning of a spiritual activity without recalling at all at the same time the visible actions of touching or closing. But in the picture of a lion there confronts us not only the meaning which it may have as a symbol, but also this visible shape and existent.
Such dubiety disappears only when each of the two sides, the meaning and its shape, are expressly named and thereby their relation is enunciated at once. But in that case the concrete existent set out before us is no longer a symbol in the strict sense of the word but just an image, and the relation between image and meaning acquires the familiar form of comparison, i.e. simile. In the simile, that is to say, there must float before our minds both, first, the general idea and then its concrete image. Whereas if reflection has not yet advanced far enough to take good note of universal ideas independently and so to set them out by themselves, then the related sensuous shape in which a more general meaning is supposed to find its expression is not yet thought to be separate from that meaning; both are still immediately at one. As we shall see later on [in Chapter 3], this constitutes the difference between symbol and comparison. So, for example, Karl Moor cries out at the sight of the setting sun: ‘Thus dies a hero.’ Here the meaning is expressly separated from what is presented to our eyes and at the same time the meaning is annexed to what is seen. In other cases, indeed, this separation and relation is not so clearly emphasized in similes; on the contrary, the connection remains more immediate; but in that event it must already be clear from the further connection of the narrative, from the context and other circumstances, that the image is not supposed to suffice on its own account but that there is meant by it this or that specific significance which cannot remain uncertain. When, for example, Luther says [in his hymn] ‘A safe stronghold our God is still’, or when it is said that ‘Youth sails the ocean with a thousand masts; quietly on the boat that has been saved old age drives into harbour’, there is no doubt about the meaning ‘protection’ in the case of ‘stronghold’, ‘a world of hopes and plans’ in the case of the picture of the ocean and the thousand masts, ‘the restricted aim and possession, the small safe piece of ground’ in the case of the picture of the boat and the harbour. Similarly, when we read in the Old Testament [Ps. 58: 6]: ‘Break their teeth, 0 God, in their mouth, break out the great teeth of the young lions’, we recognize at once that the teeth, the mouth, the great teeth of the young lions, are not meant literally; they are only pictures and sensuous images, to be understood metaphorically, and in their case it is only a matter of what their meaning is.
But this dubiety enters in the case of the symbol as such all the more as a picture with a meaning is in the main called a symbol only when this meaning is not, as in comparison, explicitly expressed or is otherwise clear already. No doubt its ambiguity is removed from the symbol, strictly so-called, if, on account of this very uncertainty, the linkage of the sensuous picture with the meaning is made customary, and becomes more or less conventional – as is indispensably requisite in a mere sign; whereas the simile announces itself as something invented for only a momentary purpose, something individual, clear in itself, because it carries its meaning along with itself. Still, even if to those living in such a conventional range of ideas, the specific symbol is clear because they are accustomed to it, it is on the other hand a totally different matter with all others who do not move in the same circle or for whom that range of ideas is something past and gone. To them what is given at first is only the immediate sensuous representation, and for them it remains every time doubtful whether they have to content themselves with what confronts them or whether thereby they are referred to still other ideas and thoughts. If, for example, in Christian churches we see the triangle in a prominent place on the wall, we recognize at once from this that here it is not the sensuous perception of this figure as a mere triangle that is meant, but that we have to do with a meaning of it. In a different place, however, it is equally clear to us that the same figure is not to be taken as a symbol or sign of the Trinity. But other, non-Christian peoples, who lack the same habit and knowledge, may swither in doubt on this matter, and even we ourselves may not in all circumstances determine with the same assurance whether a triangle is to be considered as a triangle proper or as a symbol.
(b) Now it is not at all a matter of encountering this uncertainty in restricted cases; on the contrary, it is a matter of encountering it in quite extended realms of art, in the content of a prodigious material confronting us: the content of almost the whole of Eastern art. Thus when we first enter the world of the old-Persian, Indian, Egyptian shapes and productions, our footing is not really secure; we feel that we are wandering amongst problems; in themselves alone these productions say nothing to us; they do not please us or satisfy us by their immediate appearance, but by themselves they encourage us to advance beyond them to their meaning which is something wider and deeper than they are. In the case of other productions, on the contrary, we see at first glance that, like nursery tales, for example, they are meant to be a mere play with images and casual far-fetched connections. This is because children are content with the superficiality of such pictures and with their unintellectual and idle play and staggering juxtapositions. But nations, even in their childhood, demanded more substantial material, and this in fact we do find even in the art-forms of the Indians and Egyptians, although in these enigmatic productions of theirs, the elucidation is only hinted at, and great difficulty is put in the way of a solution. But in such incongruity between meaning and the immediate artistic expression, how much is to be ascribed to the deficiency of art, the turbidity of imagination itself and its lack of ideas? Or how much of it has the character it has because the clearer and more accurate configuration was incapable by itself of expressing the deeper meaning, and because the fantastic and grotesque is just used instead on behalf of a more far-reaching idea ? All this is precisely what at first sight may to a very great extent admit of doubt.
Even in the field of classical art a similar uncertainty enters here and there, although the classical element in art consists in its not being symbolical by nature but in its being, in itself and throughout, distinct and clear. In fact the classical ideal is clear because it compasses the true content of art, i.e. substantial subjectivity, and precisely thereby it finds too the true form, which in itself expresses nothing but that genuine content. That is to say, the significance, the meaning, is no other than that which actually lies in the external shape, since both sides correspond perfectly; whereas in the symbol, simile, etc., the image always still presents something other than the meaning alone for which it furnishes the image. But even classical art has an aspect of ambiguity since in the case of the mythological productions of antiquityit may seem doubtful whether we are to stick to the external shapes as such and marvel at them as merely a charming play of a happy fancy – because mythology is indeed in general only an idle invention of fables – or whether we still have to search for a further and deeper meaning. This latter demand may make things specially difficult when the content of these fables affects the life and works of the Divine itself, since the stories reported to us would have to be regarded both as wholly beneath the dignity of the Absolute and as purely inadequate and tasteless inventions. When, for example, we read of the twelve labours of Hercules, or even hear that Zeus has hurled Hephaestus down from Olympus on to the island of Lemnos so that as a result Hephaestus has a limp, we believe that this is to be understood as nothing but a fabulous picture drawn by imagination. Similarly it may appear to us that Jupiter’s numerous loveaffairs are invented purely arbitrarily. But, conversely, because such stories are told precisely of the supreme divinity, it may all the same be credible that still another, wider meaning, than what the myth provides on the surface, lies concealed under them.
In this matter there are therefore especially two opposed ideas which have come into prominence. The first takes mythology as purely external stories, beneath God’s dignity, even though, when considered in themselves, they may be graceful, delightful, interesting, nay even of great beauty, yet cannot afford any inducement for the further elucidation of deeper meanings. Mythology is therefore on this view to be considered purely historically – according to the form in which it is present to us, for the reason that, on the one hand, looked at on its artistic side, it is sufficient in itself in its configurations, pictures, gods and their actions and adventures, and indeed in itself affords the elucidation by making the meanings conspicuous; while, on the other hand, from the point of view of its historical origin, it has developed out of historical events, foreign tales and traditions, out of local origins, out of the caprice of priests, artists, and poets. But the second point of view will not be content with the purely external side of mythological shapes and tales, but insists that a general deeper sense dwells in them, and that to know this sense nevertheless, by unveiling it, is the proper business of mythology as the scientific treatment of myths. On this view mythology must therefore be interpreted symbolically. For ‘symbolically’ means here only that the myths, as a product of spirit (no matter how bizarre, jocular, grotesque they may look, no matter how much too of the casual external caprices of fancy is intermingled with them) still comprise meanings, i.e. general thoughts about the nature of God, i.e. philosophical theories.
On these lines in recent times Creuzer especially has begun again in his Symbolik to study the mythological ideas of the ancients not, in the usual manner, externally and prosaically, nor according to their artistic value; on the contrary, he has sought in them inner rational meanings. In this enterprise he is guided by the presupposition that the myths and legendary tales took their origin in the human spirit. This spirit may indeed make play with its ideas of the gods, but, when the interest of religion enters, it treads on a higher sphere in which reason is the inventor of shapes, even if it too remains saddled with the defect of being unable yet at this first stage to unfold their inner core adequately. This hypothesis is absolutely true: religion has its source in the spirit, which seeks its own truth, has an inkling of it, and brings the same before our minds in some shape or other more closely or more distantly related to this truthful content. But when reason invents the shapes, there arises also the need to know their rationality. This knowledge alone is truly worthy of man. Whoever leaves this aside aquires nothing but a mass of external facts. If on the other hand we dig down for the inner truth of mythological ideas, without in the process rejecting their other side, namely the fortuitousness and caprice of imagination, the locality, etc., we may then justify even the different mythologies. But to justify man in his spiritual images and shapes is a noble preoccupation, nobler than the mere collection of historical external details. Now it is true that Creuzer has been pounced upon with the reproof that, following the example of the Neo-Platonists, he just first reads these wider meanings into the myths and looks in the myths for thoughts whose presence there is a supposition without any historical basis; indeed it can even be proved historically that in order to find these meanings there the investigator must first have dragged them there. For, it is argued, the people, the poets and priests – although on the other side much is said again about the great secret wisdom of the priests! – knew nothing of such thoughts which were incompatible with the whole culture of their age. This latter point is of course entirely correct. The peoples, poets, priests did not in fact have before their minds in this form of universality the universal thoughts lying at the root of their mythological ideas; and only if they had had them in this way could they have then intentionally veiled them in a symbolic form. But that they had such an intention was not maintained even by Creuzer. Yet if the Greeks did not think in their mythology the thoughts that we now see there, it does not follow in the least that their ideas are not implicitly symbols and so of necessity to be taken as such – on the ground that the peoples at the time when they composed their myths lived in purely poetical conditions and so brought their inmost and deepest convictions before their minds not in the form of thought but in shapes devised by imagination without separating the universal abstract ideas from the concrete pictures. That this is actually the case is something which here we have essentially to maintain and assume, even if it be granted as possible that, in such a symbolic mode of explanation, purely droll and ingenious deductions may often slip in, as happens with [the quest for] etymologies.
(c) But however firmly we may assent to the view that mythology with its tales of the gods and its vast productions of a persistent poetic imagination contains in itself a rational content and deep religious ideas, yet the question arises in relation to the symbolic form of art whether in that event all mythology and art is to be understood symbolically – as Friedrich von Schlegel maintained that in every artistic representation an allegory was to be sought. In that case the symbolical or allegorical is so understood that for every work of art and every mythological shape there serves as a basis a universal thought which, then explicitly emphasized in its universality, is supposed to provide the explanation of what such a work, such an idea, really means. This method of treatment has likewise become very common in recent times. So, for example, in the more recent editions of Dante, where of course manifold allegories occur, attempts have been made to explain every stanza allegorically throughout; and in his editions of the classical poets, Heyne also tries in his notes to explain in terms of abstract categories of the Understanding the universal sense of every metaphor. This is because the Understanding especially runs quickly to symbol and allegory, since it separates picture and meaning and therefore destroys the form of art, a form with which this symbolical explanation, aimed only at extricating the universal as such, has nothing to do.
This extension of symbolism to every sphere of mythology and art is by no means what we have in view here in considering the symbolic form of art. For our endeavour does not rise to finding out how far artistic shapes could be interpreted symbolically or allegorically in this sense of the word ‘symbol’ ; instead, we have to ask, conversely, how far the symbolical itself is to be reckoned an art-form. We want to establish the artistic relation between meaning and its shape, in so far as that relation is symbolical in distinction from other modes of representation, especially the classical and the romantic. Our task must therefore consist, not in accepting that diffusion of the symbolic over the entire field of art, but conversely expressly limiting the range of what in itself is presented to us as a symbol proper and therefore is to be treated as symbolical. In this sense there has already been advanced [on pp. 76-81] the division of the ideal of art into the forms of the Symbolic, the Classical, and the Romantic.
The symbolic, that is to say, in our meaning of the word at once stops short of the point where, instead of indefinite, general, abstract ideas, it is free individuality which constitutes the content and form of the representation. For the person is what is significant for himself and is his own self-explanation. What he feels, reflects, does, accomplishes, his qualities, his actions, his character, are himself; and the whole range of his spiritual and visible appearance has no other meaning but the person who, in this development and unfolding of himself, brings before our contemplation only himself as master over his entire objective world. Meaning and sensuous representation, inner and outer, matter and form, are in that event no longer distinct from one another; they do not announce themselves, as they do in the strictly symbolic sphere, as merely related but as one whole in which the appearance has no other essence, the essence no other appearance, outside or alongside itself. What is to be manifested and what is manifested are lifted into a concrete unity. In this sense the Greek gods, in so far as Greek art represents them as free, inherently and independently self-sufficient individuals, are not to be taken symbolically; they content us in and by themselves. For art the actions of Zeus, Apollo, Athene, belong precisely to these individuals alone, and are meant to display nothing but their power and passion. Now if from such inherently free personalities a general concept is abstracted as their meaning and set beside their particular aspect as an explanation of the entire individual appearance, then what in these figures is in conformity with art is left unnoticed and destroyed. For this reason artists too cannot reconcile themselves to such a mode of interpreting all works of art and their mythological figures. For what we may think is left as an actually symbolic indication or allegory in the Classical and Romantic sort of artistic representation affects incidentals and is in that case expressly degraded to a mere attribute and sign, as e.g. the eagle stands beside Zeus, and Luke the Evangelist is accompanied by an ox; but the Egyptians had in Apis [the bull] a vision of God himself.
But the difficult point in this artistically adequate appearance of free subjectivity lies in distinguishing whether what is represented as person has also actual individuality and subjectivity or whether it carries in itself only the empty semblance of the same as mere personification. In this latter case, that is to say, the personality is nothing but a superficial form which both in particular actions and in the bodily shape does not express its own inner being and thereby permeate the entire externality of its appearance as its own; on the contrary, it has for the meaning of the external reality still another inner being, which is not this personality and subjectivity itself.
This is the chief consideration in relation to the delimitation of symbolic art. Now, to sum up, our interest in considering symbolism consists in recognizing the inner process of the origin of art, in so far as this can be derived from the Concept of the Ideal in its development up to true art, and so of recognizing the sequence of stages in the symbolic as stages on the way to genuine art. Now, however close the connection between religion and art may be, we still have not to go over the symbols themselves (or religion as comprising ideas which in the wider sense of the word are symbolic or allegorical); we have only to consider that element in them in accordance with which they belong to art as such. The religious element we must hand over to the history of mythology.
For the more detailed division of the symbolic form of art, the first thing is to settle the boundaries within which the development proceeds.
In general, as has been said already, this whole sphere is on the whole only the threshold of art, since at first we have before us only abstract meanings, not yet in themselves essentially individualized, and the configuration immediately linked with them is just as adequate as inadequate. The first boundary line is therefore the disengaging of the artistic vision and representation in general; while the opposite boundary is provided by art proper to which the symbolic lifts itself as to its truth.
In proposing to discuss the subjective aspect of the first origin of symbolic art, we may recall the saying that the artistic intuition as such, like the religious – or rather both together – and even scientific research, have begun in wonder. The man who does not yet wonder at anything still lives in obtuseness and stupidity. Nothing interests him and nothing confronts him because he has not yet separated himself on his own account, and cut himself free, from objects and their immediate individual existence. But on the other hand whoever wonders no longer regards the whole of the external world as something which he has become clear about, whether in the abstract intellectual mode of a universally human Enlightenment, or in the noble and deeper consciousness of absolute spiritual freedom and universality, and thus he has changed the objects and their existence into a spiritual and self-conscious insight into them. Whereas wonder only occurs when man, torn free from his most immediate first connection with nature and from his most elementary, purely practical, relation to it, that of desire, stands back spiritually from nature and his own singularity and now seeks and sees in things a universal, implicit, and permanent element. In that case for the first time natural objects strike him; they are an ‘other’ which yet is meant to be for his apprehension and in which he strives to find himself over again as well as thoughts and reason. Here the inkling of something higher and the consciousness of externality are still unseparated and yet at the same time there is present a contradiction between natural things and the spirit, a contradiction in which objects prove themselves to be just as attractive as repulsive, and the sense of this contradiction along with the urge to remove it is precisely what generates wonder.
Now the first product of this situation consists in the fact that man sets nature and objectivity in general over against himself on the one hand as cause, and he reverences it as power; but even so on the other hand he satisfies his need to make external to himself the subjective feeling of something higher, essential, and universal, and to contemplate it as objective. In this unification there is immediately present the fact that the single natural objects – and above all the elemental ones, like the sea, rivers, mountains, stars – are not accepted just as they are in their separation, but, lifted into the realm of our ideas, acquire for our ideas the form of universal and absolute existence.
Now these ideas in their universality and essential implicit character art concentrates again into a picture for contemplation by direct consciousness and sets them out for the spirit in the objective form of a picture. This is the beginning of art. The immediate reverence for natural objects – nature worship and fetish worship – is therefore not yet art.
On its objective side the beginning of art stands in the closest connection with religion. The earliest works of art are of a mythological kind. In religion it is the Absolute as such, even if in its most abstract and poorest definition, which is brought to men’s minds. Now the first self-revelation available for the Absolute is natural phenomena; in their existence man divines the Absolute and therefore makes it perceptible to himself in the form of natural objects. In this endeavour art finds its basic origin. Yet, even in this respect, it has not come on the scene when man merely descries the Absolute directly in the objects actually present, and is satisfied with that mode of divine reality, but only when the mind produces from its own resources both the apprehension of its Absolute in the form of what is external in itself and also the objectivity of this more or less adequate connection [of spirit with nature]. For art appropriates a substantial content grasped through the spirit, a content that does not appear externally, but in an externality which is not only present immediately but is first produced by the spirit as an existent comprising that content in itself and expressing it. But the first interpreter of religious ideas, one which brings them nearer to us by giving them shape, is art alone, because the prosaic treatment of the objective world only prevails when man, as spiritual self-consciousness, has battled himself free from nature as immediacy and now confronts it with the intellectual freedom which envisages objectivity as a pure externality. Yet this cleavage [between subject and object] is always only a later stage. The first knowledge of truth, on the other hand, proves to be a middle position between the purely spiritless immersion in nature and the spirituality altogether freed therefrom. This middle position in which spirit sets its ideas before our eyes in the shape of natural things just because it has still won no higher form (though in this linkage [of ideas and things] it struggles to make both sides adequate to one another) is, in general, the standpoint of poetry and art in distinction from that of the prosaic intellect. It is for this reason, after all, that the completely prosaic consciousness only arises when the principle of subjective spiritual freedom, [first] in its abstract and [later in its] genuinely concrete form, succeeds in attaining actuality, i.e. in the Roman and then later in the modern Christian world.
The goal, secondly, which the symbolic art-form strives to reach is classical art, and the attainment of this goal marks the dissolution of the symbolic form as such. Classical art, however, though it achieves the true manifestation of art, cannot be the first form of art; it has the multiple intermediate and transitional stages of the symbolic as its presupposition. This is because its appropriate content is spiritual individuality which, by being the content and form of what is absolutely true, can appear in consciousness only after complex mediations and transitions. The beginning is always constituted by what is abstract and indeterminate in its meaning. But spiritual individuality must be absolutely concrete, essentially and inherently; it is the self-determining Concept in its adequate actualization, and this Concept can be grasped only after it has sent ahead, in their one-sided development, the abstract aspects which it reconciles and harmonizes. Once it has done so, the Concept makes an end of these abstractions by its own appearance as a totality at the same time. This is the case in classical art. The classical form puts a stop to the purely symbolizing and sublime preliminary experiments of art, because spiritual individuality now has its shape, its adequate shape, in itself, just as the self-determining Concept generates out of itself the particular existence adequate to it. When this true content and therefore the true form is found for art, then the seeking and striving after both of these, wherein the deficiency of symbolic art precisely consists, ceases immediately.
If we ask, within these boundaries which have been indicated, for a narrower principle of division for symbolic art, then, in so far as symbolic art just struggles towards true meanings and their corresponding mode of configuration, it is in general a battle between the content which still resists true art and the form which is not homogeneous with that content either. For both sides [content and form, meaning and shape], although bound into an identity, still coincide neither with one another nor with the true nature of art, and therefore they struggle none the less to escape from this defective unification. In this respect the whole of symbolic art may be understood as a continuing struggle for compatibility of meaning and shape, and the different levels of this struggle are not so much different kinds of symbolic art as stages and modes of one and the same contradiction [of incompatibility between meaning and shape].
At first, however, this battle is present only implicitly, i.e. the incompatibility between the two sides, set and forced into a unity, has not yet become something confronting the artistic consciousness itself, because this consciousness cannot understand the universal nature of the meaning which it grasps, nor can it interpret the real shape independently in its separate existence. For this reason, instead of setting before its eyes the difference between the two, it starts from their immediate identity. Therefore what forms the beginning is the unity of the artistic content and its attempted symbolical expression – an enigmatic unity still undivided and fermenting in this contradictory linkage. This is the proper unconscious original symbolism, the configurations of which are not yet made into symbols.
The end, on the other hand, is the disappearance and dissolution of the symbolic, since the hitherto implicit battle has now come into the artistic consciousness; and symbolizing therefore becomes a conscious severance of the explicitly clear meaning from its sensuous associated picture; yet in this separation there remains at the same time an express relation, but one which instead of appearing as an immediate identity, asserts itself only as a mere comparison of the two, in which the difference, previously unconscious, comes to the fore just as clearly. This is the sphere of the symbol known as a symbol: the meaning known and envisaged on its own account in its universality, the concrete appearance of which is expressly reduced to a mere picture and is compared with the meaning for the purpose of its illustration by art.
In the middle between the beginning and the end just mentioned there stands sublime art. Here the meaning, as spiritual explicit universality, is separated for the first time from the concrete existent, and makes that existent known as its negative, external to it, and its servant. In order to express itself therein, the meaning cannot allow this existent to subsist independently, but must posit it as the inherently deficient, something to be superseded – although it has for its expression nothing other than precisely this existent which is external to it and null. The splendour of this sublimity of meaning naturally precedes comparison strictly so-called, because the concrete singleness of natural and other phenomena must first be treated negatively, and applied only as decoration and ornament for the unattainable might of the absolute meaning, before there can be set forth that express severance and selective comparison of phenomena which are allied to and yet distinct from the meaning whose picture they are to provide.
These three chief stages which have been indicated are inwardly articulated in more detail in the following way.
A. (α) The first stage is itself neither to be called symbolic proper nor properly to be ranked as art. It only builds the road to both. This is the immediate substantial unity of the Absolute as spiritual meaning with its unseparated sensuous existence in a natural shape.
(β) The second stage forms the transition to symbol proper, in that this first unity begins to be dissolved and now, on the one hand, the universal meanings lift themselves explicitly above the single natural phenomena, yet, on the other hand, thus envisaged in their universality they are all the same to come into consciousness again in the form of concrete natural objects. Next in this double struggle to spiritualize the natural and to make the spiritual perceptible, there is revealed at this stage of the difference between spirit and nature the whole fantastic character and confusion, all the fermentation and wild medley, staggering hither and thither, of symbolic art. This art has indeed an inkling of the inadequacy of its pictures and shapes and yet can call in aid nothing but the distortion of shapes to the point of the boundlessness of a purely quantitative sublimity. At this stage, therefore, we live in a world full of blatant contrivances, incredibilities, and miracles, yet without meeting works of art of genuine beauty.
(γ) By this battle between meanings and their sensuous representation we reach, thirdly, the standpoint of the symbol proper, at which the symbolical work of art is first developed in its complete character. Here the forms and shapes are no longer those sensuously present which – as at the first stage – coincide immediately with the Absolute as its existence, without having been produced by art; or – as at the second stage – which can annul their difference from the universality of meanings only through imagination’s sprawling extension of particular natural objects and events; on the contrary, what is now brought before our vision as a symbolic shape is a production generated by art. This production is on the one hand to present itself in its own special character, but on the other hand is to manifest not only this isolated object but a wider universal meaning, to be linked therewith and recognized therein. Thus these shapes stand before us as problems, making the demand that we shall conjecture the inner meaning lying in them.
On these more specific forms of the still original symbol we may in general premise that they proceed from the religious world outlooks of entire peoples, and therefore in this connection we will call history too to mind. Yet the lines of division between them cannot be drawn in full strictness, because the individual ways of treatment and configuration, like the art-forms in general, are mixed, so that we find over again in earlier or later ages, even if subordinated and isolated, the form which we regard as the fundamental type for the world-outlook of a single people. But in essence we have to look for the more concrete outlooks and examples for (α) in the ancient Parsi religion, for (β) in the Indian, and for (γ) in the Egyptian.
B. Through the course indicated above, the meaning which hitherto has been more or less obscured owing to its particular sensuous shape has at last wrung its way to freedom and so comes explicitly into consciousness in its clarity. Thereby the strictly symbolic situation is dissolved, and, since the absolute meaning is grasped as the universal all-pervading substance of the entire phenomenal world, there now enters the art of substantiality – as the symbolism of sublimity – in the place of purely symbolical and fantastic allusions, disfigurations, and riddles.
In this regard there are especially to be distinguished two points of view which have their basis in the varying relation of substance, as the Absolute and the Divine, to the finitude of appearance. This relation, that is to say, can be double, positive and negative; although in both forms – because it is always the universal substance which has to emerge – what is to come before our vision in things is not their particular shape and meaning but their universal soul and their position relatively to this substance.
(α) At the first stage this relation is so conceived that substance, as the All and One liberated from every particularity, is immanent in the specific appearances as the soul that produces and animates them, and now in this immanence is viewed as affirmatively present, and is grasped and presented by the individual who is self-abandoning owing to his ecstatic immersion in this essence that dwells in all these things. This affords the art of sublime pantheism, as we see it already in its beginnings in India, and then developed in the most brilliant way in Mohammedanism and its mystical art, and finally as we find it again in a more profound and subjective way in some phenomena of Christian mysticism.
The negative relation, on the other hand, of sublimity strictly so called, we must seek in Hebrew poetry: this poetry of sublimity can celebrate and exalt the imageless Lord of heaven and earth only by using his whole creation as merely an accident of his power, as the messenger of his sovereignty, as the praise and ornament of his greatness, and in this service by positing even the greatest [earthly] splendour as negative. This is because it cannot find an adequate and affirmatively sufficient expression for the power and dominion of the supreme being, and can acquire a positive satisfaction only through the servitude of the creature, who is only adequate to himself and his significance in the feeling and establishment of his own unworthiness.
C. Through this process whereby the meaning, explicitly known in its simplicity, gains independence, its severance from the appearance which at the same time is established as inadequate to it, is already implicitly accomplished. Now if, within this actual cleavage, shape and meaning are to be brought into a relation of inner affinity, as symbolic art requires, then this relation lies directly neither in the meaning nor in the shape, but in a subjective third thing [the spectator’s, or artist’s, consciousness] which, in its subjective vision, finds aspects of similarity in both, and in reliance thereon illustrates and explains the independently clear meaning through the cognate individual picture.
But in that case the picture, instead of being as before the sole expression [of the meaning], is only a mere ornament, and therefore there arises a relation not in correspondence with the nature of the beautiful, since picture and meaning are contrasted with one another instead of being moulded into one another – as was the case, even if in a less complete way, in symbolic art strictly so-called. Works of art which make this form their foundation remain therefore of a subordinate kind, and their content cannot be the Absolute itself but some different and restricted situation or occurrence; on this account the forms belonging here are used in the main only occasionally as accessories.
Yet, in more detail, we have to distinguish in this section too three principal stages.
(α) To the first there belongs the mode of representation used in fables, parables, and apologues; in these the separation of shape from meaning, characteristic of this whole sphere, is not yet expressly established, and the subjective activity of comparing is not yet emphasized; consequently the presentation of the single concrete appearance, which is to illumine the universal meaning, remains the predominant thing.
(β) At the second stage, on the other hand, the universal meaning comes explicitly into dominion over the explanatory shape which can still only appear as a mere tribute or capriciously chosen picture. To this class there belong allegory, metaphor, simile.
(γ) The third stage, finally, completely reveals the utter sundering of the two sides which hitherto in symbolic art were either united immediately – despite their relative hostility, or, in their independently established cleavage, were yet still related. To the content explicitly known in its prosaic universality the art-form appears thoroughly external, as in didactic poetry, while on the other side the explicitly external is treated and represented in its mere externality in so-called descriptive poetry. But in this way the symbolic linkage [of shape and meaning] and their relation has vanished and we have to look for a further unification of form and content which truly corresponds to the real nature of art.
If, to consider the matter in more detail, we now proceed to the stages of development of the symbolic, we have to make a beginning with the beginning of art as it proceeds from the Idea of art itself. This beginning, as we saw in the Introduction to this Section, is the symbolic form of art in its still immediate shape, a shape not yet known and made a mere image and simile – unconscious symbolism. But before this can acquire its strictly symbolical character in itself and for our consideration, there must be taken up still more presuppositions determined by the nature of the symbolic itself.
The nearer point of departure may be established in the following way.
The symbol on the one hand has its basis in the immediate unification of the universal and therefore spiritual meaning with the sensuous shape which is just as adequate as inadequate; but as yet there is no consciousness of their incongruity. But, on the other hand, the linkage must already be shaped by imagination and art and not merely apprehended as a purely immediately present actuality of the Divine. This is because the symbolic only arises for art with the detachment of a universal meaning from what is immediately present in nature, although in the existence of the latter the Absolute is envisaged, but now envisaged by imagination as actually present.
Thus the first presupposition of the symbolical’s coming into being is precisely that immediate unity of the Absolute with its existence in the phenomenal world, a unity not produced by art but found, without art, in actual natural objects and human activities.
In this intuited immediate identity of the Divine, the Divine which is brought before consciousness as one with its existence in nature and man, neither is nature as such accepted as it is, nor is the Absolute explicitly torn free from it and given independence – so that in consequence there is strictly no question of a difference between inner and outer, meaning and shape, because the inner has not yet been explicitly separated as meaning from its immediate actuality in what is present. If therefore we speak here of meaning, this is our reflection which proceeds for us from the need to regard the [external] form (which affords [to others] a [mere direct] intuition of the spiritual and the inward) as in general something external, and, to be in a position to understand it, we want to look into its heart, its soul and its meaning. But, therefore, in the case of such general intuitions [of the Divine] we must make the essential distinction between whether the inner itself was envisaged as inner and meaning by those peoples who originally apprehended these intuitions, or whether it is only we who recognize in them a meaning which receives its external expression in what is intuited.
Now, in other words, in this first unity there is no such difference between soul and body, concept and reality. The bodily and the sensuous, the natural and the human, is not merely an expression of a meaning to be distinguished therefrom; on the contrary, what appears is itself apprehended as the immediate actuality and presence of the Absolute. The Absolute does not acquire for itself still another independent existence, but has only [as its existence] the immediate presence of an object which is God or the Divine. In Lamaism, for instance, this individual actual man is immediately known and reverenced as God, just as in other nature-religions the sun, mountains, rivers, the moon, single animals, the bull, the monkey, etc., are regarded as immediate divine existents and reverenced as sacred. A similar thing, even if in a deeper way, still appears in many respects even in the Christian outlook. In Catholic doctrine, for example, the consecrated bread is the actual flesh, the wine the actual blood of God, and Christ is immediately present in them; and even in the Lutheran faith bread and wine are transformed by the believer’s enjoyment into actual flesh and blood. In this mystical identity there is nothing purely symbolical; the latter only arises in the Reformed [i.e. Calvinist] doctrine, because here the spiritual is explicitly severed from the sensuous, and the external object is taken in that case as a mere pointing to a meaning differentiated therefrom. In the miracle-working images of the Madonna too the power of the Divine operates by immediate presence in them and is not, as might be thought, only hinted at symbolically through the images.
But in the most thoroughgoing and widespread way we find the intuition of this wholly immediate unity in the life and religion of the ancient Zend people whose ideas and institutions are preserved for us in the Zend-Avesta.
The religion of Zoroaster, namely, takes light as it exists in nature – the sun, the stars, fire in its luminosity and flames – to be the Absolute, without explicitly separating this divinity from light, as if light were a mere expression and image or symbol. The Divine, the meaning, is not severed from its existence, from the lights. This is because, even if light is taken all the same in the sense of the good, the just, and therefore of what is rich in blessing, upholding and propagating life, then it still is not thought at all to be a mere image of the good; on the contrary, the good is itself light. The same is the case with the opposite of light – the sombre and the dark as the impure, the harmful, the bad, the destructive, and the deadly.
In more detail this view is particularized and articulated in the following way.
(α) In the first place, the Divine as inherently pure light and as its opposite, darkness and impurity, is personified and is then called Ormuzd and Ahriman; but this personification remains entirely superficial. Ormuzd is no inherently free imperceptible subject, like the God of the Jews, or truly spiritual and personal, like the God of the Christians who is made known to us as actually personal and self-conscious spirit; on the contrary, Ormuzd, however much he is also called king, great spirit, judge, etc., still remains unseparated from his sensuous existence as light and lights. He is only the universal in all particular existents in which the light, and therefore the Divine and the pure, is actual; he is in them without abstractly withdrawing, out of everything present, into himself as the universal spirit independent of these existents. He remains in the existing particulars and individuals just as the genus remains in the species and individuals. As this universal he indeed acquires precedence over everything particular, and is the first, the supreme, the gold-shining king of kings, the purest and best, but he has his existence solely in everything light and pure, just as Ahriman has his in everything dark, evil, pernicious, and sick.
(b) Therefore this view expands at once into the further idea of a realm of light and darkness and the battle between them. In the realm of Ormuzd it is the Amshaspands as the seven chief lights in heaven who enjoy divine worship first, because they are the essential particular existences of light and therefore, as a pure and great heavenly people, constitute the determinate being of the Divine itself. Each Amshaspand (Ormuzd too is of their company in this) has its days of presiding, blessing, and beneficence. In further specification, the Izeds and Fervers are subordinate to them; like Ormuzd himself they are personified indeed but without more detailed human configuration for contemplation, so that what remains the essential thing for contemplation is neither spiritual nor bodily subjectivity but determinate being as light, brightness, splendour, illumination, radiation, etc.
Similarly there are also treated as an existence of Ormuzd individual natural things which do not themselves exist externally as lights and luminous bodies – animals, plants, the phenomena of the human world whether spiritual or corporeal, individual actions and situations, the entire life of the state, the king, surrounded by seven great men, the division of classes, the cities, the provinces with their governors who as the best and purest people have to serve as a model and protection – in short the whole of reality. For everything which carries in itself and propagates growth, life, maintenance, is a mode in which light and purity and therefore Ormuzd really exist; every single truth, goodness, love, justice, mercy, spirit, bliss, every single living thing, everything beneficent and protective, etc., is regarded by Zoroaster as inherently light and divine. The realm of Ormuzd is what is actually present as pure and luminous, and in this realm there is no difference between the phenomena of nature and those of spirit, just as in Ormuzd himself light and goodness, spiritual and sensuous qualities, immediately coincide. The splendour of a creature is therefore for Zoroaster the sum of spirit, power, and every kind of stirring of life, in so far as, that is to say, they promote the maintenance of everything positive and the banishment of everything in itself evil and harmful. What in animals, men, and plants, is real and good is light, and by the measure and condition of this luminosity the higher or lower splendour of all objects is determined. The like articulation and gradation occurs also in the realm of Ahriman, except that in this province the spiritually bad and the naturally evil, in short what is destructive and actively negative, acquires actuality and dominion. But the might of Ahriman is not to be extended, and the aim of the whole world is therefore put in annihilating and smashing the realm of Ahriman, so that Ormuzd alone shall be living, present, and dominant in everything.
(c) To this one and only end the whole of human life is consecrated. The task of every individual consists in nothing but his own spiritual and bodily purification, and in the spreading of this blessing and the struggle against Ahriman throughout human and natural situations and activities. Thus, the supreme, most sacred duty is to glorify Ormuzd in his creation, to love and venerate everything which has proceeded from this light and is pure in itself, and to make oneself pleasing to it. Ormuzd is the beginning and end of all veneration. Before everything else the Parsi has therefore to call on Ormuzd in thoughts and words, and to pray to him. After praising him from whom the whole world of the pure emanates, the Parsi must next turn in prayer to particular things according to their level of majesty, dignity, and perfection; for, says the Parsi, so far as they are good and unalloyed, Ormuzd is in them and loves them as his pure sons in whom he takes pleasure as at the beginning of creation, since everything proceeded by his agency new and pure. So prayer is directed first to the Amshaspands as the nearest antitypes of Ormuzd, as the first and most brilliant beings who surround his throne and further his dominion. Prayer to these heavenly spirits is precisely related to their properties and functions, and, if they are stars, to the time of their uprising. The sun is called upon by day, and always in a different way according to whether it is rising, standing at midday, or setting thereafter. From dawn to midday the Parsi asks especially that Ormuzd may be pleased to heighten his splendour, and in the evening he prays that the sun may complete its career through the protection of Ormuzd and all the Izeds. But Mithras is especially venerated; as the fructifier of the earth and the deserts he pours forth nourishment over the whole of nature, and as the mighty struggler against all the Devas of contention, war, disorder, and wreck, he is the author of peace.
Further, the Parsi in his on the whole monotonous prayers of praise emphasizes as it were the ideals, the purest and truest in man, the Fervers as pure spirits of men, no matter where on earth they live or have lived. Especially is prayer made to the pure spirit of Zoroaster, but after him to the governors of classes, cities, and provinces; and the spirits of all men are now already considered to be exactly bound together as members in the living society of light, which one day is to be still more of a unity in Gorotman.
Finally, even animals, hills, trees are not forgotten, but they are called on with eyes fixed on Ormuzd; their goodness, the service they afford to man, is praised, and especially the first and most excellent of its kind is venerated as a determinate being of Ormuzd. Over and above this praying, the Zend-Avesta insists on the actual practice of goodness and of purity in thought, word, and deed. The Parsi in the whole conduct of his inner and outer man should be as the light, as Ormuzd, the Amshaspands, Izeds, Zoroaster and all good men live and work. This is because these live and have lived in the light, and all their deeds are light; therefore every man must have their pattern in view and follow their example. The more a man expresses in his life and accomplishment goodness and the purity of light, the nearer the heavenly spirits come to him. Just as the Izeds with beneficence bless everything, vivify it, make it fruitful and friendly, so the Parsi too seeks to purify nature, to exalt it, above all to spread the light of life and its cheerful fruitfulness. In this spirit he feeds the hungry, cares for the sick, to the thirsty he gives the refreshment of drink, to the traveller shelter and lodging; to the earth he gives pure seeds, he digs tidy canals, plants the deserts with trees and promotes growth wherever he can; he provides for the nourishment and fructifying of what lives, for the pure splendour of fire; he banishes dead and impure animals, arranges marriages; and the holy Sapandomad herself, the Ized of the earth, delights therein and stops the harm which the Daevas and Darwands are actively preparing.
What we called the symbolic is still not present at all in these fundamental views. On the one hand, it is true that light is existent naturally, and on the other hand it means the good, the upholder, full of blessing, so that we might say that the actual existence of light is a purely cognate image for this universal meaning which permeates nature and the human world. But, looked at from the point of view of the Parsis themselves, the separation between existence and its meaning is false, because for them the light, precisely as light, is goodness and is so interpreted that, as light, it is present and effective in all particular goods, in all living and positive things. The universal and the Divine does pervade the differences of particular mundane reality, but in this its particularized and separated existence there still remains subsistent the substantial and undivided unity of meaning and shape, and the differentiation of this unity has nothing to do with the difference between meaning as meaning and its manifestation, but only with the differentiation of existent objects, as, e.g., the stars, organic life, human dispositions and actions, in which the Divine, as light or darkness, is intuited as present.
In further [Persian] ideas there is of course an advance to some beginnings of symbolism, but these do not afford the proper type of this whole manner of viewing things; they can count only as isolated achievements. So Ormuzd says once, for example, of his darling, Jamshid: ‘The holy Ferver of Jamshid, the son of Vivengham, was great before me. His hand took from me a dagger, the edge of which was gold and its point was gold. Therewith Jamshid marked out three hundred parts of the earth. He split up the kingdom of the earth with his gold-plate, with his dagger, and spake: “Let Sapandomad rejoice.” With prayer he spake the holy word to the tame cattle, to wild animals, and to men. So his passage was good fortune and blessing for these countries, and in great masses there thronged together men, domestic animals, and beasts of the field’. Now here the dagger and the splitting of the earth is an image whose meaning may be taken to be agriculture. Agriculture is still no explicitly spiritual activity, but neither is it something purely natural; instead it is a universal work of man, proceeding from deliberation, intelligence, and experience, and spreading through all relations of his life. The fact that this splitting of the earth with the dagger may be supposed to hint at agriculture is certainly not expressly said at all in the idea of Jamshid’s progress, and nothing is said in connection with this splitting about any fertilizing or about any crops; yet since in this single action there seems at the same time to lie more than this single upturning and loosening of the soil, something symbolically indicated is to be looked for in it. It is similar with later ideas as they occur especially in the subsequent development of Mithras worship, where Mithras is portrayed [e.g. on Roman reliefs] as a stripling in the twilight of the grotto raising the head of the bull on high and plunging a dagger into its neck, while a snake licks its blood and a scorpion gnaws at its genitals. This symbolic representation has been explained, now astronomically and now otherwise. Yet in a more general and deeper way the bull can be taken as the natural principle in general over which man, the spiritual being, carries off the victory, although astronomical associations too may have their part to play here. But that such a revolution, like this victory of spirit over nature, is therein contained, is hinted at too by the name of Mithras, the mediator, especially in a later time when elevation above nature became a need of the peoples.
But symbols like these, as was said above, occur in the views of the ancient Persians only incidentally and do not constitute the all-pervading principle of their total manner of looking at things.
Still less is the cult prescribed by the Zend-Avesta of a symbolic kind. Here we do not find any symbolic dances which are supposed to celebrate or imitate the interlaced course of the stars, or other sorts of activities counting only as an allusive image for universal ideas; on the contrary, all actions made into religious duties for the Parsis are activities which concern the actual propagation of purity internally and externally and they appear as a purposeful accomplishment of the universal end, namely the actualization of Ormuzd’s dominion in all men and in all natural objects – an end, therefore, not just alluded to in this business itself, but wholly and completely attained.
Now since what is typical of the symbolic is absent from this whole outlook the character of what is strictly artistic is also missing. In general, this way of visualizing things may be called poetic, since in it neither the individual objects in nature nor individual human attitudes, situations, deeds, actions, are to be construed in their immediate and therefore accidental and prosaic lack of significance; on the contrary, they are seen in accordance with their essential nature, in the light of the Absolute, which is light; and, conversely, the universal essence too of concrete natural and human reality is not grasped in its universality, devoid of existence and shape, but, on the contrary, this universal and that individuality are visualized and expressed as immediately one. Such a view may be counted as beautiful, broad, and great, and, compared with bad and senseless idols, light as this inherently pure and universal element is of course an adequate image for the good and the true. But the poetry in this does not get beyond the universal at all and it never reaches art and works of art. For neither are the good and the Divine inwardly determinate, nor are the shape and form of this content generated by the spirit; on the contrary, as we have seen already, what is really present – the sun, the stars, actual plants, animals, men, existent fire – is apprehended as the Absolute’s shape which is already in its immediacy adequate thereto. The sensuous representation is not, as art demands, formed, shaped, and invented by the spirit; on the contrary the adequate expression of the Divine is found and enunciated directly in the external existent. True, the individual, on the other hand, is fixed, independently of its reality, by imagination, as, e.g., in the Izeds and Fervers, the genii of individual men; but in this start of separation [between meaning and shape] poetic invention is of the weakest kind, because the difference remains entirely formal, so that the genius, Ferver, Ized, does not and is not meant to acquire any special configuration of its own, but has, for one thing, only just the same content as any individual, and, for another thing, only the mere explicitly empty form of subjectivity which the existent individual already possesses. On this account imagination produces neither another deeper meaning nor the independent form of an inherently richer individuality. And even if, moreover, we see particular existents gripped together into general ideas and genera to which a real existence, conformably to the genus, is given by imagination, still this elevation of multiplicity to a comprehensive essential unity, as germ and basis for individuals of the same species and genus, is only in a rather vague sense an activity of imagination and no proper work of poetry and art. So, e.g., the holy fire of Bahram is the essential fire, and amongst the waters, equally, one water precedes all others. Horn [the drink of immortality] counts as the first, purest, and most powerful amongst all trees, the original tree in which the sap of life flows full of immortality. Amongst hills Albordsch, the holy hill, is visualized as the original germ of the whole earth; he stands in radiance; from him proceed the human benefactors who had knowledge of the light and on him rest the sun, moon, and stars. But on the whole the universal is intuited in immediate unity with the present reality of particular things and only here and there are universal ideas illustrated by particular images.
Still more prosaically the cult has as its aim the actual accomplishment and dominion of Ormuzd in all things, and it demands only this appropriateness and purity of every object, without even merely making of it a work of art existing as it were in immediate life, as in Greece the warriors and wrestlers, etc., could present such a work in their trained bodies.
In all these respects and relations the first unity of spiritual universality with sensuous reality constitutes only the groundwork of the symbolic in art, yet without being itself already strictly symbolical and bringing works of art into existence. In order to attain this next objective there must be an advance from our subject hitherto, i.e. from this first unity, to difference and the battle between meaning and shape.
If consciousness does advance out of the immediately intuited identity between the Absolute and its externally perceived existence, then what confronts us as the essential point is the cleavage between the hitherto united aspects, i.e. the battle between meaning and shape, which immediately provokes the attempt to heal the breach again by building the separated parts together in a fanciful way.
It is with this attempt alone that there arises the proper need for art. For if the content of ideas is established independently, freed now from its existence and no longer only intuited directly in present reality, then thereby the task is set before spirit of giving for contemplation and perception – in a renewed mode produced by spirit – a richly fanciful shape to universal ideas and in this activity creating artistic productions. Now since in the first sphere, where still we are at present, this task can be discharged symbolically only, it may seem as if we are already standing on the ground of the strictly symbolic. But this is not the case.
The first thing that we encounter is configurations produced by a fermenting imagination which in the unrest of its fantasticalness only indicates the way which can lead to the genuine centre of symbolic art. That is to say that, at the first appearance of the difference and the relation between meaning and the form of representation, both the separation and the linkage are still of a confused kind. This confusion is necessitated by the fact that neither of the different sides has yet become a totality carrying in itself the feature constituting the fundamental character of the other side, whereby alone the really adequate unity and reconciliation can be established. Spirit in its totality, determines, e.g., its external appearance out of its own resources, just as the inherently total and adequate appearance is explicitly only the external existence of the spirit. But, in this first separation of meanings, apprehended by the spirit, from the existing world of appearances, the meanings are not those of the concrete spirit but abstractions, and their expression is likewise unspiritualized and therefore, in its abstraction, only external and sensuous. The pressure for distinction and unification is therefore a frenzy which from sensuous individual details ranges over directly, indefinitely, and wildly to the most general meanings, and for what is inwardly grasped in consciousness can find only the precisely opposite form of sensuous configurations. It is this contradiction which is supposed to produce a genuine unification of the elements which struggle against one another; yet from one side it is driven into the opposite one, and out of this is pushed back again into the first; without rest it is just thrown hither and thither, and in the oscillation and fermentation of this striving for a solution thinks it has already found appeasement. As a result, instead of genuine satisfaction it is precisely only the contradiction itself which passes for the true unification, and thus the most imperfect unity passes for what properly corresponds to art. True beauty, therefore, we may not seek in this field of murky confusion. For in the restless sudden leap from one extreme to the other, on the one hand we find the breadth and might of universal meanings linked to the sensuous taken both in its individuality and in its elementary appearance, linked therefore in a wholly inadequate way; on the other hand, what is most universal, if a start is made from that, is shamelessly shifted, in the converse manner, into the heart of the most sensuous present; and moreover if the sense of this incompatibility comes to mind, imagination here can have no recourse but to distortions, since it drives particular shapes beyond their firmly limited particular character, stretches them, alters them into indefiniteness, and intensifies them beyond all bounds; it tears them apart from one another and therefore in this struggle towards accord brings to light only the very opposite in its lack of reconciliation.
These first, still wildest, attempts of fancy and art we find especially amongst the ancient Indians. Their chief defect, compatibly with the general nature of this stage, consists in this, that they cannot grasp either the meanings themselves in their clarity, or existing reality in its own proper shape and significance. Therefore the Indians have proved themselves incapable of an historical interpretation of persons and events, because an historical treatment requires sang-froid in taking up and understanding the past on its own account in its actual shape with its empirical links, grounds, aims, and causes. This prosaic circumspection is at variance with the Indian pressure to refer each and everything back to the sheerly Absolute and Divine, and to contemplate in the commonest and most sensuous things a fancifully created presence and actuality of the gods. In their confused intermixture of finite and Absolute, therefore, since the order, intelligibility, and fixity of everyday life and prose remains totally disregarded, they fall, despite all their exuberance and magnificent boldness of conception, into a monstrous extravagance of the fantastic which runs over from what is inmost and deepest into the most commonplace present in order to turn one extreme directly into the other and confuse them.
For the more determinate traits of this continuing intoxication, this crazing and crazedness, we have here to go through not the religious ideas as such, but only the chief features in accordance with which this way of looking at things belongs to art. These chief points are the following.
One extreme in the Indian mind is the consciousness of the Absolute as what in itself is purely universal, undifferentiated, and therefore completely indeterminate. Since this extreme abstraction has no particular content and is not visualized as a concrete personality, it affords in no respect a material which intuition could shape in some way or other. For Brahma, as this supreme divinity, is entirely withdrawn from sense and observation, indeed he is not even properly an object for thought. For thinking requires self-consciousness which sets an object before itself in order to find itself therein. All understanding is already an identification of self and object, a reconciliation between two terms which, outside this understanding, are separated; what I do not understand or know remains something foreign to me, different from me. But the Indian way of unifying the human self with Brahma is nothing but the steadily enhanced ‘screwing oneself up’ to this extreme abstraction itself, wherein not only the entire concrete content but even self-consciousness must perish before man can attain to this abstraction. Therefore the Indian knows no reconciliation and identity with Brahma in the sense of the human spirit’s reaching knowledge of this unity; on the contrary, the unity consists for the Indian precisely in the fact that consciousness and self-consciousness and therefore all the content of the world and the inner worth of the man’s own personality totally disappear. This emptying and annihilation, reaching absolute pointlessness, counts as the highest condition which makes man into the supreme god himself, into Brahma. This abstraction, which is amongst the harshest things that man can lay on himself, on the one hand as Brahma and, on the other, as the purely theoretical inner cult of dullness and mortification, is no object for imagination and art. Art, we may suppose, acquires here an opportunity of indulging in manifold productions only in the course of sketching the way to this end [of self-annihilation].
But, conversely, the Indian outlook nevertheless springs directly out of this super-sensuousness into the wildest sensuousness. Yet since the immediate and therefore peaceful identity of the two sides is superseded and, instead of it, difference within the identity has become the fundamental model, this contradiction pushes us, with no mediation, out of the most finite things into the Divine and then back again; and we live amongst configurations arising out of this mutual perverse transposition of one side into the other as in a witches’ world where no determinacy of form, when we hope to fix our attention on it, stays firm but suddenly is changed into its opposite or swells and spreads into extravagance.
Now the general ways in which Indian art comes before us are the following.
(a) In the first place, imagination places the most tremendous content of the Absolute into what is immediately sensuous and individual so that this individual thing, just as it is, is supposed to represent such a content perfectly in itself and to exist for contemplation as so representing it. In the Ramayana, for instance, the friend of Rama, Hanuman, the Prince of Apes, is a chief figure and he accomplishes the boldest deeds. To speak generally, in India the ape is revered as divine, and there is a whole city of apes. In the ape as this individual ape the infinite content of the Absolute is gazed at with wonder and is deified. Similarly the cow Sabala appears likewise in the Ramayana, in the episode of Vishwamitra’s penances, clothed with boundless might. Furthermore there are families in India in which the Absolute itself vegetates in the form of this actual man, even if an entirely dull and simple one, who in his immediate life and presence is venerated as god. The same thing we find in Lamaism too where also a single individual man enjoys supreme adoration as a present god. But in India this veneration is not paid exclusively to one man only; on the contrary, every Brahman counts from the beginning, by his birth in his caste, as Brahma already; he has achieved in a natural way, through his physical birth, the spiritual rebirth which identifies the man with god, so that thus the pinnacle of the supremely Divine itself falls back immediately into the purely commonplace physical reality of existence. For although Brahmans are under the most sacred obligation to read the Vedas and thereby acquire an insight into the depths of the Divine, this duty can be discharged adequately all the same with the greatest lack of spirituality without depriving the Brahman of his divinity. In a similar way one of the most general matters which the Indians portray is procreation and the beginning of life, just as the Greeks specify Eros as the oldest god. Now this procreation, the divine activity, is again taken entirely sensuously in numerous portrayals, and the male and female sexual organs are regarded as supremely holy. So too, even if the Divine enters reality explicitly in its divinity, it is drawn into the midst of everyday life in an entirely trivial way. For example, in the beginning of the Ramayana there is a story of how Brahma came to Valmikis, the mythical singer of the [poem] Ramayana. Valmikis welcomes him entirely in the ordinary Indian way, compliments him, places a chair for him, brings him water and fruit; Brahma actually sits down and compels his host to sit likewise; they sit for a long time until at last Brahma commands Valmikis to compose the Ramayana.
This likewise is still not a properly symbolic conception, for although here, as symbol requires, the figures are drawn from the contemporary world and applied to universal meanings, still there is missing here the other aspect of symbols, i.e. the fact that the particular existents are not supposed actually to be the absolute meaning for our vision, but only to indicate it. For Indian imagination the ape, the cow, the individual Brahman, etc., are not a cognate symbol of the Divine; they are treated and represented as the Divine itself, as an existent adequate thereto.
But herein lies the contradiction which drives Indian art on to a second mode of conception. For, on the one hand, the purely invisible, the Absolute as such, the bare meaning, is grasped as the truly Divine, while, on the other hand, individual things in concrete reality are also, in their sensuous existence, directly regarded by imagination as divine manifestations. In part, indeed, they are supposed to express only particular aspects of the Absolute, yet even then the immediate individual thing, represented as an adequate existence of this specific universality, is plainly simply inadequate to this its content; the individual is in contradiction with the content all the more sharply as the meaning is here already seized in its universality and yet, expressly in this universality, is posited immediately by imagination as identical with what is most sensuous and most individual.
(b) The first resolution of this disunion is sought by Indian art, as was already indicated above, in the extravagance of its productions. In order, as sensuous figures themselves, to reach universality, the individual figures are wildly tugged apart from one another into the colossal and grotesque. For the individual figure which is to express not itself and the meaning appropriate to it as a particular phenomenon but a universal meaning lying outside its own, does not satisfy contemplation until it is torn out of itself into monstrosity without aim and measure. For here above all there is the most extravagant exaggeration of size, alike in the spatial figure and in temporal immeasurability, as well as the multiplication of one and the same characteristic, the many heads, the mass of arms, etc., whereby attainment of the breadth and universality of meanings is pursued. The egg, for example, includes the bird. This individual existent is expanded to the immeasurable idea of a world-egg as enveloping the universal life of all things, in which life Brahma, the procreating god, without action of his own, spends a year in creation until by his mere thought the halves of the egg fall apart. Now besides natural objects, human individuals and events are also equally elevated to having the meaning of an actual divine act in such a way that neither the Divine by itself nor the human can be retained apart, but both appear continually entangled hither and thither with one another. To this category there belong particularly the incarnations of the gods, especially of Vishnu, the conserving god, whose deeds provide a main subject-matter of the great epic poems. In these materializations divinity passes over immediately into mundane manifestation. So, for example, Rama is himself the seventh incarnation of Vishnu (Ramchandra). In individual needs, actions, situations, forms and modes of behaviour, the contents of these poems are clearly drawn in part from actual events, from the deeds of ancient kings who were strong enough to found new conditions of order and legality, and we are therefore in the midst of humanity on the firm ground of reality. But then conversely everything is expanded again, stretched into nebulosity, played over into the universal once more, so that we lose again the ground that had scarcely been won and we know not where we are. The same thing meets us in the Shakuntala. At the start we have before us the tenderest, most fragrant world of love where everything goes on its appropriate way in a human fashion, but then we are suddenly snatched away from this entirely concrete reality and carried up into the clouds of Indra’s heaven where everything is changed and broadened out of its limited sphere into universal meanings of the life of nature in relation to Brahmans and that power over the gods of nature which is granted to man on the strength of his severe penances.
Even this mode of representation cannot be strictly called symbolical. For the determinate shape which the symbolic mode uses is allowed, in symbolism proper, to persist just as it is, because symbolism does not seek to see in the shape the immediate existence of the meaning in its universality, but merely hints at the meaning by reference to the properties of the object that are cognate to the meaning. But Indian art, although severing universality from individual existence, nevertheless demands the immediate unity of both as well, a unity produced by imagination; it must therefore deprive the determinate existent of its limitedness and, in a purely sensuous way, enlarge it into indefiniteness and, in general, transform and disfigure it. In this dissolution of determinacy and in the confusion arising from the fact that the loftiest content is always introduced into things, phenomena, incidents, and deeds which in their limitedness are incapable either of actually having the might of such a content in themselves or of expressing it, we may therefore look for a touch of sublimity rather than what is properly symbolical. In the sublime, that is to say, as we shall learn later on [in Chapter 2], the finite appearance expresses the Absolute, which it is supposed to bring before our vision, but only in such a way that the Absolute withdraws from the appearance and the appearance falls short of the content. This is the case with eternity, for example. The idea of eternity becomes sublime if it is to be expressed in temporal terms, since every greatest number is always not yet sufficient and must be increased on and on without end; as it is said of God: ‘A thousand years are in thy sight one day. In this way and the like, Indian art contains many things which begin to strike this note of sublimity. Yet the great difference from sublimity, properly so-called, consists in this, that the Indian imagination in such wild configurations does not succeed in positing negatively the phenomena that it presents, but precisely by that immeasurability and unlimitedness thinks that the difference and contradiction between the Absolute and its configuration has been obliterated and made to vanish.
However little we can allow Indian art in its excess to count as strictly symbolical or sublime, neither is it, strictly speaking, beautiful. For we may concede that, especially in sketching human life as such, it affords us much that is delightful and gentle, many friendly images and delicate feelings, the most brilliant descriptions of nature and the most charming and most chilldike traits of love and naive innocence, as well as much that is grand and noble; but, so far as the universal fundamental meanings are concerned, the spiritual, on the other hand, still always remains entirely sensuous again; the most commonplace is set on a level with the supreme, determinacy is destroyed, the sublime is just boundlessness, and what belongs to myth gets involved for the most part only in the fantasticalness of a restless inquisitive imagination and an unintelligent talent for configuration.
(c) Finally, the purest manner of portraying universal meanings which we find at this stage is personifying them by using the human form in general. Nevertheless since the meaning here is not yet conceived as free spiritual subjectivity and what is meant instead is either some abstract characteristic taken in its universality, or else mere nature, e.g. the life of rivers, hills, stars, and the sun, it is properly below the dignity of the human form to be used as an expression for this sort of subject-matter. For in accordance with their true specific character the human body, as well as the form of human activities and events, express only the concrete spirit and its inner content, and the spirit therefore remains with its whole self in this its real embodiment which thus is no mere symbol or external sign.
It follows [that personification here is unsatisfactory in two ways: for (i)] if the meaning, which the personification is summoned to portray, is to belong to the spiritual sphere as much as to the natural one, then, owing to the abstractness of the meaning at this stage, the personification is still superficial and for its clearer elucidation requires manifold figures in addition; and with these it is confused and thereby is itself vitiated. [ii] It is not subjectivity and its shape which is the indicative thing here, but its expressions, deeds, etc., for it is in doing and acting alone that there lies the more determinate particularization which can be brought into relation with the determinate content of the universal meanings. But in that case there enters again the defect that not the subject but only his expression is the significant thing, and there is also the confusion that events and deeds, instead of being the reality and self-actualizing determinate being of the subject, derive their content and their meaning from elsewhere [i.e. from being personified]. A series of such actions may therefore in itself have a sequence and a logicality derived from the content which such a series serves to express, but by personification and humanization this logicality is nevertheless interrupted again and partly superseded, because the imposition of a subject on them [i.e. by personifying them] leads conversely to the caprice of actions and expressions, so that thus the meaningful and the meaningless are turned topsy-turvy in a varied and irregular way, all the more so the less is imagination capable of bringing its meanings and their shapes into a fundamental and fixed interconnection. – But if the purely natural is adopted as the sole subject-matter, the natural for its part does not deserve to be clothed with the human form, and this latter, appropriate only to the expression of spirit, is for its part incapable of portraying the merely natural.
In all these respects this personification cannot be true, because truth in art, like truth in general, requires the harmony of inner and outer, of concept and reality. Greek mythology does personify even the Black Sea and the Scamander; it has its river-gods, nymphs, dryads, and, in general, it makes nature in many ways the content of its anthropomorphic gods. Yet it does not leave personification purely formal and superficial, but shapes out of it individuals whence the purely natural meaning retires, and the human element, which has adopted such natural content into itself, becomes the predominant thing. But Indian art does not get beyond the grotesque intermixture of the natural and the human, so that neither side gets its right, and both are reciprocally vitiated.
To speak generally, these personifications too are not yet properly symbolical, because, on account of their superficiality of form, they do not stand in any essential relation and close affinity with the specific content which they were supposed to express symbolically. But at the same time, in respect of the particular further figures and attributes with which such personifications appear intermingled and which are supposed to express the more specific qualities ascribed to the gods, there begins a striving after symbolical representations, for which personification in that event remains rather only the universal and comprehensive form.
As for the more important views belonging to this context, in the first place mention must be made of Trimurti, the tri-formed divinity. This divinity is composed, first, of Brahma, the productive generating activity, the creator of the world, lord of the gods, etc. On the one hand, Trimurti is distinct from Brahma (in the neuter), from the supreme being, and is its first-born; but, on the other hand, he coincides again with this abstract divinity, since in general, in the case of the Indians, differences cannot be retained within fixed limits but are partly confused and partly pass over into one another. Now his shape in detail has much that is symbolical; he is portrayed with four heads and four hands, with sceptre, ring, etc. In colour he is red, which hints at the sun, because these gods always at the same time bear universal natural significances which they personify. The second god in Trimurti is Vishnu, the god who preserves, and the third is Shiva, who destroys. The symbols for these gods are innumerable. For along with the universality of their meanings they comprise infinitely many single effects, partly in connection with particular phenomena in nature (especially elemental ones, as e g Vishnu has the quality of fire – Wilson’s Lexicon, s.v. 2) but partly also with spiritual ones; this material then ferments confusedly in various ways and frequently brings the most repulsive shapes into appearance for contemplation.
In this tri-form god it appears at once most clearly that here the spiritual shape cannot yet emerge in its truth, because here the spiritual does not constitute the proper and decisive meaning. This trinity of gods would be spirit if the third god were a concrete unity and a return into itself out of difference and duality. For, according to the true conception, God is spirit as this active absolute difference and unity which, in general terms, constitutes the essence of spirit. But in Trimurti the third god is not a concrete totality at all; on the contrary, it is itself only one, side by side with the two others, and therefore is likewise an abstraction: there is no return into itself, but only a transition into something else, a change, procreation, and destruction. Therefore we must take great care not to try to recover the supreme truth in such first inklings of reason or to recognize the Christian Trinity already in this hint, which in its rhythm does of course contain threefoldness, a fundamental idea in Christianity.
Starting from Brahma and Trimurti Indian imagination proceeds still further fantastically to an infinite number of most multitudinously shaped gods. For those universal meanings, viewed as what is essentially divine, are met again in thousands and thousands of phenomena which now themselves are personified and symbolized as gods; and they put the greatest hindrances in the way of a clear understanding because of the indeterminacy and confusing restlessness of imagination which in its inventions deals with nothing in accordance with its proper nature and overturns each and every thing. For these subordinate gods, with Indra, air and sky, at their head, the more detailed content is provided above all by the universal forces of nature, by the stars, streams, mountains, in the different features of their efficacy, their alteration, their influence whether beneficent or harmful, preservative or destructive.
But one of the chief topics of Indian fancy and art is the origin of the gods and of all things, i.e. theogony and cosmology. For Indian imagination is in general caught in the steady process of introducing into the midst of external appearance whatever is most non-sensuous and, at the same time, conversely, of obliterating again the most natural and sensuous realm by the most extreme abstraction. In a similar way the origin of the gods out of the supreme divinity and the operation and determinate existence of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are represented in particular things, in hills, waters, and human affairs. The same content may then, on the one hand, acquire on its own account a particular shape of the gods, but, on the other hand, these gods pass over again into the universal meanings of the highest gods. Of such theogonies and cosmogonies there is a great number and endless variety. If therefore it is said that thus have the Indians represented to themselves the creation of the world, the origin of all things, this can be valid always for one sect only or one specific book, for elsewhere you can always find the same thing stated differently. The fancy of this people in its images and shapes is inexhaustible.
A principal idea running through the stories of origins is the continually recurring description of natural generation instead of the idea of a spiritual creation. Once we are acquainted with these modes of looking at things, we have the key to many representations which entirely confound our sense of shame, for shamelessness is pushed to an extreme and in its sensuousness proceeds to the incredible. A brilliant example of this manner and mode of treatment is afforded by the famous and familiar episode in the Ramayana, the descent of Ganga. The tale is told of the occasion when Rama comes accidentally to the Ganges. The wintry ice-covered Himavan, Prince of Mountains, had two daughters by the slender Mena, namely Ganga, the elder, and the beautiful Uma, the younger. The gods, especially Indra, had begged the father to send Ganga to them in order that they might celebrate the sacred rites, and, since Himavan showed himself ready to accede to their petition, Ganga rose on high to the blessed gods. Now follows the further history of Uma who, after accomplishing many wonderful deeds of humility and penitence, is married to Rudra, i.e. Shiva. From this marriage rugged and barren mountains are engendered. For a century long, without intermission, Shiva lay with Uma in a conjugal embrace, with the result that the gods, alarmed by Shiva’s progenitive powers and full of alarm about the child to be born, begged him to turn his seed to the earth. (This passage of the English translator [Sir Charles Wilkins] had no mind to translate word for word because it is all too wanting in decency and shame.) Shiva after all heeds the request of the gods; he gives up further procreative activity in order not to destroy the universe, and casts his seed on the earth; from it, fecundated by fire, there comes to birth the white mountain which separates India from Tartary. But Uma falls into anger and fury at this and curses all wedlock. These are in a way horrible and grotesque compositions at variance with our imagination and any intelligence, so that, instead of actually presenting what is to be taken as their real meaning, they only hint at it.
[A. W.] Schlegel has not translated this part of the episode. He only recounts how Ganga descended to earth again. This happened in the following way. An ancestor of Rama, Sagara, had a bad son, but from a second wife had sixty thousand sons who came to the world in a pumpkin, but, in jars with clarified butter, grew up to be strong men. One day Sagara wished to sacrifice a steed, but it was snatched from him by Vishnu in the form of a snake. Thereupon Sagara sends out the sixty thousand Vishnu’s breath, as they approached him after great hardships and much searching, burnt them to ashes. At last after a protracted wait a grandson of Sagara, Ansuman, the resplendent one, son of Asamanja, set forth to rediscover his sixty thousand uncles and the sacrificial horse. He did indeed actually come across the horse, Shiva, and the heap of ashes; but the bird-king Garudas told him that his relatives would never return to life again unless the river of the holy Ganga flowed down from heaven over the heap of ashes. Then the stalwart Ansuman undergoes the strictest penances throughout thirty-two thousand years on the peak of Himavan. In vain. Neither his own mortifications nor those of his son Dwilipa for thirty thousand years help in the slightest. Only in the son of Dwilipa, the excellent Bhagiratha, is the great work successful after a further thousand years of penance. Now Ganga rushes down, but, to prevent her from ruining the earth, Shiva holds his head underneath so that the water flows away into the locks of his hair. Thus then again new penances are required from Bhagiratha in order to free Ganga from these locks so that she can stream on. Finally, she pours forth into six streams; the seventh stream Bhagiratha, after enormous difficulties, diverts to the sixty thousand who mount to heaven, while Bhagiratha himself rules over his people for yet a long time in peace.
Other theogonies, e.g. the Scandinavian and the Greek, are similar to the Indian. In all of them the chief category is generation and being generated; but none of them lets itself go so wildly [as the Indian] and, in the main, with such caprice and inappropriateness of invention in its configurations. The theogony of Hesiod especially is far more perspicuous and definite, so that every time we know where we are and we clearly recognize the meaning, because it is more brightly prominent and shows that the external shape is only its external manifestation. The theogony begins with Chaos, Erebus, Eros, and Gaia; Gaia produces Uranus by herself alone, and then, mated with him, brings forth the mountains, the Black Sea, etc., as well as Cronus, the Cyclopes, and the hundred-handed giants whom, soon after their birth, Uranus shut up in Tartarus. Gaia induces Cronus to unman Uranus; this happens; the blood is caught by the earth and hence grew the Furies and the Giants, while the castrated member is caught by the sea and the Cytherean [i.e. Aphrodite] springs from its foam. All this is clearer and brought more firmly together, and also it does not stop at the circle of gods of mere nature.
If we look now for a transitional point to symbol proper, we may already find its first beginnings in Indian imagination also. For however preoccupied Indian fancy may be with the task of screwing sensuous appearance up into a polytheism which no other people has to exhibit in the like boundlessness and mutability, still on the other hand in all sorts of insights and narratives it is always mindful again of that spiritual abstraction of the supreme god, compared with whom the individual, the sensuous, and the phenomenal spheres are apprehended as non-divine, inappropriate, and therefore as something which must be negatived and superseded. For, as was said at the outset, it is just this conversion of one side into the other which constitutes the peculiar type, and the unappeased lack of reconciliation, of the Indian outlook. Indian art therefore, has never been tired of giving shape in the most varied ways to the self-sacrifice of the sensuous and to the force of spiritual abstraction and immersion in one’s inner being. To this category there belong the portrayals of protracted penances and profound meditations, of which not only the oldest epic poems, the Ramayana and Mahabharata, but also many other poetic works of art provide the most important samples. Such penances were indeed often undertaken from ambition or at least for specific ends which are not supposed to lead to the supreme and final unification with Brahma and to the destruction of the mundane and the finite – as, e.g., the end of acquiring the power of a Brahman, etc. Yet, at the same time, there is always implicit the view that penance, and the continued meditation which turns away more and more from everything specific and finite, far surpass birth in a specific caste as well as the dominion of mere nature and the gods of nature. Wherefore Indra in particular, the Prince of Gods, opposes strict penitents and tries to lure them away, or, if no allurement is any use, calls on the higher gods to aid him, because otherwise the whole heaven would get into confusion.
In the portrayal of such penances and their different kinds, stages, and grades Indian art is almost as inventive as it is in its polytheism, and it pursues the business of such invention with great seriousness.
This is the point from which we can extend our inquiry further.
For symbolic art, as well as for fine art also, it is essential that the meaning to which it undertakes to give shape shall not only (as happens in Indian art) emerge from the first immediate unity with its external existence, a unity still basic there prior to all division and differentiation, but shall also become explicitly free from the immediate sensuous shape. This liberation can only take place in so far as the sensuous and natural is apprehended and envisaged in itself as negative, as what is to be, and has been, superseded.
Yet further it is necessary that the negative, coming into appearance as the passing and self-transcendence of the natural, shall be accepted and shaped as the absolute meaning of things in general, as a factor in the Divine. Yet thereby we have already forsaken Indian art. Indian imagination, it is true, does not lack a vision of the negative; Shiva is the destroyer, and Indra, the procreator, dies; indeed even Time, the annihilator, personified as Kala, the fearsome giant, destroys the whole universe and all the gods, even Trimurti who likewise passes away into Brahma, just as the individual, in his identification with the supreme god, lets himself and his whole knowing and willing dwindle away. But in these views the negative is partly only a changing and altering, partly only the abstraction which sheds the determinate in order to press on to the undetermined and therefore empty universality utterly devoid of all content. Against this, the substance of the Divine remains unaltered, one and the same in changes of form, in transition, advance to polytheism, and elevation from many gods to a single supreme god once more. This is not the one God who in himself, as this one, has the negative as his own determinate character necessarily belonging to his essential nature. In a way similar to the Indian, in the Parsi outlook the bringer of corruption and harmfulness lies outside Ormuzd in Ahriman and therefore produces only an opposition and a battle which does not belong to the one god, Ormuzd, as an allotted factor in him.
The further step we now have to take consists in this, that (a) the negative is fixed independently by consciousness as the Absolute, but (b) is regarded as only one factor in the Divine – yet as a factor which does not merely fall outside the true Absolute into another god [like Ahriman], but is so ascribed to the Absolute that the true God appears as the negativing of himself and therefore has the negative as his own immanent determinate character.
In virtue of this further idea the Absolute becomes for the first time inherently concrete, by having its determinateness within itself and therefore by being a unity in itself, and the factors of this unity reveal themselves to contemplation as the different determinations of one and the same God. This is because what is principally at issue here is the first satisfaction of the need for the determinateness of the absolute meaning in itself. The meanings previously considered remained, on account of their abstraction, purely indeterminate and therefore shapeless, or, if alternatively they advanced to determinacy, either coincided immediately with natural existence or fell into a battle between shapes, a battle which never came to either peace or reconciliation. This double defect is now to be remedied in the following way by the inner process of thought and by the external progress of national convictions.
(i) A closer bond is forged between inner and outer by the fact that every determining of the Absolute is inherently already a beginning of an outward passage into expression. For every determining is inherent differentiation; but the external as such is always determinate and differentiated, and therefore an aspect is present in which the external is more in correspondence with the meaning than was the case at the stages hitherto considered. But the first determinateness and negation of the Absolute in itself cannot be the free self-determination of the spirit as spirit, but is itself only the immediate negation. The immediate and therefore natural negation in its most comprehensive mode is death. Thus the Absolute now is interpreted as having to enter this negation as a determination accruing to its own essence and to tread the path of extinction and death. Therefore we see the glorification of death and grief arising in the consciousness of peoples as primarily the death of the expiring sensuous sphere; the death of what is natural becomes known as a necessary constituent in the life of the Absolute. Yet the Absolute, on the one hand, in order to experience this factor, i.e. death, must come into being and have a determinate existence, while on the other hand it does not stop at annihilation in death but out of it is restored to a positive unity in itself in an exalted way. Here, therefore, dying is not taken at all as the whole meaning, but only as one aspect of it; the Absolute is indeed apprehended as a transcendence of its immediate existence, as a passing and a passing away of that existence, but also, conversely, through this process of the negative, as a return into itself, as a resurrection to a life inherently eternal and divine. This is because death has a double meaning: (a) it is precisely the immediate passing away of the natural, (b) it is the death of the purely natural and therefore the birth of something higher, namely the spiritual realm to which the merely natural dies in the sense that the spirit has this element of death in itself as belonging to its essence.
(ii) But therefore the natural shape in its immediacy and sensuous existence can no longer be interpreted as coinciding with the meaning glimpsed in it, because the meaning of the external itself just consists in its dying in its real existence and transcending itself.
(iii) In the like manner the mere battle between meaning and shape dies away along with that ferment of imagination which produced the fantastic in India. True, the meaning is even now not yet known in that pure unity with itself which is liberated from present reality, not yet so known as meaning in its perfectly purified clarity that it could be contrasted with the shape illustrative of it. But, conversely, the individual shape, as this individual animal, or this human personification, or event, or action, cannot bring before contemplation an immediate adequate existence of the Absolute. This inadequate identity is already surpassed just to the same extent that that perfect liberation is not yet attained. In place of both there is set that kind of representation which we have already described above as the strictly symbolic. On the one hand, the symbol can come to the fore now, because what is inward, and comprehended as meaning, no longer, as in Indian conceptions, merely comes and goes, now sinking here and there directly into externality, now withdrawing therefrom into the solitude of abstraction; on the contrary, it begins to establish itself explicitly in face of purely natural reality. On the other hand, the symbol must now attain configuration. For although the meaning completely pertinent up to this point has for its content the element of the negation of the natural, still the truly inward only now begins to wrest its way out of the natural and is therefore still intertwined with the external mode of appearance, with the result that it cannot without an external shape enter our minds on its own account in its clear universality.
To the essential nature of what in general constitutes the fundamental meaning in symbolic art there now corresponds the manner of configuration, in the sense that the specific natural forms and human actions in the individualized features proper to them are neither to portray and mean themselves alone nor to bring the Divine before the spectator’s mind as immediately present and perceptible in them. Their specific determinate being in its particular shape is to have only qualities hinting at a more comprehensive meaning cognate with them. On this account, it is precisely that universal dialectic of life – birth, growth, passing away, and rebirth out of death – which constitutes in this matter too the adequate content for the strictly symbolic form; this is so because in almost all departments of natural and spiritual life there are phenomena which have this process as the basis of their existence and therefore can be used for illustrating such meanings and for pointing to them. For between the two sides [meaning and expression] there occurs in fact a real affinity. For example, plants spring from their seed, they germinate, grow, blossom, produce fruit, and then the fruit decays and brings forth new seeds. The sun, similarly, stands low in winter, rises high in spring, until in summer it reaches its zenith and now bestows its greatest blessings or wreaks its destructiveness, but then it sinks down again. The different ages in life – childhood, youth, manhood, and old age – also display the same universal process. But above all, to particularize further, specific localities too enter this list of illustrations, for instance the Nile valley. Since the purely fantastic is displaced solely by these more fundamental traits of affinity and by the closer correspondence between meaning and its expression, there enters a circumspect choice between symbolizing shapes in respect of their adequacy or inadequacy; and that restless frenzy is quietened into a more intelligent sobriety.
We see therefore coming forward again a more reconciled unity, as we found it at the first stage, but with the difference that the identity of the meaning with its real existence is no longer an immediate unification but one re-established out of difference and therefore not just met with but produced by spirit. The inner life in general begins here to grow towards independence and self-knowledge; it seeks its counterpart in the natural which, on its side, has a like counterpart in the life and fate of the spiritual. The tremendous impulse towards symbolic art proceeds here from this urge which seeks to recognize the one side in the other, which seeks to present to our contemplation and imagination the inner meaning through the outward shape and the significance of the outward shapes through the inner meaning, the two being linked Only when the inner becomes free and yet preserves the impulse to picture to itself, in a real shape, what it is in its essence, and to have this very picture before itself as also an external work, only then does there begin the proper impulse towards art, especially the visual arts. In other words, hereby alone is there present the necessity of giving to the inner by spiritual activity an appearance not merely met with in advance [in nature] but no less devised by spirit. Imagination in that event makes a second shape which does not count by itself as an end but is used only to illustrate a meaning allied to it and therefore is dependent on it.
Now this situation could be so conceived that it might be thought that the meaning is what consciousness starts from and that only then does it look around, in the next place, for an expression of its ideas in analogous shapes. But this is not the way of strictly symbolical art. For its special character consists in the fact that it does not yet penetrate to the comprehension of meanings in and by themselves, independently of every external shape. On the contrary it takes its departure from the present and the present’s concrete existence in nature and spirit, and then and only then expands it to [enshrine] universal meanings whose significance is contained likewise in such a real existent for its part, even if only in a rather restricted manner and in a purely approximate way. But at the same time symbolic art seizes on these objects only to create out of them by imagination a shape which makes the universality in them something that the mind can contemplate and picture in this particular reality. Therefore, as symbolic, artistic productions have not yet gained a form truly adequate to the spirit, because the spirit here is itself not yet inwardly clear to itself, as it would be if it were the free spirit; nevertheless at least there are configurations which reveal in themselves at once that they are not merely chosen to display themselves alone, but that they are meant to hint at meanings that lie deeper and are more comprehensive. The purely natural and sensuous object presents itself; whereas while the symbolic work of art may bring before our eyes natural phenomena or human forms, it hints at once outside and beyond itself at something else which yet must have an inwardly grounded affinity with the shapes presented and have an essential relationship with them. The connection between the concrete shape and its universal meaning may be of many kinds, now more external and therefore less clear, but now also more fundamental, if, that is to say, the universality to be symbolized constitutes in fact the essential element in the concrete appearance; in that case the comprehensibility of the symbol is made much more easy.
In this connection the most abstract sort of expression is number, which yet is only to be used as a clearer allusion when the meaning itself contains a numerical determination. The numbers 7 and 12, for example, occur frequently in Egyptian architecture, because seven is the number of the planets, twelve the number of the months or of the feet by which the waters of the Nile must rise in order to fructify the land. Such a number is in that case regarded as sacred, because it is a numerical determination in the great relations of the elements which are reverenced as the powers governing the whole life of nature. Twelve steps, seven columns, are to this extent symbolical. The like symbolism of numbers extends indeed to still more advanced mythologies. The twelve labours of Hercules, for example, seem also to originate from the twelve months of the year, since Hercules on the one hand comes on the scene as the entirely humanly individualized hero, but on the other hand he still carries in himself a meaning symbolical of nature, and he is a personification of the sun’s course.
Then further on there are spatial configurations which are more concrete: paths in labyrinths are a symbol for the revolution of the planets, just as dances too in their intricacies have the more secret sense of imitating symbolically the movement of the great elemental bodies.
Then, still further on, animal shapes afford symbols; but in the most perfect way the form of the human body is a symbol, a form which appears elaborated in a higher and more appropriate way because the spirit at this stage already begins in general to give shape to itself, disengaging itself from the purely natural and rising to its own more independent existence. This constitutes the general nature of symbol proper and the necessity of art for its presentation. Now in order to review the more concrete conceptions underlying this stage, we must, in connection with this first descent of spirit into itself, leave the East and turn rather to the West.
As a general symbol indicative of this standpoint we may put at the top the picture of the phoenix which sets fire to itself but rises again rejuvenated out of ashes and death in the flames. Herodotus [ii. 73] tells us that he had never seen this bird in Egypt except in pictures, and in fact it is the Egyptians who provide the focus for the symbolical art-form. Yet before we go forward to a more detailed consideration of this, we may mention some other myths which form the transition to that symbolism which is completely worked out in all its aspects. These are the myths of Adonis, his death, Aphrodite’s lament for him, the funeral ceremonies, etc., insights with their home on the coast of Syria. Cybele worship in Phrygia has the same meaning, and this reverberates too in the myths of Castor and Pollux, Ceres and Proserpine.
As a meaning, what is here principally emphasized and made explicitly perceptible is the already mentioned factor of the negative, the death of what is natural, as a factor absolutely grounded in the Divine. Hence the funeral ceremonies in connection with the death of the god, the extravagant laments over the loss which, however, is then compensated by rediscovery, resurrection, renewal, so that now ceremonial festivities can follow. This universal meaning has over again in this case its more specific natural sense: in winter the sun loses its force, but in spring it, and nature along with it, is rejuvenated again, and then it dies and is reborn. Here, in other words, the Divine, personified in a human occurrence, has its meaning in the life of nature, which then, on the other hand, is once more a symbol for the essential character of the negative in general alike in spirit and in nature.
But the complete example of the thorough elaboration of symbolic art, both in its special content and in its form, we have to seek in Egypt. Egypt is the country of symbols, the country which sets itself the spiritual task of the self-deciphering of the spirit, without actually attaining to the decipherment. The problems remain unsolved, and the solution which we can provide consists therefore only in interpreting the riddles of Egyptian art and its symbolic works as a problem remaining undeciphered by the Egyptians themselves. In this way spirit here still looks for itself in externality, out of which it then struggles again, and it now labours in tireless activity to exhibit for perception, not thought, (a) its own essence by its own effort in the phenomena of nature, and (b) nature in its being a shape of spirit. For this reason the Egyptians, amongst the peoples hitherto mentioned, are the properly artistic people. But their works remain mysterious and dumb, mute and motionless, because here spirit itself has still not really found its own inner life and still cannot speak the clear and distinct language of spirit. Spirit’s unsatisfied urge and pressure to bring this wrestling with itself before perception by means of art in so mute a way, to give shape to the inner life, and to attain knowledge of its own inner life, as of inner life in general, only through external cognate shapes, is characteristic of Egypt. The people of this wonderful country were not only agriculturalists, they were builders; they dug the ground everywhere, excavated canals and lakes; in this instinct for art they not only produced the most prodigious edifices above ground but also with great vigour constructed equally immense buildings, of the most enormous dimensions, in the bowels of the earth. The erection of such monuments, as Herodotus relates, was a principal occupation of the people and a chief accomplishment of its rulers. The buildings of the Indians too were colossal indeed, but we cannot find this endless variety anywhere else but in Egypt.
If we consider the Egyptian artistic outlook in its particular aspects, we find here in the first place the inward kept firmly in view on its own account contrasted with the immediacy of existence: the inward indeed as the negative of life, as death – not as the abstract negation which the evil and perishable is, like Ahriman in opposition to Ormuzd, but in even a concrete shape.
(a) The Indian rises only to the emptiest abstraction and therefore the abstraction which is likewise negative in contrast to everything concrete. Such an Indian process of becoming Brahma does not occur in Egypt; on the contrary, the invisible has a deeper meaning for the Egyptians; the dead acquires the content of the living itself. Deprived of immediate existence, the dead still preserves in its separation from life its relation to the living, and in this concrete shape it is made independent and maintained. It is well known that the Egyptians embalmed and worshipped cats, dogs, hawks, ichneumons, bears, wolves, but especially men who had died (Herodotus, ii. 67, 86-90). The honour paid to the dead by the Egyptians is not burial, but their perennial preservation as corpses.
(b) Moreover, the Egyptians go beyond this immediate and even still natural duration of the dead. What is preserved naturally is also interpreted in their ideas as enduring. Herodotus says [ii. 123] of the Egyptians that they were the first to teach the immortality of the human soul. With them, that is, there first emerges in this higher way too the separation between nature and spirit, since it is not merely the natural which acquires independence for itself. The immortality of the soul lies very close to the freedom of the spirit, because [the conception of immortality implies that] the self comprehends itself as withdrawn from the naturalness of existence and as resting on itself; but this self-knowledge is the principle of freedom. Now of course this is not to say that the Egyptians had completely reached the conception of the free spirit, and in examining this faith of theirs we must not think of our manner of conceiving the immortality of the soul; but still they did already have the insight to take good account, both externally and in their ideas, of the body in its existence separated from life. Therefore they have made the transition of mind to its liberation, although they have only reached the threshold of the realm of freedom. – This insight of theirs is broadened into the conception of an independent realm of the dead in contrast to the presence of what is immediately real. In this kingdom of the invisible a judgement of the dead is held, and Osiris as Amenthes presides over it. The same tribunal is then also present in immediate reality, since among men too the dead are judged, and after the decease of a king, for example, anyone could bring his grievances to that court of judgement.
(c) If we ask further for a symbolical art-form to express this idea, we have to look for it in the chief structures built by the Egyptians. Here we have before us a double architecture, one above ground, the other subterranean: labyrinths under the soil, magnificent vast excavations, passages half a mile long, chambers adorned with hieroglyphics, everything worked out with the maximum of care; then above ground there are built in addition those amazing constructions amongst which the Pyramids are to be counted the chief. On the purpose and meaning of the Pyramids all sorts of hypotheses have been tried for centuries, yet it now seems beyond doubt that they are enclosures for the graves of kings or of sacred animals, Apis for example, or cats, the ibis, etc. In this way the Pyramids put before our eyes the simple prototype of symbolical art itself; they are prodigious crystals which conceal in themselves an inner meaning and, as external shapes produced by art, they so envelop that meaning that it is obvious that they are there for this inner meaning separated from pure nature and only in relation to this meaning. But this realm of death and the invisible, which here constitutes the meaning, possesses only one side, and that a formal one, of the true content of art, namely that of being removed from immediate existence; and so this realm is primarily only Hades, not yet a life which, even if liberated from the sensuous as such, is still nevertheless at the same time self-existent and therefore in itself free and living spirit. On this account the shape for such an inner meaning still remains just an external form and veil for the definite content of that meaning.
The Pyramids are such an external environment in which an inner meaning rests concealed.
Now while in general the inner life should be presented to our vision as something present externally, the Egyptians have fallen into the opposite extreme by worshipping an actual existence of the Divine in living animals like the bull, cats, and many others. The living thing stands higher than inorganic externality, for the living organism has something inner at which its external shape hints, but which yet remains inner and therefore rich in mystery. So here animal worship must be understood as an intuition of a secret inner being which, as life, is a higher power over the purely external. Of course it always remains repugnant to us to see animals, dogs, and cats, instead of what is truly spiritual, regarded as sacred.
This worship, taken by itself, has in it nothing symbolic, because in it the actual living animal, Apis for example, was itself worshipped as an existence of god. But the Egyptians have used the animal form symbolically too. In that event this form is no longer valued on its own account but is debased to the expression of something more general. In its most naive form this is the case with animal masks which occur especially in portrayals of embalming; in this occupation the persons who dissect the corpse and take out the entrails are painted wearing animal masks. Here it is clear at once that such an animal head is supposed not to mean itself but to have a different and more general significance. Moreover, the animal form is used intermingled with the human; we find human figures with lions’ heads, and these are taken for shapes of Minerva; hawks’ heads occur too, and horns are left on the heads of Ammon. Symbolic connections cannot be missed here. Similarly the hieroglyphic script of the Egyptians is also largely symbolic, since either it tries to make us acquainted with the meanings by sketching actual objects which display not themselves but a universal related to them, or, more commonly still, in its so-called phonetic element this script indicates the individual letters by illustrating an object the initial letter of which has in speech the same sound as that which is to be expressed.
In Egypt, on the whole, almost every shape is a symbol and hieroglyph not signifying itself but hinting at another thing with which it has affinity and therefore relationship. Yet symbols proper are only really complete when this relation is of a more fundamental and deeper kind. In this connection I will mention briefly only the following frequently recurring ideas.
(a) Just as on one side the Egyptian superstition has an inkling, in the animal form, of a secret inwardness, so on the other side we find the human form so represented that it still has the inner element of subjectivity outside itself and therefore cannot unfold itself into free beauty. Especially remarkable are those colossal statues of Memnon which, resting in themselves, motionless, the arms glued to the body, the feet firmly fixed together, numb, stiff, and lifeless, are set up facing the sun in order to await its ray to touch them and give them soul and sound. Herodotus at least relates that statues of Memnon gave a sound automatically at sunrise. Of course higher criticism has cast doubt on this, yet the fact of this sound has lately been established again by Frenchmen and Englishmen; and if the sound is not produced by contrivances of some sort, it may still be explained by assuming that, just as there are minerals which rustle in water, the voice of these stone monuments proceeds from the dew and the cool of the morning and then from the falling of the sun’s rays on them, if small rifts arise consequentially and vanish again. But taken as symbols, the meaning to be ascribed to these colossi is that they do not have the spiritual soul freely in themselves and therefore, instead of being able to draw animation from within, from what bears proportion and beauty in itself, they require for it light from without which alone liberates the note of the soul from them. The human voice, on the other hand, resounds out of one’s own feeling and one’s own spirit without any external impulse, just as the height of art in general consists in making the inner give shape to itself out of its own being. But the inner life of the human form is still dumb in Egypt and in its animation it is only a natural factor that is kept in view.
(b) A further type of symbolical presentation is Isis and Osiris. Osiris is begotten, born, and then done to death by Typhon. But Isis looks for the scattered limbs, finds, collects, and buries them. Now this story of the god has, prima facie, purely natural significances for its content. On the one hand Osiris is the sun and his story is a symbol for the sun’s yearly course; on the other hand, he means the rising and falling of the Nile which has to bring fertility to the whole of Egypt. For in Egypt there are often years without rain and it is the Nile alone which waters the country by its floods. In winter it flows shallowly within its bed, but then (Herodotus, ii. 19) from the summer solstice onwards it begins to rise for a hundred days together, bursts its banks, and streams far over the country. Finally the water dries up again owing to the heat and hot winds from the desert, and it returns again into its river-bed. Thereafter the ground is cultivated with little effort, the lushest vegetation burgeons, everything germinates and ripens. Sun and Nile, their weakening and strengthening, are the natural powers over the Egyptian soil, and the Egyptian illustrates them to himself symbolically in the humanly shaped story of Isis and Osiris. After all there belongs to this context too the symbolism of the signs of the zodiac which is connected with the year’s course, just as the number of the twelve gods is with the months. But conversely Osiris means humanity itself: he is held sacred as the founder of agriculture, of the demarcation of fields, of property, of laws, and his worship is therefore no less related to human spiritual activities which have the closest affinity with morality and law. So too he is the judge of the dead and wins thereby a meaning entirely detached from the pure life of nature; in this meaning the symbolical begins to disappear, because here the inner and the spiritual becomes itself the content of the human form which thereby begins to portray its own inner being. But this spiritual process adopts the external life of nature again all the same as its inner content and makes that content perceptible in an external way: in temples, e.g., in the number of steps, floors, pillars; in labyrinths in their variety of passages, windings, and chambers. In this way Osiris is just as much natural as spiritual life in the different features of his process and transformations, and the symbolic shapes become symbols for the natural elements, while the natural situations are themselves over again only symbols of spiritual activities and their variation. Therefore it turns out that the human form remains here no mere personification, because here what is natural, although appearing on the one hand as the proper meaning, becomes on the other hand itself only a symbol of spirit, and in general it has to be subordinate in this sphere, where the inward is extricating itself from the vision of nature. Nevertheless the human bodily form acquires a quite different formation and therefore already reveals the struggle to rise upward to the inner and spiritual life; but this effort here attains its proper aim, the freedom of spirit in itself, in only a defective way. The shapes remain colossal, serious, petrified; legs without freedom and serene distinctness, arms and head closely and firmly affixed to the rest of the body, without grace and living movement. The art of cutting the arms and the feet free and giving movement to the body is ascribed to Daedalus first of all.
Now owing to this alternating symbolism, the symbol in Egypt is at the same time an ensemble of symbols, so that what at one time appears as meaning is also used again as a symbol of a related sphere. In a symbolism which confusedly intertwines meaning and shape, presages a variety of things in fact or alludes to them, and therefore already comes close to that inner subjectivity which alone can develop itself in many directions, the associations are ambiguous, and this is the virtue of these productions, although their explanation is of course made difficult owing to this ambiguity. In deciphering such a meaning we often, to be sure, go too far today because in fact almost all the shapes present themselves directly as symbols. In the same way in which we try to explain this meaning to ourselves, it might have been clear and intelligible as a meaning to the insight of the Egyptians themselves. But the Egyptian symbols, as we saw at the very beginning, contain implicitly much, explicitly nothing. There are works undertaken with the attempt to make them clear to themselves, yet they do not get beyond the struggle after what is absolutely evident. In this sense we regard the Egyptian works of art as containing riddles, the right solution of which is in part unattained not only by us, but generally by those who posed these riddles to themselves.
(c) The works of Egyptian art in their mysterious symbolism are therefore riddles; the objective riddle par excellence. As a symbol for this proper meaning of the Egyptian spirit we may mention the Sphinx. It is, as it were, the symbol of the symbolic itself. In innumerable quantities, set up in rows in hundreds, there are sphinx shapes in Egypt, constructed out of the hardest stone, polished, covered with hieroglyphics, and [one] near Cairo is of such colossal size that the lion’s claws alone amount to a man’s height. Some of them are recumbent animal bodies out of which as an upper part, the human body struggles; here and there again there is a ram’s head, but elsewhere most commonly a female head. Out of the dull strength and power of the animal the human spirit tries to push itself forward, without coming to a perfect portrayal of its own freedom and animated shape, because it must still remain confused and associated with what is other than itself. This pressure for self-conscious spirituality which does not apprehend itself from its own resources in the one reality adequate to itself but only contemplates itself in what is related to it and brings itself into consciousness in precisely what is strange to it, is the symbolic as such which at this peak becomes a riddle.
It is in this sense that the Sphinx in the Greek myth, which we ourselves may interpret again symbolically, appears as a monster asking a riddle. The Sphinx propounded the well-known conundrum: What is it that in the morning goes on four legs, at mid-day on two, and in the evening on three? Oedipus found the simple answer: a man, and he tumbled the Sphinx from the rock. The explanation of the symbol lies in the absolute meaning, in the spirit, just as the famous Greek inscription calls to man: Know thyself. The light of consciousness is the clarity which makes its concrete content shine clearly through the shape belonging and appropriate to itself, and in its [objective] existence reveals itself alone.
The unenigmatic clarity of the spirit which shapes itself out of its own resources in a way adequate to itself is the aim of symbolic art, but it can only be reached if in the first place the meaning comes into consciousness on its own account, separated from the entire world of appearance. For in the immediately intuited unity of the two [meaning and shape] lay the absence of art in the case of the ancient Parsis; the contradiction between the separation of the two and what was nevertheless demanded, i.e. their immediate linkage, produced the fantastic symbolism of the Indians; while even in Egypt knowledge of the inner life and the absolute meaning was still not free, still not released from the world of appearance, and this provided the reason for the riddles and the obscurity of Egyptian symbolism.
Now the first decisive purification of the absolute [meaning] and its express separation from the sensuous present, i.e. from the empirical individuality of external things, is to be sought in the sublime. Sublimity lifts the Absolute above every immediate existent and therefore brings about the liberation which, though abstract at first, is at least the foundation of the spirit. For although the meaning thus elevated is not yet apprehended as concrete spirit, it is nevertheless regarded as the inner life, self-existent and reposing on itself, which by its very nature is incapable of finding its true expression in finite phenomena.
Kant has distinguished the sublime from the beautiful in a very interesting way, and his detailed discussion of this in the first part of the Critique of Judgment from § 20 onwards still always retains its interest despite all prolixity and the premissed reduction of all categories to something subjective, to the powers of mind, imagination, reason, etc. In its general principle, this reduction must be recognized as correct to this extent, that sublimity – as Kant says himself – is not contained in anything in nature but only in our minds, in so far as we become conscious of our superiority to the nature within us and therefore to nature without. In this sense Kant’s view is that ‘the sublime, in the strict sense of the word, cannot be contained in any sensuous form but concerns only Ideas of Reason which, although no adequate representation of them is possible, may be aroused and called to our mind precisely by this inadequacy which does admit of sensuous representation’ (Critique of Judgment, 1799, p. 77 [§ 23]). The sublime in general is the attempt to express the infinite, without finding in the sphere of phenomena an object which proves adequate for this representation. Precisely because the infinite is set apart from the entire complex of objectivity as explicitly an invisible meaning devoid of shape and is made inner, it remains, in accordance with its infinity, unutterable and sublime above any expression through the finite.
Now the first content which the meaning gains here is this, that in contrast to the totality of appearance it is the inherently substantial unity which itself, as a pure thought, can be apprehended only by pure thought. Therefore this substance is now no longer able to have its configuration in something external, and thus far the strictly symbolical character vanishes. But if this inherent unity is to be brought before our vision, this is only possible if, as substance, it is also grasped as the creative power of all things, in which it therefore has its revelation and appearance and to which it thus has a positive relation. But at the same time this essentially expresses the fact of substance’s elevation above individual phenomena as such, and above their totality, with the logical result that the positive relation is transposed into the negative one in which the substance is purified from everything apparent and particular and therefore from what fades away in it and is inadequate to it.
This outward shaping which is itself annihilated in turn by what it reveals, so that the revelation of the content is at the same time a supersession of the revelation, is the sublime. This, therefore, differing from Kant, we need not place in the pure subjectivity of the mind and its Ideas of Reason; on the contrary, we must grasp it as grounded in the one absolute substance qua the content which is to be represented.
The classification of the art-form of the sublime is likewise derived from the above-indicated double relationship of substance, as meaning, to the phenomenal world.
The character common to the two sides of this relation – i.e. the positive and the negative – lies in this, that the substance is raised above the single phenomenon in which it is to acquire representation, although it can be expressed only in relation to the phenomenal in general, because as substance and essentiality it is in itself without shape and inaccessible to concrete vision. As the first mode of apprehension, the affirmative one, we may cite pantheistic art as it occurs partly in India and partly in the later freedom and mysticism of the Mohammedan Persian poets, and as we find it again also in the deeper inwardness of thought and sentiment in the Christian west.
In its general character at this stage substance is envisaged as immanent in all its created accidents, which thus are not yet degraded to serving, and merely adorning, the glorification of the Absolute, but are preserved affirmatively through the substance dwelling in them, although in every single thing it is only the One and the Divine which is to be imaged and exalted. Wherefore the poet, who in everything descries and marvels at this One and immerses himself, as well as things, in this contemplation, can preserve a positive relation to the substance to which he links everything.
The second [mode of] apprehension, namely the negative praise of the power and glory of the one God, we encounter as sublimity in the strict sense in Hebrew poetry. It cancels the positive immanence of the Absolute in its created phenomena and puts the one substance explicitly apart as the Lord of the world in contrast to whom there stands the entirety of his creatures, and these, in comparison with God, are posited as the inherently powerless and perishable. Now when the power and wisdom of the One is to be represented through the finitude of natural things and human fates, we no longer find here any Indian distortion into the shapelessness of the boundless; on the contrary, the sublimity of God is brought nearer to contemplation by reason of the fact that what exists in the world, with all its splendour, magnificence, and glory, is represented as only a serving accident and a transient show in comparison with God’s being and stability.
Nowadays the word ‘pantheism’ is at once liable to the crassest misunderstandings. This is because in one way ‘everything’ means in our modern sense ‘all and everything in its purely empirical individuality’, e.g. this mull with all its own qualities, with this colour, size so and so, shape, weight, etc., or that house, book, animal, table, chair, oven, cirrus clouds, etc. Now many contemporary theologians accuse philosophy of turning ‘everything’ into God, but when ‘everything’ is taken precisely in the sense just mentioned, what they allege about philosophy is as a matter of fact entirely false and their complaint against it is thus quite unjustified. Such an idea of Pantheism can only arise in crazy heads and is not found in any religion, not even amongst the Iroquois and the Eskimos, let alone in any philosophy. The ‘everything’ in what has been called ‘Pantheism’ is therefore not this or that individual thing, but rather is ‘everything’ in the sense of the All, i.e. of the one substance which indeed is immanent in individuals, but is abstracted from individuality and its empirical reality, so that what is emphasized and meant is not the individual as such but the universal soul, or, in more popular terms, truth and excellence which also have their presence in this individual being.
This constitutes the proper meaning of ‘Pantheism’ and under this meaning alone have we to talk of Pantheism here. It belongs primarily to the East which grasps the thought of an absolute unity of the Divine and the thought of all things as comprised in this unity. Now, as unity and All, the Divine can come into consciousness only through the vanishing of the particular individuals in which the Divine is expressed as present. On the one hand, that is to say, the Divine is envisaged here as immanent in the most various objects and indeed, more particularly, as the most excellent and most pre-eminent thing amongst and in the different existents; but, on the other hand, since the One is this thing and another and another again and rolls through all things, the individuals and particulars for this very reason appear as superseded and vanishing; for it is not any and every individual thing which is this One; on the contrary, the One is this totality of individuals which for contemplation coalesce into the totality. For if the One is life, for example, it is also death, and therefore precisely not only life; so that thus life or the sun or the sea do not, as life, sea, or sun, constitute the Divine and the One. Yet at the same time the accidental is not here posited expressly as negative and as a servant, as it is in sublimity proper, but, on the contrary, since the substance in everything particular is this One, the substance becomes implicitly something particular and accidental; yet, conversely, this individual thing changes all the same, and imagination does not restrict the substance to a specific existent but advances over each determinacy, abandoning it in order to proceed to another, and thus the individual existent becomes for its part something accidental, away and above which the one substance rises and therefore is sublime.
Such a way of looking at things can, on this account, be expressed artistically only in poetry, not in the visual arts which bring to our vision only as existent and static the determinate and individual thing which is to disappear in face of the substance present in such existents. Where Pantheism is pure, there is no visual art for its representation.
As the first example of such pantheistic poetry we may once again cite the Indian which alongside its fantasticalness has brilliantly developed this aspect also.
The Indians, as we saw, have as their supreme Divinity the most abstract universality and unity, which does thereupon become specified in particular gods, Trimurti, Indra, etc. ; but there is no holding fast to the specific; the subordinate gods revert all the same into the higher ones, and these into Brahma. Thus it is already clear that this universal constitutes the one permanent and selfidentical foundation of everything. The Indians of course display in their poetry the double struggle (a) so to magnify the individual existent that in its sensuousness it may already appear adequate to the universal meaning, and (b) conversely, in face of the abstraction of the One, to waive all determinacy in a purely negative way. On the other hand, there appears even in the Indians the purer mode of representation of the above-mentioned Pantheism which emphasizes the immanence of the Divine in the individual who for the eye of contemplation is present and vanishing. In this mode of looking at things we could propose to find once more something of a resemblance to that immediate unity of pure thought and sense which we encountered in the Parsis ; but in their case the One and the Excellent, considered on its own account, is itself something natural, i.e. light; whereas in the case of the Indians the One, Brahma, is merely the formless One which, only when transformed into the infinite multiplicity of terrestrial phenomena, provides an opportunity for the pantheistic mode of representation. So it is said, e.g., of Krishna (Bhagavad Gita, 7. iv): ‘Earth, water and wind, air and fire, spirit, understanding, and self-hood are the eight syllables of my essential power; yet recognise thou in me another and a higher being who vivifies the earth and carries the world: in him all beings have their origin; so know thou, I am the origin of this entire world and also its destruction; beyond me there is nothing higher, to me this All is linked as a chaplet of pearls on a thread; I am the taste in flowing water, the splendour in the sun and the moon, the mystical word in the holy scriptures, in man his manliness, the pure fragrance in the earth, the splendour in flames, in all beings the life, contemplation in the penitent, in living things the force of life, in the wise their wisdom, in the splendid their splendour; whatever natures are genuine, are shining or dark, they are from me, I am not in them, they are in me. Through the illusion of these three properties the whole world is bewitched and mistakes me the unalterable; but even the divine illusion, Maya, is my illusion, hard to transcend; but those who follow me go forth beyond illusion' Here such a substantial unity is expressed in the most striking way, in respect both of immanence in what is present and also transcendence over everything individual.
In a similar way, Krishna says of himself that amongst all different existents he is always the most excellent (10. xxi): ‘Among the stars I am the shining sun, amongst the lunary signs the moon, amongst the sacred books the book of hymns, amongst the senses the inward, Meru amongst the tops of the hills, amongst animals the lion, amongst letters I am the vowel A, amongst seasons of the year the blossoming spring’, etc.
But this recitation of the height of excellence, like the mere change of shapes in which what is to be brought before our eyes is always one and the same thing over again, despite the wealth of fancy which seems at first sight to be deployed there, still remains, precisely on account of this similarity of content, extremely monotonous and, on the whole, empty and wearisome.
Secondly, in a higher and more subjectively free way, oriental Pantheism has been developed in Mohammedanism, especially by the Persians.
Now here a characteristic relation appears, especially on the part of the individual poet:
(a) Since the poet longs to descry the Divine in everything and does actually descry it, in face of it he now sacrifices his own personality, but he all the same apprehends the immanence of the Divine in his inner being thus enlarged and freed; and therefore there grows in him that serene inwardness, that free good fortune, that riotous bliss characteristic of the Oriental who, in renouncing his own particularity, immerses himself entirely in the Eternal and the Absolute, and feels and recognizes in everything the picture and presence of the Divine. Such a self-penetration by the Divine and a blissful intoxicated life in God borders on mysticism. In this connection Jalal-ed-Din Rumi [1207-73] is to be praised above all; Rückert has given us most beautiful examples of his work; Rückert’s marvellous power of expression enables him to play in the most ingenious and free way with words and rhymes, just as the Persians do. The love of God – with whom man identifies his personality by the most boundless surrender and whom, the One, he now glimpses in all spaces of the universe, to whom he relates each and everything, and to whom he brings everything back – constitutes here the centre which radiates in the widest way in every direction and region.
(b) Furthermore, in sublimity, strictly so-called, as will be shown directly, the best objects and most splendid configurations are used only as a mere adornment of God and serve as a proclamation of the magnificence and glorification of the One, since they are set before our eyes only to celebrate him as the lord of all creation. In Pantheism, on the other hand, the immanence of the Divine in objects exalts mundane, natural, and human existence itself into a more independent glory of its own. The personal life of the spirit in natural phenomena and human affairs animates and spiritualizes them in themselves and founds anew a special relation between the subjective feeling, and soul, of the poet and the objects of his song. Filled by this soulful glory, the heart in itself is peaceful, independent, free, self-subsistent, wide, and great; and in this affirmative identity with itself the heart imagines and now makes its own the soul of things until it attains a like peaceful unity with it; it grows into the most blissful and cheerful intimacy with objects in nature and their splendour, with the beloved and the tavern, in short with everything worth praise and love. The western romantic deep feeling of the heart does display a similar absorption in nature’s life, but on the whole, especially in the north, it is rather unhappy, unfree, and wistful, or it still remains subjective, shut in upon itself, and therefore becomes self-seeking and sentimental. Such oppressed and troubled deep feeling is expressed especially in the folksongs of barbarian peoples. On the other hand, a free, happy, depth of feeling is characteristic of Orientals, especially the Mohammedan Persians, who openly and cheerfully sacrifice their entire selves to God and to everything praiseworthy, yet in this sacrifice they do precisely retain the free substantiality which they can preserve even in relation to the surrounding world. So we see in the glow of passion the most widespread bliss and parrhesia of feeling through which, in the inexaustible wealth of brilliant and splendid images, there resounds the steady note of joy, beauty, and good fortune. If the Oriental suffers and is unhappy, he accepts this as the unalterable verdict of fate and he therefore remains secure in himself, without oppression, sentimentality, or discontented dejection. In the poems of Hafiz we find complaints and outcries enough about the beloved, filling the glass, etc., but even in grief he remains just as carefree as he is in good fortune. So, e.g., he says once: ‘Out of thanks that the presence of thy friend enlightens thee, in woe burn like the candle and be satisfied.’
The candle teaches us to laugh and cry; through the flame it laughs in cheerful splendour, while at the same time it melts away in hot tears; in its burning it spreads cheerful splendour. This is the general character of this whole poetry.
Just to mention a few more detailed pictures, the Persians have much to do with flowers and jewels, but above all with the rose and the nightingale. Especially common with them is the representation of the nightingale as the bridegroom of the rose. This gift of soul to the rose and the love of the nightingale is common, e.g., in Hafiz. ‘Out of thanks, 0 rose, that thou art the queen of beauty’, he says, ‘beware that thou disdain not the nightingale’s love.’ He himself speaks of the nightingale of his own heart. Whereas if we speak in our poems of roses, nightingales, wine, this occurs in a quite different and more prosaic sense; the rose serves us as an adornment, ‘garlanded with roses’, etc., or we hear the nightingale and it just arouses our corresponding emotions; we drink wine and call it the banisher of care. But with the Persians the rose is no image or mere adornment, no symbol; on the contrary, it appears to the poet as ensouled, as an affianced beloved, and with his spirit he is engrossed in the soul of the rose.
The same character of brilliant Pantheism is still displayed in the most recent Persian poetry too. von Hammer, e.g., has informed us of a poem sent by the Shah with other gifts to the Emperor Francis in 1819. In 33,000 districts it recounts the deeds of the Shah who has conferred his own name on the Court poet.
(c) Goethe too, in contrast to his troubled youthful poems and their concentrated feeling, was gripped in his later years by this broad and carefree serenity, and, as an old man, inspired by the breath of the East, and with his soul filled with boundless bliss, turns in the poetic fervour of his heart to this freedom of feeling, a freedom that even in polemics keeps the most beautiful tranquillity. The songs in his West-östliche Divan are neither jeux d'esprit nor insignificant social gallantries, but are the products of such a free feeling and abandon. He calls them himself in a song to Suleika: ‘Poetic pearls, which the mighty surge of your passion cast up on my life’s deserted shore, tenderly gathered with careful fingers, they are ranged on a necklace of jewels and gold.’ ‘Take’, he calls to his beloved, ‘Take them on thy neck, to thy bosom – raindrops of Allah, ripened in a modest shell.'
For such poems there needed a sense self-confident in all storms and of the widest range, a depth and childlikeness of heart and Joseph, Freiherr von Hammer-Purgstall, Orientalist, 1774-1856. ‘ a world of living buds which in their thrusting abundance presaged the nightingale’s love and her soul-stirring song’.
Now the pantheistic unity, emphasized in relation to the subject who feels himself in this unity with God and senses God as this presence in subjective consciousness, is afforded in general by mysticism, developed as it has been in this more subjective way within Christianity too. As an example I will only cite Angelus Silesius, who, with the greatest audacity and depth of intuition and feeling, has expressed in a wonderfully mystical power of representation the substantial existence of God in things and the unification of the self with God and of God with human subjectivity. The strictly Eastern Pantheism, on the other hand, emphasizes rather the contemplation of the one substance in all phenomena and their sacrifice by the subject who thereby acquires the supreme enlargement of consciousness as well as, through entire liberation from the finite, the bliss of absorption into everything that is best and most splendid.
But the one substance, grasped as the proper meaning of the entire universe, is in truth only established as substance when it is brought back into itself, as pure inwardness and substantial might, out of its presence and actuality in the vicissitudes of phenomena, and thereby is made independent itself over against finitude. Only through this intuition of the being of God as the purely spiritual and imageless, contrasted with the mundane and the natural, is spirit completely wrested from nature and sense and released from existence in the finite. Yet conversely the absolute substance remains in a relation to the phenomenal world, out of which it is reflected back into itself. This relation now acquires the abovementioned negative aspect, namely that the entire mundane sphere, despite the fullness, force, and splendour of its phenomena, is expressly established, in relation to the substance, as only the inherently negative, created by God, subjected to his power, and his servant. The world is therefore indeed regarded as a revelation of God, and he himself is the goodness which, although the created world has in itself no right to subsist and to relate itself to itself, yet permits it to thrive and gives it stability; still, the stability of the finite is without substance, and the creature, held over against God, is what is perishing and powerless, so that in the creator’s goodness his justice has to be manifested at the same time; and this justice brings into actual appearance also, in the inherently negative, the powerlessness thereof and therefore the substance as that alone which has power.
This relation, when art asserts it as the fundamental one for both its content and its form, affords the art-form of sublimity, strictly so-called. Beauty of the Ideal must of course be distinguished from sublimity. For in the Ideal the inner life pervades external reality, whose inner being the inner life is, in the sense that both sides appear as adequate to one another and therefore precisely as pervading one another. In sublimity, on the contrary, external existence, in which the substance is brought before contemplation, is degraded in comparison with the substance, since this degradation and servitude is the one and only way whereby the one God can be illustrated in art; this is because the one God is explicitly without shape and is incapable of expression in his positive essence in anything finite and mundane. Sublimity presupposes the meaning in an independence in comparison with which the external must appear as merely subordinate, because the inner does not appear in it but so transcends it that nothing comes into the representation except as this transcendence and superiority.
In the symbol the shape was the chief thing. The shape was supposed to have a meaning, yet without being able to express it perfectly. In contrast to this symbol and its obscure content there is now the meaning as such and its clear intelligibility; and the work of art thus becomes the outpouring of the pure Being as the meaning of all things – but of the Being which establishes the incongruity of shape and meaning, implicitly present in the symbol, as the meaning of God himself, a meaning present in the mundane and yet transcending everything mundane [and this is incongruous] ; and therefore the Being becomes sublime in the work of art which is to express nothing but this absolutely clear meaning. If therefore symbolic art in general may already be called sacred art because it adopts the Divine as the content of its productions, the art of sublimity is the sacred art as such which can be called exclusively sacred because it gives honour to God alone. Here on the whole the content, in its fundamental meaning, is still more restricted than it is in the symbol proper which does not get beyond striving after the spiritual, and in its reciprocal relations [between spirit and nature] affords a wide extension of spirit’s transformation in natural productions and nature’s transformation in echoes of the spirit.
This sort of sublimity in its first original character we find especially in the outlook of the Jews and in their sacred poetry. For visual art cannot appear here, where it is impossible to sketch any adequate picture of God; only the poetry of ideas, expressed in words, can. In handling this stage in more detail we may set out the following general points.
For its most general content this poetry has God, as Lord of the world that serves him, as not incarnate in the external world but withdrawn out of mundane existence into a solitary unity. What in symbolism proper was still bound into one, thus falls apart here into the two sides – the abstract independence of God and the concrete existence of the world.
(a) God himself, as this pure independence of the one substance, is necessarily without shape and, taken in this abstraction, cannot be brought nearer to our vision. What therefore imagination can grip at this stage is not what God is in his pure essentiality, since that inhibits representation by art in an appropriate shape. The sole divine topic which is left is therefore the relation of God to the world created by him.
(b) God is the creator of the universe. This is the purest expression of the sublime itself. For the first time, that is to say, ideas of procreation and the mere natural generation of things by God vanish and give place to the thought of creation by spiritual might and activity. ‘God said: Let there be light; and there was light'; this Longinus quoted long ago as in every way a striking example of the sublime. The Lord, the one substance, does proceed to manifestation, but the manner of creation is the purest, even bodiless, ethereal manifestation; it is the word, the manifestation of thought as the ideal power, and with its command that the existent shall be, the existent is immediately and actually brought into being in silent obedience.
(c) Yet God does not pass over, as may be supposed, into the created world as into his reality; he remains, on the contrary, withdrawn into himself, though with this opposition no fixed dualism is created. For what is brought forth is his work, which has no independence in contrast with him; on the contrary it is there only as the proof of his wisdom, goodness, and justice as such. The One is Lord over all, and natural things are not the presence of God but only powerless accidents which in themselves can only show him, not make him appear. This constitutes the sublime so far as God is concerned.
Since the one God is separated in this way on the one hand from the concrete phenomena of the world and settled in his independence, while the externality of the existent is determined and disdained as the finite on the other hand, it follows that existence both natural and human now acquires the new position of being a representation of the Divine only because its finitude appears on its own surface.
(a) For the first time, therefore, nature and the human form confront us as prosaic and bereft of God. The Greeks tell us that when the heroes of the voyage of the Argonauts made ship through the narrows of the Hellespont, the rocks, which hitherto had clanged shut and then opened again like shears, suddenly stood there for ever rooted to the ground. This is similar to what we find in the sacred poetry of sublimity: in contrast with the infinite Being, the finite becomes fixed in its intelligible determinacy; whereas in the symbolic outlook nothing keeps its right place, since the finite collapses into the Divine, just as the Divine proceeds out of itself into finite existence.
If we turn from, e.g. the ancient Indian poems, to the Old Testament, we find ourselves at once on a totally different ground on which we can feel at home, no matter how strange and different from ours the situations, events, actions, and characters displayed there may be. Instead of a world of riot and confusion we come into situations and have figures before us which appear perfectly natural, and their firm patriarchal characters in their determinateness and truth are closely connected with us by being perfectly intelligible.
(b) For this outlook which can grasp the natural course of events and assert the laws of nature, miracle gets its place for the first time. In India everything is miracle and therefore no longer miraculous. On a ground where an intelligible connection is continually interrupted, where everything is torn from its place and deranged, no miracle can tread. For the miraculous presupposes intelligible consequences and also the ordinary clear consciousness which alone calls a ‘miracle’ that interruption of this accustomed connection which is wrought by a higher power. Yet miracles in this sense are not a strictly specific expression of sublimity because the normal course of natural phenomena, as well as this interruption, is produced by the will of God and the obedience of nature.
(c) The sublime in the strict sense we must look for, on the contrary, when the whole created world appears entirely as finite, restricted, not bearing or carrying itself, and for this reason can only be regarded as a glorifying accessory for the praise of God.
At this stage the human individual seeks his own honour, consolation, and satisfaction in this recognition of the nullity of things and in the exaltation and praise of God.
(a) In this connection the Psalms supply us with classic examples of genuine sublimity set forth for all time as a pattern in which what man has before himself in his religious idea of God is expressed brilliantly with the most powerful elevation of soul. Nothing in the world may lay claim to independence, for everything is and subsists only by God’s might and is only there in order, in praise of this might, to serve him and to express its own unsubstantial nullity. While therefore we found in the imagination of substantiality and its pantheism an infinite enlargement, here we have to marvel at the force of the elevation of the mind which abandons everything in order to declare the exclusive power of God. In this connection Psalm 104 [2 ff.] is of magnificent power. ‘Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment; who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain’ and so on. Light, heavens, clouds, the wings of the wind are here nothing in and by themselves but only an external vesture, the chariot or the messenger for the service of God. Then, further on, God’s wisdom is extolled, which has put everything in order: the springs which burst forth in the depths, the waters that flow between the mountains, and the birds of heaven sitting by the waters and singing under the boughs; grass, wine which delights the heart of man, and the cedars of Lebanon which the Lord hath planted; the sea where creatures swarm, and there are whales which God hath made to play therein. – And what God has created, he also maintains, but [v. 29] ‘thou hidest thy face and they are troubled; thou takest away their breath; they die and return to their dust’. The nullity of man is spoken of more expressly in Psalm 90, ‘a prayer of Moses, the man of God’, when it says [vv. 5-7] : ‘Thou carriest men away as with a flood; they are as a sleep, even as grass which in the morning flourisheth and in the evening is cut down and withereth. This is thy wrath for our transgressions, and thine anger that we must so suddenly be carried away’.
(b) Therefore, so far as man is concerned, there are bound up with sublimity at the same time the sense of man’s finitude and the insurmountable aloofness of God.
(α) Therefore the idea of immortality does not arise originally in this sphere, for this idea involves the presupposition that the individual self, the soul, the human spirit, is something absolute. In sublimity, only the One is imperishable, and in contrast with him everything else is regarded as arising and perishing, but not as free and infinite in itself.
(β) Therefore, further, man views himself in his unworthiness before God; his exaltation consists in fear of the Lord, in trembling before his wrath, and we find depicted in a penetrating and affecting way grief over nullity, and the cry of the soul to God in complaint, suffering, and lament from the depths of the heart.
(γ) Whereas if the individual in his finitude holds to himself firmly over against God, then this willed and intended finitude becomes wickedness, which, as evil and sin, belongs only to the natural and human, but, like grief and the negative in general, can find no sort of place in the one inherently undifferentiated substance.
(c) Yet, thirdly, within this nullity man nevertheless gains a freer and more independent position. For on the one hand, along with the substantial peace and constancy of God in respect of his will and its commands for men, there arises the law; on the other hand, in man’s exaltation there lies at the same time the complete and clear distinction between the human and the Divine, the finite and the Absolute, and thereby the judgement of good and evil, and the decision for one or the other, is transferred to the subject himself. Relationship to the Absolute and the adequacy or inadequacy of man thereto has therefore also an aspect accruing to the individual and his own behaviour and action. Thereby in his righteousness and adherence to the law he finds at the same time an affirmative relation to God, and has in general to connect the external positive or negative situation of his existence – prosperity, pleasure, satisfaction, or grief, misfortune, oppression – with his inner obedience to or stubbornness against the law, and therein accept well-being and reward or trial and punishment.
What has emerged from sublimity as distinct from strictly unconscious symbolizing consists on the one hand in the separation between the meaning, explicitly known in its inwardness, and the concrete appearance divided therefrom; on the other hand in the directly or indirectly emphasized non-correspondence of the two, wherein the meaning, as the universal, towers above individual reality and its particularity. In the imagination of Pantheism, however, as in sublimity, the proper content, i.e. the universal substance of all things, could not become explicitly visualized without being related to created existence, even if that created existence were inadequate to its own essence. Yet this relation belonged to the substance itself which in the negativity of its accidents gave proof of its wisdom, goodness, might, and justice. Consequently, in general at least, the relation of meaning and shape is here of a still essential and necessary kind, and the two linked sides have not yet become external to one another in the strict sense of the word ‘external’. But since this externality is present implicitly in symbolism, it must also be posited [explicitly] and it emerges in the forms which we now have to consider in this final chapter on symbolic art. We can call them conscious symbolism, or, more precisely, the comparative form of art.
By conscious symbolism, I mean, we are to understand that the meaning is not only explicitly known but is expressly posited as different from the external way in which it is represented. In that case, as in sublimity, the meaning, thus explicitly expressed, does not essentially appear in and as the meaning of the shape given to it in such a way. But the relation of the two to one another no longer remains, as it did at the preceding stage, a relation grounded purely in the meaning itself; on the contrary, it becomes a more or less accidental concatenation produced by the subjective activity of the poet, by the immersion of his spirit in an external existent, by his wit and his invention in general. In this activity he may then start at one time rather from something perceived, and out of his own resources imagine for it a cognate spiritual meaning; at another time he may take his starting-point rather from an actual inner idea, or even from only a relatively inner one, in order to represent it by an image, or even merely to put one image in relation to another which has similar characteristics.
From naive and unconscious symbolism this kind of connection is thus distinguished at once by the fact that now the subject kens both the inner essence of the meanings he has adopted as the content of his work and also the nature of the external phenomena which he uses in a comparative way for their better illustration, and he puts the two together consciously and intentionally on account of their discovered similarity. But the difference between the present stage and the sublime is to be sought in the fact that, on the one hand, the separation and juxtaposition of meaning and its concrete shape is expressly emphasized in the work of art itself in a lesser or greater degree; while, on the other hand, the sublime relation altogether disappears. For what is taken as content is no longer the Absolute itself but only some determinate and restricted meaning; and within its intended severance from its representation in an image a relation is set up which, involving a conscious comparison, does what unconscious symbolism aimed at in its own way.
Yet, for the content [here], the Absolute, the one Lord, can no longer be taken as the meaning because, simply by the sundering of concrete existence from the concept [or meaning] and by the juxtaposition of the two (even if by way of comparison), finitude is at once established fact for the artistic consciousness in so far as that consciousness lays hold of this [comparative] form as the final and proper one. In sacred poetry, on the contrary, God alone gives meaning to all things which, compared with him, prove to be transient and null. But if the meaning is to find its like image and similitude in what is restricted in itself and finite, then it must itself be of a restricted kind, all the more so as, at the stage now occupying our attention, the image (of course external to its content and chosen by the poet only arbitrarily) is regarded precisely as relatively adequate on account of its similarities to the content. Therefore in the comparative form of art there remains of sublimity only the one trait that each image, instead of giving shape to the meaning and the topic in hand in a reality adequate to them, is to afford only an image and similitude of them.
Therefore this sort of symbolizing as a fundamental type of whole works of art remains a subordinate species. For the shape consists only in the description of an immediate perceptible existent or occurrence from which the meaning is to be expressly distinguished. But in works of art which are formed from one conception and in their configuration are one undivided whole, such comparison can assert itself, if at all, only incidentally as an adornment and accessory, as is the case, e.g., in genuine products of classical and romantic art.
If therefore we regard this whole stage as a unification of the two previous stages, in that it comprises both that separation between meaning and external reality (which was the basis of the sublime) and also a concrete phenomenon’s hinting at a related universal meaning (which we saw emerging in the symbol proper), still this unification is not a higher form of art at all but rather a clear but superficial [mode of] treatment which, limited in its content and more or less prosaic in its form, deserts the mysteriously fermenting depth of the symbol proper, and strays down from the height of sublimity into common consciousness.
Now as concerns the more specific division of this sphere, the distinction involved in comparison presupposes the meaning by itself and relates to it, and in contrast with it, a sensuous or pictorial shape; in this situation it is almost always found that the meaning is taken as the chief thing and the configuration as a mere cloak and externality; yet at the same time a further distinction appears, namely that now the one, now the other of the two sides is selected first and so a beginning is made from that. In this way either the configuration exists as an explicitly external, immediate, natural event or phenomenon, and then a universal meaning is produced from it, or the meaning is procured otherwise independently and only then is a configuration for it selected externally from somewhere or other.
In this connection we may distinguish two chief stages:
(a) In the first the concrete phenomenon, whether drawn from nature or from human affairs, events, and actions, constitutes the starting-point, but also the important and essential thing for the representation. It is selected indeed only on account of the more general meaning which it contains and alludes to, and it is only so far explained as the aim of illustrating this meaning in a related single situation or event demands; but the comparison between the universal meaning and the individual case is a subjective activity and it is not yet expressly revealed, and the whole representation will not be just an embellishment on a work independent without this adornment, but still appears with the pretension of serving on its own account as a whole. The kinds of thing that belong to this context are fable, parable, apologue, proverb, and metamorphoses.
(b) At the second stage, on the other hand, the meaning is the first thing in the artist’s mind, and its concrete illustration in an image is only something accessory and an accompaniment to it which in itself has no independence at all but appears as entirely subordinate to the meaning, so that now the subjective caprice of comparison, a caprice seeking precisely this and no other image, comes more clearly to light. This mode of representation cannot for the most part amount to independent works of art and must therefore content itself with annexing its forms, as purely incidental, to other artistic productions. As the chief kinds of thing at this stage riddle, allegory, metaphor, image, and simile may be enumerated.
(c) Thirdly and lastly, we may by way of appendix make mention of didactic and descriptive poetry. For in these kinds of poetry there are explicitly made independent (a) the mere disclosure of the general nature of objects as the poet’s mind grasps it in the clarity of his intelligence, and (b) the depicting of its concrete appearance. Thus is developed the complete separation of the two sides whose unification and genuine mutual formation alone makes possible the production of genuine works of art.
Now the separation of the two factors in the work of art implies that the different forms which have their place in this whole comparative sphere belong almost always solely to the art of speech, since poetry alone can express such a rendering of independence to both meaning and shape, while it is the task of the visual arts to exhibit in the outward shape as such its inner being.
With the different kinds of poetry or prose to be allocated to this first stage of the comparative art-form we find ourselves every time in a perplexity, and we have great trouble if we undertake to arrange them in definite chief species. There are subordinate hybrid kinds, I mean, which do not characterize any purely necessary aspect of art. In general, therefore, it is the same in aesthetics as it is in the natural sciences with certain classes of animals or other natural phenomena. In both spheres the difficulty lies in the fact that it is the very Concept of nature and art which partitions itself and posits its differentiations. As the differentiations of the Concept, they are now the differentiations which are also truly adequate to the Concept, and therefore conceivable; but hybrid transitional stages will not fit into these because they are just merely defective forms which leave one chief stage without being able to attain the following one. This is not the fault of the Concept ; and if we wished to take, as the basis of division and classification, such hybrids instead of the moments of the Concept of the thing at issue, then what is precisely inadequate to the Concept would be regarded as the adequate mode of its development. The true classification, however, may proceed only out of the true Concept, and hybrid productions can only find their place where the proper explicitly stable forms begin to dissolve and pass over into others. This is the case here in relation to the symbolic form of art, as we have pursued it.
But the kinds indicated belong to the praeambula or the symbolic form of art because they are generally imperfect and therefore a mere search for true art; this search does contain the ingredients for a genuine mode of configuration, yet it views them only in their finitude, separation, and mere relation, and so it remains subordinate. Therefore when we speak here of fable, apologue, parable, etc., we have not to discuss these kinds as if they belonged to poetry as their art distinct alike from the visual arts and from music, but only in the relation which they have to the general forms of art; their specific character can be elucidated only from this relation, and not from the essential nature of the proper species of poetic art, namely, epic, lyric, and dramatic.
We will articulate these kinds of art with more precision by dealing first with fable, then with parable, apologue, and proverb, and finally by considering metamorphoses.
Since in this chapter we have always spoken so far only of the formal side of the relation between an expressed meaning and its shape, we have now to specify the content which proves fitting for this present mode of configuration.
We have already seen that, in contrast to sublimity, at the present stage there is no longer any question of illustrating the Absolute and One in its undivided might by way of the nullity and insignificance of created things; on the contrary, we are now at the stage of the finitude of consciousness and therefore of the finitude of content too. If conversely we turn our attention to the symbol strictly so-called, one aspect of which the comparative art-form too was to adopt, then the inner element which, as we have already seen in Egyptian symbolism, appears over against the hitherto always immediate shape, i.e. the natural, is the spiritual. Now since that natural element is left and envisaged as independent, so the spiritual too is something determinate and finite, i.e. man and his finite aims; and the natural acquires a relationship, albeit a theoretical one, to these aims by providing signs and revelations with a bearing on man’s weal and interest. The phenomena of nature, storm, the flight of birds, character of the entrails, etc., are now therefore taken in a quite different sense from the one they have in the views of the Parsis, Indians, or Egyptians. For them the Divine is made one with the natural in such a way that in nature man wanders to and fro in a world full of gods, and his own activity consists in producing this same identity in his work; the result then is that this activity, so far as it is appropriate to the being of the Divine in nature, appears itself as a revelation and production of the Divine in man. But when man is withdrawn into himself, and, divining his freedom, shuts himself into himself, he becomes an end in himself on his own account in his individuality; he acts, works, and labours according to his own will, he has a selfish life of his own and feels the essentiality of his aims in himself, and to them the natural has an external relation. Consequently nature disperses around him and serves him, so that, in regard to the Divine, he does not win in nature a vision of the Absolute, but treats nature only as a means whereby the gods afford recognition of themselves with a view to the best outcome of his ends; this is because they unveil their will to the human spirit through the medium of nature and so let men elucidate their will. Here, that is to say, there is presupposed an identity of the Absolute and the natural, in which human aims are the chief thing. But this sort of symbolism does not yet belong to art; it remains religious. For the Vates undertakes this interpretation of natural events only, in the main, for practical ends, in the interest whether of single individuals in relation to particular plans or of the entire people in respect of their common enterprises. Whereas poetry has to recognize and express even practical situations and relations in a more general theoretical form.
But what must be taken into account in this context is a natural phenomenon, an occurrence, containing a particular relation or an issue, which can be taken as a symbol for a universal meaning drawn from the sphere of human activity and doings, for an ethical doctrine, for a prudential maxim: in other words for a meaning which has for its content a reflection on the way in which things go or should go in human affairs, i.e. in matters of the will. Here we no longer have the divine will revealing its inwardness to man by natural events and their religious interpretation. Instead there is an entirely commonplace course of natural occurrences; from its detailed representation there can be abstracted, in a way we can understand, an ethical maxim, a warning, a doctrine, a prudential rule, and it is presented for the sake of this reflection and displayed to contemplation.
This is the setting which we may ascribe here to the fables of Aesop.
(a) Aesop’s fables, that is to say, in their original form, are such an interpretation of a natural relation or occurrence between single natural things in general, especially between animals, whose activities spring from the same vital needs which move men as living beings. This relation or occurrence, taken in its more general characteristics, is therefore of such a kind that it can occur in the sphere of human life too, and only by its bearing on this does it acquire significance for man.
In keeping with this definition, the genuine fable of Aesop is the representation of some situation or other in animate and inanimate nature, or of an event in the animal world not devised capriciously, as may be supposed, but taken as it actually is in the world and truly observed; and then it is so recounted that there may be drawn from it a general lesson related to human existence and more particularly to its practical side, to prudence and morality in action. The first requirement is consequently to be sought in the fact that the specific case which is to supply the so-called moral shall not be merely fabricated, and especially that it shall not be fabricated in a way contradicting similar phenomena actually existent in nature. Secondly, and more particularly, the narrative must report the case not in its universality (which would make it typical of every happening in external reality) but according to its concrete individuality and as an actual event.
This original form of the fable gives to it, thirdly and lastly, the maximum of naïveté, because the aim of teaching and consequently the emphasis on general and useful meanings appears only as something arising later and not as what was intended from the beginning. Thus the most attractive of what are called Aesop’s fables are those which correspond with the above definition and which relate actions – if you like to use that word – or relations and events which (a) have animal instinct as their basis, or (b) express some other natural relationship, or (c) in general, actually occur and are not merely put together by some capricious fancy. But thus it is then easily seen that the fabula docet attached to Aesop’s fables in their present-day form either makes the representation flat or frequently is out of place so that often it is rather the opposite lesson that can be drawn, or many other better ones.
A few examples may be cited here to illustrate this proper conception of Aesop’s fables.
For example, an oak and a reed stand before a stormy wind; the weak reed is only bent, the strong oak breaks. This is something which has occurred often enough in a violent storm; interpreted morally, there is an unbending man of high station contrasted with a man of lower degree who in adverse circumstances can preserve himself by pliancy, while the other is destroyed by his stubbornness and haughtiness.
A similar case is the fable, preserved by Phaedrus, of the swallows. With other birds the swallows look on while a ploughman sows flax out of which the cord is woven for bird-snaring. The swallows, with their foresight, fly away; the other birds are incredulous; they remain in their own nests without a care and are caught. Here too it is an actual natural phenomenon which is the basis. It is well known that in autumn swallows migrate to more southerly regions, and therefore are not there when birds are trapped. The like can be said about the fable of the bat which is despised by day and at night-time because it belongs neither to the one nor to the other.
To such prosaic actual events a more general interpretation is given in relation to human affairs, just as even now some pious people can still draw from everything that happens an edifying and useful moral. Yet in this matter it is not necessary for the actual natural phenomenon to leap to the eyes every time. In the fable of the fox and the raven, for instance, the actual fact is not to be recognized at a first glance, although it is not missing altogether; for it is the manner of ravens and crows to begin to caw when they see strange objects, men or animals, moving before them. Similar natural circumstances underlie the fable of the briar which tears the wool off the passer-by or wounds the fox that looks for protection in it; or the fable of the husbandman who warms a snake at his bosom, etc. Other incidents are represented which may also occur among animals; in the first fable of Aesop, e.g., the eagle devours the fox’s cubs; later he snatches entrails from a sacrificial pyre and along with them a live coal; and then the coal burns the eagle’s nest. [The eaglets fall out and the fox eats them.] Other fables, finally, contain traits drawn from ancient myths, like the fable of the beetle, the eagle, and Zeus, where there is presented the circumstance of natural history – I leave aside the question whether this is accurate or not – that eagles and beetles lay their eggs at different times; but there is perceptible too what is obviously the traditional importance of the scarab, which yet appears here already drawn into the sphere of the comic, as has occurred still more in Aristophanes. A complete settlement of the question how many of these fables emanated from Aesop himself may be passed over here anyhow, because it is well known either that only a few of them, including, e.g., this fable of the beetle and the eagle, can be shown to be Aesop’s, or that antiquity has been conferred on them generally so that they can be regarded as Aesop’s.
Aesop himself is said to have been a misshapen humpbacked slave; his home is transferred to Phrygia, i.e. to the country where the transition is made from immediate symbolism, and attachment to nature, to the country in which man begins to apprehend the spiritual and his own self. In this situation Aesop does not regard animals and nature in general, as the Indians and Egyptians do, as something lofty and divine on their own account; he treats them, on the contrary, with prosaic eyes as something where circumstances serve only to picture human action and suffering. But yet his notions are only witty, without any energy of spirit or depth of insight and substantive vision, without poetry and philosophy. His views and doctrines prove indeed to be ingenious and clever, but there remains only, as it were, a subtle investigation of trifles. Instead of creating free shapes out of a free spirit, this investigation only sees some other applicable side in purely given and available materials, the specific instincts and impulses of animals, petty daily events; this is because Aesop does not dare to recite his doctrines openly but can only make them understood hidden as it were in a riddle which at the same time is always being solved. In the slave, prose begins, and so this entire species is prosaic too.
Nevertheless, almost all peoples and ages have run through these old stories and, however much any nation, generally acquainted with fables in its literature, may boast of possessing more fabulists, still their poems are mostly reproductions of these first notions, only translated into the taste of every age; and what these fabulists have added to the inherited stock of stories is left far behind by these originals.
(b) But we also find amongst Aesop’s fables a number which in invention and execution are of great barrenness, but above all are told with the aim of teaching, so that animals or even gods are a mere cloak. Yet these fables are far from doing violence to the nature of animals, as has possibly been the case with modern writers; as e.g. with Pfeffel’s fables of one hamster which collected a stock in the autumn, a foresight neglected by another who therefore is to be reduced to beggary and hunger – or of a fox, bloodhound, and lynx, where the story is that they came before Jupiter with their one-sided talents, cunning, keen smell, and sharp sight, in order to acquire an equal distribution of their natural gifts; after they consented to judgement the verdict is: ‘The fox is made stupid, the bloodhound is no longer any use for hunting, the Argus lynx acquires a cataract.’ That a hamster puts by no produce, that these three other animals fall into an accidental or natural equal division of their qualities, is absolutely contrary to nature and therefore wearisome. Thus better than these fables is the one of the ant and the grasshopper, better than this again is the one of the stag with glorious antlers and thin shanks.
With the sense of such fables in mind, we have after all become accustomed in fables as such so to represent the lesson as the first thing that the occurrence related is itself merely a cloak and therefore an event purely fabricated for the purpose of the lesson. But such cloaks, especially when the incident described cannot possibly have occurred in the life of real animals, i.e. in accordance with their natural character, are extremely wearisome inventions, meaning less than nothing. The ingenuity of a fable consists only in conferring on what already exists otherwise, and has a shape, a still more universal sense beyond what it has directly.
Then further, presupposing that the essence of fable is only to be sought in the fact that animals act and speak instead of men, the question has been raised about what constitutes the attractive thing in this exchange. Yet nothing much attractive can lie in such clothing of men like animals, if it is supposed to be more than or different from something in a comedy played by apes and dogs, where on the contrary the contrast between the nature of animals as it appears on the stage and human action remains the sole interest apart from the spectacle of skilfulness in the training of the actors. Breitinger therefore cites the wonderful as the proper attraction. But in the original fables the appearance of animals speaking is not set forth as something unusual and wonderful; for this reason Lessing thinks that the introduction of animals affords a great advantage for the intelligibility and abbreviation of the exposition owing to our acquaintance with the characteristics of animals, with the cunning of the fox, the magnanimity of the lion, the voracity and brutality of the wolf – so that instead of abstractions, like cunning, magnanimity, etc., a definite picture comes at once before our minds. Yet this advantage alters nothing essential in the trivial circumstance of the mere cloak, and, on the whole, there is just the disadvantage of bringing animals on the scene instead of men, because the animal form in that case always remains a mask which veils the meaning, so far as its intelligibility goes, quite as much as it explains it.
The greatest fable of this kind, consequently, is the old story of Reynard the Fox, but this is not strictly a fable at all.
(c) As a third stage we may here append the following way of treating fable, but with it we are already beginning to go beyond the sphere of fable. The ingenuity of a fable lies generally in finding, amongst the manifold phenomena of nature, cases which can serve as a support for general reflections on human action and behaviour, but in which animals and nature are not withdrawn from their own proper mode of existence. For the rest, however, the juxtaposition and relation of the so-called moral and the individual case remains only a matter of caprice and subjective wit and is therefore in itself only a matter of joking. Now it is this aspect which appears explicitly at this third stage. The form of fable is adopted as a joke. In this vein Goethe has composed many charming and ingenious poems. In one, entitled Der Kläffer [The Barker], he writes, for example, as follows: ‘We ride in all directions on pleasure and on business, but the barking dog always comes behind us and yelps with all his power. So the Pomeranian from our kennel constantly accompanies us and the loud sound of his bark proves only that we are riding.'
But it is inherent in this class that the natural shapes used are presented in their proper character, as in Aesop’s fables, and in their action and doings develop for us human situations, passions, and traits of character which have the closest affinity with those of animals. Reynard, just mentioned, is of this kind, but it is rather something of a fairy tale than a fable in the strict sense. The background is provided by an age of disorder and lawlessness, of wickedness, weakness, baseness, force and arrogance, of unbelief in religion, of only apparent rule and justice in secular matters, so that cunning, ingenuity, and selfishness carry off the victory over everything. This is the situation of the Middle Ages, developed as it was especially in Germany. Powerful vassals do show some respect to the King, but, at bottom, every one of them does what he likes, robs, murders, oppresses the weak, betrays the King, can gain the favours of the Queen, so that the whole country keeps together but only just. This is the human background; but it consists here not at all in an abstract proposition, but in a totality of situations and characters, and, on account of its wickedness, it turns out to be appropriate for the animal nature in the form of which it is unfolded. Therefore there is nothing disturbing when we find the human subject-matter quite openly transferred into the animal world, while the cloak does not appear, as might be thought, as a purely individual cognate case, but is released from this singularity and acquires a certain universality whereby it becomes clear to us that ‘that’s how things go generally in the world’. Now the droll feature lies in this cloak itself; the joke and jest is mingled with the bitter seriousness of the thing, since it brings human meanness before our eyes in the most excellent way in animal meanness and emphasizes even in the purely animal world a mass of the most entertaining traits and most appropriate stories, so that despite all harshness we have before us a joke, not bad and just intended, but one actual and seriously meant.
Parable has with fable the general affinity that it takes up events drawn from the sphere of ordinary life but attributes to them a deeper and more general meaning with the aim of making this meaning intelligible and perceptible through this occurrence, an everyday one if considered by itself.
But at the same time parable is distinct from fable by reason of the fact that it looks for such occurrences not in nature and the animal world, but in human action and doings as everyone has them familiarly before his eyes; and the chosen individual case that at first sight appears trivial in its particularity, it enlarges into something of a more general interest by hinting at a deeper meaning.
Consequently, in respect of the content, the scope and solid importance of the meanings may be enlarged and deepened, while, in respect of form, the subjective activity of deliberate comparison and the presentation of a general lesson begin to come into appearance in a higher degree likewise.
As a parable, still bound up with a purely practical aim, we can regard the means used by Cyrus in order to incite the Persians to revolt (Herodotus, 1. 126). He writes to the Persians to the effect that they are to betake themselves, equipped with sickles, to a specified place. There on the first day he made them set to with hard labour to make cultivable a field overgrown with thistles. But on the next day, after they had rested and bathed, he led them to a meadow and feasted them royally on meat and wine. Then when they had risen from the banquet, he asked them which day they had enjoyed most, yesterday or today. They all voted for today which had brought them nothing but good, whereas the day just past had been one of toil and exertion. Thereupon Cyrus exclaimed: ‘If you will follow me, good days like today will be multiplied for you; but if you will follow me not, then prepare yourselves for innumerable labours like yesterday’s.’
Of a related kind, though of the deepest interest and broadest universality in their meanings, are the parables that we find in the Gospels. The parable of the sower [in all the Synoptics], for example, is a story in itself trivial in content, and it is important only because of the comparison with the doctrine of the Kingdom of Heaven. In these parables the meaning throughout is a religious doctrine to which the human occurrences in which it is represented are related in much the same way as man and animal are related in Aesop’s fables, where the former constitutes the meaning of the latter.
Of an equal breadth of content is the familiar story of Boccaccio which Lessing has used in Nathan for his parable of the three rings. Here too the story, taken independently, is entirely commonplace, but it points to a matter of the widest scope, the difference and the truth of the three religions, Jewish, Mohammedan, and Christian. Precisely the same is the case, to refer to the most recent publications in this sphere, with Goethe’s parables. In the Cat made into a Pasty, for example, a bold cook, to show himself a hunter too, went off, but shot a tom-cat instead of a hare; nevertheless he set the cat before the company, dressed with plenty of ingenious herbs – this is to be taken as a reference to Newton. The hash that the mathematician made of the science of physics is, to be sure, always something higher than a cat which a cook futilely substituted for a hare in a pasty! – These parables of Goethe’s, like his poems written in the manner of fables, often have a jocular tone through which he wrote his soul free from the annoyances of life.
A middle stage within this sphere is formed by the proverb. Amplified, that is to say, proverbs may be changed now into fables, now into apologues. They adduce an individual case which is drawn for the most part from day-to-day human life, but which is then to be taken in a universal meaning. For example: ‘One hand washes the other’ [i.e. one good turn deserves another]. Or ‘Let everyone sweep the front of his own door’ [i.e. mind your own business, or ‘and then the village will be clean'], ‘Who digs a grave for another falls into it himself’ [i.e. hoist with his own petard], ‘Roast me a sausage and I will slake your thirst’ [i.e. one good turn deserves another]. To this class there also belong the aphorisms of which Goethe, to mention him again, has made a number in recent times with infinite grace and often of great depth.
These are not comparisons where the universal meaning and the concrete phenomenon appear outside one another and contrasted with one another. The former is immediately expressed with the latter.
The apologue, thirdly, may be regarded as a parable which does not use the individual case merely as a simile to illustrate a universal meaning but in this cloak itself brings out and expresses the universal maxim – since the maxim is actually contained in the individual case which yet is recounted as only an individual example. Taken in this sense Goethe’s God and the Bayadere is to be called an apologue. We find here the Christian story of the repentant Magdalene cloaked in Indian modes of thinking: the Bayadere shows the same humility, the like strength of love and faith; God puts her to the proof, which she completely sustains, and now her exaltation and reconciliation follow. – In the apologue the narrative may be so conducted that its conclusion provides the lesson itself without any mere comparison, as, e.g., in the Treasure Seeker: ‘Work by day, guests at night, arduous weeks, joyful festivals, Be thy future talisman.’
The third class with which we have to deal, in contrast to fable, parable, proverb, and apologue, is metamorphoses. They are indeed of a symbolic, mythological kind, but at the same time they expressly oppose the natural to the spiritual, since they give to a natural existent, a rock, animal, flower, spring, the meaning of being a degradation and a punishment of spiritual existents, e.g. of Philomela, the Pierides, Narcissus, Arethusa, who through a false step, a passion, a crime, fall into infinite guilt or an endless grief, whereby the freedom of spiritual life is lost to them and they have become mere natural existents.
Thus on the one hand the natural is not treated here purely externally and prosaically as a mere hill, spring, tree, etc., but there is given to it an import belonging to an action or event springing from the spirit. The rock is not just stone but Niobe who weeps for her children. On the other hand this human deed is guilt of some sort and the metamorphosis into a purely natural phenomenon is to be taken as a degradation of the spiritual.
We must therefore clearly distinguish these metamorphoses of gods and human individuals into natural objects from unconscious symbolism proper. In Egypt (a) the Divine is immediately intuited in the closed rich mysteriousness of the inwardness of animal life, and (b) the symbol proper is a natural shape directly coincident with a wider cognate meaning, although this shape is not to constitute an actual adequate existence of the meaning, because unconscious symbolism is an outlook not yet liberated into a spiritual one, whether in form or content. The metamorphoses, on the contrary, make the essential distinction between the natural and the spiritual, and they form in this respect the transition from symbolic mythology to mythology strictly so-called – mythology, i.e., if we so understand it that it starts in its myths from a concrete natural existent, the sun, the sea, rivers, trees, fertility, or the earth, but then expressly segregates this purely natural element; for it extracts the inner content of the natural phenomenon and artistically individualizes it, as a spiritualized power, into gods with a human shape alike in mind and body. In this way Homer and Hesiod first gave the Greeks their mythology, not as merely significant of the gods, not as an exposition of moral, physical, theological, or speculative doctrines, but as mythology pure and simple, the beginning of spiritual religion in a human configuration.
In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, apart from the quite modern treatment of the mythical, the most heterogeneous material is mixed up together. Apart from those metamorphoses which could be interpreted generally as just one mode of mythical representation, the specific viewpoint of this form is especially emphasized in those stories in which such figures [e.g. the wolf or the cat] as are usually taken to be symbolical or already even to be entirely mythical, appear transformed into metamorphoses, and what otherwise was united is brought into the opposition between meaning and shape and into the transition from one to the other. So, e.g., the Phrygian and Egyptian symbol of the wolf is so torn adrift [in Greek mythology] from its indwelling meaning that the meaning is referred to a previous existence, if not of the sun, then of a king, and the vulpine existence is represented as a consequence of a deed in that human existence. So too in the song of the Pierides the Egyptian gods, the ram and the cat, are represented as animal shapes in which the mythical Greek gods, Zeus, Aphrodite, etc., have hidden in fear. But the Pierides themselves are punished for daring to enter the lists against the Muses with their singing and are changed into magpies.
On the other hand, on account of the more precise character implicit in the content constituting their meaning, metamorphoses must all the same be distinguished from fable. In the fable the connection between the moral maxim and the natural event is a harmless association which does not present in the natural occurrence the importance of being merely natural in distinction from spirit and so introduces this important distinction only into the meaning [of the fable]. Nevertheless, there are also single fables of Aesop which with slight alteration would become metamorphoses, as e.g. Fable 42 of the bat, the thorn, and the gull; their instincts are explained from misfortune in earlier undertakings.
With this we have gone through this first sphere of the comparative art-form, which starts from present reality and the concrete phenomenon, in order to go on from there to a further meaning illustrated therein.
If the separation of meaning and shape is the consciously presupposed form within which the relation of the two is to proceed, then, granted the independence of one side as well as of the other, a beginning can and must be made not only from what exists externally but just as much, conversely, from what is present internally, namely from general ideas, reflections, feelings, or maxims. For this inner element is, like the pictures of external things, something present to our minds and in its independence of the external originates with itself. Now if the meaning is in this way the starting-point, then the expression, the reality, appears as the means, drawn from the concrete world for the sake of making the meaning, as the abstract content, definitely picturable, visible, and perceptible.
But, as we saw earlier [in the preamble to this chapter], both sides being mutually indifferent to one another, the connection into which both are brought is not one in which they belong to one another by absolute necessity. Therefore their bearing on one another, not lying objectively in the nature of the case, is something manufactured subjectively which no longer conceals this subjective character but makes it recognizable through the manner of the representation. The absolute shape has the connection of content and form, soul and body, as concrete ensoulment, as the unification of both, grounded absolutely in the soul as in the body, in the content as in the form. Here, however, the separatedness of the two sides is the presupposition and therefore their association is (a) a purely subjective enlivenment of the meaning through a shape external to it and (b) an interpretation of a real existent equally subjective through its bearing on the other ideas, feelings, and thoughts of the spirit. Therefore, as it turns out, what especially appears in these forms is the subjective art of the poet as maker, and in complete works of art, especially in this aspect, what belongs to the meaning and its necessary configuration can be distinguished from what the poet has added as decoration and adornment. These easily recognizable additions, especially images, similes, allegories, and metaphors, are the things for which we can commonly hear him praised to the skies; and part of the praise is supposed to redound to the sharp eyes and astuteness, as it were, which have made him out and noticed his peculiar subjective inventions. Yet the forms that belong here, as has been said already, should only appear in genuine works of art as mere accessories, although we find in older books on poetry that these incidental things in particular are treated as the very ingredients of poetic activity.
But while at first the two sides which are to be connected are of course indifferent to one another, still, for the justification of the subject’s relating and comparing, the shape must in its make-up include in a cognate way the same circumstances and properties which the meaning has in itself. This is because the apprehension of this similarity is the only basis for associating the meaning with precisely this specific shape and illustrating the former by the latter.
Finally, since a beginning is not made from the concrete phenomenon from which something universal can be abstracted, but conversely from this universal itself which is to be mirrored in an image, it follows that the meaning can now shine out actually as the proper end and dominate the image which is its means of illustration.
As the more detailed sequence in which we can discuss the particular kinds to be mentioned in this sphere, the following may be indicated:
First, as the stage most related to the last one, we have to discuss the riddle.
Secondly, allegory, in which it is especially the domination of the abstract meaning over the external shape that appears.
Thirdly, comparison proper, namely metaphor, image, and simile.
The symbol, strictly so-called, is inherently enigmatical because the external existent by means of which a universal meaning is to be brought to our contemplation still remains different from the meaning that it has to represent, and it is therefore open to doubt in what sense the shape has to be taken. But the riddle belongs to conscious symbolism and it is distinguished at once from the symbol, strictly so-called, by reason of the fact that the meaning is clearly and completely known to the inventor of the riddle; and the shape that veils it, through which the meaning is to be guessed, is therefore chosen deliberately for this semiveiling. Symbols in the strict sense are, both before and after, unsolved problems, while the riddle is absolutely solved, so that Sancho Panza says quite rightly after all: ‘I would far rather be given the solution first and the riddle afterwards.
(a) In inventing a riddle, that is to say, the first step from which a start is made is the known sense or meaning of it.
(b) But, secondly, individual traits of character and properties drawn from the otherwise known external world and, as in nature and in externality generally, lying there scattered outside one another, are associated together in a disparate and therefore striking way. Therefore they lack a subject embracing them together [as predicates] into a unity and their deliberate concatenation and connection one with another has as such absolutely no sense; although, on the other hand, they do all the same point to a unity in relation to which even the apparently most heterogeneous traits nevertheless acquire sense and meaning again.
(c) This unity, the subject of those scattered predicates, is precisely the simple idea, the word that solves the riddle, and the problem of the riddle is to discover or guess it out of this apparently confused disguise. The riddle in this respect is the conscious wit of symbolism which puts to the test the wit of ingenuity and the flexibility in combining things, and its mode of representation is self-destructive because it leads to the guessing of the riddle. Riddle therefore belongs especially to the art of speech, though it may find a place in the visual arts too, in architecture, horticulture, and painting. Its appearance in history lies principally in the East, in the intervening and transitional period between more obtuse symbolism and more conscious wisdom and generalization. Whole peoples and periods have delighted in such problems. Even in the Middle Ages in Arabia and Scandinavia, and in the German poetry of the singing contests at the Wartburg, e.g., it plays a great part. In modern times it has sunk down more or less to conversation and mere witticisms and jokes in social gatherings.
To the riddle we may append that infinitely wide field of witty and striking notions which are developed as plays on words, and epigrams in relation to some given situation, event, or topic. Here on the one side we have some indifferent object, on the other side a subjective notion which unexpectedly, with remarkable subtlety, emphasizes one aspect, one relation, which previously did not appear in the topic as it was and sets the topic in a new light as a result of the new significance given to it.
The opposite of the riddle, in this sphere which begins from the universality of the meaning, is allegory. It too does try to bring the specific qualities of a universal idea nearer to our vision through cognate qualities of sensuously concrete objects; yet it does so not by way of the semi-veiling and the enigmas of the riddle, but precisely with the converse aim of producing the most complete clarity, so that the external thing of which the allegory avails itself must be as transparent as possible for the meaning which is to appear in it.
(a) The first concern of allegory therefore consists in personifying, and therefore conceiving as a subject, general abstract situations or qualities belonging to both the human and the natural world, e.g. religion, love, justice, discord, glory, war, peace, spring, summer, autumn, winter, death, fame. But this subjectivity in neither its content nor its external shape is truly in itself a subject or individual; on the contrary, it remains the abstraction of a universal idea which acquires only the empty form of subjectivity and is to be called a subject only, as it were, in a grammatical sense. An allegorical being, however much it may be given a human shape, does not attain the concrete individuality of a Greek god or of a saint or of some other actual person, because, in order that there may be congruity between subjectivity and the abstract meaning which it has, the allegorical being must make subjectivity so hollow that all specific individuality vanishes from it. It is therefore rightly said of allegory that it is frosty and cold and that, owing to the intellectual abstractness of its meanings, it is even in its invention rather an affair of the intellect than of concrete intuition and the heartfelt depth of imagination. Poets like Virgil are therefore especially concerned with allegorical beings, because they cannot create individual gods like the Homeric ones.
(b) But, secondly, the meanings of allegories are, in their abstractness, at the same time determinate and they are recognizable only owing to this determinacy. The result is that now the expression of such particular characteristics does not lie immediately in the idea which at first is only personified in general, and therefore it must enter on its own account alongside the subject as its explanatory predicates. This separation of subject and predicate, universal and particular, is the second aspect of frostiness in allegory. Now the illustration of the determinate qualities to be indicated is drawn from the expressions, effects, consequences which come into appearance through the meaning once it acquires reality in concrete existence, or from the instruments and means of which it avails itself in its actual realization. Battle and war, for example, are indicated by armed forces, side-arms, cannon, drums, colours; seasons by flowers and fruits which flourish above all under the favourable influence of spring, summer, and autumn. Such things, again, may also have purely symbolical bearings, as justice is brought to our ken by scales and blindfolding, death by the hour-glass and scythe. But since the meaning is the dominant thing in allegory and its closer illustration is subordinate to it just as abstractly as the meaning itself is a pure abstraction, the shape of such definite things acquires here only the value of a mere attribute.
(c) In this way allegory is in both aspects bleak; its general personification is empty, the specific externality is only a sign, meaningless if taken by itself; and the centre [the idea personified] which ought to have unified the multiplicity of attributes does not have the force of a subjective unity shaping itself and relating itself to itself in its real existence, but becomes a purely abstract form, and its filling with such particular things, degraded to the position of attributes, remains for it something external. Consequently allegory is not to be taken really seriously with the independence into which it personifies its abstractions and their indication, with the result that to what is independent absolutely the form of an allegorical being should properly not be given. The Dike of the Greeks, for example, is not to be called an allegory; she is universal necessity, eternal justice, the universal powerful person, the absolutely substantial basis of the relations of nature and spiritual life, and therefore herself the absolutely independent being whom individuals, gods as well as men, have to follow. F. von Schlegel, as was remarked above, has observed that every work of art must be an allegory. Yet this saying is true only if it is to mean nothing but that every work of art must contain a universal idea and an inherently true meaning. Whereas what we have here called allegory is a mode of representation subordinate in both form and content, only imperfectly corresponding to the essence of art. For every human event and imbroglio, every relationship, etc., has some sort of universality in itself which can also be extracted as universality; but such abstractions we have otherwise already in our minds, and with them in their prosaic universality and their external indication, to which alone allegory attains, art has nothing to do.
Winckelmann too wrote an immature work on allegory in which he assembles a mass of allegories, but for the most part he confuses symbol and allegory.
Amongst the particular arts within which allegorical representations occur, poetry is wrong in taking refuge in such media, whereas sculpture cannot in the main be managed without them. This is specially true of modern sculpture which in many ways admits of being portraiture and so, for the closer indication of the multiple relations in which the represented individual stands, must avail itself of allegorical figures. On Blucher’s memorial, erected here in Berlin, we see the genius of fame and victory, but when it comes to the general treatment of the war of liberation, the allegorical is avoided by a series of individual scenes as, e.g., the departure of the army, its march, and its victorious return. But on the whole in portrait-statues sculptors have been content to surround the simple statues with allegories and to multiply them. The ancients, on the other hand, rather availed themselves on sarcophagi, e.g., of general mythological representations of sleep, death, etc.
Allegory in general belongs less to ancient art than to the romantic art of the Middle Ages, even if as allegory it is not properly anything romantic. This frequent occurrence of allegorical treatment in the medieval epoch is to be explained in the following way. On the one side the Middle Ages had for their content particular individuals with their subjective aims of love and honour, with their vows, pilgrimages, and adventures. The variety of these numerous individuals and events provides imagination with a wide scope for inventing and developing accidental and capricious collisions and their resolution. But, on the other side, over against the varied secular adventures, there stands the universal element in the relations and situations of life. This universal is not individualized into independent gods as it was with the ancients, and therefore it appears readily and naturally explicitly sundered in its universality alongside those particular personalities and their particular shapes and events. Now if the artist has an idea of such universalities, and if he wishes to emphasize their universality as such and not to clothe them in the accidental form just described, there is nothing left to him but the allegorical manner of representation. This happens too in the religious sphere. Mary, Christ, the acts and fates of the Apostles, the saints with their penances and martyrdoms are, it is true, here again quite definite individuals; but Christianity is equally concerned with universal spiritual things which cannot be embodied in the definite character of living and actual persons because they should be represented precisely as universal relationships like love, faith, and hope. In general the truths and dogmas of Christianity are independently familiar as religious, and one chief interest even of poetry consists in this, that these doctrines shall appear as universal doctrines and that the truth shall be known and believed as universal truth. But in that case the concrete representation must remain subordinate and indeed external to the content, and allegory is the form which satisfies this need in the easiest and most appropriate way. In this sense Dante has much that is allegorical in his Divine Comedy. So there, e.g., theology appears fused with the picture of his beloved, Beatrice. But this personification hovers (and this constitutes its beauty) between allegory proper and a transfiguration of his youthful beloved. He saw her for the first time when he was nine years old; she seemed to him to be the daughter, not of a mortal man, but of God; his fiery Italian nature conceived a passion for her which was never again extinguished. When it had awakened in him the genius of poetry, then, after the early death of his dearest love had lost her for him, he put into the chief work of his life this marvellous memorial of, as it were, this inner subjective religion of his heart.
After riddle and allegory the third sphere is the figurative in general. The riddle still conceals the explicitly known meaning, and the chief thing was still clothing the meaning in related though heterogeneous and far-fetched ways. Allegory, on the other hand, made the clarity of the meaning so very much the sole dominating end that personification and its attributes appear degraded into purely external signs. Now the figurative unites the clarity of the allegorical with the pleasantry of the riddle. The meaning clearly confronting our minds is illustrated in the shape of some cognate external expression, yet so that thereby no problems arise which have first to be deciphered; what does arise is a figurative expression through which the envisaged meaning shines in perfect clarity and at once makes plain what it is.
The first point concerning metaphor is that it is to be taken as implicitly already a simile, because it expresses the meaning, clear in itself, in a similar and comparable phenomenon of concrete reality. But in comparison as such both the sense proper and the image are specifically separated from one another, while this cleavage, though present implicitly, is not yet posited, in metaphor. On this account Aristotle distinguished comparison from metaphor long ago by pointing out that in the former an ‘as’ is added, while it is missing in the latter. The metaphorical expression, that is, names only one side, the image; but in the connection in which the image is used, the meaning proper which is intended is so near the surface that it is immediately given at the same time, as it were without direct separation from the image. When, e.g., we hear ‘the springtime of these cheeks’ or a ‘sea of tears’ we are compelled to take this expression not literally but only as an image, the meaning of which the context expressly indicates to us. In symbol and allegory the relation between the sense and the external shape is not so immediate and necessary. In the nine flights of an Egyptian stair and a hundred other things it is only the initiated, the cognoscenti, the scholars who can find a symbolic meaning; and, conversely, they sniff out and find something mystical or symbolical where to look for it is unnecessary, because it is not there. This may have happened many a time with my dear friend Creuzer, as well as with Neo-Platonists and commentators on Dante.
(α) The range, the variety of form, of metaphor is infinite, yet its definition is simple. It is an entirely compressed and abbreviated comparison, in that it does not oppose image and meaning to one another but presents the image alone; the literal sense of the image, however, it extinguishes and it makes the actually intended meaning recognizable at once in the image through the context in which the image occurs, although this meaning is not expressly stated.
But since the sense so figurated is clear only from the context, the meaning expressed in metaphor cannot claim the value of an independent artistic representation but only of an incidental one, so that metaphor therefore can arise in an even enhanced degree only as a mere external adornment of a work of art which itself is independent.
(β) Metaphor has its principal application in linguistic expressions which in this connection we may treat under the following aspects.
(αα) In the first place, every language already contains a mass of metaphors. They arise from the fact that a word which originally signifies only something sensuous is carried over into the spiritual sphere. Fassen, begreifen, and many words, to speak generally, which relate to knowing, have in respect of their literal meaning a purely sensuous content, which then is lost and exchanged for a spiritual meaning, the original sense being sensuous, the second spiritual.
(ββ) But gradually the metaphorical element in the use of such a word disappears and by custom the word changes from a metaphorical to a literal expression, because, owing to readiness to grasp in the image only the meaning, image and meaning are no longer distinguished and the image directly affords only the abstract meaning itself instead of a concrete picture. If, for example, we are to take begreifen in a spiritual sense, then it does not occur to us at all to think of a perceptible grasping by the hand. In living languages the difference between actual metaphors and words already reduced by usage to literal expressions is easily established; whereas in dead languages this is difficult because mere etymology cannot decide the matter in the last resort. The question does not depend on the first origin of a word or on linguistic development generally; on the contrary, the question above all is whether a word which looks entirely pictorial, depictive, and illustrative has not already, in the life of the language, lost this its first sensuous meaning, and the memory of it, in the course of its use in a spiritual sense and been endowed altogether with a spiritual meaning.
(γγ) This being the case, the invention of new metaphors, expressly first constructed by poetic imagination, is necessary. A principal task of this invention consists, first, in transferring, in an illustrative way, the phenomena, activities, and situations of a higher sphere to the content of lower areas and in representing meanings of this more subordinate kind in the shape and picture of the loftier ones. The organic, e.g., is inherently of higher worth than the inorganic, and to present death in the phenomenon of life enhances the expression. So Firdausi says long ago: ‘The sharpness of my sword devours the lion’s brain and drinks the dark blood of the stout-hearted one.’
In a more spiritualized degree a similar thing occurs if the natural and sensuous is imaged in the form of spiritual phenomena and therefore is elevated and ennobled. In this sense it is quite common for us to speak of ‘laughing fields’, ‘angry flood’, or to say with Calderon ‘the waves sigh under the heavy burden of the ships’. What is solely human is used here as an expression for the natural. Roman poets too use this sort of metaphor, as e.g. Virgil (Georgics, iii. 132) says: ‘Cum graviter tunsis gemit area frugibus’ [when the threshing floor groans heavily under the threshing of the corn].
Next, secondly, and conversely, something spiritual is also brought nearer to our vision through the picture of natural objects. Yet such illustrations may easily degenerate into preciousness, into far-fetched or playful conceits, if what is absolutely lifeless appears notwithstanding as personified and such spiritual activities are ascribed to it in all seriousness. It is especially the Italians who have let themselves go in the like hocus-pocus; even Shakespeare is not entirely free from this when, e.g., in Richard II, iv. ii, he makes the king say in taking leave of his spouse:
For why, the senseless brands will sympathize
The heavy accent of thy moving tongue,
And in compassion weep the fire out;
And some will mourn in ashes, some coal-black,
For the deposing of a rightful King.
(γ) Finally, as for the aim and interest of metaphor, a literal saying is in itself one intelligible expression, metaphor another. So the question arises: why this double expression, or, what is the same thing, why metaphor, which is this duality in itself? The usual answer is that metaphors are used for the sake of a more lively poetic representation, and this vivacity is especially what Heyne commends in metaphor. The liveliness consists in rendering things precise to the visual imagination, in providing a sensuous image to counteract the pure indefiniteness of the saying which is always general. Of course metaphor has a greater vivacity than ordinary literal expressions have; but true life must not be sought in metaphors whether separately or in an array of them; their imagery may indeed incorporate something which happily introduces into the expression both a perceptible clarity and a higher definiteness, but, all the same, when every detailed feature is independently imaged, it makes the whole thing ponderous and suffocates it by the weight of individual detail.
Therefore the sense and aim of metaphorical diction in general, as we have still to explain in more detail in dealing with simile, must be found in the need and power of spirit and heart which are not content with the simple, customary, and plain, but place themselves above it in order to move on to something else, to linger over various things, and to join two things together into one. This conjunction has itself again more than one reason.
(αα) First, the reason of reinforcement; heart and passion, full and moved in themselves, on the one hand make this power manifest by sensuous exaggeration; on the other hand, they strive to express their own stormy passion and their grip on all sorts of ideas by correspondingly transferring them out into all sorts of cognate phenomena and by moving in images of the most varied kinds.
In Calderón’s Devotion at the Cross, e.g., Julia says, as she sees the newly slain corpse of her brother, Lisardo, and as her lover, Eusebio, his murderer, stands before her: ‘Glad would I close my eyes here before the innocent blood which cries for vengeance, pouring forth in purple flowers; would that thou mightest be forgiven by the tears that flow for thee; wounds are eyes, yes mouths that know naught of lies’, etc.
Far more passionately still, Eusebio recoils from Julia’s glance when she is finally ready to give herself to him, and he cries: ‘Flames spark from thine eyes, the breath of thy sigh is burning; every word is a volcano, every hair a flash of lightning, every syllable is death, every one of thy caresses hell. Such a horror stirs in me from that crucifix upon thy breast, a wondrous symbol.' This is the movement of the heart which for what is immediately envisaged substitutes another picture, and with this search and discovery of ever new modes of expression for its passion can scarcely ever reach an end.
(ββ) A second reason for metaphor lies in the fact that, when spirit is plunged by its inner emotion into the contemplation of cognate objects, at the same time it still wishes to free itself from their externality, because in the external it seeks itself and spiritualizes it; and now by shaping itself and its passion into something beautiful, it evinces its power to bring into representation its elevation above everything external.
(γγ) But even so, thirdly, the metaphorical expression may arise from the purely bacchanalian delight of fancy which cannot put before us either an object in its own appropriate shape or a meaning in its simple absence of imagery, but longs above all for a concrete intuition cognate with both. Or metaphor may arise from the wit of a subjective caprice which, to escape from the commonplace, surrenders to a piquant impulse, not satisfied until it has succeeded in finding related traits in the apparently most heterogeneous material and therefore, to our astonishment, combining things that are poles apart from one another.
In this connection it may be remarked that it is not so much a prosaic and a poetic style as a classical and a modern style that are to be distinguished from one another by the preponderance of either literal or metaphorical expressions. Not only the Greek philosophers, like Plato and Aristotle, or great historians and orators, like Thucydides and Demosthenes, but also the great poets, Homer and Sophocles, on the whole stick almost always to literal expressions, although similes do also occur. Their plastic severity and solidity does not tolerate the sort of blending involved in metaphor or permit them to stray hither and thither away from the homogeneous material and the simple, self-contained, complete cast, in order to gather up so-called ‘flowers’ of expression here and there. But metaphor is always an interruption of the course of ideas and a constant dispersal of them, because it arouses and brings together images which do not immediately belong to the matter in hand and its meaning, and therefore draw the mind away from that to something akin and foreign to it. The Greeks were saved from an all too frequent use of metaphors, in prose by the infinite clarity and suppleness of their language, in poetry by their quiet and fully developed taste.
On the other hand, it is particularly the East, especially the later Mohammedan poetry, which uses figurative expressions and indeed has them of necessity. The same is true of modern poetry also. Shakespeare, e.g., is very metaphorical in his diction; the Spaniards too, who have deviated into the most tasteless excess and agglomeration, love the florid style; Jean Paul also; Goethe, in his uniformly clear vision, less. But Schiller, even in prose, is very rich in images and metaphors; in his case this arises rather from his effort so to express deep concepts as to bring them before our minds without pressing on to the strictly philosophical expression of thought. In his work, then, the inherently rational and speculative unity sees and finds its counterpart in the life of the present world.
Between metaphor on one side and simile on the other we may place the image. For it has such a close affinity with metaphor that it is strictly only a metaphor in extenso which therefore now acquires in turn a great resemblance to simile, but with this difference, namely that, in the image as such, the meaning is not explicitly separated out and contrasted with the concrete external object expressly compared with it. An image occurs especially when two phenomena or situations (more or less independent when taken by themselves) are unified, so that one situation affords the meaning which is to be made intelligible by the image of the other. In other words, the first thing here, the fundamental characteristic, is thus the independence, the separation, of the different spheres whence the meaning and its image are drawn; and what is common to them (properties, relations, etc.) is not, as in the symbol, the undetermined universal and the substantial itself, but firmly determinate concrete existence on both the one side and the other.
(α) In this connection the image can have for its meaning a whole series of situations, activities, productions, modes of existence, etc., and it can illustrate the meaning by a similar series drawn from an independent but cognate sphere, without putting the meaning as such in so many words into the image itself. Of this kind Goethe’s poem Mahomet’s Song is an example: the image is that of a spring, issuing from a rock, which in the freshness of youth hurls itself over the crags into the depths, enters the plain reinforced by bubbling springs and brooks, absorbs brotherstreams, gives a name to localities, sees cities growing below its feet, until, its heart bubbling over with joy, it carries all these glories, its brothers, its treasures, its children to the creator who awaits it. – It is only the title that shows that what is happily represented in this spacious and brilliant image of a mighty stream is Mohammed’s bold appearance, the quick dissemination of his doctrine, and the intended adoption of all people into the one faith. Of a similar kind are many of the Xenien of Goethe and Schiller; these are partly scornful, partly playful sayings addressed to authors and the public, e.g. ‘In silence we pounded saltpetre, carbon, and sulphur, drilled holes; now enjoy the firework!’ ‘Some rose as shining balls and others exploded; many too we threw in play to delight the eye.’ Many of these epigrams were in fact rockets and they have given annoyance – to the endless delight of the better part of the public which rejoiced when the mob of mediocre and bad authors, who had long made much of themselves and held the floor, were given a capital ‘yin on the neb’ and a cold douche into the bargain.
(β) Yet in these last examples there already appears a second aspect to be emphasized in respect of images. The content, namely, is here a subject who acts, produces things, lives through situations and now, not as subject but only in respect of what he does or effects or what meets him, is represented in an image. Whereas as subject, he is himself introduced without an image and only his literal actions and affairs acquire the form of a metaphorical expression. Here too, as in the case of the image in general, the entire meaning is not severed from its cloak; on the contrary, the subject alone is revealed explicitly, while his determinate content at once acquires an imaged shape; and thus the subject is represented as if he himself brought into being the objects and actions in this their imaged existence. To the expressly named subject something metaphorical is ascribed. This mixture of the literal and the metaphorical has often been blamed, but the grounds for this blame are weak.
(γ) In this kind of imagery the Orientals especially display great boldness since they bind together and intertwine into one image existents entirely independent of one another. So Hafiz, for example, says once: ‘The course of the world is a bloody dagger, and the drops falling from it are crowns.' And elsewhere: ‘The sun’s sword pours out in the reddening dawn the blood of the night, over which it has won the victory.’ Similarly: ‘No one like Hafiz has torn the veil from the cheeks of thought since the locks of the word’s betrothed were curled.’ The meaning of this image seems to be this: thought is the word’s betrothed (as Klopstock, e.g., calls the word the twin brother of thought) and since the time when this fiancée was adorned in words like curls, no one has been more skilled than Hafiz in making the thought so adorned appear clearly in its unveiled beauty.
From this last kind of imagery we can proceed directly to simile. For in it, since the subject of the image is named, there already begins the independent expression of the meaning without an image. Yet the difference lies in this, that whatever the image presents exclusively in the form of an image (even in its abstraction as a meaning which therefore appears alongside its image and is compared with it) can acquire for itself in the simile an independent mode of expression. Metaphor and image illustrate the meanings without expressing them, so that only the context in which metaphors and images occur makes known openly what their literal significance is supposed to be. In simile, on the contrary, both sides, image and meaning, are completely severed – if indeed with greater or lesser completeness, now of the image, now of the meaning; each is presented by itself, and only then, in this separation, are they related to one another on account of the similarities n their content.
In this respect the simile may be called (a) a merely idle repetiion, in that one and the same matter comes into the representation in a double form, indeed in a triple or quadruple form, and (b) an often wearisome superfluity, since the meaning is explicitly present already and needs no further mode of configuration to make it intelligible. The question therefore presses in the case of comparison more than it does in that of image and metaphor: what essential interest and aim is there in the use of single or multiplied similes? They are neither to be employed on account of mere vivacity (the common opinion) nor for the sake of greater clarity. On the contrary, similes all too often make a poem dull and ponderous, and a mere image or a metaphor can have just as much clarity without having its meaning set beside it in addition.
The proper aim of the simile we must therefore find in the poet’s subjective imagination. However clearly he makes himself aware of the subject-matter which he intends to express, however far he has brought this subject home to his mind in its more abstract universality and has expressed it [to himself] in this universality, still he finds himself equally driven to seek a concrete shape for the subject and to make perceptible to himself in a sensuous appearance the meaning already before his mind. From this point of view, the simile, like the image and the metaphor, therefore expresses the boldness of the imagination which, having something confronting it – whether a single perceptible object, a specific situation, or a universal meaning – works on it and evinces its power to bind together things lying poles apart and connected externally, and so to drag into our interest in one topic the most varied material, and, by the labour of the spirit, to chain to the given topic a world of heterogeneous phenomena. This power of imagination in inventing shapes and, by ingenious relations and connections, binding together the most diverse material is what in general lies at the root of simile.
(α) Now, first, the pleasure of comparing can be satisfied solely on its own account, with no aim of displaying anything in this splendour of images except the boldness of fancy. This is as it were the orgy of imagination’s power, which especially in the Orientals and in the peace and doke far niente of the south, delights in the wealth and brilliance of its images without any further aim, and it inveigles the listener into abandoning himself to the same dolce far niente. But often we are surprised by the wonderful power with which the poet launches out into the most variegated images and betrays a wit of combination which is more spirituel than a mere witticism. Even Calderon has many similes of this kind, especially when he sketches great and magnificent pageants and ceremonies, describes the beauty of chargers and their riders, or when in speaking of ships he calls them every time ‘birds without pinions, fish without fins’.
(β) But, secondly, looked at more closely, similes are a dwelling on one and the same topic which thereby is made the substantial centre of a series of other ideas remote from it; through their indication or portrayal the greater interest in the topic compared becomes objective.
This dwelling on a topic may have several reasons.
(αα) As the first reason we must cite the heart’s absorption in the topic by which it is animated and which grips its depths so firmly that it cannot renounce an enduring interest in it. In this connection we can immediately emphasize once again an essential difference between eastern and western poetry, a difference that we had occasion to touch upon earlier in our treatment of Pantheism. The Oriental in his absorption is less self-seeking, and he therefore neither sighs nor languishes; his aspiration remains a more objective joy in the topic of his comparisons and therefore is more contemplative. With a free heart he looks about him in order to see in everything surrounding him, in everything he knows and loves, an image of what his sense and spirit are preoccupied with and of what engrosses him to the full. Imagination, freed from all concentration on self alone, cured from all sickliness, is satisfied in the comparative presentation of the topic itself, especially when that topic, by a comparison with what is most brilliant and beautiful, is to be praised, extolled, and transfigured. The West, on the other hand, is more subjective, and in complaint and grief sighing more and longing more.
This dwelling [on one topic], secondly, is principally an interest of the feelings, particularly of love which rejoices in the object of its grief and pleasure, and, as it cannot free its inner being from these feelings, is now never tired of portraying their object anew over and over again. Lovers are especially rich in wishes, hopes, and changing fancies. Amongst such fancies we must include similes too; to these love in general has recourse all the more readily because the feeling occupies and permeates the whole soul and makes comparisons on its own account. What preoccupies love is e.g. a single beautiful feature, the mouth, the eye, the hair, of the beloved. Now the human spirit is active and disturbed, and joy and grief especially are not dead and at peace but restless and moved hither and thither in a way which yet brings all other material into relation with the one feeling which the heart makes the centre of its world. Here the interest in comparing lies in the feeling itself which experience forces to realize that there are other objects in nature just as beautiful or as much the cause of pain; consequently the feeling draws the whole of these objects into the circle of what it feels, compares them with that and thereby expands and universalizes it.
But if the topic of the simile is something entirely singular and sensuous and is put into connection with similar sensuous phenomena, then comparisons of this sort, especially when they are multiplied, are due to only a very shallow reflection and a scarcely developed feeling. The result is that the variety which merely circulates in an external material readily seems to us to be dull and cannot be of much interest because it is devoid of spiritual reference. So, e.g., it is said in chapter iv [1-6] of the Song of Solomon: ‘Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks; thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from Mount Gilead. Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them. Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks. Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men. Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away [I will, etc.].’
The same naïveté is found in many of the poems called Ossian’s, as e.g. it is said Thou art as snow on the heather; thine hair like a mist on Cromla when it curls on the rock and shimmers before the gleam in the west; thine arms are like two pillars in the halls of the mighty Fingal.’
In a similar way, though rhetorically throughout, Ovid makes Polyphemus say: ‘Thou art whiter, O Galatea, than the leaf of the snowy privet, more flowery than the meadows, taller than the high alder tree, more gleaming than glass, more playful than the tender kid, smoother than shells polished by ocean’s endless chafing, more grateful than winter’s suns and summer’s shade, more glorious than the palm tree and more striking than the tall plane tree’ (Met. xiii. 789-807), and so it goes on through all nineteen hexameters, rhetorically fine, but, as the sketching of a scarcely interesting feeling, it is itself of slight interest.
In Calderon too there are numerous examples of this kind of comparison, although such dwelling on a topic is fitted rather for lyrical feeling, and it fetters the progress of a drama all too rigidly if it is not appropriately motivated in the nature of the case. So, e.g., Don Juan in the complications of his fate describes at length the beauty of a veiled lady whom he has followed, and he says inter alia: ‘Although many a time through the dark barriers of that impenetrable veil there broke a hand of most splendid sheen, it was the princess of the lilies and the roses and to it the snow’s sheen did homage like a slave, a dark-skinned African.’
It is a very different thing when a more deeply moved heart expresses itself in images and similes revealing inner and spiritual emotional connections, for then the heart either turns itself as it were into an external natural scene or makes such a scene the reflection of a spiritual matter.
In this connection too many images and comparisons occur in the so-called Ossianic poems, although the sphere of the topics used here for similes is poor and usually restricted to clouds, mist, storm, tree, stream, spring, sun, thistle, grass, etc. Thus, e.g., he says: ‘Delightful is thy presence O Fingal! It is like the sun on Cromla, when the hunter has bewailed its absence for a whole year long, and now catches sight of it between the clouds. In another passage we read: ‘Did Ossian not hear a voice just now? or is it the voice of the days that are past ? Often there comes like the sunset into my soul the remembrance of times past.' Similarly Ossian relates: ‘Pleasant are the words of the song, said Cuchulain, and delightful are the stories of times past. They are like the quiet dew of the morning on the hill of the roe-deer, when the sun shimmers faintly on its side and the lake lies motionless and blue in the vale.
This dwelling on the same feelings and their similes is of such a kind in these poems that it expresses an old age weary and fatigued in mourning and memories of grief. In general a melancholy and weak feeling readily overflows into comparisons. What such a soul desires, what constitutes its interest, is far off and past, and so, in general, instead of regaining courage it is induced to immerse itself in something else. The many comparisons [in Ossian] therefore correspond as much to this subjective mood as to mainly melancholy ideas and the narrow sphere in which that mood is compelled to dwell.
Conversely, however, in so far as passion, despite its unrest, concentrates itself on one object, it may toss to and fro in a variety of images and comparisons which are only conceits about one and the same object, and it does this in order to find in the surrounding external world a counterpart to its own inner being. Of this kind is, e.g., Juliet’s monologue in Romeo and Juliet when she turns to the night and cries out [Act Iii, scene ii]:
Come night! come Romeo! come, thou day in night!
For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night
Whiter than new snow upon a raven’s back. –
Come, gentle night; come, loving, black-brow'd night,
Give me my Romeo: and, when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine,
That all the world will be in love with night,
And pay no worship to the garish sun.
(ββ) Contrasted with these similes, throughout almost lyrical, of a feeling immersing itself in what it feels, there are the epic similes which we find often in Homer, for example. Here the poet, dwelling in his comparison on one specific object, has, on the one hand, the interest of raising us over the as it were practical curiosity, expectation, hope, and fear which we cherish in respect of the issue of events connected with single situations and deeds of the heroes, raising us over the connection of cause, effect, and consequence, and riveting our attention on pictures which he sets before us like works of sculpture, peaceful and plastic, designed for theoretical consideration. This peace, this withdrawal from a purely practical interest in what he presents to our vision, gains its effect all the more if the object compared is drawn from another field. On the other hand, this dwelling on one topic in similes has the further sense of marking out a specific object as important, as a result of this as it were double sketching, and not letting it just rustle away fleetingly with the stream of the song and its incidents. Thus Homer says, e.g. (Iliad, xx. 164-75) of Achilles who, inflamed with ardour for battle, stands up against Aeneas: ‘He got up like a ravenous lion which men aimed to slay, the whole city assembled to this end; at first the lion, as if despising them, pranced about but when one of the youths, eager for the fray, hurls a lance at him, he then crouches yawning, foaming at the mouth; in his breast his strong heart groans, he lashes his sides and hips with his tail both left and right, and drives himself to battle. With glaring eyes he waits for battle whether he kills one of the men or perishes himself at the first onslaught. Thus Achilles is urged on by valour and high-hearted spirit to confront the haughty Aeneas.’ Similarly Homer says (Iliad, iv. 13o ff.) of Pallas when she averted the arrow which Pandarus had launched against Menelaus: ‘She forgot him not and repelled the deadly arrow as a mother flicks a fly away from her son when he lies in sweet slumber.’ And further on (141-6), when the arrow did nevertheless wound Menelaus: ‘As when a woman from Lydia or Caria bedecks ivory with purple to make a bridle for a horse, but it stands in her room and many riders have wished to carry it away; yet it stands as a king’s prize; two things, adornment for the horse, fame for the rider: so the blood of Menelaus flowed down his thighs.’
(γ) A third reason for similes, contrasted with the mere riot of fancy as well as with self-deepening feeling or the imagination that dwells on important topics and compares them, is to be emphasized especially in reference to dramatic poetry. Drama has for its subject-matter warring passions, activity, ‘pathos’, action, accomplishment of what is innerly willed; these it does not present at all, as epic does, in the form of past events, but brings the individuals themselves before us and makes them express their feelings as their own and accomplish their actions before our eyes, so that thus the poet does not intrude as a third person [between actor and spectator]. Now in this connection it looks as if dramatic poetry demands the maximum naturalness in the expression of passions, and as if their impetuousness in grief, terror, or joy cannot, on account of this naturalness, permit of similes. To make the individual agents, in the storm of feeling and in the struggle to act, say much in metaphors, images, or similes is to be regarded as throughout ‘unnatural’ in the usual sense of the word, and therefore as disturbing. For by comparisons we are carried away from the present situation, and from the individuals who feel and act in it, into something external, foreign, and not immediately belonging to the situation itself; and thereby the tone of conversational interchange in particular meets with an obstructive and ‘ burdensome interruption. And after all in Germany, at the time when young spirits tried to free themselves from the shackles of the rhetorical taste of the French, they regarded the Spaniards, Italians, and French as mere craftsmen who put into the mouths of the dramatis personae their own subjective imagination, their wit, their conventional behaviour and elegant eloquence, at the very moment when what alone should have dominated was the most violent passion and its natural expression. In many dramas of that time, therefore, in accordance with this principle of naturalness, we find the shriek of feeling, exclamation marks, and hyphens instead of a diction noble, elevated, rich in images, and full of similes. In a similar sense even English critics have often criticized Shakespeare for the multiplied and variegated comparisons which he frequently gives to his characters in the supreme oppression of their grief where the violence of feeling seems to provide the minimum of room for the peace of reflection inherent in every simile. Of course the images and comparisons in Shakespeare are now and then awkward and multiplied ; but, on the whole, an essential place and effect must be allowed even in drama for similes.
While feeling dwells on one topic because it is sunk in its object and cannot free itself from it, in the practical sphere of action similes have the aim of showing that the individual has not merely immersed himself directly in his specific situation, feeling, or passion, but that as a high and noble being he is superior to them and can cut himself free from them. Passion restricts and chains the soul within, narrows it, and concentrates it within limits, and therefore makes it inarticulate, talking in single syllables, or raging and blustering in vagueness and extravagance. But greatness of mind, force of spirit, lifts itself above such restrictedness and, in beautiful and tranquil peace, hovers above the specific ‘pathos’ by which it is moved. This liberation of soul is what similes express, in the first place quite formally. It is only a profound composedness and strength of soul which is able to objectify even its grief and its sorrows, to compare itself with something else, and therefore to contemplate itself theoretically in strange things confronting it; or in the most frightful mockery of itself to confront itself with even its own annihilation, as if it were an external existent, and yet to be able to remain still calm there and preserve its sang-froid. In epic, as we saw, it was the poet who through ondwelling and graphic similes was intent upon communicating to his audience the contemplative calm which art requires. Whereas in drama it is the dramatis personae who appear as themselves the poets and artists, since they make their inner life an object to themselves, an object which they remain powerful enough to shape and form and thus to manifest to us the nobility of their disposition and the might of their mind. For here this absorption in something other and external is the liberation of the inner life from a purely practical interest or from the immediacy of feeling into free theoretical shapes, whereby that comparison for the sake of comparison, as we find it at the first stage, recurs in a deeper way because it can now come on the scene only as an overcoming of mere preoccupation [with passion] and as release from passion’s power.
In the course of this liberation the following chief points may be distinguished, of which Shakespeare in particular provides the most examples.
(αα) When a heart is to meet with great misfortune whereby it is shaken to its depths, and the grief of this unavoidable fate is now actually present, then it would be the way of an ordinary man directly to scream out his horror, grief, and despair, and thereby to disburden himself. A stronger and nobler spirit suppresses his lamentation as such, imprisons his grief, and therefore in the deep feeling of his very suffering preserves freedom to occupy himself with some far-off idea and in this remote object to express his own fate to himself in an image. In that case the man surmounts his grief; he is not one with it in his entire self but is just as much distinct from it, and therefore he can linger in something else which as a cognate object is related to his feeling. So in Shakespeare’s Henry IV when old Northumberland asks the messenger who came to tell him of Percy’s death ‘How doth my son and brother ?’ and gets no answer, he cries out in the composure of bitterest grief [2 Henry IV, Act i, scene i] :
Thou tremblest; and the whiteness in thy cheek
Is apter than thy tongue to tell thy errand.
Even such a man, so faint, so spiritless,
So dull, so dead in look, so woe-begone,
Drew Priam’s curtain in the dead of night,
And would have told him half his Troy was burnt;
But Priam found the fire ere he his tongue,
And I my Percy’s death ere thou report’st it.
But when Richard II has to atone for the youthful frivolity of his days of happiness, it is especially he who has a heart that however much it secludes itself in its grief yet retains the force to set it steadily before itself in new comparisons. And this is precisely the touching and childlike aspect in Richard’s grief, that he constantly expresses it to himself objectively in felicitous images and retains his suffering all the more profoundly in the play of this self-expression. When Henry demands the crown from him, e.g., he replies :
Here, cousin, seize the crown ; ...
On this side my hand, and on that side yours.
Now is this golden crown like a deep well
That owes two buckets, filling one another,
The emptier ever dancing in the air,
The other down, unseen and full of water:
That bucket down and full of tears am I,
Drinking my griefs, whilst you mount up on high.
(ββ) The other aspect in this context consists in the fact that a character who is already one with his interests, his grief and his fate, tries by comparisons to free himself from this immediate unity and makes the liberation actual and obvious by showing that he is still capable of making similes. In Henry VIII, for example, Queen Katharine, forsaken by her spouse, cries out in the deepest sadness [Act in, scene i] :
I am the most unhappy woman living ...
Shipwreck'd upon a kingdom where no pity,
No friends, no hope; no kindred weep for me;
Almost no grave allow'd me; like the lily,
That once was mistress of the field and flourish'd,
I'll hang my head and perish.
Still more splendidly Brutus in Julius Caesar says in his rage against Cassius whom he had striven in vain to spur on [Act iv, scene iii]:
O Cassius! you are yoked with a lamb,
That carries anger as the flint bears fire;
|Who, much enforced, shows a hasty spark
And straight is cold again.
That Brutus can find in this context a transition to a simile proves by itself that he has repressed his anger and begun to make himself free from it.
Shakespeare lifts especially his criminal characters above their evil passion by endowing them with a greatness of spirit alike in crime and in misfortune. Unlike the French, he does not leave them in the abstraction of always just saying to themselves that they intend to be criminals; on the contrary, he gives them this force of imagination which enables them to see themselves not just as themselves but as another shape strange to them. Macbeth, e.g., when his hour has struck utters the famous words [Macbeth Act v, scene v]:
Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow; a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
So too it is in Henry VIII with Cardinal Wolsey who, struck down from his greatness, exclaims at the end of his career:
Farewell! a long farewell to all my greatness!
This is the state of man: to-day he puts forth
The tender leaves of hopes; to-morrow blossoms,
And bears his blushing honours thick upon him;
The third day comes a frost, a killing frost,
And, when he thinks, good easy man, full surely
His greatness is a-ripening, nips his root,
And then he falls, as I do.
(γγ) In this objectification and comparative expression there lies then at the same time the peace and inherent tranquillity of character by which a man appeases himself in his grief and fall. So Cleopatra, after putting the deadly asp to her breast, says to Charmian [Antony and Cleopatra Act v, scene ii]:
Dost thou not see my baby at my breast,
That sucks the nurse asleep ? ...
As sweet as balm, as soft as air, as gentle.
The bite of the snake relaxes her limbs so softly that death itself is deceived and regards itself as sleep. – This image can itself be counted as an image for the gentle and tranquillizing nature of these comparisons.
Our interpretation of the symbolic form of art in general has been that in it a complete reciprocal interpenetration of meaning and expression could not be thoroughly established. In unconscious symbolism the incompatibility of content and form present there remained implicit, whereas in sublimity it appeared as an open incompatibility, in that both the absolute meaning (God) and its external reality, the world, were expressly represented in this negative relation. But, conversely, there was all the same dominant in all these forms the other aspect of the symbolic, namely the kinship between meaning and that external shape in which the meaning is brought into appearance; in original symbolism, which does not yet contrast the meaning with its concrete existence, the relationship is one in which the two sides exclude one another; it becomes an essential tie in sublimity which, in order to express God even in only an inadequate way, required natural phenomena, the events and deeds of God’s people; and in the comparative form of art it becomes a subjective and therefore capricious bearing of the one on the other. But although this caprice is wholly there especially in metaphor, image, and simile, yet it is as it were even here hidden behind the kinship between the meaning and the image used [to express it]; since caprice embarks on comparison precisely on the basis of the similarity of both [the things compared], the chief aspect of the comparison is not the external thing but precisely the relation, brought about by subjective activity, between inner feelings, intuitions, ideas, and their cognate configurations. Yet if it is not the Concept of the thing itself but only caprice which brings together the meaning and the artistic shape, then both are to be posited as wholly external to one another, so that their association is an unrelated attachment to one another and a mere adornment of one side by the other. Therefore, as an appendix, we have here to treat of those subordinate forms of art which proceed from such a complete diremption of the factors belonging to genuine art and, in this absence of relation, expose the self-destruction of the symbolic.
Owing to the general standpoint of this stage, we have on the one side the meaning, cut and dried, explicitly defined but not given outward shape, so that for artistic purposes there is nothing left but to add to it a purely external and capricious adornment; on the other side, externality as such which, instead of being mediated into identity with its essential inner meaning, can be construed and described only as it becomes independent in contrast with this inner element and therefore only in the pure externality of its appearance. This difference between meaning and shape is the formal characteristic of didactic and descriptive poetry, a difference which only the art of poetry can maintain, at least in didactic poetry, because poetry alone can represent meanings in their abstract generality.
But since the essence of art lies not in the dissociation but in the identification of meaning and shape, even at this stage what is conspicuous is not only their complete separation but equally a bearing of each side on the other. Once the character of the symbolic is transcended, however, this bearing can no longer be itself of a symbolic kind. It implies an attempt to cancel the proper character of the symbolic, namely the incompatibility and independence of form and content which all the previously considered forms were incapable of surmounting. But since the separation of the two sides which are to be united is presupposed here, this attempt must remain a mere ‘ought’, and the satisfaction of its demands is reserved for a more perfect form of art, the classical. – We will now cast a brief glance at these final supplementary forms in order to gain a clearer transition to the classical art-form.
The didactic poem arises when a meaning (even if forming a concrete and consistent whole) is apprehended on its own account as meaning and not given shape as such but only embellished externally with artistic adornment. Didactic poetry is not to be numbered amongst the proper forms of art. For in it we find, on the one hand, the content already cut and dried and developed explicitly as meaning in its therefore prosaic form, and, on the other hand, the artistic shape which yet can only be tacked on to the content in an entirely external way because the content has already been completely characterized prosaically for apprehension; and in its prosaic aspect, i.e. its universal abstract significance, and in no other aspect, the content is to be expressed for intellectual examination and reflection with the aim of instruction. Therefore, given this external relation [between form and content], art can, in the didactic poem, concern itself with nothing but externals such as metre, for example, elevated diction, interspersed episodes, images, similes, subjoined explosions of feeling, faster development, quicker transitions, etc. These do not penetrate the content as such; they stand beside it as an appendage in order by their relative vivacity to enliven the seriousness and dryness of the doctrine and to make life more agreeable. What has become prosaic in itself is not to be reshaped poetically; it can only be dressed up; just as horticulture, e.g., is for the most part just an external arrangement of a site already given by nature and not in itself beautiful, or as architecture by ornament and external decoration makes pleasant the utility of premises devoted to prosaic circumstances and affairs.
In this way Greek philosophy, e.g., adopted in its beginnings the form of a didactic poem; Hesiod too may be cited as an example; although a really and properly prosaic treatment only makes its appearance in the main when the intellect with its reflections, inferences, classifications, etc., has mastered the topic and on that basis can teach pleasingly and elegantly. Lucretius in relation to the natural philosophy of Epicurus, Virgil with his agricultural instructions, afford examples of such a treatment which, despite all skilfulness, cannot attain a genuine free form of art. In Germany the didactic poem is now no longer popular; but apart from his earlier poem Les jardins, ou Part d'embellir les paysages, and his L'homme des champs, Delille has in this century presented the French with a didactic poem, a compendium of physics, in which magnetism, electricity, etc., are treated seriatim.
The second form belonging to this context is the one opposed to the didactic. Its starting point is not drawn from a meaning explicitly cut and dried in consciousness but from the external as such, from natural surroundings, from buildings, etc., from seasons, times of the day, and their external shape. While in the didactic poem the content remains essentially in unshaped universality, here conversely the external material confronts us on its own account in its individuality and external appearance, not penetrated by spiritual meanings; this appearance is now on its side represented, sketched, and described in the way that we ordinarily see it. Such a sensuous content belongs entirely to only one side of true art, namely to the external existence which in art has the right of appearing solely as the reality of spirit, of individuality and its actions and events on the stage of a surrounding world, but not of appearing on its own account as mere externality cut adrift from spirit.
Consequently, as it turns out, the didactic and the descriptive cannot be retained in this one-sidedness whereby art would be entirely cancelled, and once more we see external reality brought into relation with what is grasped inwardly as meaning, and the abstract universal with its concrete appearance.
(a) In this regard we have already mentioned didactic poetry. It can seldom get along without sketching external situations and individual phenomena, without relating episodically mythological and other examples, etc. But, by this parallelism of the spiritual universal and the external individual, what is established, instead of a completely developed unification, is only an entirely incidental relation which, not to mention its complete failure to take in the total content and its entire artistic form, comprises only single aspects and traits of these.
(b) More of such a relativity is found to a great extent in the case of descriptive poetry, seeing that it accompanies its sketches with feelings which can be aroused by the look of a natural landscape, the change in the times of day, the natural divisions of the year, a forest-clad hill, a lake or a murmuring burn, a churchyard, a friendly situated village, or a quiet cosy cottage. As in the didactic poem so too, therefore, in descriptive poetry episodes enter as enlivening decoration, especially the sketching of moving feelings, of sweet melancholy, e.g., or of trifling occurrences drawn from the circle of human life in its less significant spheres. But this connection between spiritual feeling and an external natural phenomenon may even here still be quite external. For the natural locality is presupposed as present on its own account as independent; a man enters it and feels this and that about it, but the external shape and the inner sentiment remain external to one another in the case of moonlight, woods, or valleys. In such a case I am not the interpreter or inspirer of nature; I feel on this occasion only an entirely, indefinite harmony between my inner being, excited by so and so, and the objective world confronting me. In the case of our German countrymen, this is by far the favourite form: namely, sketches of nature and, alongside them, whatever such natural scenes may suggest to an individual in the way of fine feelings and outpourings of heart. This is the general highway which anyone can travel. Even several of Klopstock’s Odes are tuned to this key.
(c) If therefore thirdly we ask for a deeper relation between the two sides in their presupposed separation, we can find it in the epigram of antiquity.
(α) The original essence of the epigram is expressed at once by its name: it is an inscription. Of course here too there stands a topic on one side and, on the other, something said about it; but in the oldest epigrams, of which Herodotus has preserved a few, we do not get the sketch of an object in association with some sentiment or other; we have the thing itself in a double way: (a) the external existent and (b) then its meaning and explanation; these are pressed together as an epigram with the most salient and most apposite touches. Yet even among the Greeks the later epigram has lost this original character and has proceeded more and more to take account of and to describe sketchy, ingenious, witty, agreeable, and touching notions about individual occurrences, works of art, or persons, etc. These set forth not so much the topic itself as the author’s clever relations to it.
(β) Now the less the topic itself enters as it were into this sort of representation, the more imperfect does the representation become as a result. In this connection passing mention may be made of more recent art-forms. In Tieck’s novels, e.g., the matter in hand often consists of special works of art, or artists, or a specific art-gallery or piece of music, and then some little story or other is tacked on to it. But these specific pictures which the reader has not seen, the music which he has not heard, the poet cannot make visible and audible, and the whole form when it turns on precisely these topics and the like remains in this respect defective. So too in longer romances whole arts and their most beautiful works have been taken as the proper subject-matter, as Heinse took music in his Hildegard von Hohenthal. Now if the whole work of art cannot represent its fundamental topic adequately, then in accordance with its basic character it retains an inadequate form.
(γ) The demand springing from the deficiencies that have been cited is simply this, that the external appearance and its meaning, the thing itself and its spiritual interpretation, must not, as was the case just now, be a82together separated from one another; neither should there remain as their unification a linkage which is symbolical or sublime and comparative. The genuine representation is to be sought, therefore, only where the thing itself through and in its external appearance affords the interpretation of its spiritual content, since the spiritual unfolds itself completely in its reality, and the corporeal and external is therefore nothing but the adequate explication of the spiritual and the inward itself.
But in order to consider the perfect fulfilment of this task we must take leave of the symbolical art-form, since the character of the symbolic consists precisely in the ever purely imperfect unification of the soul of the meaning with its corporeal shape.
1. The translation of this paragraph rests on accepting Hotho’s text, and rejecting Bassenge’s emendation of it.
2. i.e. a regiment’s colours, or the colours that are nailed to the mast.
3. Begreifen is literally to touch or handle; figuratively, to comprehend or understand; schliessen is to close, and so to conclude [an argument].
4. In Schiller, The Robbers, Act III, scene ii.
5. Schiller, Erwartung and Erfüllung (Expectation and Fulfilment), a ‘votivetablet’.
6. F. Creuzer, 1771-1858, one of Hegel’s colleagues at Heidelberg. The reference is to his Symbolik and Mythologie (1810-23).
7. In the passage cited in the note on p. 291.
8. C. G. Heyne, 1729-1812. Carlyle wrote an interesting essay on his life and works.
9. e.g. Aristotle, Metaphysics, 982b II ff.
10. It appears from the summary of this passage in ch. III, c, below that ‘absolute meaning’ is a synonym for ‘God’.
11. The transliteration of proper names in the Zend-Avesta differs in different translations. I have preserved many of Hegel’s, but see notes on pp. 328 and 329 and note 2 on p. 332, all of which I owe to Professor R. C. Zaehner.
12. These are the spirits or genii of individuals. By ‘Izeds’ Yazatas may be meant. For ‘Fervers’ read ‘Fravashis’.
13. Daevas’ is meant. In Persian, daeva is a demon. Deva belongs to Indian religion, and is a god there.
14. The House of Song, i.e. Heaven.
15. i.e. righteousness.
16. Yima, son of Vivanghvan, was originally the Persian ‘patriarch of mankind’. He was later called Jamshid.
17. The meaning of this obscure passage seems to be the following: Meaning and shape begin to be differentiated when, e.g., the individual as such, taken abstractly apart from the reality of a concrete individual, is imaged as Ferver, the genius of an individual man. But the Ferver does not differ from the individual in either content or form. In content, or general character, the Ferver is just an abstract individual over again and in form he has the same sort of subjectivity as the individual has. Thus the ‘poetry’ here does not create a deeper meaning than abstract individuality, or a better form than abstract subjectivity. There may seem to be an advance when hills, e.g., are brought together under an idea or genus hill, and then the genus is given a real embodiment in a special hill. But this reality is then just a pattern for the genus. Alburz is the hill, Bahram the fire or the essence of fire. The universal is not differentiated in the particulars but is simply directly present in them.
18. i.e. Alburz, a mythical mountain supposed to support the sky.
19. i.e. the contradiction, which is the subject of this sentence. But Hegel really means that a person caught by the frenzy above-mentioned is tossed to and fro in an endeavour to find unity instead of contradiction.
20. Hegel’s reports of Indian views are based on an exhaustive study of the relevant books and periodicals in English and French, as well as in German. Cf. above, p. 215, note.
21. Here again transliterations vary. I have followed Hegel except where a different spelling has become current in English.
22. Hegel’s version of Ps. 90: 4.
23. i.e. H. H. Wilson, A Dictionary in Sanskrit and English (Calcutta, 1819).
24. Theogony, 116 ff.
25. The necessary presence of the finite, i.e. the negative of the infinite, within God himself, is a cardinal point in Hegel’s philosophy of Christianity. See, e.g., my A Layman’s Quest (London, 1969), ch. 6.
26. Hegel’s emphasis on ‘vorgefundene’ (met with) and ‘erfundene’ (devised) I cannot reproduce in English. ‘Second shape’, i.e. the one devised by spirit, as distinct from the first one which is just met with in the external world. See p. 2, note.
27. Not explicitly, but this is a fair enough inference from all that he does say, in book ii, about the construction of the Pyramids, etc.
28. Herodotus says that all these animals were sacred, but he speaks of embalming only in reference to cats.
29. Here Hegel seems to have been misreported. Amenthes is the Egyptian word for Hades, the kingdom of the dead, over which Osiris presides, and this is what Hegel says in his Philosophy of Religion (Lasson’s edn., Die Naturreligion, 1927, p. 216).
30. Hegel is drawing again on Herodotus ii. For the ibis, a bird, see ch. 76. For Herodotus Apis is a god (chs. 38 and 153) but he is better regarded as the sacred bull.
31. No. Hegel’s memory is at fault. His authority was probably Tacitus, Annals, ii. 6j, where one such statue is mentioned.
32. Athenian sculptor and architect, who was said to have made statues which could move themselves. He also constructed the Labyrinth in Crete for Minos. See, e.g., Apollodorus, III. xv. 8; Euripides: Hecuba, 836 ff.; et al.
33. According to Apollodorus, III. v. 8, the Sphinx threw herself down after the riddle had been guessed. ‘Know thyself’ was the inscription on the temple of Apollo at Delphi (Plato, Protagoras, 343 B).
34. Kant’s distinction is made in § 23. Thereafter he goes on to deal with the sublime in detail.
35. Professor R. C. Zaehner translates the closing section of this passage as follows: ‘Know too that all states of being whether they be of Nature’s constituent purity, energy, or lethargy proceed from me; but I am not in them, they are in me. By these three states of being inhering in the constituents the whole universe is led astray and does not understand that I am far beyond them and that I neither change nor pass away. For all this is my Maya, composed of the constituents, divine, hard to transcend. Whoso shall put his trust in me alone, shall pass beyond this my Maya’ (Concordant Discord, Oxford 1970, pp. 124, 135). Professor Zaehner points out that at this stage of Indian thought ‘Maya’ means creative power, not illusion. The ‘three properties’ are the three ‘constituents’ through which Nature acts.
36. F. Rückert, Poet and Orientalist, 1788-1866.
37. Shamsud-Din-Mohammed, c. 1320-89.
38. Joseph, Freiherr von Hammer-Purgstall, Orientalist, 1774-1856.
39. Goethe, who lived to be eighty-three, was sixty-four when he published this in 1813.
40. The idea is that the pearl is a raindrop that fell into the sea and was ‘ripened’ in an oyster shell.
41. e.g. ‘God in my nature is involved, As I in the divine’ (Hours with the Mystics, by R. A. Vaughan, London, 1895, vol. ii, pp. 5 ff.). Angelus Silesius is probably the pseudonym of Johannes Scheffler, 1624-77.
42. On the Sublime, ix. 10, quoting Genesis 1:3.
43. Hegel’s contrast between Scheinen (show) and Erscheinen (appear), a favourite one of his, has no English equivalent.
44. The Argonauts passed safely through the Symplegades which were fated to come to rest if any ship passed safely through them. See Sir James Frazer’s note to the Loeb edition of Apollodorus, I. ix. 22, for references
45. but of Nature, Hegel would add. In nature everything is external to everything else, e.g. in parts of space or moments of time. Thus nature is powerless to embody without remainder the determinations or differentiations of the Concept, or categories of thought, since these are not external to one another in the same sense.
46. i.e. and missing in their original form. But o mythos diloi (fibula docet) is in the Greek text. Hegel, however, regarded these words as ‘clearly a later addition, and often a very perverse one’ (Lasson, p. 46). Aesop for him was originally a teller of tales who did not explicitly ascribe any obvious moral point to them.
47. Not, as Mr. Osmaston thinks, Plato’s dialogue of that name, but the fabulist who, under the early Roman Empire, published five books of fables, some drawn from Aesop. See his Appendix, fable xii, for this story of the swallows.
48. The fox sees a raven high up on a tree eating cheese which it has stolen. The fox calls up that it would like to hear the raven’s lovely voice. Flattered, the raven caws, drops the cheese from its mouth, and the fox eats it (Phaedrus, i. 13).
49. For further remarks on this fable (no. 223 in the Tauchnitz edition), see below, p. 447. A hare pursued by an eagle takes refuge with a beetle and begs him to save him. The beetle begs the eagle not to carry off the suppliant, but the eagle hits the beetle and eats the hare, thereby sinning against Zeus the protector of suppliants. The beetle destroys the eagle’s eggs until, to protect the next clutch, the eagle lays its eggs on Zeus’s lap. The beetle makes a ball of dung and deposits it there also. Zeus shakes it off and the eggs with it. Eventually, so that the race of eagles may not die out, Zeus arranges that eagles shall lay their eggs at a time when there are no beetles.
50. The beetle has an important part in his play Peace.
51. K. Pfeffel, 1736-1809. See his Fabeln . . . (Basle, 1783).
52.J. J. Breitinger, Swiss writer, 1701-76. See his Critische Dichtkunst (Zürich and Leipzig, 1740), ch. 7. Goethe prohibited performing dogs on the Weimar stage.
53. In his Abhandlungen über die Fabel, ii: Von dem Gebrauche der Tiere in der Fabel (On the Use of Animals in Fables).
54. See above, p. 187, note 2.
55. The ‘barking dog’ is a captious critic of some of Goethe’s later work.
56. Decameron, first day, third story. Lessing’s drama Nathan the Wise appeared in 1779.
57. Indian female dancer. This and the Treasure Seeker are two of Goethe’s Ballads.
58. For Philomela and the Pierides, see below, pp. 449 -51, a further treatment of metamorphoses. Narcissus was punished by Aphrodite for rejecting the love of Echo and was changed into a flower; Arethusa fled from the passion of a river god and was changed into a fountain by Artemis; Niobe boasted so much about her numerous children that Apollo and Artemis slew them all. Niobe was changed into stone and still wept for her children in streams trickling down the rock.
59. This is derived from Herodotus, ii. 53.
60. This is a reference to Lycaon, King of Arcadia, who set human flesh before Zeus and was changed into a wolf. See a longer treatment of the story, below, PP. 448-9.
61. In a metamorphosis the connection is harmful because it involves a ‘degradation’ of the spiritual.
62. 124 in the Tauchnitz edition. The three decide to go into business together. The bat borrows silver, the thorn contributes clothing and the gull bronze (or a halfpenny). They sail away together; the boat sinks; the three are saved, but they have lost their goods. Thereafter the bat, fearing its creditors, goes out only at night; the gull keeps to the sea-shore, hoping that its bronze (or coin) may be jetsam; the thorn keeps seizing the clothes of passers-by in the hope of recognizing its own clothing.
63. Hegel probably has Aristotle’s Poetics in mind, especially 1438-9.
64. The remark is in character, but I am not the only person unable to find it in Don Quixote.
65. Versuch einer Allegorie, besonders für die Kunst (1766).
66. This treatment of allegory is made needlessly obscure by the vagueness, and sometimes the ambiguity, of such terms as ‘universal idea’, ‘qualities’, ‘particular characteristics’. The ‘universal idea’ is the basic conception (e.g. justice) underlying the allegorical work. But this ‘idea’ is also called a ‘quality’. Justice, e.g., is represented as a woman blindfolded and holding scales. She is not an individual woman, or genuinely a ‘subject’ or person, but only a generalized allegorical figure, and so is not living but cold. What is to be allegorized, however, has `particular characteristics’ (also unfortunately called ‘determinate qualities’) and these cannot be ‘expressed’ (or treated artistically) in the allegorical generalized figure itself, which is completely determined by the ‘idea’ (or ‘quality’) allegorized, and so they have to be treated alongside it as its attributes. Blücher’s monument, by C. D. Rauch, erected in 1826, consists of a figure of Blucher on a pedestal surrounded by reliefs illustrating some of his campaigns and containing allegorical figures of victory.
67. Poetics. 1457b. This work of Aristotle is in Hegel’s mind throughout this section.
68. Fassen is originally to ‘grasp’, and hence to ‘apprehend’. Begreifen is similar. See p. 306, note.
69. Act v, scene i in our text. Hegel gives a prose translation.
70. The first quotation is Act 1, 805-12; the second is Act xi, 1605-12. Hegel quotes the translation by A. W. Schlegel.
71. Hegel is straying away from the literal and using the metaphor of casting e.g. a bronze statue. Cf. above, pp. 174, 296, et al.
72. The first two quotations from Hafiz (and probably others) are taken from Hafis’ Diwan, translated by J. von Hammer-Purgstall (1812), part i, pp. 101 ff. (See Hegel’s Berliner Schriften, ed. by J. Hoffmeister, Hamburg 1956, p. 714.)
73. The Poems of Ossian, translated by James Macpherson (London, 1785), Fingal, canto I (vol. i , p. 227). Macpherson imagines Cromla to be a hill on the coast of Ulster (ibid., p. 223, fn.).
74. Fingal, canto 6 (The Poems of Ossian, vol. i, p. 328).
75. Coulath and Cuthona (ibid., vol. ii, p. 183).
76. Fingal, canto 3 (ibid., vol. i, p. 263).
77. Richard II, Act iv, scene i. For ‘when Henry demands the crown’, read ‘when he realizes that Henry must have the crown’.
78. Act III, scene ii. For ‘state’ Hegel substitutes ‘fate’ (Schicksal).
79. Hegel’s word is Expectorationen, expectorations. This may be an allusion to Expectorationen, ein Kunstwerk und zugleich ein Vorspiel zum Alarkos (Berlin, 1803). This skit on Schlegel’s Alarcos was published anonymously, but was by Kotzebue.
80. J Delille, 1738-1813. See Les Trois Regnes de la Nature (Paris, 1808).
81. e.g. vii. 228, the inscriptions at Thermopylae.
82. J. J. W., 1749-1803. H. von H., 1796.