The Holy Family

Chapter VII
Critical Criticism’s Correspondence

1) The Critical Mass

Where can one feel better
Than in the bosom of one’s family?[38]

In its Absolute existence as Herr Bruno, Critical Criticism has declared the mass of mankind, the whole of mankind that is not Critical Criticism, to be its opposite, its essential object; essential, because the Mass exists ad majorem gloriam dei [For the greater glory of God], the glory of Criticism, of the Spirit; its object, because it is only the matter on which Critical Criticism operates. Critical Criticism has proclaimed its relationship to the Mass as the world-historic relationship of the present time.

No world-historic opposition is formed, however, by the statement that one is in opposition to the whole world. One can imagine that one is a stumbling-block for the world because one is clumsy enough to stumble everywhere. But for a world-historic opposition it is not enough for me to declare the world my opposite; the world for its part must declare me to be its essential opposite, and must treat and recognise me as such. Critical Criticism ensures itself this recognition by its correspondence, which is called upon to bear witness before the world to Criticism’s function of redeemer and equally to the general irritation of the world at the Critical gospel. Critical Criticism is its own object as the object of the world. The correspondence is intended to show it as such, as the world interest of the present time.

Critical Criticism is in its own eyes the Absolute Subject. The Absolute Subject requires a cult. A real cult requires other believing individuals. The Holy Family of Charlottenburg therefore receives from its correspondents the cult due to it. The correspondents tell it what it is and what its adversary, the Mass, is not.

However, Criticism falls into an inconsistency by thus having its opinion of itself represented as the opinion of the world and by its concept being converted into reality. Within Criticism itself a sort of Mass is forming, a Critical Mass whose simple function is untiringly to echo the stock phrases of Criticism. For consistency’s sake this inconsistency may be forgiven. Not feeling at home in the sinful world, Critical Criticism must set up a sinful world in its own home.

The path of Critical Criticism’s correspondent, a member of the Critical Mass, is not a rosy one. It is a difficult, thorny path, a Critical path. Critical Criticism is a spiritualistic lord, pure spontaneity, actus purus, intolerant of any influence from without. The correspondent can therefore be a subject only in appearance, can only seem to behave independently towards Critical Criticism, can only seemingly want to communicate something new and of his own to it. In reality he is Critical Criticism’s own product, its perception of its own voice made for an instant objective and self-existing.

That is why the correspondents do not fail to assert incessantly that Critical Criticism itself knows, realises, understands, grasps, and experiences what at the same moment is being communicated to it for appearance’s sake. Thus Zerrleder, for instance, uses the expressions: “Do you grasp it? You know. You know for the second and third time. You’ have probably heard enough to be able to see for yourself.”

So too the Breslau correspondent Fleischammer says: “But the fact,” etc., “will be as little of a puzzle to you as to me.” Or the Zurich correspondent Hirzel: “You will probably find out for yourself.” The Critical correspondent has such anxious respect for the absolute understanding of Critical Criticism that he attributes understanding to it even where there is absolutely nothing to understand. For example, Fleischhammer says:

You will perfectly [!] understand [!] me when I tell you that one can hardly go out without meeting young Catholic priests in their long black cowls and cloaks.”

Indeed, in their fear the correspondents hear Critical Criticism — saying, answering, exclaiming, deriding!

Zeerleder, for example, says: “But — you say. Well, then, listen.” And Fleischhammer. “Yes, I hear what you say — I only mean that...” And Hirzel: “Good for you, you will exclaim!” And a Tübingen correspondent: “Do not laugh at me!”

The correspondents, therefore, also express themselves as though they were communicating facts to Critical Criticism and expect from it the spiritual interpretation; they provide it with premises and leave the conclusion to it, or they even apologise for repeating things Criticism has known for a long time.

Zerrleder, for example, says:

“Your correspondent can only give a picture, a description of the facts. The Spirit which animates these things is certainly not unknown to you.” Or again: “Now you will surely draw the conclusion for yourself.”

And Hirzel says:

I shall not presume to entertain you with the speculative proposition that every creation arises out of its extreme opposite.”

Sometimes, too, the experiences of the correspondents are merely the fulfilment and confirmation of Criticism’s prophecies.

Fleischhammer, for example, says:

“Your prediction has come true.”

And Zerrleder:

“Far from being disastrous, the tendencies that I have described to you as gaining ever greater scope in Switzerland, are very fortunate; they only confirm the thought you have already often expressed,” etc.

Critical Criticism sometimes feels urged to express the condescension involved by its participation in the correspondence and motivates this condescension by the fact that the correspondent has successfully carried out some task. Thus Herr Bruno writes to the Tübingen correspondent:

“It is really inconsistent on my part to answer your letter. — On the other hand, you have again ... made such an apt remark that I ... cannot refuse the explanation you request.”

Critical Criticism has letters written to it from the provinces; not the provinces in the political sense, which, as we know, do not exist anywhere in Germany, but from the Critical provinces of which. Berlin is the capital, Berlin, the seat of the Critical patriarchs and of the Holy Critical Family, whereas the provinces are where the Critical Mass resides. The Critical provincials dare not engage the attention of the supreme Critical authority without bows and apologies.

Thus, someone writes anonymously to Herr Edgar, who, being a member of the Holy Family, is also an eminent personage:

“Honourable Sir, I hope you will excuse these lines on the grounds that young people like to unite in common strivings (there is not more than two years’ difference in our ages).”

The coeval of Herr Edgar describes himself incidentally as the essence of modern philosophy. Is it not in the nature of things that Criticism should correspond with the essence of philosophy? If Herr Edgar’s coeval affirms that he has already lost his teeth, that is only an allusion to his allegorical essence. This “essence of modern philosophy” has “learned from Feuerbach to set the factor of education in objective view”. It at once gives a sample of its education and views by assuring Herr Edgar that it has acquired a “complete view of his short story”, “Es leben feste Grundsätze!” [Long Live firm principles!” A. Weill und E. Bauer, Berliner Novellen] At the same time it openly admits that Herr Edgar’s point of view is by no means quite clear to it, and finally invalidates the assurance concerning the complete view by the question: “Or have I completely misunderstood you?” After this sample it will be found quite normal that the essence of modern philosophy, referring to the Mass, should say:

“We must at least once condescend to examine and untie the magic knot which bars common human reason from access to the unrestricted flood of thought.

In order to get a complete view of the Critical Mass one should read the correspondence of Herr Hirzel from Zurich (Heft V). This unfortunate man memorises the stock phrases of Criticism with really touching docility and praiseworthy power of recall, not omitting Herr Bruno’s favourite phrases about the battles he has waged and the campaigns he has planned and led. But Herr Hirzel exercises his profession as a member of the Critical Mass especially by raging against. the profane Mass and its attitude to Critical Criticism.

He speaks of the Mass claiming a part in history, “of the pure Mass”, of “pure Criticism”, of the “purity of this contradiction” — “a contradiction purer than any that history has provided” — of the “discontented being”, of the “perfect emptiness, ill humour, dejection, heartlessness, timidity, fury and bitterness of the Mass towards Criticism”; of “the Mass which only exists in order by its resistance to make Criticism sharper and more vigilant”. He speaks of “creation from the extreme opposite”, of how Criticism is above hate and similar profane sentiments. The whole of Herr Hirzel’s contribution to the Literatur-Zeitung is confined to this profusion of Critical stock phrases. While reproaching the Mass for being satisfied with mere “disposition”, “good will”, “the phrase”, “faith”, etc., he himself, as a member of the Critical Mass, a content with phrases, expressions of his “Critical disposition”, his “Critical faith”, his “Critical good will” and leaves “action, work, struggle” and “works” to Herr Bruno and Co.

Despite the terrible picture of the world-historic tension between the profane world and “Critical Criticism” which the members of the “Critical Mass” outline, for the non-believer at least not even the fact of the matter is stated, the factual existence of this world-historic tension. The obliging and un-Critical repetition of Criticism’s “imaginations” and “pretensions” by the correspondents only proves that the fixed ideas of the master are the fixed ideas of the servant as well. It is true that one of the Critical correspondents [The reference is to the author of an anonymous report published in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, Heft VI, May 1844, in the section “Correspondenz aus der Provinz"] makes an attempt at a proof based on fact.

“You see,” he writes to the Holy Family, “that the Literatur-Zeitung is fulfilling its purpose, ie., that it meets with no approval. It could meet with approval only if it sounded in unison with the general thoughtlessness, if you strode proudly before it with the jingling of hackneyed phrases of a whole janissary band of current categories.”

The jingling of hackneyed phrases of a whole janissary band of current categories It is evident that the Critical correspondent does his best to keep pace with non-"current” hackneyed phrases. But his explanation of the fact that the Literatur-Zeitung meets with no approval must he rejected as purely apologetic. This fact could be better explained in just the opposite way by saying that Critical Criticism is in unison with the great mass, to be precise, the great mass of scribblers who meet with no approval.

It is therefore not enough for the Critical correspondent to address Critical hackneyed phrases to the Holy Family as “prayers” and at the same time to the Mass as “anathemas”. Un-Critical, mass-type correspondents, real delegates of the Mass to Critical Criticism, are needed to show the real tension between the Mass and Criticism.

That is why Critical Criticism also assigns a place to the un-Critical Mass. It makes unbiased representatives of the latter correspond with it, acknowledge the opposition to itself, Criticism, as important and absolute, and utter a fearful cry for redemption from this opposition.