Hegel’s Philosophy of History
The German Spirit is the Spirit of the new World. Its aim is the realization of absolute Truth as the unlimited self-determination of Freedom – that Freedom which has its own absolute form itself as its purport. The destiny of the German peoples is, to be the bearers of the Christian principle. The principle of Spiritual Freedom – of Reconciliation [of the Objective and Subjective], was introduced into the still simple, unformed minds of those peoples; and the part assigned them in the service of the World- Spirit was that of not merely possessing the Idea of Freedom as the substratum of their religious conceptions, but of producing it in free and spontaneous developments from their subjective self-consciousness. In entering on the task of dividing the German World into its natural periods, we must remark that we have not, as was the case in treating of the Greeks and Romans, a double external relation – backwards to an earlier World-Historical people, and forwards to a later one – to guide us. History shows that the process of development among the peoples now under consideration, was an altogether different one. The Greeks and Romans had reached maturity within, ere they directed their energies outwards. The Germans, on the contrary, began with self- diffusion – deluging the world, and overpowering in their course the inwardly rotten, hollow political fabrics of the civilized nations. Only then did their development begin, kindled by a foreign culture, a foreign religion, polity and legislation. The process of culture they underwent consisted in taking up foreign elements and reductively amalgamating them with their own national life. Thus their history presents an introversion – the attraction of alien forms of life and the bringing these to bear upon their own. In the Crusades, indeed, and in the discovery of America, the Western World directed its energies outwards. But it was not thus brought in contact with a World-Historical people that had preceded it; it did not dispossess a principle that had previously governed the world. The relation to an extraneous principle here only accompanies [does not constitute] the history – does not bring with it essential changes in the nature of those conditions which characterize the peoples in question, but rather wears the aspect of internal evolution. – The relation to other countries and periods is thus entirely different from that sustained by the Greeks and Romans. For the Christian world is the world of completion; the grand principle of being is realized, consequently the end of days is fully come. The Idea can discover in Christianity no point in the aspirations of Spirit that is not satisfied. For its individual members, the Church is, it is true, a preparation for an eternal state as something future; since the units who compose it, in their isolated and several capacity, occupy a position of particularity: but the Church has also the Spirit of God actually present in it, it forgives the sinner and is a present kingdom of heaven. Thus the Christian World has no absolute existence outside its sphere, but only a relative one which is already implicitly vanquished, and in respect to which its only concern is to make it apparent that this conquest has taken place. Hence it follows that an external reference ceases to be the characteristic element determining the epochs of the modern world. We have therefore to look for another principle of division.
The German World took up the Roman culture and religion in their completed form. There was indeed a German and Northern religion, but it had by no means taken deep root in the soul; Tacitus therefore calls the Germans: “Securi adversus Deos.” The Christian Religion which they adopted, had received from Councils and Fathers of the Church, who possessed the whole culture, and in particular, the philosophy of the Greek and Roman World, a perfected dogmatic system; the Church, too, had a completely developed hierarchy. To the native tongue of the Germans, the Church likewise opposed one perfectly developed – the Latin. In art and philosophy a similar alien influence predominated. What of Alexandrian and of formal Aristotelian philosophy was still preserved in the writings of Boethius and elsewhere, became the fixed basis of speculative thought in the West for many centuries. The same principle holds in regard to the form of the secular sovereignty. Gothic and other chiefs gave themselves the name of Roman Patricians, and at a later date the Roman Empire was restored. Thus the German world appears, superficially, to be only a continuation of the Roman. But there lived in it an entirely new Spirit, through which the World was to be regenerated – the free Spirit, viz. which reposes on itself – the absolutely self-determination [Eigensinn] of subjectivity. To this self- involved subjectivity, the corresponding objectivity [Inhalt] stands opposed as absolutely alien. The distinction and antithesis which is evolved from these principles, is that of Church and State. On the one side, the Church develops itself, as the embodiment of absolute Truth; for it is the consciousness of this truth, and at the same time the agency for rendering the Individual harmonious with it. On the other side stands secular consciousness, which, with its aims, occupies the world of Limitation – the State, based on Heart [emotional and thence social affections] or mutual confidence and subjectivity generally. European history is the exhibition of the growth of each of these principles severally, in Church and State; then of an antithesis on the part of both – not only of the one to the other, but appearing within the sphere of each of these bodies themselves (since each of them is itself a totality); lastly, of the harmonizing of the antithesis. The three periods of this world will have to be treated accordingly.
The first begins with the appearance of the German Nations in the Roman Empire – the incipient development of these peoples, converts to Christianity, and now established in the possession of the West. Their barbarous and simple character prevents this initial period from possessing any great interest. The Christian world then presents itself as “Christendom” – one mass, in which the Spiritual and the Secular form only different aspects. This epoch extends to Charlemagne.
The second period develops the two sides of the antithesis to a logically consequential independence and opposition – the Church for itself as a Theocracy, and the State for itself as a Feudal Monarchy. Charlemagne had formed an alliance with the Holy See against the Lombards and the factions of the nobles in Rome. A union thus arose between the spiritual and the secular power, and a kingdom of heaven on earth promised to follow in the wake of this conciliation. But just at this time, instead of a spiritual kingdom of heaven, the inwardness of the Christian principle wears the appearance of being altogether directed outwards and leaving its proper sphere. Christian Freedom is perverted to its very opposite, both in a religious and secular respect; on the one hand to the severest bondage, on the other hand to the most immoral excess – a barbarous intensity of every passion. In this period two aspects of society are to be especially noticed: the first is the formation of states – superior and inferior suzerainties exhibiting a regulated subordination, so that every relation becomes a firmly-fixed private right, excluding a sense of universality. This regulated subordination appears in the Feudal System. The second aspect presents the antithesis of Church and State. This antithesis exists solely because the Church, to whose management the Spiritual was committed, itself sinks down into every kind of worldliness – a worldliness which appears only the more detestable, because all passions assume the sanction of religion.
The time of Charles V’s reign – i.e., the first half of the sixteenth century – forms the end of the second, and likewise the beginning of the third period. Secularity appears now as gaining a consciousness of its intrinsic worth – becomes aware of its having a value of its own in the morality, rectitude, probity and activity of man. The consciousness of independent validity is aroused through the restoration of Christian freedom. The Christian principle has now passed through the terrible discipline of culture, and it first attains truth and reality through the Reformation, This third period of the German World extends from the Reformation to our own times. The principle of Free Spirit is here made the banner of the World, and from this principle are evolved the universal axioms of Reason. Formal Thought – the Understanding – had been already developed; but Thought received its true material first with the Reformation, through the reviviscent concrete consciousness of Free Spirit. From that epoch Thought began to gain a culture properly its own: principles were derived from it which were to be the norm for the constitution of the State. Political life was now to be consciously regulated by Reason. Customary morality, traditional usage lost its validity; the various claims insisted upon, must prove their legitimacy as based on rational principles. Not till this era is the Freedom of Spirit realized. We may distinguish these periods as Kingdoms of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. The Kingdom of the Father is the consolidated, undistinguished mass, presenting a self-repeating cycle, mere change – like that sovereignty of Chronos engulfing his offspring. The Kingdom of the Son is the manifestation of God merely in a relation to secular existence – shining upon it as upon an alien object. The Kingdom of the Spirit is the harmonizing of the antithesis.
These epochs may be also compared with the earlier empires. In the German aeon, as the realm of Totality, we see the distinct repetition of the earlier epochs. Charlemagne’s time may be compared with the Persian Empire; it is the period of substantial unity – this unity having its foundation in the inner man, the Heart, and both in the Spiritual and the Secular still abiding in its simplicity.
To the Greek world and its merely ideal unity, the time preceding Charles V answers; where real unity no longer exists, because all phases of particularity have become fixed in privileges and peculiar rights. As in the interior of the realms themselves, the different estates of the realm, with their several claims, are isolated, so do the various states in their foreign aspects occupy a merely external relation to each other. A diplomatic policy arises, which in the interest of a European balance of power, unites them with and against each other. It is the time in which the world becomes clear and manifest to itself (Discovery of America). So too does consciousness gain clearness in the supersensuous world and respecting it.
Substantial objective religion brings itself to sensuous clearness in the sensuous element (Christian Art in the age of Pope Leo), and also becomes clear to itself in the element of inmost truth. We may compare this time with that of Pericles. The introversion of Spirit begins (Socrates – Luther), though Pericles is wanting in this epoch. Charles V possesses enormous possibilities in point of outward appliances, and appears absolute in his power; but the inner spirit of Pericles, and therefore the absolute means of establishing a free sovereignty, are not in him. This is the epoch when Spirit becomes clear to itself in separations occurring in the realm of reality; now the distinct elements of the German world manifest their essential nature.
The third epoch may be compared with the Roman World. The unity of a universal principle is here quite as decidedly present, yet not as the unity of abstract universal sovereignty, but as the Hegemony of self-cognizant Thought. The authority of Rational Aim is acknowledged, and privileges and particularities melt away before the common object of the State. Peoples will the Right in and for itself; regard is not had exclusively to particular conventions between nations, but principles enter into the considerations with which diplomacy is occupied. As little can Religion maintain itself apart from Thought, but either advances to the comprehension of the Idea, or, compelled by thought itself, becomes intensive belief – or lastly, from despair of finding itself at home in thought, flees back from it in pious horror, and becomes Superstition.
Respecting this first period, we have on the whole little to say, for it affords us comparatively slight materials for reflection. We will not follow the Germans back into their forests, nor investigate the origin of their migrations. Those forests of theirs have always passed for the abodes of free peoples, and Tacitus sketched his celebrated picture of Germany with a certain love and longing – contrasting it with the corruption and artificiality of that world to which he himself belonged. But we must not on this account regard such a state of barbarism as an exalted one, or fall into some such error as Rousseau’s, who represents the condition of the American savages as one in which man is in possession of true freedom. Certainly there is an immense amount of misfortune and sorrow of which the savage knows nothing; but this is a merely negative advantage, while freedom is essential positive. It is only the blessings conferred by affirmative freedom that are regarded as such in the highest grade of consciousness.
Our first acquaintance with the Germans finds each individual enjoying an independent freedom; and yet there is a certain community of feeling and interest, though not yet matured to a political condition. Next we see them inundating the Roman empire. It was partly the fertility of its domains, partly the necessity of seeking other habitations, that furnished the inciting cause. In spite of the wars in which they engage with the Romans, individuals, and even entire clans, enter their service as soldiers. Even so early as the battle of Pharsalia we find German cavalry united with the Roman forces of Caesar. In military service and intercourse with civilized peoples, they became acquainted with their advantages – advantages tending to the enjoyment and convenience of life, but also, and principally, those of mental cultivation. In the later emigrations, many nations – some entirely, others partially – remained behind in their original abodes.
Accordingly, a distinction must be made between the German nations who remained in their ancient habitations and those who spread themselves over the Roman empire, and mingled with the conquered peoples. Since in their migratory expeditions the Germans attached themselves to their leaders of their own free choice, we find a peculiar duplicate condition of the great Teutonic families (Eastern and Western Goths; Goths in all parts of the world and in their original country; Scandinavians and Normans in Norway, but also appearing as knightly adventurers in the wide world). However different might be the fates of these peoples, they nevertheless had one aim in common – to procure themselves possessions, and to develop themselves in the direction of political organization. This process of growth is equally characteristic of all. In the West – in Spain and Portugal – the Suevi and Vandals are the first settlers, but are subdued and dispossessed by the Visigoths. A great Visigothic kingdom was established, to which Spain, Portugal, and a part of Southern France belonged. The second kingdom is that of the Franks – a name which, from the end of the second century, was given in common to the Istaevonian races between the Rhine and the Weser. They established themselves between the Moselle and the Scheldt, and under their leader, Clovis, pressed forward into Gaul as far as the Loire. He afterwards reduced the Franks on the Lower Rhine, and the Alemanni on the Upper Rhine; his sons subjugated the Thuringians and Burgundians. The third kingdom is that of the Ostrogoths in Italy, founded by Theodoric, and highly nourishing beneath his rule. The learned Romans Cassiodorus and Boëthius filled the highest offices of state under Theodoric. But this Ostrogothic kingdom did not last long; it was destroyed by the Byzantines under Belisarius and Narses. In the second half (568) of the sixth century, the Lombards invaded Italy and ruled for two centuries, till this kingdom also was subjected to the Frank sceptre by Charlemagne. At a later date, the Normans also established themselves in Lower Italy. Our attention is next claimed by the Burgundians, who were subjugated by the Franks, and whose kingdom forms a kind of partition wall between France and Germany. The Angles and Saxons entered Britain and reduced it under their sway. Subsequently, the Normans make their appearance here also. These countries – previously a part of the Roman empire – thus experienced the fate of subjugation by the Barbarians. In the first instance, a great contrast presented itself between the already civilized inhabitants of those countries and the victors; but this contrast terminated in the hybrid character of the new nations that were now formed. The whole mental and moral existence of such states exhibits a divided aspect; in their inmost being we have characteristics that point to an alien origin. This distinction strikes us even on the surface, in their language, which is an intermixture of the ancient Roman – already united with the vernacular – and the German. We may class these nations together as Romanic – comprehending thereby Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France. Contrasted with these stand three others, more or less German- speaking nations, which have maintained a consistent tone of uninterrupted fidelity to native character – Germany itself, Scandinavia, and England. The last was, indeed, incorporated in the Roman empire, but was affected by Roman culture little more than superficially – like Germany itself – and was again Germanized by Angles and Saxons. Germany Proper kept itself pure from any admixture; only the southern and western border – on the Danube and the Rhine – had been subjugated by the Romans. The portion between the Rhine and the Elbe remained thoroughly national. This part of Germany was inhabited by several tribes. Besides the Ripuarian Franks and those established by Clovis in the districts of the Maine, four leading tribes – the Alemanni, the Boioarians, the Thuringians, and the Saxons – must be mentioned. The Scandinavians retained in their fatherland a similar purity from intermixture; and also made themselves celebrated by their expeditions, under the name of Normans. They extended their chivalric enterprises over almost all parts of Europe. Part of them went to Russia, and there became the founders of the Russian Empire; part settled in Northern France and Britain; another established principalities in Lower Italy and Sicily. Thus a part of the Scandinavians founded states in foreign lands, another maintained its nationality by the ancestral hearth.
We find, moreover, in the East of Europe, the great Sclavonic nation, whose settlements extended west of the Elbe to the Danube. The Magyars (Hungarians) settled in between them. In Moldavia, Wallachia and northern Greece appear the Bulgarians, Servians, and Albanians, likewise of Asiatic origin – left behind as broken barbarian remains in the shocks and counter- shocks of the advancing hordes. These people did, indeed, found kingdoms and sustain spirited conflicts with the various nations that came across their path. Sometimes, as an advanced guard – an intermediate nationality – they took part in the struggle between Christian Europe and unchristian Asia. The Poles even liberated beleaguered Vienna from the Turks; and the Sclaves have to some extent been drawn within the sphere of Occidental Reason. Yet this entire body of peoples remains excluded from our consideration, because hitherto it has not appeared as an independent element in the series of phases that Reason has assumed in the World. Whether it will do so hereafter, is a question that does not concern us here; for in History we have to do with the Past.
The German Nation was characterized by the sense of Natural Totality – an idiosyncrasy which we may call Heart [Gemüth]. “Heart” is that undeveloped, indeterminate totality of Spirit, in reference to the Will, in which satisfaction of soul is attained in a correspondingly general and indeterminate way. Character is a particular form of will and interest asserting itself; but the quality in question [Gemüthlichkeit] has no particular aim – riches, honor, or the like; in fact does not concern itself with any objective condition [a “position in the world” in virtue of wealth, dignity, etc.] but with the entire condition of the soul – a general sense of enjoyment. Will in the case of such an idiosyncrasy is exclusively formal Will – its purely subjective Freedom exhibits itself as self-will. To the disposition thus designated, every particular object of attraction seems important, for “Heart” surrenders itself entirely to each; but as, on the other hand, it is not interested in the quality of such aim in the abstract, it does not become exclusively absorbed in that aim, so as to pursue it with violent and evil passion – does not go the length of abstract vice. In the idiosyncrasy we term “Heart,” no such absorption of interest presents itself; it wears, on the whole, the appearance of “well-meaning.” Character is its direct opposite. This is the abstract principle innate in the German peoples, and that subjective side which they present to the objective in Christianity. “Heart” has no particular object; in Christianity we have the Absolute Object [i.e., it is concerned with the entire range of Truth] – all that can engage and occupy human subjectivity. Now it is the desire of satisfaction without further definition or restriction, that is involved in “Heart”; and it is exactly that for which we found an appropriate application in the principle of Christianity. The Indefinite as Substance, in objectivity, is the purely Universal – God; while the reception of the individual will to a participation in His favor, is the complementary element in the Christian concrete Unity. The absolutely Universal is that which contains in it all determinations, and in virtue of this is itself indeterminate. Subject [individual personality] is the absolutely determinate; and these two are identical. This was exhibited above as the material content [Inhalt] in Christianity; here we find it subjectively as “Heart.” Subject [Personality] must then also gain an objective form, that is, be expanded to an object. It is necessary that for the indefinite susceptibilty which we designate “Heart,” the Absolute also should assume the form of an Object, in order that man on his part may attain a consciousness of his unity with that object. But this recognition of the Absolute [in Christ] requires the purification of man’s subjectivity – requires it to become a real, concrete self, a sharer in general interests as a denizen of the world at large, and that it should act in accordance with large and liberal aims, recognize Law, and find satisfaction in it. – Thus we find here two principles corresponding the one with the other, and recognize the adaptation of the German peoples to be, as we stated above, the bearers of the higher principle of Spirit.
We advance then to the consideration of the German principle in its primary phase of existence, i.e. the earliest historical condition of the German nations. Their quality of “Heart” is in its first appearance quite abstract, undeveloped and destitute of any particular object; for substantial aims are not involved in “Heart” itself. Where this susceptibilty stands alone, it appears as a want of character – mere inanity. “Heart” as purely abstract, is dulness; thus we see in the original condition of the Germans a barbarian dulness, mental confusion and vagueness. Of the Religion of the Germans we know little. – The Druids belonged to Gaul and were extirpated by the Romans. There was indeed, a peculiar northern mythology; but how slight a hold the religion of the Germans had upon their hearts, has been already remarked, and it is also evident from the fact that the Germans were easily converted to Christianity. The Saxons, it is true, offered considerable resistance to Charlemagne; but this was directed, not so much against the religion he brought with him, as against oppression itself. Their religion had no profundity; and the same may be said of their ideas of law. Murder was not regarded and punished as a crime: it was expiated by a pecuniary fine. This indicates a deficiency in depth of sentiment – that absence of a power of abstraction and discrimination that marks their peculiar temperament [Nichtentzweitseyn des Gemuthes] – a temperament which leads them to regard it only as an injury to the community when one of its members is killed, and nothing further. The blood- revenge of the Arabs is based on the feeling that the honor of the Family is injured. Among the Germans the community had no dominion over the individual, for the element of freedom is the first consideration in their union in a social relationship. The ancient Germans were famed for their love of freedom; the Romans formed a correct idea of them in this particular from the first. Freedom has been the watchword in Germany down to the most recent times, and even the league of princes under Frederick II had its origin in the love of liberty. This element of freedom, in passing over to a social relationship, can establish only popular communities ; so that these communities constitute the whole state, and every member of the community, as such, is a free man. Homicide could be expiated by a pecuniary mulct, because the individuality of the free man was regarded as sacred – permanently and inviolably – whatever he might have done. The community or its presiding power, with the assistance of members of the community, delivered judgment in affairs of private right, with a view to the protection of person and property. For affairs affecting the body politic at large – for wars and similar contingencies – the whole community had to be consulted. The second point to be observed is, that social nuclei were formed by free confederation, and by voluntary attachment to military leaders and princes. The connection in this case was that of Fidelity; for Fidelity is the second watchword of the Germans, as Freedom was the first. Individuals attach themselves with free choice to an individual, and without external prompting make this relation an inviolable one. This we find neither among the Greeks nor the Romans. The relation of Agamemnon and the princes who accompanied him was not that of feudal suit and service: it was a free association merely for a particular purpose – a Hegemony. But the German confederations have their being not in a relation to a mere external aim or cause, but in a relation to the spiritual self – the subjective inmost personality. Heart, disposition, the concrete subjectivity in its integrity, which does not attach itself to any abstract bearing of an object, but regards the whole of it as a condition of attachment – making itself dependent on the person and the cause – renders this relation a compound of fidelity to a person and obedience to a principle.
The union of the two relations – of individual freedom in the community, and of the bond implied in association – is the main point in the formation of the State. In this, duties and rights are no longer left to arbitrary choice, but are determined as fixed relations; – involving, moreover, the condition that the State be the soul of the entire body, and remain its sovereign – that from it should be derived particular aims and the authorization both of political acts and political agents – the generic character and interests of the community constituting the permanent basis of the whole. But here we have the peculiarity of the German states, that contrary to the view thus presented, social relations do not assume the character of general definitions and laws, but are entirely split up into private rights and private obligations. They perhaps exhibit a social or communal mould or stamp, but nothing universal; the laws are absolutely particular, and the Rights are Privileges. Thus the state was a patchwork of private rights, and a rational political life was the tardy issue of wearisome struggles and convulsions.
We have said, that the Germans were predestined to be the bearers of the Christian principle, and to carry out the Idea as the absolutely Rational aim. In the first instance we have only vague volition, in the background of which lies the True and Infinite. The True is present only as an unsolved problem, for their Soul is not yet purified. A long process is required to complete this purification so as to realize concrete Spirit. Religion comes forward with a challenge to the violence of the passions, and rouses them to madness. The excess of passions is aggravated by evil conscience, and heightened to an insane rage; which perhaps would not have been the case, had that opposition been absent. We behold the terrible spectacle of the most fearful extravagance of passion in all the royal houses of that period. Clovis, the founder of the Frank Monarchy, is stained with the blackest crimes. Barbarous harshness and cruelty characterize all the succeeding Merovingians; the same spectacle is repeated in the Thuringian and other royal houses. The Christian principle is certainly the problem implicit in their souls; but these are primarily still crude. The Will – potentially true – mistakes itself, and separates itself from the true and proper aim by particular, limited aims. Yet it is in this struggle with itself and contrariety to its bias, that it realizes its wishes; it contends against the object which it really desires, and thus accomplishes it; for implicitly, potentially, it is reconciled. The Spirit of God lives in the Church; it is the inward impelling Spirit. But it is in the World that Spirit is to be realized – in a material not yet brought into harmony with it. Now this material is the Subjective Will, which thus has a contradiction in itself. On the religious side, we often observe a change of this kind: a man who has all his life been fighting and hewing his way – who with all vehemence of character and passion, has struggled and revelled in secular occupations – on a sudden repudiates it all, to betake himself to religious seclusion. But in the World, secular business cannot be thus repudiated; it demands accomplishment, and ultimately the discovery is made, that Spirit finds the goal of its struggle and its harmonization, in that very sphere which it made the object of its resistance – it finds that secular pursuits are a spiritual occupation.
We thus observe, that individuals and peoples regard that which is their misfortune, as their greatest happiness, and conversely, struggle against their happiness as their greatest misery. La vérité, en la repoussant, on I’embrasse. Europe comes to the truth while, and to the degree in which, she has repulsed it. It is in the agitation thus occasioned, that Providence especially exercises its sovereignty; realizing its absolute aim – its honor – as the result of unhappiness, sorrow, private aims and the unconscious will of the nations of the earth.
While, therefore, in the West this long process in the world’s history – necessary to that purification by which Spirit in the concrete is realized – is commencing, the purification requisite for developing Spirit in the abstract which we observe carried on contemporaneously in the East, is more quickly accomplished. The latter does not need a long process, and we see it produced rapidly, even suddenly, in the first half of the seventh century, in Mahometanism.
On the one hand we see the European world forming itself anew – the nations taking firm root there, to produce a world of free reality expanded and developed in every direction. We behold them beginning their work by bringing all social relations under the form of particularity – with dull and narrow intelligence splitting that which in its nature is generic and normal, into a multitude of chance contingencies; rendering that which ought to be simple principle and law, a tangled web of convention, In short, while the West began to shelter itself in a political edifice of chance, entanglement and particularity, the very opposite direction necessarily made its appearance in the world, to produce the balance of the totality of spiritual manifestation. This took place in the Revolution of the East, which destroyed all particularity and dependence, and perfectly cleared up and purified the soul and disposition; making the abstract One the absolute object of attention and devotion, and to the same extent, pure subjective consciousness – the Knowledge of this One alone – the only aim of reality; – making the Unconditioned [das Verhältnisslose] the condition [Verhält-niss] of existence.
We have already become acquainted with the nature of the Oriental principle, and seen that its Highest Being is only negative; – that with it the positive imports an abandonment to mere nature – the enslavement of Spirit to the world of realities, Only among the Jews have we observed the principle of pure Unity elevated to a thought; for only among them was adoration paid to the One, as an object of thought. This unity then remained, when the purification of the mind to the conception of abstract Spirit had been accomplished; but it was freed from the particularity by which the worship of Jehovah had been hampered. Jehovah was only the God of that one people – the God of Abraham, of Isaac and Jacob: only with the Jews had this God made a covenant; only to this people had he revealed himself. That speciality of relation was done away with in Mahometanism. In this spiritual universality, in this unlimited and indefinite purity and simplicity of conception, human personality has no other aim than the realization of this universality and simplicity. Allah has not the affirmative, limited aim of the Judaic God. The worship of the One is the only final aim of Mahometanism, and subjectivity has this worship for the sole occupation of its activity, combined with the design to subjugate secular existence to the One. This One has indeed, the quality of Spirit; yet because subjectivity suffers itself to be absorbed in the object, this One is deprived of every concrete predicate; so that neither does subjectivity become on its part spiritually free, nor on the other hand is the object of its veneration concrete. But Mahometanism is not the Hindoo, not the Monastic immersion in the Absolute. Subjectivity is here living and unlimited – an energy which enters into secular life with a purely negative purpose, and busies itself and interferes with the world, only in such a way as shall promote the pure adoration of the One. The object of Mahometan worship is purely intellectual; no image, no representation of Allah is tolerated. Mahomet is a prophet but still man – not elevated above human weaknesses. The leading features of Mahometanism involve this – that in actual existence nothing can become fixed, but that everything is destined to expand itself in activity and life in the boundless amplitude of the world, so that the worship of the One remains the only bond by which the whole is capable of uniting. In this expansion, this active energy, all limits, all national and caste distinctions vanish; no particular race, political claim of birth or possession is regarded – only man as a believer. To adore the One, to believe in him, to fast – to remove the sense of speciality and consequent separation from the Infinite, arising from corporeal limitation – and to give alms – that is, to get rid of particular private possession – these are the essence of Mahometan injunctions; but the highest meed is to die for the Faith. He who perishes for it in battle is sure of Paradise.
The Mahometan religion originated among the Arabs. Here Spirit exists in its simplest form, and the sense of the Formless has its especial abode; for in their deserts nothing can be brought into a firm consistent shape. The flight of Mahomet from Mecca in the year 622 is the Moslem era. Even during his life, and under his own leadership, but especially by following up his designs after his death under the guidance of his successors, the Arabs achieved their vast conquests. They first came down upon Syria and conquered its capital Damascus in the year 634. They then passed the Euphrates and Tigris and turned their arms against Persia, which soon submitted to them. In the West they conquered Egypt, Northern Africa and Spain, and pressed into Southern France as far as the Loire, where they were defeated by Charles Martel near Tours, A.D. 732. Thus the dominion of the Arabs extended itself in the West. In the East they reduced successively Persia, as already stated, Samarkand, and the Southwestern part of Asia Minor. These conquests, as also the spread of their religion, took place with extraordinary rapidity. Whoever became a convert to Islam gained a perfect equality of rights with all Mussulmans. Those who rejected it, were, during the earliest period, slaughtered. Subsequently, however, the Arabs behaved more leniently to the conquered; so that if they were unwilling to go over to Islam, they were only required to pay an annual poll-tax. The towns that immediately submitted, were obliged to pay the victor a tithe of all their possessions; those which had to be captured, a fifth.
Abstraction swayed the minds of the Mahometans. Their object was, to establish an abstract worship, and they struggled for its accomplishment with the greatest enthusiasm. This enthusiasm was Fanaticism, that is, an enthusiasm for something abstract – for an abstract thought which sustains a negative position towards the established order of things. It is the essence of fanaticism to bear only a desolating destructive relation to the concrete; but that of Mahometanism was, at the same time, capable of the greatest elevation – an elevation free from all petty interests, and united with all the virtues that appertain to magnanimity and valor. La religion et la terreur were the principles in this case, as with Robespierre la liberté et la terreur. But real life is nevertheless concrete, and introduces particular aims; conquest leads to sovereignty and wealth, to the conferring of prerogatives on a dynastic family, and to a union of individuals. But all this is only contingent and built on sand; it is to-day, and to-morrow is not. With all the passionate interest he shows, the Mahometan is really indifferent to this social fabric, and rushes on in the ceaseless whirl of fortune. In its spread Mahometanism founded many kingdoms and dynasties. On this boundless sea there is a continual onward movement; nothing abides firm. Whatever curls up into a form remains all the while transparent, and in that very instant glides away. Those dynasties were destitute of the bond of an organic firmness: the kingdoms, therefore, did nothing but degenerate; the individuals that composed them simply vanished. Where, however, a noble soul makes itself prominent – like a billow in the surging of the sea – it manifests itself in a majesty of freedom, such that nothing more noble, more generous, more valiant, more devoted was ever witnessed. The particular determinate object which the individual embraces is grasped by him entirely – with the whole soul. While Europeans are involved in a multitude of relations, and form, so to speak, “a bundle” of them – in Mahometanism the individual is one passion and that alone; he is superlatively cruel, cunning, bold, or generous. Where the sentiment of love exists, there is an equal abandon – love the most fervid. The ruler who loves the slave, glorifies the object of his love by laying at his feet all his magnificence, power and honor – forgetting sceptre and throne for him; but on the other hand he will sacrifice him just as recklessly. This reckless fervor shows itself also in the glowing warmth of the Arab and Saracen poetry. That glow is the perfect freedom of fancy from every fetter – an absorption in the life of its object and the sentiment it inspires, so that selfishness and egotism are utterly banished.
Never has enthusiasm, as such, performed greater deeds. Individuals may be enthusiastic for what is noble and exalted in various particular forms. The enthusiasm of a people for its independence, has also a definite aim. But abstract and therefore all-comprehensive enthusiasm – restrained by nothing, finding its limits nowhere, and absolutely indifferent to all beside – is that of the Mahometan East.
Proportioned to the rapidity of the Arab conquests, was the speed with which the arts and sciences attained among them their highest bloom. At first we see the conquerors destroying everything connected with art and science. Omar is said to have caused the destruction of the noble Alexandrian library. “These books,” said he, “either contain what is in the Koran, or something else: in either case they are superfluous.” But soon afterwards the Arabs became zealous in promoting the arts and spreading them everywhere. Their empire reached the summit of its glory under the Caliphs Al-Mansor and Haroun Al-Raschid. Large cities arose in all parts of the empire, where commerce and manufactures flourished, splendid palaces were built, and schools created. The learned men of the empire assembled at the Caliph’s court, which not merely shone outwardly with the pomp of the costliest jewels, furniture and palaces, but was resplendent with the glory of poetry and all the sciences. At first the Caliphs still maintained entire that simplicity and plainness which characterized the Arabs of the desert, (the Caliph Abubeker is particularly famous in this respect,) and which acknowledged no distinction of station and culture. The meanest Saracen, the most insignificant old Woman, approached the Caliph as an equal. Unreflecting naivete does not stand in need of culture; and in virtue of the freedom of his Spirit, each one sustains a relation of equality to the ruler.
The great empire of the Caliphs did not last long: for on the basis presented by Universality nothing is firm. The great Arabian empire fell about the same time as that of the Franks: thrones were demolished by slaves and by fresh invading hordes – the Seljuks and Mongols – and new kingdoms founded, new dynasties raised to the throne. The Osman race at last succeeded in establishing a firm dominion, by forming for themselves a firm centre in the Janizaries. Fanaticism having cooled down, no moral principle remained in men’s souls. In the struggle with the Saracens, European valor had idealized itself to a fair and noble chivalry. Science and knowledge, especially that of philosophy, came from the Arabs into the West. A noble poetry and free imagination were kindled among the Germans by the East – a fact which directed Goethe’s attention to the Orient and occasioned the composition of a string of lyric pearls, in his “Divan,” which in warmth and felicity of fancy cannot be surpassed. But the East itself, when by degrees enthusiasm had vanished, sank into the grossest vice. The most hideous passions became dominant, and as sensual enjoyment was sanctioned in the first form which Mahometan doctrine assumed, and was exhibited as a reward of the faithful in Paradise, it took the place of fanaticism. At present, driven back into its Asiatic and African quarters, and tolerated only in one corner of Europe through the jealousy of Christian Powers, Islam has long vanished from the stage of history at large, and has retreated into Oriental ease and repose.
The empire of the Franks, as already stated, was founded by Clovis. After his death, it was divided among his sons. Subsequently, after many struggles and the employment of treachery, assassination and violence, it was again united, and once more divided. Internally the power of the kings was very much increased, by their having become princes in conquered lands. These were indeed parcelled out among the Frank freemen; but very considerable permanent revenues accrued to the king, together with what had belonged to the emperors, and the spoils of confiscation. These therefore the king bestowed as personal, i.e. not heritable, beneficia, on his warriors, who in receiving them entered into a personal obligation to him – became his vassals and formed his feudal array. The very opulent Bishops were united with them in constituting the King’s Council, which however did not circumscribe the royal authority. At the head of the feudal array was the Major Domus. These Majores Domus soon assumed the entire power and threw the royal authority into the shade, while the kings sank into a torpid condition and became mere puppets. From the former sprang the dynasty of the Carlovingians. Pepin le Bref, the son of Charles Martel, was in the year 752 raised to the dignity of King of the Franks. Pope Zacharias released the Franks from their oath of allegiance to the still living Childeric III – the last of the Merovingians – who received the tonsure, i.e. became a monk, and was thus deprived of the royal distinction of long hair. The last of the Merovingians were utter weaklings, who contented themselves with the name of royalty, and gave themselves up almost entirely to luxury – a phenomenon that is quite common in the dynasties of the East, and is also met with again among the last of the Carlovingians. The Majores Domus, on the contrary, were in the very vigor of ascendant fortunes, and were in such close alliance with the feudal nobility, that it became easy for them ultimately to secure the throne.
The Popes were most severely pressed by the Lombard kings and sought protection from the Franks. Out of gratitude Pepin undertook to defend Stephen II. He led an army twice across the Alps, and twice defeated the Lombards. His victories gave splendor to his newly established throne, and entailed a considerable heritage on the Chair of St. Peter. In A.D. 800 the son of Pepin – Charlemagne – was crowned Emperor by the Pope, and hence originated the firm union of the Carlovingians with the Papal See. For the Roman Empire continued to enjoy among the barbarians the prestige of a great power, and was ever regarded by them as the centre from which civil dignities, religion, laws and all branches of knowledge – beginning with written characters themselves – flowed to them. Charles Martel, after he had delivered Europe from Saracen domination, was – himself and his successors – dignified with the title of “Patrician” by the people and senate of Rome; but Charlemagne was crowned Emperor, and that by the Pope himself. There were now, therefore, two Empires, and in them the Christian confession was gradually divided into two Churches, the Greek and the Roman. The Roman Emperor was the born defender of the Roman Church, and this position of the Emperor towards the Pope seemed to declare that the Frank sovereignty was only a continuation of the Roman Empire. The Empire of Charlemagne had a very considerable extent. Franconia Proper stretched from the Rhine to the Loire. Aquitania, south of the Loire, was in 768 – the year of Pepin’s death – entirely subjugated. The Frank Empire also included Burgundy, Alemannia (southern Germany between the Lech, the Maine and the Rhine), Thuringia, which extended to the Saale, and Bavaria. Charlemagne likewise conquered the Saxons, who dwelt between the Rhine and the Weser, and put an end to the Lombard dominion, so that he became master of Upper and Central Italy.
This great empire Charlemagne formed into a systematically organized State, and gave the Frank dominion settled institutions adapted to impart to it strength and consistency. This must however not be understood, as if he first introduced the Constitution of his empire in its whole extent, but as implying that institutions partly already in existence, were developed under his guidance, and attained a more decided and unobstructed efficiency. The King stood at the head of the officers of the empire, and the principle of hereditary monarchy was already recognized. The King was likewise master of the armed force, as also the largest landed proprietor, while the supreme judicial power was equally in his hands. The military constitution was based on the “arrière- ban.” Every freeman was bound to arm for the defence of the realm, and had to provide for his support in the field for a certain time. This militia (as it would now be called) was under the command of Counts and Margraves, which latter presided over large districts on the borders of the empire – the “Marches.” According to the general partition of the country, it was divided into provinces [or counties], over each of which a Count presided. Over them again, under the later Carlovingians, were Dukes, whose seats were large cities, such as Cologne, Ratisbon, and the like. Their office gave occasion to the division of the country into Duchies: thus there was a Duchy of Alsatia, Lorraine, Frisia, Thuringia, Rhaetia. These Dukes were appointed by the Emperor. Peoples that had retained their hereditary princes after their subjugation, lost this privilege and received Dukes, when they revolted; this was the case with Alemannia, Thuringia, Bavaria, and Saxony. But there was also a kind of standing army for readier use. The vassals of the emperor, namely, had the enjoyment of estates on the condition of performing military service, whenever commanded. And with a view to maintain these arrangements, commissioners (Missi) were sent out by the emperor, to observe and report concerning the affairs of the Empire, and to inquire into the state of judicial administration and inspect the royal estates.
Not less remarkable is the management of the revenues of the state. There were no direct taxes, and few tolls on rivers and roads, of which several were farmed out to the higher officers of the empire. Into the treasury flowed on the one hand judicial fines, on the other hand the pecuniary satisfactions made for not serving in the army at the emperor’s summons. Those who enjoyed beneficia, lost them on neglecting this duty. The chief revenue was derived from the crown- lands, of which the emperor had a great number, on which royal palaces [Pfalzen] were erected. It had been long the custom for the kings to make progresses through the chief provinces, and to remain for a time in each palatinate; the due preparations for the maintenance of the court having been already made by Marshals, Chamberlains, etc.
As regards the administration of justice, criminal causes and those which concern real property were tried before the communal assemblies under the presidency of a Count. Those of less importance were decided by at least seven free men – an elective bench of magistrates – under the presidency of the Centgraves. The supreme jurisdiction belonged to the royal tribunals, over which the king presided in his palace: to these the feudatories, spiritual and temporal, were amenable. The royal commissioners mentioned above gave especial attention in their inquisitorial visits to the judicial administration, heard all complaints, and punished injustice. A spiritual and a temporal envoy had to go their circuit four times a year.
In Charlemagne’s time the ecclesiastical body had already acquired great weight. The bishops presided over great cathedral establishments, with which were also connected seminaries and scholastic institutions. For Charlemagne endeavored to restore science, then almost extinct, by promoting the foundation of schools in towns and villages. Pious souls believed that they were doing a good work and earning salvation by making presents to the church; in this way the most savage and barbarous monarchs sought to atone for their crimes. Private persons most commonly made their offerings in the form of a bequest of their entire estate to religious houses, stipulating for the enjoyment of the usufruct only for life or for a specified time. But it often happened that on the death of a bishop or abbot, the temporal magnates and their retainers invaded the possessions of the clergy, and fed and feasted there till all was consumed; for religion had not yet such an authority over men’s minds as to be able to bridle the rapacity of the powerful. The clergy were obliged to appoint stewards and bailiffs to manage their estates; besides this, guardians had charge of all their secular concerns, led their men-at-arms into the field, and gradually obtained from the king territorial jurisdiction, when the ecclesiastics had secured the privilege of being amenable only to their own tribunals, and enjoyed immunity from the authority of the royal officers of justice (the Counts). This involved an important step in the change of political relations, inasmuch as the ecclesiastical domains assumed more and more the aspect of independent provinces enjoying a freedom surpassing anything to which those of secular princes had yet made pretensions. Moreover the clergy contrived subsequently to free themselves from the burdens of the state, and opened the churches and monasteries as asylums – that is, inviolable sanctuaries for all offenders. This institution was on the one hand very beneficial as a protection in cases of violence and oppression; but it was perverted on the other hand into a means of impunity for the grossest crimes. In Charlemagne’s time, the law could still demand from conventual authorities the surrender of offenders. The bishops were tried by a judicial bench consisting of bishops; as vassals they were properly subject to the royal tribunal. Afterwards the monastic establishments sought to free themselves from episcopal jurisdiction also: and thus they made themselves independent even of the church. The bishops were chosen by the clergy and the religious communities at large; but as they were also vassals of the sovereign, their feudal dignity had to be conferred by him. The contingency of a contest was avoided by the obligation to choose a person approved of by the king.
The imperial tribunals were held in the palace where the emperor resided. The sovereign himself presided in them, and the magnates of the imperial court constituted with him the supreme judicial body. The deliberations of the imperial council on the affairs of the empire did not take place at appointed times, but as occasions offered – at military reviews in the spring, at ecclesiastical councils and on court-days. It was especially these court-days, to which the feudal nobles were invited – when the king held his court in a particular province, generally on the Rhine, the centre of the Frank empire – that gave occasion to the deliberations in question. Custom required the sovereign to assemble twice a year a select body of the higher temporal and ecclesiastical functionaries, but here also the king had decisive power. These conventions are therefore of a different character from the Imperial Diets of later times, in which the nobles assume a more independent position.
Such was the state of the Frank Empire – that first consolidation of Christianity into a political form proceeding from itself, the Roman empire having been swallowed up by Christianity. The constitution just described looks excellent; it introduced a firm military organization and provided for the administration of justice within the empire. Yet after Charlemagne’s death it proved itself utterly powerless – externally defenceless against the invasions of the Normans, Hungarians, and Arabs, and internally inefficient in resisting lawlessness, spoliation, and oppression of every kind. Thus we see, side by side with an excellent constitution, the most deplorable condition of things, and therefore confusion in all directions. Such political edifices need, for the very reason that they originate suddenly, the additional strengthening afforded by negativity evolved within themselves: they need reactions in every form, such as manifest themselves in the following period.
While the first period of the German World ends brilliantly with a mighty empire, the second is commenced by the reaction resulting from the antithesis occasioned by that infinite falsehood which rules the destinies of the Middle Ages and constitutes their life and spirit. This reaction is first, that of the particular nationalities against the universal sovereignty of the Frank empire – manifesting itself in the splitting up of that great empire. The second reaction is that of individuals against legal authority and the executive power – against subordination, and the military and judicial arrangements of the constitution. This produced the isolation and therefore defencelessness of individuals. The universality of the power of the state disappeared through this reaction: individuals sought protection with the powerful, and the latter became oppressors. Thus was gradually introduced a condition of universal dependence, and this protecting relation is then systematized into the Feudal System. The third reaction is that of the church – the reaction of the spiritual element against the existing order of things. Secular extravagances of passion were repressed and kept in check by the Church, but the latter was itself secularized in the process, and abandoned its proper position. From that moment begins the introversion of the secular principle. These relations and reactions all go to constitute the history of the Middle Ages, and the culminating point of this period is the Crusades; for with them arises a universal instability, but one through which the states of Christendom first attain internal and external independence.
The First Reaction is that of particular nationality against the universal sovereignty of the Franks. It appears indeed, at first sight, as if the Frank empire was divided by the mere choice of its sovereigns; but another consideration deserves attention, vis. that this division was popular, and was accordingly maintained by the peoples. It was, therefore, not a mere dynastic act – which might appear unwise, since the princes thereby weakened their own power – but a restoration of those distinct nationalities which had been held together by a connecting bond of irresistible might and the genius of a great man. Louis the Pious [le Débonnaire] son of Charlemagne, divided the empire among his three sons. But subsequently, by a second marriage, another son was born to him – Charles the Bald. As he wished to give him also an inheritance, wars and contentions arose between Louis and his other sons, whose already received portion would have to be diminished by such an arrangement. In the first instance, therefore, a private interest was involved in the contest; but that of the nations which composed the empire made the issue not indifferent to them. The western Franks had already identified themselves with the Gauls, and with them originated a reaction against the German Franks, as also at a later epoch one on the part of Italy against the Germans. By the treaty of Verdun, A.D. 843, a division of the empire among Charlemagne’s descendants took place; the whole Frank empire, some provinces excepted, was for a moment again united under Charles the Gross. It was, however, only for a short time that this weak prince was able to hold the vast empire together; it was broken up into many smaller sovereignties, which developed and maintined an independent position. These were the Kingdom of Italy, which was itself divided, the two Burgundian sovereignties – Upper Burgundy, of which the chief centres were Geneva and the convent of St. Maurice in Valaise, and Lower Burgundy between the Jura, the Mediterranean and the Rhone – Lorraine, between the Rhine and the Meuse, Normandy, and Brittany. France Proper was shut in between these sovereignties; and thus limited did Hugh Capet find it when he ascended the throne. Eastern Franconia, Saxony, Thuringia, Bavaria, Swabia, remained parts of the German Empire. Thus did the unity of the Frank monarchy fall to pieces. The internal arrangements of the Frank empire also suffered a gradual but total decay; and the first to disappear was the military organization. Soon after Charlemagne we see the Norsemen from various quarters making inroads into England, France and Germany. In England seven dynasties of Anglo-Saxon Kings were originally established, but in the year 827 Egbert united these sovereignties into a single kingdom. In the reign of his successor the Danes made very frequent invasions and pillaged the country. In Alfred the Great’s time they met with vigorous resistance, but subsequently the Danish King Canute conquered all England. The inroads of the Normans into France were contemporaneous with these events. They sailed up the Seine and the Loire in light boats, plundered the towns, pillaged the convents, and went off with their booty. They beleaguered Paris itself, and the Carlovingian Kings were reduced to the base necessity of purchasing a peace. In the same way they devastated the towns lying on the Elbe; and from the Rhine plundered Aix-la-Chapelle and Cologne, and made Lorraine tributary to them. The Diet of Worms, in 882, did indeed issue a general proclamation, summoning all subjects to rise in arms, but they were compelled to put up with a disgraceful composition. These storms came from the north and the west. The Eastern side of the empire suffered from the inroads of the Magyars. These barbarian peoples traversed the country in wagons, and laid waste the whole of Southern Germany. Through Bavaria, Swabia, and Switzerland they penetrated into the interior of France and reached Italy. The Saracens pressed forward from the South. Sicily had been long in their hands: they thence obtained a firm footing in Italy, menaced Rome – which diverted their attack by a composition – and were the terror of Piedmont and Provence.
Thus these three peoples invaded the empire from all sides in great masses, and in their desolating marches almost came into contact with each other. France was devastated by the Normans as far as the Jura; the Hungarians reached Switzerland, and the Saracens Valaise. Calling to mind that organization of the “arrière-ban,” and considering it in juxtaposition with this miserable state of things, we cannot fail to be struck with the inefficiency of all those far- famed institutions, which at such a juncture ought to have shown themselves most effective. We might be inclined to regard the picture of the noble and rational constitution of the Frank monarchy under Charlemagne – exhibiting itself as strong, comprehensive, and well ordered, internally and externally – as a baseless figment. Yet it actually existed; the entire political system being held together only by the power, the greatness, the regal soul of this one man – not based on the spirit of the people – not having become a vital element in it. It was superficially induced – an a priori constitution like that which Napoleon gave to Spain, and which disappeared with the physical power that sustained it. That, on the contrary, which renders a constitution real, is that it exists as Objective Freedom – the Substantial form of volition – as duty and obligation acknowledged by the subjects themselves. But obligation was not yet recognized by the German Spirit, which hitherto showed itself only as “Heart” and subjective choice; for it there was as yet no subjectivity involving unity, but only a subjectivity conditioned by a careless superficial self-seeking. Thus that constitution was destitute of any firm bond; it had no objective support in subjectivity; for in fact no constitution was as yet possible.
This leads us to the Second Reaction – that of individuals against the authority of law. The capacity of appreciating legal order and the common weal is altogether absent, has no vital existence in the peoples themselves. The duties of every free citizen, the authority of the judge to give judicial decisions, that of the count of a province to hold his court, and interest in the laws as such, are no longer regarded as valid now that the strong hand from above ceases to hold the reins of sovereignty. The brilliant administration of Charlemagne had vanished without leaving a trace, and the immediate consequence was the general defencelessness of individuals. The need of protection is sure to be felt in some degree in every well-organized state: each citizen knows his rights and also knows that for the security of possession the social state is absolutely necessary. Barbarians have not yet attained this sense of need – the want of protection from others. They look upon it as a limitation of their freedom if their rights must be guaranteed them by others. Thus, therefore, the impulse towards a firm organization did not exist: men must first be placed in a defenceless condition, before they were sensible of the necessity of the organization of a State. The political edifice had to be reconstructed from the very foundations. The commonwealth as then organized had no vitality or firmness at all either in itself or in the minds of the people; and its weakness manifested itself in the fact that it was unable to give protection to its individual members. As observed above, the idea of duty was not present in the Spirit of the Germans; it had to be restored. In the first instance volition could only be arrested in its wayward career in reference to the merely external point of possession; and to make it feel the importance of the protection of the State, it had to be violently dislodged from its obtuseness and impelled by necessity to seek union and a social condition. Individuals were therefore obliged to consult for themselves by taking refuge with Individuals, and submitted to the authority of certain powerful persons, who constituted a private possession and personal sovereignty out of that authority which formerly belonged to the Commonwealth. As officers of the State, the counts did not meet with obedience from those committed to their charge, and they were as little desirous of it. Only for themselves did they covet it. They assumed to themselves the power of the State, and made the authority with which they had been intrusted as a beneficium, a heritable possession. As in earlier times the King or other magnates conferred fiefs on their vassals by way of rewards, now, conversely, the weaker and poorer surrendered their possessions to the strong, for the sake of gaining efficient protection. They committed their estates to a Lord, a Convent, an Abbot, a Bishop (feudum oblatum), and received them back, encumbered with feudal obligations to these superiors. Instead of freemen they became vassals – feudal dependants – and their possession a beneficium. This is the constitution of the Feudal System. “Feudum” is connected with “fides”; the fidelity implied in this case is a bond established on unjust principles, a relation that does indeed contemplate a legitimate object, but whose import is not a whit the less injustice ; for the fidelity of vassals is not an obligation to the Commonwealth, but a private one – ipso facto therefore subject to the sway of chance, caprice, and violence. Universal injustice, universal lawlessness is reduced to a system of dependence on and obligation to individuals, so that the mere formal side of the matter, the mere fact of compact constitutes its sole connection with the principle of Right. – Since every man had to protect himself, the martial spirit, which in point of external defence seemed to have most ignominiously vanished, was reawakened; for torpidity was roused to action partly by extreme ill-usage, partly by the greed and ambition of individuals. The valor that now manifested itself, was displayed not on behalf of the State, but of private interests. In every district arose castles; fortresses were erected, and that for the defence of private property, and with a view to plunder the tyranny. In the way just mentioned, the political totality was ignored at those points where individual authority was established, among which the seats of bishops and archbishops deserve especial mention. The bishoprics had been freed from the jurisdiction of the judicial tribunals, and from the operations of the executive generally. The bishops had stewards on whom at their request the Emperors conferred the jurisdiction which the Counts had formerly exercised. Thus there were detached ecclesiastical domains – ecclesiastical districts which belonged to a saint (Germ. Weichbilder). Similar suzerainties of a secular kind were subsequently constituted. Both occupied the position of the previous Provinces [Gaue] or Counties [Grafschaften]. Only in a few towns where communities of freemen were independently strong enough to secure protection and safety, did relics of the ancient free constitution remain. With these exceptions the free communities entirely disappeared, and became subject to the prelates or to the Counts and Dukes, thenceforth known as seigneurs and princes. The imperial power was extolled in general terms, as something very great and exalted: the Emperor passed for the secular head of entire Christendom: but the more exalted the ideal dignity of the emperors, the more limited was it in reality. France derived extraordinary advantage from the fact that it entirely repudiated this baseless assumption, while in Germany the advance of political development was hindered by that pretence of power. The kings and emperors were no longer chiefs of the state, but of the princes, who were indeed their vassals, but possessed sovereignty and territorial lordships of their own. The whole social condition therefore, being founded on individual sovereignty, it might be supposed that the advance to a State would be possible only through the return of those individual sovereignties to an official relationship. But to accomplish this, a superior power would have been required, such as was not in existence; for the feudal lords themselves determined how far they were still dependent on the general constitution of the state. No authority of Law and Right is valid any longer; nothing but chance power – the crude caprice of particular as opposed to universally valid Right; and this struggles against equality of Rights and Laws. Inequality of political privileges – the allotment being the work of the purest haphazard – is the predominant feature. It is impossible that a Monarchy can arise from such a social condition through the subjugation of the several minor powers under the Chief of the State, as such. Reversely, the former were gradually transformed into Principalities [Fürstenthumer], and became united with the Principality of the Chief; thus enabling the authority of the king and of the state to assert itself. While, therefore, the bond of political unity was still wanting, the several seigneuries attained their development independently.
In France the dynasty of Charlemagne, like that of Clovis, became extinct through the weakness of the sovereigns who represented it. Their dominion was finally limited to the petty sovereignty of Laon; and the last of the Carlovingians, Duke Charles of Lorraine, who laid claim to the crown after the death of Louis V, was defeated and taken prisoner. The powerful Hugh Capet, Duke of France, was proclaimed king. The title of King, however, gave him no real power; his authority was based on his territorial possessions alone. At a later date, through purchase, marriage, and the dying out of families, the kings became possessed of many feudal domains; and their authority was frequently invoked as a protection against the oppressions of the nobles. The royal authority in France became heritable at an early date, because the fiefs were heritable; though at first the kings took the precaution to have their sons crowned during their lifetime. France was divided into many sovereignties: the Duchy of Guienne, the Earldom of Flanders, the Duchy of Gascony, the Earldom of Toulouse, the Duchy of Burgundy, the Earldom of Vermandois; Lorraine too had belonged to France for some time. Normandy had been ceded to the Normans by the kings of France, in order to secure a temporary repose from their incursions. From Normandy Duke William passed over into England and conquered it in the year 1066. Here he introduced a fully developed feudal constitution – a network which, to a great extent, encompasses England even at the present day. And thus the Dukes of Normandy confronted the comparatively feeble Kings of France with a power of no inconsiderable pretensions. – Germany was composed of the great duchies of Saxony, Swabia, Bavaria, Carinthia, Lorraine and Burgundy, the Margraviate of Thuringia, etc. with several bishoprics and archbishoprics. Each of those duchies again was divided into several fiefs, enjoying more of less independence. The emperor seems often to have united several duchies under his immediate sovereignty. The Emperor Henry III was, when he ascended the throne, lord of many large dukedoms; but he weakened his own power by enfeoffing them to others. Germany was radically a free nation, and had not, as France had, any dominant family as a central authority; it continued an elective empire. Its princes refused to surrender the privilege of choosing their sovereign for themselves; and at every new election they introduced new restrictive conditions, so that the imperial power was degraded to an empty shadow. – In Italy we find the same political condition. The German Emperors had pretensions to it: but their authority was valid only so far as they could support it by direct force of arms, and as the Italian cities and nobles deemed their own advantage to be promoted by submission. Italy was, like Germany, divided into many larger and smaller dukedoms, earldoms, bishoprics and seigneuries. The Pope had very little power, either in the North or in the South; which latter was long divided between the Lombards and the Greeks, until both were overcome by the Normans. – Spain maintained a contest with the Saracens, either defensive or victorious, through the whole mediaeval period, till the latter finally succumbed to the more matured power of Christian civilization.
Thus all Right vanished before individual Might; for equality of Rights and rational legislation, where the interests of the political Totality, of the State, are kept in view, had no existence. The Third Reaction, noticed above, was that of the element of Universality against the Real World as split up into particularity. This reaction proceeded from below upwards – from that condition of isolated possession itself; and was then promoted chiefly by the church. A sense of the nothingness of its condition seized on the world as it were universally. In that condition of utter isolation, where only the unsanctioned might of individuals had any validity [where the State was non-existent,] men could find no repose, and Christendom was, so to speak, agitated by the tremor of an evil conscience. In the eleventh century, the fear of the approaching final judgment and the belief in the speedy dissolution of the world, spread through all Europe. This dismay of soul impelled men to the most irrational proceedings. Some bestowed the whole of their possessions on the Church, and passed their lives in continual penance; the majority dissipated their worldly all in riotous debauchery. The Church alone increased its riches by the hallucinations, through donations and bequests. – About the same time too, terrible famines swept away their victims: human flesh was sold in open market. During this state of things, lawlessness, brutal lust, the most barbarous caprice, deceit and cunning, were the prevailing moral features. Italy, the centre of Christendom, presented the most revolting aspect. Every virtue was alien to the times in question; consequently virtus had lost its proper meaning: in common use it denoted only violence and oppression, sometimes even libidinous outrage. This corrupt state of things affected the clergy equally with the laity. Their own advowees had made themselves masters of the ecclesiastical estates intrusted to their keeping, and lived on them quite at their own pleasure, restricting the monks and clergy to a scanty pittance. Monasteries that refused to accept advowees were compelled to do so; the neighboring lords taking the office upon themselves or giving it to their sons. Only bishops and abbots maintained themselves in possession, being able to protect themselves partly by their own power, partly by means of their retainers; since they were, for the most part, of noble families.
The bishoprics being secular fiefs, their occupants were bound to the performance of imperial and feudal service. The investiture of the bishops belonged to the sovereigns, and it was their interest that these ecclesiastics should be attached to them. Whoever desired a bishopric, therefore, had to make application to the king; and thus a regular trade was carried on in bishoprics and abbacies. Usurers who had lent money to the sovereign, received compensation by the bestowal of the dignities in question; the worst of men thus came into possession of spiritual offices. There could be no question that the clergy ought to have been chosen by the religious community, and there were always influential persons who had the right of electing them; but the king compelled them to yield to his orders. Nor did the Papal dignity fare any better. Through a long course of years the Counts of Tusculum near Rome conferred it on members of their own family, or on persons to whom they had sold it for large sums of money. The state of things became at last so intolerable, that laymen as well as ecclesiastics of energetic character opposed its continuance. The Emperor Henry III put an end to the strife of factions, by nominating the Popes himself, and supporting them by his authority in defiance of the opposition of the Roman nobility. Pope Nicholas II decided that the Popes should be chosen by the Cardinals; but as the latter partly belonged to dominant families, similar contests of factions continued to accompany their election. Gregory VII (already famous as Cardinal Hildebrand) sought to secure the independence of the church in this frightful condition of things, by two measures especially. First, he enforced the celibacy of the clergy. From the earliest times, it must be observed, the opinion had prevailed that it was commendable and desirable for the clergy to remain unmarried. Yet the annalists and chroniclers inform us that this requirement was but indifferently complied with. Nicholas II had indeed pronounced the married clergy to be a new sect; but Gregory VII proceeded to enforce the restriction with extraordinary energy, excommunicating all the married clergy and all laymen who should hear mass when they officiated. In this way the ecclesiastical body was shut up within itself and excluded from the morality of the State. – His second measure was directed against simony, i.e. the sale of or arbitrary appointment to bishoprics and to the Papal See itself.
Ecclesiastical offices were thenceforth to be filled by the clergy, who were capable of administering them; an arrangement which necessarily brought the ecclesiastical body into violent collision with secular seigneurs.
These were the two grand measures by which Gregory purposed to emancipate the Church from its condition of dependence and exposure to secular violence. But Gregory made still further demands on the secular power. The transference of benefices to a new incumbent was to receive validity simply in virtue of his ordination by his ecclesiastical superior, and the Pope was to have exclusive control over the vast property of the ecclesiastical community. The Church as a divinely constituted power, laid claim to supremacy over secular authority – founding that claim on the abstract principle that the Divine is superior to the Secular. The Emperor at his coronation – a ceremony which only the Pope could perform – was obliged to promise upon oath that he would always be obedient to the Pope and the Church. Whole countries and states, such as Naples, Portugal, England and Ireland came into a formal relation of vassalage to the Papal chair.
Thus the Church attained an independent position: the Bishops convoked synods in the various countries, and in these convocations the clergy found a permanent centre of unity and support. In this way the Church attained the most influential position in secular affairs. It arrogated to itself the award of princely crowns, and assumed the part of mediator between sovereign powers in war and peace. The contingencies which particularly favored such interventions on the part of the Church were the marriages of princes. It frequently happened that princes wished to be divorced from their wives; but for such a step they needed the permission of the Church. The latter did not let slip the opportunity of insisting upon the fulfilment of demands that might have been otherwise urged in vain, and thence advanced till it had obtained universal influence. In the chaotic state of the community generally, the intervention of the authority of the Church was felt as a necessity. By the introduction of the “Truce of God,” feuds and private revenge were suspended for at least certain days in the week, or even for entire weeks; and the Church maintained this armistice by the use of all its ghostly appliances of excommunication, interdict and other threats and penalties. The secular possessions of the Church brought it however into a relation to other secular princes and lords, which was alien to its proper nature; it constituted a formidable secular power in contraposition to them, and thus formed in the first instance a centre of opposition against violence and arbitrary wrong. It withstood especially the attacks upon the ecclesiastical foundations – the secular lordships of the Bishops; and on occasion of opposition on the part of vassals to the violence and caprice of princes, the former had the support of the Pope. But in these proceedings the Church brought to bear against opponents only a force and arbitrary resolve of the same kind as their own, and mixed up its secular interest with its interest as an ecclesiastical, i.e., a divinely substantial power. Sovereigns and peoples were by no means incapable of discriminating between the two, or of recognizing the worldly aims that were apt to intrude as motives for ecclesiastical intervention. They therefore stood by the Church as far as they deemed it their interest to do so; otherwise they showed no great dread of excommunication or other ghostly terrors. Italy was the country where the authority of the Popes was least respected; and the worst usage they experienced was from the Romans themselves. Thus what the Popes acquired in point of land and wealth and direct sovereignty, they lost in influence and consideration.
We have then to probe to its depths the spiritual element in the Church – the form of its power. The essence of the Christian principle has already been unfolded; it is the principle of Mediation. Man realizes his Spiritual essence only when he conquers the Natural that attaches to him. This conquest is possible only on the supposition that the human and the divine nature are essentially one, and that Man, so far as he is Spirit, also possesses the essentiality and substantiality that belong to the idea of Deity. The condition of the mediation in question is the consciousness of this unity; and the intuition of this unity was given to man in Christ. The object to be attained is therefore, that man should lay hold on this consciousness, and that it should be continually excited in him. This was the design of the Mass: in the Host Christ is set forth as actually, present; the piece of bread consecrated by the priest is the present God, subjected to human contemplation and ever and anon offered up. One feature of this representation is correct, inasmuch as the sacrifice of Christ is here regarded as an actual and eternal transaction, Christ being not a mere sensuous and single, but a completely universal, i.e., divine, individuum; but on the other hand it involves the error of isolating the sensuous phase; for the Host is adored even apart from its being partaken of by the faithful, and the presence of Christ is not exclusively limited mental vision and Spirit. Justly therefore did the Lutheran Reformation make this dogma an especial object of attack. Luther proclaimed the great doctrine that the Host had spiritual value and Christ was received only on the condition of faith in him; apart from this, the Host, he affirmed, was a mere external thing, possessed of no greater value than any other thing. But the Catholic falls down before the Host; and thus the merely outward has sanctity ascribed to it. The Holy as a mere thing has the character of externality; thus it is capable of being taken possession of by another to my exclusion: it may come into an alien hand, since the process of appropriating it is not one that takes place in Spirit, but is conditioned by its quality as an external object [Dingheit]. The highest of human blessings is in the hands of others. Here arises ipso facto a separation between those who possess this blessing and those who have to receive it from others – between the Clergy and the Laity. The laity as such are alien to the Divine. This is the absolute schism in which the Church in the Middle Ages was involved: it arose from the recognition of the Holy as something external. The clergy imposed certain conditions, to which the laity must conform if they would be partakers of the Holy. The entire development of doctrine, spiritual insight and the knowledge of divine things, belonged exclusively to the Church: it has to ordain, and the laity have simply to believe: obedience is their duty – the obedience of faith, without insight on their part. This position of things rendered faith a matter of external legislation, and resulted in compulsion and the stake. The generality of men are thus cut off from the Church; and on the same principle they are severed from the Holy in every form. For on the same principle as that by which the clergy are the medium between man on the one hand and God and Christ on the other hand, the layman cannot directly apply to the Divine Being in his prayers, but only through mediators – human beings who conciliate God for him, the Dead, the Perfect – Saints. Thus originated the adoration of the Saints, and with it that conglomerate of fables and falsities with which the Saints and their biographies have been invested. In the East the worship of images had early become popular, and after a lengthened struggle had triumphantly established itself: – an image, a picture, though sensuous, still appeals rather to the imagination; but the coarser natures of the West desired something more immediate as the object of their contemplation, and thus arose the worship of relics. The consequence was a formal resurrection of the dead in the mediaeval period, every pious Christian wished to be in possession of such sacred earthly remains. Among the Saints the chief object of adoration was the Virgin Mary. She is certainly the beautiful concept of pure love – a mother’s love; but Spirit and Thought stand higher than even this; and in the worship of this conception that of God in Spirit was lost, and Christ himself was set aside. The element of mediation between God and man was thus apprehended and held as something external. Thus through the perversion of the principle of Freedom, absolute Slavery became the established law. The other aspects and relations of the spiritual life of Europe during this period flow from this principle. Knowledge, comprehension of religious doctrine, is something of which Spirit is judged incapable; it is the exclusive possession of a class, which has to determine the True. For man may not presume to stand in a direct relation to God; so that, as we said before, if he would apply to Him, he needs a mediator – a Saint. This view imports the denial of the essential unity of the Divine and Human; since man, as such, is declared incapable of recognizing the Divine and of approaching thereto. And while humanity is thus separated from the Supreme Good, no change of heart, as such, is insisted upon – for this would suppose that the unity of the Divine and the Human is to be found in man himself – but the terrors of Hell are exhibited to man in the most terrible colors, to induce him to escape from them, not by moral amendment, but in virtue of something external – the “means of grace.” These, however, are an arcanum to the laity; another – the “Confessor,” must furnish him with them. The individual has to confess – is bound to expose all the particulars of his life and conduct to the view of the Confessor – and then is informed what course he has to pursue to attain spiritual safety. Thus the Church took the place of Conscience: it put men in leading strings like children, and told them that man could not be freed from the torments which his sins had merited, by any amendment of his own moral condition, but by outward actions, opera operata – actions which were not the promptings of his own good-will, but performed by command of the ministers of the church; e.g., hearing mass, doing penance, going through a certain number of prayers, undertaking pilgrimages – actions which are unspiritual, stupefy the soul, and which are not only mere external ceremonies, but are such as can be even vicariously performed, The supererogatory works ascribed to the saints, could be purchased, and the spiritual advantage which they merited, secured to the purchaser. Thus was produced an utter derangement of all that is recognized as good and moral in the Christian Church: only external requirements are insisted upon, and these can be complied with in a merely external way. A condition the very reverse of Freedom is intruded into the principle of freedom itself.
With this perversion is connected the absolute separation of the spiritual from the secular principle generally. There are two Divine Kingdoms – the intellectual in the heart and cognitive faculty, and the socially ethical whose element and sphere is secular existence. It is science alone that can comprehend the kingdom of God and the socially Moral world as one Idea, and that recognizes the fact that the course of Time has witnessed a process ever tending to the realization of this unity. But Piety [or Religious Feeling] as such, has nothing to do with the Secular: it may make its appearance in that sphere on a mission of mercy, but this stops short of a strict socially ethical connection with it – does not come up to the idea of Freedom. Religious Feeling is extraneous to History, and has no History; for History is rather the Empire of Spirit recognizing itself in its Subjective Freedom, as the economy of social morality [sittliches Reich] in the State. In the Middle Ages that embodying of the Divine in actual life was wanting; the antithesis was not harmonized. Social morality was represented as worthless, and that in its three most essential particulars.
One phase of social morality is that connected with Love – with the emotions called forth in the marriage relation. It is not proper to say that Celibacy is contrary to Nature, but that it is adverse to Social Morality [Sittlichkeit]. Marriage was indeed reckoned by the Church among the Sacraments; but notwithstanding the position thus assigned it, it was degraded, inasmuch as celibacy was reckoned as the more holy state. A second point of social morality is presented in Activity – the workman has to perform for his subsistence. His dignity consists in his depending entirely on his diligence, conduct, and intelligence, for the supply of his wants. In direct contravention of this principle, Pauperism, laziness, inactivity, was regarded as nobler: and the Immoral thus received the stamp of consecration. A third point of morality is, that obedience be rendered to the Moral and Rational, as an obedience to laws which I recognize as just; that it be not that blind and unconditional compliance which does not know what it is doing, and whose course of action is a mere groping about without clear consciousness or intelligence. But it was exactly this latter kind of obedience that passed for the most pleasing to God; a doctrine that exalts the obedience of Slavery, imposed by the arbitrary will of the Church, above the true obedience of Freedom.
In this way the three vows of Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience turned out the very opposite of what they assumed to be, and in them all social morality was degraded. The Church was no longer a spiritual power, but an ecclesiastical one; and the relation which the secular world sustained to it was unspiritual, automatic, and destitute of independent insight and conviction. As the consequence of this, we see everywhere vice, utter absence of respect for conscience, shamelessness, and a distracted state of things, of which the entire history of the period is the picture in detail.
According to the above, the Church of the Middle Ages exhibits itself as a manifold Self- contradiction. For Subjective Spirit, although testifying of the Absolute, is at the same time limited and definitely existing Spirit, as Intelligence and Will. Its limitation begins in its taking up this distinctive position, and here consentaneously begins its contradictory and self-alienated phase; for that intelligence and will are not imbued with the Truth, which appears in relation to them as something given [posited ab extra]. This externality of the Absolute Object of comprehension affects the consciousness thus: – that the Absolute Object presents itself as a merely sensuous, external thing – common outward existence – and yet claims to be Absolute: in the mediaeval view of things this absolute demand is made upon Spirit. The second form of the contradiction in question has to do with the relation which the Church itself sustains. The true Spirit exists in man – is his Spirit; and the individual gives himself the certainty of this identity with the Absolute, in worship – the Church sustaining merely the relation of a teacher and directress of this worship. But here, on the contrary, we have an ecclesiastical body, like the Brahmins in India, in possession of the Truth – not indeed by birth, but in virtue of knowledge, teaching and training – yet with the proviso that this alone is not sufficient, an external form, an unspiritual title being judged essential to actual possession. This outward form is Ordination, whose nature is such that the consecration imparted inheres essentially like a sensuous quality in the individual, whatever be the character of his soul – be he irreligious, immoral, or absolutely ignorant. The third kind of contradiction is the Church itself, in its acquisition as an outward existence, of possessions and an enormous property – state of things which, since that Church despises or professes to despise riches, is none other than a Lie.
And we found the State, during the mediaeval period, similarly involved in contradictions. We spoke above of an imperial rule, recognized as standing by the side of the Church and constituting its secular arm. But the power thus acknowledged is invalidated by the fact that the imperial dignity in question is an empty title, not regarded by the Emperor himself or by those who wish to make him the instrument of their ambitious views, as conferring solid authority on its possessor; for passion and physical force assume an independent position, and own no subjection to that merely abstract conception. But secondly, the bond of union which holds the Mediaeval State together, and which we call Fidelity, is left to the arbitrary choice of men’s disposition [Gemüth] which recognizes no objective duties. Consequently, this Fidelity is the most unfaithful thing possible. German Honor in the Middle Ages has become a proverb; but examined more closely as History exhibits it we find it a veritable Punica fides or Groeca fides; for the princes and vassals of the Emperor are true and honorable only to their selfish aims, individual advantage and passions, but utterly untrue to the Empire and the Emperor; because in “Fidelity” in the abstract, their subjective caprice receives a sanction, and the State is not organized as a moral totality. A third contradiction presents itself in the character of individuals, exhibiting, as they do on the one hand, piety – religious devotion, the most beautiful in outward aspect, and springing from the very depths of sincerity – and on the other hand a barbarous deficiency in point of intelligence and will. We find an acquaintance with abstract Truth, and yet the most uncultured, the rudest ideas of the Secular and the Spiritual: a truculent delirium of passion and yet a Christian sanctity which renounces all that is worldly, and devotes itself entirely to holiness. So self-contradictory, so deceptive is this mediaeval period ; and the polemical zeal with which its excellence is contended for, is one of the absurdities of our times. Primitive barbarism, rudeness of manners, and childish fancy are not revolting; they simply excite our pity. But the highest purity of soul defiled by the most horrible barbarity; the Truth, of which a knowledge has been acquired, degraded to a mere tool by falsehood and self-seeking; that which is most irrational, coarse and vile, established and strengthened by the religious sentiment – this is the most disgusting and revolting spectacle that was ever witnessed, and which only Philosophy can comprehend and so justify. For such an antithesis must arise in man’s consciousness of the Holy while this consciousness still remains primitive and immediate; and the profounder the truth to which Spirit comes into an implicit relation – while it has not vet become aware of its own presence in that profound truth – so much the more alien is it to itself in this its unknown form: but only as the result of this alienation does it attain its true harmonization.
We have then contemplated the Church as the reaction of the Spiritual against the secular life of the time; but this reaction is so conditioned, that it only subjects to itself that against which it reacts – does not reform it. While the Spiritual, repudiating its proper sphere of action, has been acquiring secular power, a secular sovereignty has also consolidated itself and attained a systematic development – the Feudal System. As through their isolation, men are reduced to a dependence on their individual power and might, every point in the world on which a human being can maintain his ground becomes an energetic one. While the Individual still remains destitute of the defence of laws and is protected only by his own exertion, life, activity and excitement everywhere manifest themselves. As men are certain of eternal salvation through the instrumentality of the Church, and to this end are bound to obey it only in its spiritual requirements, their ardor in the pursuit of worldly enjoyment increases, on the other hand, in inverse proportion to their fear of its producing any detriment to their spiritual weal; for the Church bestows indulgences, when required, for oppressive, violent and vicious actions of all kinds.
The period from the eleventh to the thirteenth century witnessed the rise of an impulse which developed itself in various forms. The inhabitants of various districts began to build enormous churches – Cathedrals, erected to contain the whole community. Architecture is always the first art, forming the inorganic phase, the domiciliation of the divinity; not till this is accomplished does Art attempt to exhibit to the worshippers the divinity himself – the Objective. Maritime commerce was carried on with vigor by the cities on the Italian, Spanish, and Flemish coasts, and this stimulated the productive industry of their citizens at home. The Sciences began in some degree to revive: the Scholastic Philosophy was in its glory. Schools for the study of law were founded at Bologna and other places, as also for that of medicine. It is on the rise and growing importance of the Towns, that all these creations depend as their main condition; a favorite subject of historical treatment in modern times. And the rise of such communities was greatly desiderated. For the Towns, like the Church, present themselves as reactions against feudal violence – as the earliest legally and regularly constituted power. Mention has already been made of the fact that the possessors of power compelled others to put themselves under their protection. Such centres of safety were castles [Burgen], churches and monasteries, round which were collected those who needed protection. These now became burghers [Burger], and entered into a cliental relation to the lords of such castles or to monastic bodies. Thus a firmly established community was formed in many places. Many cities and fortified places [Castelle] still existed in Italy, in the South of France, and in Germany on the Rhine, which dated their existence from the ancient Roman times, and which originally possessed municipal rights, but subsequently lost them under the rule of feudal governors [Vögte]. The citizens, like their rural neighbors, had been reduced to vassalage.
The principle of free possession however began to develop itself from the protective relation of feudal protection; i.e., freedom originated in its direct contrary. The feudal lords or great barons enjoyed, properly speaking, no free or absolute possession, any more than their dependents ; they had unlimited power over the latter, but at the same time they also were vassals of princes higher and mightier than themselves, and to whom they were under engagements – which, it must be confessed, they did not fulfil except under compulsion. The ancient Germans had known of none other than free possession; but this principle had been perverted into its complete opposite, and now for the first time we behold the few feeble commencements of a reviving sense of freedom. Individuals brought into closer relation by the soil which they cultivated, formed among themselves a kind of union, confederation, or conjuratio. They agreed to be and to perform on their own behalf that which they had previously been and performed in the service of their feudal lord alone. Their first united undertaking was the erection of a tower in which a bell was suspended: the ringing of the bell was a signal for a general rendezvous, and the object of the union thus appointed was the formation of a kind of militia. This is followed by the institution of a municipal government, consisting of magistrates, jurors, consuls, and the establishment of a common treasury, the imposition of taxes, tolls, etc. Trenches are dug and walls built for the common defence, and the citizens are forbidden to erect fortresses for themselves individually. In such a community, handicrafts, as distinguished from agriculture, find their proper home. Artisans necessarily soon attained a superior position to that of the tillers of the ground, for the latter were forcibly driven to work; the former displayed activity really their own, and a corresponding diligence and interest in the result of their labors. Formerly artisans had been obliged to get permission from their liege lords to sell their work, and thus earn something for themselves: they were obliged to pay them a certain sum for this privilege of market, besides contributing a portion of their gains to the baronial exchequer. Those who had houses of their own were obliged to pay a considerable quit-rent for them; on all that was imported and exported, the nobility imposed large tolls, and for the security afforded to travellers they exacted safe-conduct money. When at a later date these communities became stronger, all such feudal rights were purchased from the nobles, or the cession of them compulsorily extorted: by degrees the towns secured an independent jurisdiction and likewise freed themselves from all taxes, tolls and rents. The burden which continued the longest was the obligation the towns were under to make provision for the Emperor and his whole retinue during his stay within their precincts, as also for seigneurs of inferior rank under the same circumstances. The trading class subsequently divided itself into guilds, to each of which were attached particular rights and obligations. The factions to which episcopal elections and other contingencies gave rise, very often promoted the attainment by the towns of the rights above-mentioned. As it would not infrequently happen that two rival bishops were elected to the same see, each one sought to draw the citizens into his own interest, by granting them privileges and freeing them from burdens. Subsequently arose many feuds with the clergy, the bishops and abbots. In some towns they maintained their position as lords of the municipality; in others the citizens got the upper hand, and obtained their freedom. Thus, e.g., Cologne threw off the yoke of its bishop; Mayence on the other hand remained subject. By degrees cities grew to be independent republics: first and foremost in Italy, then in the Netherlands, Germany, and France. They soon come to occupy a peculiar position with respect to the nobility. The latter united itself with the corporations of the towns, and constituted as e.g., in Berne, a particular guild. It soon assumed special powers in the corporations of the towns and attained a dominant position; but the citizens resisted the usurpation and secured the government to themselves. The rich citizens (populus crassus) now excluded the nobility from power. But in the same way as the party of the nobility was divided into factions – especially those of Ghibellines and Guelfs, of which the former favored the Emperor, the latter the Pope – that of the citizens also was rent in sunder by intestine strife. The victorious faction was accustomed to exclude its vanquished opponents from power. The patrician nobility which supplanted the feudal aristocracy, deprived the common people of all share in the conduct of the state, and thus proved itself no less oppressive than the original noblesse. The history of the cities presents us with a continual change of constitutions, according as one party among the citizens or the other – this faction or that, got the upper hand. Originally a select body of citizens chose the magistrates; but as in such elections the victorious faction always had the greatest influence, no other means of securing impartial functionaries was left, but the election of foreigners to the office of judge and podésta. It also frequently happened that the cities chose foreign princes as supreme seigneurs, and intrusted them with the signoria. But all of these arrangements were only of short continuance; the princes soon misused their sovereignty to promote their own ambitious designs and to gratify their passions, and in a few years were once more deprived of their supremacy. – Thus the history of these cities presents on the one hand, in individual characters marked by the most terrible or the most admirable features, an astonishingly interesting picture; on the other hand it repels us by assuming, as it unavoidably does, the aspect of mere chronicles. In contemplating the restless and ever-varying impulses that agitate the very heart of these cities and the continual struggles of factions, we are astonished to see on the other side industry – commerce by land and sea – in the highest degree prosperous. It is the same principle of lively vigor, which, nourished by the internal excitement in question, produces this phenomenon.
We have contemplated the Church, which extended its power over all the sovereignties of the time, and the Cities, where a social organization on a basis of Right was first resuscitated, as powers reacting against the authority of princes and feudal lords. Against these two rising powers, there followed a reactionary movement of princely authority; the Emperor now enters on a struggle with the Pope and the cities. The Emperor is recognized as the apex of Christian, i.e. secular power, the Pope on the other hand as that of Ecclesiastical power, which had now however become as decidedly a secular dominion. In theory, it was not disputed that the Roman Emperor was the Head of Christendom – that he possessed the dominium mundi – that since all Christian states belonged to the Roman Empire, their princes owed him allegiance in all reasonable and equitable requirements. However satisfied the emperors themselves might be of the validity of this claim, they had too much good sense to attempt seriously to enforce if but the empty title of Roman Emperor was a sufficient inducement to them to exert themselves to the utmost to acquire and maintain it in Italy. The Othos especially cherished the idea of the continuation of the old Roman empire, and were ever and anon summoning the German princes to join them in an expedition to Rome with a view to coronation there; – an undertaking in which they were often deserted by them and had to undergo the shame of a retreat. Equal disappointment was experienced by those Italians who hoped for deliverance at the hands of the Emperor from the ochlocracy that domineered over the cities, or from the violence of the feudal nobility in the country at large. The Italian princes who had invoked the presence of the Emperor and had promised him aid in asserting his claims, drew back and left him in the lurch; and those who had previously expected salvation for their country, then broke out into bitter complaints that their beautiful country was devastated by barbarians, their superior civilization trodden under foot, and that right and liberty, deserted by the Emperor, must also perish. Especially touching and deep are the lamentations and reproaches which Dante addresses to the Emperors.
The second complication with Italy was that struggle which contemporaneously with the former was sustained chiefly by the great Swabians – the house of Hohenstaufen – and whose object was to bring back the secular power of the Church, which had become independent, to its original dependence on the state. The Papal See was also a secular power and sovereignty, and the Emperor asserted the superior prerogative of choosing the Pope and investing him with his secular sovereignty. It was these rights of the State for which the Emperors contended. But to that secular power which they withstood, they were at the same time subject, in virtue of its spiritual pretensions: thus the contest was an interminable contradiction. Contradictory as the varying phases of the contest, in which reconciliation was ever alternating with renewed hostilities, was also the instrumentality employed in the struggle. For the power with which the Emperors made head against their enemy – the princes, their servants and subjects, were divided in their own minds, inasmuch as they were bound by the strongest ties of allegiance to the Emperor and to his enemy at one and the same time. The chief interest of the princes lay in that very assumption of independence in reference to the State, against which on the part of the Papal See the Emperor was contending ; so that they were willing to stand by the Emperor in cases where the empty dignity of the imperial crown was impugned, or on some particular occasions – e.g., in a contest with the cities – but abandoned him when he aimed at seriously asserting his authority against the secular power of the clergy, or against other princes. As, on the one hand, the German emperors sought to realize their title in Italy, so, on the other hand, Italy had its political centre in Germany. The interests of the two countries were thus linked together, and neither could gain political consolidation within itself. In the brilliant period of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, individuals of commanding character sustained the dignity of the throne; sovereigns like Frederick Barbarossa, in whom the imperial power manifested itself in its greatest majesty, and who by his personal qualities succeeded in attaching the subject princes to his interests. Yet brilliant as the history of the Hohenstaufen dynasty may appear, and stirring as might have been the contest with the Church, the former presents on the whole nothing more than the tragedy of this house itself, and the latter had no important result in the sphere of Spirit. The cities were indeed compelled to acknowledge the imperial authority, and their deputies swore to observe the decisions of the Roncalian Diet; but they kept their word no longer than they were compelled to do so. Their sense of obligation depended exclusively on the direct consciousness of a superior power ready to enforce it. It is said that when the Emperor Frederick I asked the deputies of the cities whether they had not sworn to the conditions of peace, they answered: “Yes, but not that we would observe them.” The result was that Frederick I at the Peace of Constance (1183) was obliged to concede to them a virtual independence; although he appended the stipulation, that in this concession their feudal obligations to the German Empire were understood to be reserved. The contest between the Emperors and the Popes regarding investitures was settled at the close of 1122 by Henry V and Pope Calixtus II on these terms: the Emperor was to invest with the sceptre; the Pope with the ring and crosier; the chapter were to elect the Bishops in the presence of the Emperor or of imperial commissioners; then the Emperor was to invest the Bishop as a secular feudatory with the temper alia, while the ecclesiastical investiture was reserved for the Pope. Thus the protracted contest between the secular and spiritual powers was at length set at rest.
Chapter II. The Crusades.
The Church gained the victory in the struggle referred to in the previous chapter; and in this way secured as decided a supremacy in Germany, as she did in the other states of Europe by a calmer process. She made herself mistress of all the relations of life, and of science and art; and she was the permanent repository of spiritual treasures. Yet notwithstanding this full and complete development of ecclesiastical life, we find a deficiency and consequent craving manifesting itself in Christendom, and which drove it out of itself. To understand this want, we must revert to the nature of the Christian religion itself, and particularly to that aspect of it by which it has a footing in the Present in the consciousness of its votaries.
The objective doctrines of Christianity had been already so firmly settled by the Councils of the Church, that neither the mediaeval nor any other philosophy could develop them further, except in the way of exalting them intellectually, so that they might be satisfactory as presenting the form of Thought. And one essential point in this doctrine was the recognition of the Divine Nature as not in any sense an other-world existence [ein Jenseits], but as in unity with Human Nature in the Present and Actual. But this Presence is at the same time exclusively Spiritual Presence. Christ as a particular human personality has left the world; his temporal existence is only a past one – i.e., it exists only in mental conception. And since the Divine existence on earth is essentially of a spiritual character, it cannot appear in the form of a Dalai-Lama. The Pope, however high his position as Head of Christendom and Vicar of Christ, calls himself only the Servant of Servants. How then did the Church realize Christ as a definite and present existence? The principal form of this realization was, as remarked above, the Holy Supper, in the form it presented as the Mass: in this the Life, Suffering, and Death of the actual Christ were verily present, as an eternal and daily repeated sacrifice. Christ appears as a definite and present existence in a sensuous form as the Host, consecrated by the Priest; so far all is satisfactory: that is to say, it is the Church, the Spirit of Christ, that attains in this ordinance direct and full assurance. But the most prominent feature in this sacrament is, that the process by which Deity is manifested, is conditioned by the limitations of particularity – that the Host, this Thing, is set up to be adored as God. The Church then might have been able to content itself with this sensuous presence of Deity; but when it is once granted that God exists in external phenomenal presence, this external manifestation immediately becomes infinitely varied; for the need of this presence is infinite. Thus innumerable instances will occur in the experience of the Church, in which Christ has appeared to one and another, in various places; and still more frequently his divine Mother, who as standing nearer to humanity, is a second mediator between the Mediator and man (the miracle-working images of the Virgin are in their way Hosts, since they supply a benign and gracious presence of God). In all places, therefore, there will occur manifestations of the Heavenly, in specially gracious appearances, the stigmata of Christ’s Passion, etc.; and the Divine will be realized in miracles as detached and isolated phenomena. In the period in question the Church presents the aspect of a world of miracle; to the community of devout and pious persons natural existence has utterly lost its stability and certainty: rather, absolute certainty has turned against it, and the Divine is not conceived of by Christendom under conditions of universality as the law and nature of Spirit, but reveals itself in isolated and detached phenomena, in which the rational form of existence is utterly perverted.
In this complete development of the Church, we may find a deficiency: but what can be felt as a want by it? What compels it, in this state of perfect satisfaction and enjoyment, to wish for something else within the limits of its own principles – without apostatizing from itself? Those miraculous images, places, and times, are only isolated points, momentary appearances – are not an embodiment of Deity, not of the highest and absolute kind. The Host, the supreme manifestation, is to be found indeed in innumerable churches; Christ is therein transubstantiated to a present and particular existence: but this itself is of a vague and general character; it is not his actual and very presence as particularized in Space. That presence has passed away, as regards time; but as spatial and as concrete in space it has a mundane permanence in this particular spot, this particular village, etc. It is then this mundane existence [in Palestine] which Christendom desiderates, which it is resolved on attaining. Pilgrims in crowds had indeed been able to enjoy it; but the approach to the hallowed localities is in the hands of the Infidels, and it is a reproach to Christendom that the Holy Places and the Sepulchre of Christ in particular are not in possession of the Church. In this feeling Christendom was united; consequently the Crusades were undertaken, whose object was not the furtherance of any special interests on the part of the several states that engaged in them, but simply and solely the conquest of the Holy Land.
The West once more sallied forth in hostile array against the East. As in the expedition of the Greeks against Troy, so here the invading hosts were entirely composed of independent feudal lords and knights; though they were not united under a real individuality, as were the Greeks under Agamemnon or Alexander. Christendom, on the contrary, was engaged in an undertaking whose object was the securing of the definite and present existence [of Deity] – the real culmination of Individuality. This object impelled the West against the East, and this is the essential interest of the Crusades.
The first and immediate commencement of the Crusades was made in the West itself. Many thousands of Jews were massacred, and their property seized; and after this terrible prelude Christendom began its march. The monk, Peter the Hermit of Amiens, led the way with an immense troop of rabble. This host passed in the greatest disorder through Hungary, and robbed and plundered as they went; but their numbers dwindled away, and only a few reached Constantinople. For rational considerations were out of the question; the mass of them believed that God would be their immediate guide and protector. The most striking proof that enthusiasm almost robbed the nations of Europe of their senses, is supplied by the fact that at a later time troops of children ran away from their parents, and went to Marseilles, there to take ship for the Holy Land. Few reached it; the rest were sold by the merchants to the Saracens as slaves.
At last, with much trouble and immense loss, more regular armies attained the desired object; they beheld themselves in possession of all the Holy Places of note – Bethlehem, Gethsemane, Golgotha, and even the Holy Sepulchre. In the whole expedition – in all the acts of the Christians – appeared that enormous contrast (a feature characteristic of the age) – the transition on the part of the Crusading host from the greatest excesses and outrages to the profoundest contrition and humiliation. Still dripping with the blood of the slaughtered inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Christians fell down on their faces at the tomb of the Redeemer, and directed their fervent supplications to him.
Thus did Christendom come into the possession of its highest good. Jerusalem was made a kingdom, and the entire feudal system was introduced there – a constitution which, in presence of the Saracens, was certainly the worst that could be adopted. Another crusade in the year 1204 resulted in the conquest of Constantinople and the establishment of a Latin Empire there. Christendom, therefore, had appeased its religious craving; it could now veritably walk unobstructed in the footsteps of the Saviour. Whole shiploads of earth were brought from the Holy Land to Europe. Of Christ himself no corporeal relics could be obtained, for he was arisen: the Sacred Handkerchief, the Cross, and lastly the Sepulchre, were the most venerated memorials. But in the Grave is found the real point of retro-version; it is in the grave that all the vanity of the Sensuous perishes. At the Holy Sepulchre the vanity of [the cherished] opinion passes away [the fancies by which the substance of truth has been obscured disappear] ; there all is seriousness. In the negation of that definite and present embodiment – i.e., of the Sensuous – it is that the turning-point in question is found, and those words have an application: “Thou wouldst not suffer thy Holy One to see corruption.” Christendom was not to find its ultimatum of truth in the grave. At this sepulchre the Christian world received a second time the response given to the disciples when they sought the body of the Lord there: “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.” You must not look for the principle of your religion in the Sensuous, in the grave among the dead, but in the living Spirit in yourselves. We have seen how the vast idea of the union of the Finite with the Infinite was perverted to such a degree as that men looked for a definite embodiment of the Infinite in a mere isolated outward object [the Host]. Christendom found the empty Sepulchre, but not the union of the Secular and the Eternal; and so it lost the Holy Land. It was practically undeceived; and the result which it brought back with it was of a negative kind: viz., that the definite embodiment which it was seeking, was to be looked for in Subjective Consciousness alone, and in no external object; that the definite form in question, presenting the union of the Secular with the Eternal, is the Spiritual self-cognizant independence of the individual. Thus the world attains the conviction that man must look within himself for that definite embodiment of being which is of a divine nature: subjectivity thereby receives absolute authorization, and claims to determine for itself the relation [of all that exists] to the Divine. This then was the absolute result of the Crusades, and from them we may date the commencement of self-reliance and spontaneous activity. The West bade an eternal farewell to the East at the Holy Sepulchre, and gained a comprehension of its own principle of subjective infinite Freedom. Christendom never appeared again on the scene of history as one body.
Crusades of another kind, bearing somewhat the character of wars with a view to mere secular conquest, but which involved a religious interest also, were the contests waged by Spain against the Saracens in the peninsula itself. The Christians had been shut up in a corner by the Arabs; but they gained upon their adversaries in strength, because the Saracens in Spain and Africa were engaged in war in various directions, and were divided among themselves. The Spaniards, united with Frank knights, undertook frequent expeditions against the Saracens; and in this collision of the Christians with the chivalry of the East – with its freedom and perfect independence of soul – the former became also partakers in this freedom. Spain gives us the fairest picture of the knighthood of the Middle Ages, and its hero is the Cid. Several Crusades, the records of which excite our unmixed loathing and detestation, were undertaken against the South of France also. There an aesthetic culture had developed itself: the Troubadours had introduced a freedom of manners similar to that which prevailed under the Hohenstaufen Emperors in Germany; but with this difference, that the former had in it something affected, while the latter was of a more genuine kind. But as in Upper Italy, so also in the South of France fanatical ideas of purity had been introduced; a Crusade was therefore preached against that country by Papal authority. St. Dominic entered it with a vast host of invaders, who, in the most barbarous manner, pillaged and murdered the innocent and the guilty indiscriminately, and utterly laid waste the fair region which they inhabited.
Through the Crusades the Church reached the completion of its authority: it had achieved the perversion of religion and of the divine Spirit; it had distorted the principle of Christian Freedom to a wrongful and immoral slavery of men’s souls; and in so doing, far from abolishing lawless caprice and violence and supplanting them by a virtuous rule of its own, it had even enlisted them in the service of ecclesiastical authority. In the Crusades the Pope stood at the head of the secular power: the Emperor appeared only in a subordinate position, like the other princes, and was obliged to commit both the initiative and the executive to the Pope, as the manifest generalissimo of the expedition. We have already seen the noble house of Hohenstaufen presenting the aspect of chivalrous, dignified and cultivated opponents of the Papal power, when Spirit [the moral and intellectual element in Christendom] had given up the contest. We have seen how they were ultimately obliged to yield to the Church; which, elastic enough to sustain any attack, bore down all opposition and would not move a step towards conciliation. The fall of the Church was not to be effected by open violence; it was from within – by the power of Spirit and by an influence that wrought its way upwards – that ruin threatened it. Respect for the Papacy could not but be weakened by the very fact that the lofty aim of the Crusades – the satisfaction expected from the enjoyment of the sensuous Presence – was not attained. As little did the Popes succeed in keeping possession of the Holy Land. Zeal for the holy cause was exhausted among the princes of Europe. Grieved to the heart by the defeat of the Christians, the Popes again and again urged them to advance to the rescue; but lamentations and entreaties were vain, and they could effect nothing. Spirit, disappointed with regard to its craving for the highest form of the sensuous presence of Deity, fell back upon itself. A rupture, the first of its kind and profound as it was novel, took place. From this time forward we witness religious and intellectual movements in which Spirit – transcending the repulsive and irrational existence by which it is surrounded – either finds its sphere of exercise within itself, and draws upon its own resources for satisfaction, or throws its energies into an actual world of general and morally justified aims, which are therefore aims consonant with Freedom. The efforts thus originated are now to be described: they were the means by which Spirit was to be prepared to comprehend the grand purpose of its Freedom in a form of greater purity and moral elevation.
To this class of movements belongs in the first place the establishment of monastic and chivalric orders, designed to carry out those rules of life which the Church had distinctly enjoined upon its members. That renunciation of property, riches, pleasures, and free will, which the Church had designated as the highest of spiritual attainments, was to be a reality – not a mere profession. The existing monastic and other institutions that had adopted this vow of renunciation, had been entirely sunk in the corruption of worldliness. But now Spirit sought to realize in the sphere of the principle of negativity – purely in itself – what the Church had demanded. The more immediate occasion of this movement was the rise of numerous heresies in the South of France and Italy, whose tendency was in the direction of enthusiasm; and the unbelief which was now gaining ground, but which the Church justly deemed not so dangerous as those heresies. To counteract these evils, new monastic orders were founded, the chief of which was that of the Franciscans, or Mendicant Friars, whose founder, St. Francis of Assisi – a man possessed by an enthusiasm and ecstatic passion that passed all bounds – spent his life in continually striving for the loftiest purity. He gave an impulse of the same kind to his order; the greatest fervor of devotion, the sacrifice of all pleasures in contravention of the prevailing worldliness of the Church, continual penances, the severest poverty (the Franciscans lived on daily alms) – were therefore peculiarly characteristic of it. Contemporaneously with it arose the Dominican order, founded by St. Dominic; its special business was preaching. The mendicant friars were diffused through Christendom to an incredible extent; they were, on the one hand, the standing apostolic army of the Pope, while, on the other hand, they strongly protested against his worldliness. The Franciscans were powerful allies of Louis of Bavaria in his resistance of the Papal assumptions, and they are said to have been the authors of the position, that a General Council was higher authority than the Pope; but subsequently they too sank down into a torpid and unintelligent condition. In the same way the ecclesiastical Orders of Knighthood contemplated the attainment of purity of Spirit. We have already called attention to the peculiar chivalric spirit which had been developed in Spain through the struggle with the Saracens: the same spirit was diffused as the result of the Crusades through the whole of Europe. The ferocity and savage valor that characterized the predatory life of the barbarians – pacified and brought to a settled state by possession, and restrained by the presence of equals – was elevated by religion and then kindled to a noble enthusiasm through contemplating the boundless magnanimity of Oriental prowess. For Christianity also contains the element of boundless abstraction and freedom; the Oriental chivalric spirit found therefore in Occidental hearts a response, which paved the way for their attaining a nobler virtue than they had previously known. Ecclesiastical orders of knighthood were instituted on a basis resembling that of the monastic fraternities. The same conventual vow of renunciation was imposed on their members – the giving up of all that was worldly. But at the same time they undertook the defence of the pilgrims: their first duty therefore was knightly bravery; ultimately, they were also pledged to the sustenance and care of the poor and the sick. The Orders of Knighthood were divided into three: that of St. John, that of the Temple, and the Teutonic Order. These associations are essentially distinguished from the self-seeking principle of feudalism. Their members sacrificed themselves with almost suicidal bravery for a common interest. Thus these Orders transcended the circle of their immediate environment, and formed a network of fraternal coalition over the whole of Europe. But their members sank down to the level of vulgar interests, and the Orders became in the sequel a provisional institute for the nobility generally, rather than anything else. The Order of the Temple was even accused of forming a religion of its own, and of having renounced Christ in the creed which, under the influence of the Oriental Spirit, it had adopted.
A second impulsion, having a similar origin, was that in the direction of Science. The development of Thought – the abstractly Universal – now had its commencement. Those fraternal associations themselves, having a common object, in whose service their members were enlisted, point to the fact that a general principle was beginning to be recognized, and which gradually became conscious of its power. Thought was first directed to Theology, which now became Philosophy under the name of Scholastic Divinity. For philosophy and theology have the Divine as their common object; and although the theology of the Church was a stereotyped dogma, the impulse now arose to justify this body of doctrine in the view of Thought. “When we have arrived at Faith,” says the celebrated scholastic, Anselm, “it is a piece of negligence to stop short of convincing ourselves, by the aid of Thought, of that to which we have given credence.” But thus conditioned Thought was not free, for its material was already posited ab extra; it was to the proof of this material that philosophy devoted its energies. But Thought suggested a variety of questions, the complete answer to which was not given directly in the symbols of the Church; and since the Church had not decided respecting them, they were legitimate subjects of controversy. Philosophy was indeed called an ancilla fidei, for it was in subjection to that material of the Church’s creed, which had been already definitely settled; but yet it was impossible for the opposition between Thought and Belief not to manifest itself. As Europe presented the spectacle of chivalric contests generally – passages of arms and tournaments – it was now the theatre for intellectual jousting also. It is incredible to what an extent the abstract forms of Thought were developed, and what dexterity was acquired in the use of them. This intellectual tourneying for the sake of exhibiting skill, and as a diversion (for it was not the doctrines themselves, but only the forms in which they were couched that made the subject of debate), was chiefly prosecuted and brought to perfection in France. France, in fact, began at that time to be regarded as the centre of Christendom : there the scheme of the first Crusades originated, and French armies carried it out: there the Popes took refuge in their struggles with the German emperors and with the Norman princes of Naples and Sicily, and there for a time they made a continuous sojourn. – We also observe in the period subsequent to the Crusades, commencements of Art – of Painting, viz.: even during their continuance a peculiar kind of poetry had made it appearance. Spirit, unable to satisfy its cravings, created for itself by imagination fairer forms and in a calmer and freer manner than the actual world could offer.
The moral phenomena above mentioned, tending in the direction of a general principle, were partly of a subjective, partly of a speculative order. But we must now give particular attention to the practical political movements of the period. The advance which that period witnessed, presents a negative aspect in so far as it involves the termination of the sway of individual caprice and of the isolation of power. Its affirmative aspect is the rise of a supreme authority whose dominion embraces all – a political power properly so called, whose subjects enjoy an equality of rights, and in which the will of the individual is subordinated to that common interest which underlies the whole. This is the advance from Feudalism to Monarchy. The principle of feudal sovereignty is the outward force of individuals – princes, liege lords; it is a force destitute of intrinsic right. The subjects of such a Constitution are vassals of a superior prince or seigneur, to whom they have stipulated duties to perform: but whether they perform these duties or not, depends upon the seigneur’s being able to induce them so to do, by force of character or by grant of favors: – conversely, the recognition of those feudal claims themselves was extorted by violence in the first instance; and the fulfilment of the corresponding duties could be secured only by the constant exercise of the power which was the sole basis of the claims in question. The monarchical principle also implies a supreme authority, but it is an authority over persons possessing no independent power to support their individual caprice; where we have no longer caprice opposed to caprice; for the supremacy implied in monarchy is essentially a power emanating from a political body, and is pledged to the furtherance of that equitable purpose on which the constitution of a state is based. Feudal sovereignty is a polyarchy: we see nothing but Lords and Serfs; in Monarchy, on the contrary, there is one Lord and no Serf, for servitude is abrogated by it, and in it Right and Law are recognized; it is the source of real freedom. Thus in monarchy the caprice of individuals is kept under, and a common gubernatorial interest established. In the suppression of those isolated powers, as also in the resistance made to that suppression, it seems doubtful whether the desire for a lawful and equitable state of things, or the wish to indulge individual caprice, is the impelling motive. Resistance to kingly authority is entitled Liberty, and is lauded as legitimate and noble when the idea of arbitrary will is associated with that authority. But by the arbitrary will of an individual exerting itself so as to subjugate a whole body of men, a community is formed; and comparing this state of things with that in which every point is a centre of capricious violence, we find a much smaller number of points exposed to such violence. The great extent of such a sovereignty necessitates general arrangements for the purposes of organization, and those who govern in accordance with those arrangements are at the same time, in virtue of their office itself, obedient to the state: Vassals become Officers of State, whose duty it is to execute the laws by which the state is regulated. But since this monarchy is developed from feudalism, it bears in the first instance the stamp of the system from which it sprang. – individuals quit their isolated capacity and become members of Estates [or Orders of the Realm] and Corporations; the vassals are powerful only by combination as an Order; in contraposition to them the cities constitute Powers in virtue of their communal existence. Thus the authority of the sovereign inevitably ceases to be mere arbitrary sway. The consent of the Estates and Corporations is essential to its maintenance ; and if the prince wishes to have that consent, he must will what is just and reasonable. We now see a Constitution embracing various Orders, while Feudal rule knows no such Orders. We observe the transition from feudalism to monarchy taking place in three ways: 1. Sometimes the lord paramount gains a mastery over his independent vassals, by subjugating their individual power – thus making himself sole ruler.
2. Sometimes the princes free themselves from the feudal relation altogether, and become the territorial lords of certain states; or lastly
3. The lord paramount unites the particular lordships that own him as their superior, with his own particular suzerainty, in a more peaceful way, and thus becomes master of the whole.
These processes do not indeed present themselves in history in that pure and abstract form in which they are exhibited here: often we find more modes than one appearing contemporaneously ; but one or the other always predominates. The cardinal consideration is that the basis and essential condition of such a political formation is to be looked for in the particular nationalities in which it had its birth. Europe presents particular nations, constituting a unity in their very nature, and having the absolute tendency to form a state. All did not succeed in attaining this political unity: we have now to consider them severally in relation to the change thus introduced. First, as regards the Roman empire, the connection between Germany and Italy naturally results from the idea of that empire : the secular dominion united with the spiritual was to constitute one whole; but this state of things was rather the object of constant struggle than one actually attained. In Germany and Italy the transition from the feudal condition to monarchy involved the entire abrogation of the former: the vassals became independent monarchs.
Germany had always embraced a great variety of stocks: – Swabians, Bavarians, Franks, Thuringians, Saxons, Burgundians: to these must be added the Sclaves of Bohemia, Germanized Sclaves in Mecklenburg, in Brandenburg, and in a part of Saxony and Austria; so that no such combination as took place in France was possible. Italy presented a similar state of things. The Lombards had established themselves there, while the Greeks still possessed the Exarchate and Lower Italy: the Normans too established a kingdom of their own in Lower Italy, and the Saracens maintained their ground for a time in Sicily. When the rule of the house of Hohenstaufen was terminated, barbarism got the upper hand throughout Germany; the country being broken up into several sovereignties, in which a forceful despotism prevailed. It was the maxim of the electoral princes to raise only weak princes to the imperial throne; they even sold the imperial dignity to foreigners. Thus the unity of the state was virtually annulled. A number of centres of power were formed, each of which was a predatory state: the legal constitution recognized by feudalism was dissolved, and gave place to undisguised violence and plunder; and powerful princes made themselves lords of the country. After the interregnum the Count of Hapsburg was elected Emperor, and the House of Hapsburg continued to fill the imperial throne with but little interruption. These emperors were obliged to create a force of their own, as the princes would not grant them an adequate power attached to the empire. But that state of absolute anarchy was at last put an end to by associations having general aims in view. In the cities themselves we see associations of a minor order; but now confederations of cities were formed with a common interest in the suppression of predatory violence. Of this kind was the Hanseatic League in the North, the Rhenish League consisting of cities lying along the Rhine, and the Swabian League. The aim of all these confederations was resistance to the feudal lords; and even princes united with the cities, with a view to the subversion of the feudal condition and the restoration of a peaceful state of things throughout the country. What the state of society was under feudal sovereignty is evident from the notorious association formed for executing criminal justice: it was a private tribunal, which, under the name of the Vehmgericht, held secret sittings; its chief seat was the northwest of Germany. A peculiar peasant association was also formed. In Germany the peasants were bondmen; many of them took refuge in the towns, or settled down as freemen in the neighborhood of the towns (Pfahlbürger); but in Switzerland a peasant fraternity was established. The peasants of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden were under imperial governors; for the Swiss governments were not the property of private possessors, but were official appointments of the Empire. These the sovereigns of the Hapsburg line wished to secure to their own house. The peasants, with club and ironstudded mace [Morgenstern], returned victorious from a contest with the haughty steel-clad nobles, armed with spear and sword, and practised in the chivalric encounters of the tournament. Another invention also tended to deprive the nobility of the ascendancy which they owed to their accoutrements – that of gunpowder. Humanity needed it, and it made its appearance forthwith. It was one of the chief instruments in freeing the world from the dominion of physical force, and placing the various orders of society on a level. With the distinction between the weapons they used, vanished also that between lords and serfs. And before gunpowder fortified places were no longer impregnable, so that strongholds and castles now lose their importance. We may indeed be led to lament the decay or the depreciation of the practical value of personal valor – the bravest, the noblest may be shot down by a cowardly wretch at safe distance in an obscure lurking-place; but, on the other hand, gunpowder has made a rational, considerate bravery – Spiritual valor – the essential to martial success. Only through this instrumentality could that superior order of valor be called forth – that valor in which the heat of personal feeling has no share; for the discharge of firearms is directed against a body of men – an abstract enemy, not individual combatants. The warrior goes to meet deadly peril calmly, sacrificing himself for the common weal; and the valor of cultivated nations is characterized by the very fact, that it does not rely on the strong arm alone, but places its confidence essentially in the intelligence, the generalship, the character of its commanders; and, as was the case among the ancients, in a firm combination and unity of spirit on the part of the forces they command.
In Italy, as already noticed, we behold the same spectacle as in Germany – the attainment of an independent position by isolated centres of power. In that country, warfare in the hand of the Condottieri became a regular business. The towns were obliged to attend to their trading concerns, and therefore employed mercenary troops, whose leaders often became feudal lords; Francis Sforza even made himself Duke of Milan. In Florence, the Medici, a family of merchants, rose to power. On the other hand, the larger cities of Italy reduced under their sway several smaller ones and many feudal chiefs. A Papal territory was likewise formed. There, also, a very large number of feudal lords had made themselves independent; by degrees they all became subject to the one sovereignty of the Pope. How thoroughly equitable in the view of social morality such a subjugation was, is evident from Machiavelli’s celebrated work “The Prince.” This book has often been thrown aside in disgust, as replete with the maxims of the most revolting tyranny; but nothing worse can be urged against it than that the writer, having the profound consciousness of the necessity for the formation of a State, has here exhibited the principles on which alone states could be founded in the circumstances of the times. The chiefs who asserted an isolated independence, and the power they arrogated, must be entirely subdued; and though we cannot reconcile with our idea of Freedom, the means which he proposes as the only efficient ones, and regards as perfectly justifiable – inasmuch as they involve the most reckless violence, all kinds of deception, assassination, and so forth – we must nevertheless confess that the feudal nobility, whose power was to be subdued, were assailable in no other way, since an indomitable contempt for principle, and an utter depravity of morals, were thoroughly engrained in them.
In France we find the converse of that which occurred in Germany and Italy. For many centuries the Kings of France possessed only a very small domain, so that many of their vassals were more powerful than themselves: but it was a great advantage to the royal dignity in France, that the principle of hereditary monarchy was firmly established there. The consideration it enjoyed was increased by the circumstance that the corporations and cities had their rights and privileges confirmed by the king, and that the appeals to the supreme feudal tribunal – the Court of Peers, consisting of twelve members enjoying that dignity – became increasingly frequent. The king’s influence was extended by his affording that protection which only the throne could give. But that which essentially secured respect for royalty, even among the powerful vassals, was the increasing personal power of the sovereign. In various ways, by inheritance, by marriage, by force of arms, etc., the Kings had come into possession of many Earldoms [Grafschaften] and several Duchies. The Dukes of Normandy had, however, become Kings of England; and thus a formidable power confronted France, whose interior lay open to it by way of Normandy. Besides this there were powerful Duchies still remaining; nevertheless, the King was not a mere feudal suzerain [Lehnsherr] like the German Emperors, but had become a territorial possessor [Landesherr] : he had a number of barons and cities under him, who were subject to his immediate jurisdiction; and Louis IX succeeded in rendering appeals to the royal tribunal common throughout his kingdom. The towns attained a position of greater importance in the state. For when the king needed money, and all his usual resources – such as taxes and forced contributions of all kinds – were exhausted, he made application to the towns and entered into separate negotiations with them. It was Philip the Fair who, in the year 1302, first convoked the deputies of the towns as a Third Estate in conjunction with the clergy and the barons. All indeed that they were in the first instance concerned with was the authority of the sovereign as the power that had convoked them, and the raising of taxes as the object of their convocation; but the States nevertheless secured an importance and weight in the kingdom, and as the natural result, an influence on legislation also. A fact which is particularly remarkable is the proclamation issued by the kings of France, giving permission to the bondsmen on the crown lands to purchase their freedom at a moderate price. In the way we have indicated the kings of France very soon attained great power; while the flourishing state of the poetic art in the hands of the Troubadours, and the growth of the scholastic theology, whose especial centre was Paris, gave France a culture superior to that of the other European states, and which secured the respect of foreign nations.
England, as we have already had occasion to mention, was subjugated by William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy. William introduced the feudal system into it, and divided the kingdom into fiefs, which he granted almost exclusively to his Norman followers. He himself retained considerable crown possessions; the vassals were under obligation to perform service in the field, and to aid in administering justice: the King was the guardian of all vassals under age; they could not marry without his consent. Only by degrees did the barons and the towns attain a position of importance. It was especially in the disputes and struggles for the throne that they acquired considerable weight. When the oppressive rule and fiscal exactions of the Kings became intolerable, contentions and even war ensued: the barons compelled King John to swear to Magna Charta, the basis of English liberty, i.e., more particularly of the privileges of the nobility. Among the liberties thus secured, that which concerns the administration of justice was the chief: no Englishman was to be deprived of personal freedom, property, or life without the judicial verdict of his peers. Every one, moreover, was to be entitled to the free disposition of his property. Further, the King was to impose no taxes without the consent of the archbishops, bishops, earls, and barons. The towns, also, favored by the Kings in opposition to the barons, soon elevated themselves into a Third Estate and to representation in the Commons’ House of Parliament. Yet the King was always very powerful, if he possessed strength of character: his crown estates procured for him due consideration; in later times, however, these were gradually alienated – given away – so that the King was reduced to apply for subsidies to the parliament.
We shall not pursue the minute and specifically historic details that concern the incorporation of principalities with states, or the dissensions and contests that accompanied such incorporations. We have only to add that the kings, when by weakening the feudal constitution, they had attained a higher degree of power, began to use that power against each other in the undisguised interest of their own dominion. Thus France and England carried on wars with each other for a century. The kings were always endeavoring to make foreign conquests; the towns, which had the largest share of the burdens and expenses of such wars, were opposed to them, and in order to placate them the kings granted them important privileges.
The Popes endeavored to make the disturbed state of society to which each of these changes gave rise, an occasion for the intervention- of their authority; but the interest of the growth of states was too firmly established to allow them to make their own interest of absolute authority valid against it. Princes and peoples were indifferent to papal clamor urging them to new crusades. The Emperor Louis set to work to deduce from Aristotle, the Bible, and the Roman Law a refutation of the assumptions of the Papal See; and the electors declared at the Diet held at Rense in 1338, and afterwards still more decidedly at the Imperial Diet held at Frankfort, that they would defend the liberties and hereditary rights of the Empire, and that to make the choice of a Roman Emperor or King valid, no papal confirmation was needed. So, at an earlier date, 1302, on occasion of a contest between Pope Boniface and Philip the Fair, the Assembly of the States convoked by the latter had offered opposition to the Pope. For states and communities had arrived at the consciousness of independent moral worth. – Various causes had united to weaken the papal authority: the Great Schism of the Church, which led men to doubt the Pope’s infallibility, gave occasion to the decisions of the Councils of Constance and Basle, which assumed an authority superior to that of the Pope, and therefore deposed and appointed Popes. The numerous attempts directed against the ecclesiastical system confirmed the necessity of a reformation. Arnold of Brescia, Wickliffe, and Huss met with sympathy in contending against the dogma of the papal vicegerency of Christ, and the gross abuses that disgraced the hierarchy. These attempts were, however, only partial in their scope. On the one hand the time was not yet ripe for a more comprehensive onslaught; on the other hand the assailants in question did not strike at the heart of the matter, but (especially the two latter) attacked the teaching of the Church chiefly with the weapons of erudition, and consequently failed to excite a deep interest among the people at large.
But the ecclesiastical principle had a more dangerous foe in the incipient formation of political organizations, than in the antagonists above referred to. A common object, an aim intrinsically possessed of perfect moral validity, presented itself to secularity in the formation of states; and to this aim of community the will, the desire, the caprice of the individual submitted themselves. The hardness characteristic of the selfseeking quality of “Heart,” maintaining its position of isolation – the knotty heart of oak underlying the national temperament of the Germans – was broken down and mellowed by the terrible discipline of the Middle Ages. The two iron rods which were the instruments of this discipline were the Church and serfdom. The Church drove the “Heart” [Gemüth] to desperation – made Spirit pass through the severest bondage, so that the soul was no longer its own; but it did not degrade it to Hindoo torpor, for Christianity is an intrinsically spiritual principle and, as such, has a boundless elasticity. In the same way serfdom, which made a man’s body not his own, but the property of another, dragged humanity through all the barbarism of slavery and unbridled desire, and the latter was destroyed by its own violence. It was not so much from slavery as through slavery that humanity was emancipated. For barbarism, lust, injustice constitute evil: man, bound fast in its fetters, is unfit for morality and religiousness; and it is from this intemperate and ungovernable state of volition that the discipline in question emancipated him. The Church fought the battle with the violence of rude sensuality in a temper equally wild and terroristic with that of its antagonist: it prostrated the latter by dint of the terrors of hell, and held it in perpetual subjection, in order to break down the spirit of barbarism and to tame it into repose. Theology declares that every man has this struggle to pass through, since he is by nature evil, and only by passing through a state of mental laceration arrives at the certainty of Reconciliation. But granting this, it must on the other hand be maintained, that the form of the contest is very much altered when the conditions of its commencement are different, and when that reconciliation has had an actual realization. The path of torturous discipline is in that case dispensed with (it does indeed make its appearance at a later date, but in a quite different form), for the waking up of consciousness finds man surrounded by the element of a moral state of society. The phase of negation is, indeed, a necessary element -in human development, but it has now assumed the tranquil form of education, so that all the terrible characteristics of that inward struggle vanish.
Humanity has now attained the consciousness of a real internal harmonization of Spirit, and a good conscience in regard to actuality – to secular existence. The Human Spirit has come to stand on its own basis. In the self-consciousness to which man has thus advanced, there is no revolt against the Divine, but a manifestation of that better subjectivity, which recognizes the Divine in its own being; which is imbued with the Good and True, and which directs its activities to general and liberal objects bearing the stamp of rationality and beauty.
Humanity beholds its spiritual firmament restored to serenity. With that tranquil settling down of the world into political order which we have been contemplating, was conjoined an exaltation of Spirit to a nobler grade of humanity in a sphere involving more comprehensive and concrete interests than that with which political existence is concerned. The Sepulchre – that caput mortuum of Spirit – and the Ultramundane cease to absorb human attention. The principle of a specific and definite embodiment of the Infinite – that desideratum which urged the world to the Crusades, now developed itself in a quite different direction, viz. in secular existence asserting an independent ground: Spirit made its embodiment an outward one and found a congenial sphere in the secular life thus originated. The Church, however, maintained its former position, and retained the principle in question in its original form. Yet even in this case, that principle ceased to be limited to a bare outward existence [a sacred thing, the Host, e.g.]: it was transformed and elevated by Art. Art spiritualizes – animates the mere outward and material object of adoration with a form which expresses soul, sentiment, Spirit; so that piety has not a bare sensuous embodiment of the Infinite to contemplate, and does not lavish its devotion on a mere Thing, but on the higher element with which the material object is imbued – that expressive form with which Spirit has invested it. – It is one thing for the mind to have before it a mere Thing – such as the Host per se, a piece of stone or wood, or a wretched daub; – quite another thing for it to contemplate a painting, rich in thought and sentiment, or a beautiful work of sculpture, in looking at which, soul holds converse with soul and Spirit with Spirit. In the former case, Spirit is torn from its proper element, bound down to something utterly alien to it – the Sensuous, the Non-Spiritual. In the latter, on the contrary, the sensuous object is a beautiful one, and the Spiritual Form with which it is endued, gives it a soul and contains truth in itself. But on the one hand, this element of truth as thus exhibited, is manifested only in a sensuous mode, not in its appropriate form; on the other hand, while Religion normally involves independence of that which is essentially a mere outward and material object – a mere thing – that kind of religion which is now under consideration, finds no satisfaction in being brought into connection with the Beautiful: the coarsest, ugliest, poorest representations will suit its purpose equally well – perhaps better. Accordingly real masterpieces – e.g. Raphael’s Madonnas – do not enjoy distinguished veneration, or elicit a multitude of offerings: inferior pictures seem on the contrary to be especial favorites and to be made the object of the warmest devotion and the most generous liberality. Piety passes by the former for this very reason, that were it to linger in their vicinity it would feel an inward stimulus and attraction; – an excitement of a kind which cannot but be felt to be alien, where all that is desiderated is a sense of mental bondage in which self is lost – the stupor of abject dependence. – Thus Art in its very nature transcended the principle of the Church. But as the former manifests itself only under sensuous limitations [and does not present the suspicious aspect of abstract thought], it is at first regarded as a harmless and indifferent matter. The Church, therefore, continued to follow it; but as soon as the free Spirit in which Art originated, advanced to Thought and Science, a separation ensued.
For Art received a further support and experienced an elevating influence as the result of the study of antiquity (the name humaniora is very expressive, for in those works of antiquity honor is done to the Human and to the development of Humanity) : through this study the West became acquainted with the true and eternal element in the activity of man. The outward occasion of this revival of science was the fall of the Byzantine Empire. Large numbers of Greeks took refuge in the West and introduced Greek literature there; and they brought with them not only the knowledge of the Greek language but also the treasures to which that knowledge was the key. Very little of Greek literature had been preserved in the convents, and an acquaintance with the language could scarcely be said to exist at all. With the Roman literature it was otherwise ; in regard to that, ancient traditions still lingered: Virgil was thought to be a great magician (in Dante he appears as the guide in Hell and Purgatory). Through the influence of the Greeks, then, attention was again directed to the ancient Greek literature; the West had become capable of enjoying and appreciating it; quite other ideals and a different order of virtue from that with which mediaeval Europe was familiar were here presented; an altogether novel standard for judging of what was to be honored, commended and imitated was set up. The Greeks in their works exhibited quite other moral commands than those with which the West was acquainted; scholastic formalism had to make way for a body of speculative thought of a widely different complexion: Plato became known in the West, and in him a new human world presented itself. These novel ideas met with a principal organ of diffusion in the newly discovered Art of Printing, which, like the use of gunpowder, corresponds with modern character, and supplied the desideratum of the age in which it was invented, by tending to enable men to stand in an ideal connection with each other. So far as the study of the ancients manifested an interest in human deeds and virtues, the Church continued to tolerate it, not observing that in those alien works an altogether alien spirit was advancing to confront it.
As a third leading feature demanding our notice in determining the character of the period, might be mentioned that urging of Spirit outwards – that desire on the part of man to become acquainted with his world. The chivalrous spirit of the maritime heroes of Portugal and Spain opened a new way to the East Indies and discovered America. This progressive step also, involved no transgression of the limits of ecclesiastical principles or feeling. The aim of Columbus was by no means a merely secular one: it presented also a distinctly religious aspect; the treasures of those rich Indian lands which awaited his discovery were destined in his intention to be expended in a new Crusade, and the heathen inhabitants of the countries themselves were to be converted to Christianity. The recognition of the spherical figure of the earth led man to perceive that it offered him a definite and limited object, and navigation had been benefited by the new found instrumentality of the magnet, enabling it to be something better than mere coasting: thus technical appliances make their appearance when a need for them is experienced. These three events – the so-called Revival of Learning, the flourishing of the Fine Arts and the discovery of America and of the passage to India by the Cape – may be compared with that blush of dawn, which after long storms first betokens the return of a bright and glorious day. This day is the day of Universality, which breaks upon the world after the long, eventful, and terrible night of the Middle Ages – a day which is distinguished by science, art and inventive impulse – that is, by the noblest and highest, and which Humanity, rendered free by Christianity and emancipated through the instrumentality of the Church, exhibits as the eternal and veritable substance of its being.
We have now arrived at the third period of the German World, and thus enter upon the period of Spirit conscious that it is free, inasmuch as it wills the True, the Eternal – that which is in and for itself Universal.
In this third period also, three divisions present themselves. First, we have to consider the Reformation in itself – the allenlightening Sun, following on that blush of dawn which we observed at the termination of the mediaeval period; next, the unfolding of that state of things which succeeded the Reformation; and lastly, the Modern Times, dating from the end of the last century.
The Reformation resulted from the corruption of the Church. That corruption was not an accidental phenomenon; it was not the mere abuse of power and dominion. A corrupt state of things is very frequently represented as an “abuse”; it is taken for granted that the foundation was good – the system, the institution itself faultless – but that the passion, the subjective interest, in short the arbitrary volition of men has made use of that which in itself was good to further its own selfish ends, and that all that is required to be done is to remove these adventitious elements. On this showing the institute in question escapes obloquy, and the evil that disfigures it appears something foreign to it. But when accidental abuse of a good thing really occurs, it is limited to particularity. A great and general corruption affecting a body of such large and comprehensive scope as a Church, is quite another thing. – The corruption of the Church was a native growth; the principle of that corruption is to be looked for in the fact that the specific and definite embodiment of Deity which it recognizes, is sensuous – that the external in a coarse material form, is enshrined in its inmost being. (The refining transformation which Art supplied was not sufficient.) The higher Spirit – that of the World – has already expelled the Spiritual from it; it finds nothing to interest it in the Spiritual or in occupation with it; thus it retains that specific and definite embodiment; – i.e., we have the sensuous immediate subjectivity, not refined by it to Spiritual subjectivity. – Henceforth it occupies a position of inferiority to the World- Spirit; the latter has already transcended it, for it has become capable of recognizing the Sensuous as sensuous, the merely outward as merely outward; it has learned to occupy itself with the Finite in a finite way, and in this very activity to maintain an independent and confident position as a valid and rightful subjectivity.
The element in question which is innate in the Ecclesiastical principle only reveals itself as a corrupting one when the Church has no longer any opposition to contend with – when it has become firmly established. Then its elements are free to display their tendencies without let or hindrance. Thus it is that externality in the Church itself which becomes evil and corruption, and develops itself as a negative principle in its own bosom. – The forms which this corruption assumes are coextensive with the relations which the Church itself sustains, into which consequently this vitiating element enters. The ecclesiastical piety of the period displays the very essence of superstition – the fettering of the mind to a sensuous object, a mere Thing – in the most various forms: – slavish deference to Authority; for Spirit, having renounced its proper nature in its most essential quality [having sacrificed its characteristic liberty to a mere sensuous object], has lost its Freedom, and is held in adamantine bondage to what is alien to itself; – a credulity of the most absurd and childish character in regard to Miracles, for the Divine is supposed to manifest itself in a perfectly disconnected and limited way, for purely finite and particular purposes; – lastly, lust of power, riotous debauchery, all the forms of barbarous and vulgar corruption, hypocrisy and deception – all this manifests itself in the Church; for in fact the Sensuous in it is not subjugated and trained by the Understanding; it has become free, but only in a rough and barbarous way. – On the other hand the virtue which the Church presents, since it is negative only in opposition to sensual appetite, is but abstractly negative; it does not know how to exercise a moral restraint In the indulgence of the senses; in actual life nothing is left for it but avoidance, renunciation, inactivity.
These contrasts which the Church exhibits – of barbarous vice and lust on the one hand, and an elevation of soul that is ready to renounce all worldly things, on the other hand – became still wider in consequence of the energetic position which man is sensible of occupying in his subjective power over outward and material things in the natural world, in which he feels himself free, and so gains for himself an absolute right. – The Church whose office it is to save souls from perdition, makes this salvation itself a mere external appliance, and is now degraded so far as to perform this office in a merely external fashion. The remission of sins – the highest satisfaction which the soul craves, the certainty of its peace with God, that which concerns man’s deepest and inmost nature – is offered to man in the most grossly superficial and trivial fashion – to be purchased for mere money; while the object of this sale is to procure means for dissolute excess. One of the objects of this sale was indeed the building of St. Peter’s, that magnificent chef-d’oeuvre of Christian fabrics erected in the metropolis of religion. But, as that paragon of works of art, the Athene and her temple-citadel at Athens, was built with the money of the allies and issued in the loss of both allies and power; so the completion of this Church of St. Peter and Michael Angelo’s “Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel, were the Doomsday and the ruin of this proud spiritual edifice.
The time-honored and cherished sincerity of the German people is destined to effect this revolution out of the honest truth and simplicity of its heart. While the rest of the world are urging their way to India, to America – straining every nerve to gain wealth and to acquire a secular dominion which shall encompass the globe, and on which the sun shall never set – we find a simple Monk looking for that specific embodiment of Deity which Christendom had formerly sought in an earthly sepulchre of stone, rather in the deeper abyss of the Absolute Ideality of all that is sensuous and external – in the Spirit and the Heart – the heart, which, wounded unspeakably by the offer of the most trivial and superficial appliances to satisfy the cravings of that which is inmost and deepest, now detects the perversion of the absolute relation of truth in its minutest features, and pursues it to annihilation. Luther’s simple doctrine is that the specific embodiment of Deity – infinite subjectivity, that is true spirituality, Christ – is in no way present and actual in an outward form, but as essentially spiritual is obtained only in being reconciled to God – in faith and spiritual enjoyment. These two words express everything. That which this doctrine desiderates, is not the recognition of a sensuous object as God, nor even of something merely conceived, and which is not actual and present, but of a Reality that is not sensuous. This abrogation of externality imports the reconstruction of all the doctrines, and the reform of all the superstition into which the Church consistently wandered, and in which its spiritual life was dissipated. This change especially, affects the doctrine of works; for works include what may be performed under any mental conditions – not necessarily in faith, in one’s own soul, but as mere external observances prescribed by authority. Faith is by no means a bare assurance respecting mere finite things – an assurance which belongs only to limited mind – as e.g., the belief that such or such a person existed and said this or that; or that the Children of Israel passed dry-shod through the Red Sea – or that the trumpets before the walls of Jericho produced as powerful an impression as our cannons; for although nothing of all this had been related to us, our knowledge of God would not be the less complete. In fact it is not a belief in something that is absent, past and gone, but the subjective assurance of the Eternal, of Absolute Truth, the Truth of God. Concerning this assurance, the Lutheran Church affirms that the Holy Spirit alone produces it – i.e., that it is an assurance which the individual attains, not in virtue of his particular idiosyncrasy, but of his essential being. – The Lutheran doctrine therefore involves the entire substance of Catholicism, with the exception of all that results from the element of externality – as far as the Catholic Church insists upon that externality. Luther therefore could not do otherwise than refuse to yield an iota in regard to that doctrine of the Eucharist in which the whole question is concentrated. Nor could he concede to the Reformed [Calvinistic] Church, that Christ is a mere commemoration, a mere reminiscence: in this respect his view was rather in accordance with that of the Catholic Church, viz. that Christ is an actual presence, though only in faith and in Spirit. He maintained that the Spirit of Christ really fills the human heart – that Christ therefore is not to be regarded as merely a historical person, but that man sustains an immediate relation to him in Spirit.
While, then, the individual knows that he is filled with the Divine Spirit, all the relations that sprung from that vitiating element of externality which we examined above, are ipso facto abrogated: there is no longer a distinction between priests and laymen; we no longer find one class in possession of the substance of the Truth, as of all the spiritual and temporal treasures of the Church; but the heart – the emotional part of man’s Spiritual nature – is recognized as that which can and ought to come into possession of the Truth; and this subjectivity is the common property of all mankind. Each has to accomplish the work of reconciliation in his own soul. – Subjective Spirit has to receive the Spirit of Truth into itself, and give it a dwelling place there. Thus that absolute inwardness of soul which pertains to religion itself, and Freedom in the Church are both secured. Subjectivity therefore makes the objective purport of Christianity, i.e. the doctrine of the Church, its own. In the Lutheran Church the subjective feeling and the conviction of the individual is regarded as equally necessary with the objective side of Truth. Truth with Lutherans is not a finished and completed thing; the subject himself must be imbued with Truth, surrendering his particular being in exchange for the substantial Truth, and making that Truth his own. Thus subjective Spirit gains emancipation in the Truth, abnegates its particularity and comes to itself in realizing the truth of its being. Thus Christian Freedom is actualized. If Subjectivity be placed in feeling only, without that objective side, we have the standpoint of the merely Natural Will.
In the proclamation of these principles is unfurled the new, the latest standard round which the peoples rally – the banner of Free Spirit, independent, though finding its life in the Truth, and enjoying independence only in it. This is the banner under which we serve, and which we bear. Time, since that epoch, has had no other work to do than the formal imbuing of the world with this principle, in bringing the Reconciliation implicit [in Christianity] into objective and explicit realization.
Culture is essentially concerned with Form; the work of Culture is the production of the Form of Universality, which is none other than Thought. Consequently Law, Property, Social Morality, Government, Constitutions, etc., must be conformed to general principles, in order that they may accord with the idea of Free Will and be Rational. Thus only can the Spirit of Truth manifest itself in Subjective Will – in the particular shapes which the activity of the Will assumes. In virtue of that degree of intensity which Subjective Free Spirit has attained, elevating it to the form of Universality, Objective Spirit attains manifestation. This is the sense in which we must understand the State to be based on Religion. States and Laws are nothing else than Religion manifesting itself in the relations of the actual world. This is the essence of the Reformation: Man is in his very nature destined to be free.
At its commencement, the Reformation concerned itself only with particular aspects of the Catholic Church: Luther wished to act in union with the whole Catholic world, and expressed a desire that Councils should be convened. His theses found supporters in every country. In answer to the charge brought against Luther and the Protestants, of exaggeration – nay, even of calumnious misrepresentation in their descriptions of the corruption of the Church, we may refer to the statements of Catholics themselves, bearing upon this point, and particularly to those contained in the official documents of Ecclesiastical Councils. But Luther’s onslaught, which was at first limited to particular points, was soon extended to the doctrines of the Church; and leaving individuals, he attacked institutions at large – conventual life, the secular lordships of the bishops, etc. His writings now controverted not merely isolated dicta of the Pope and the Councils, but the very principle on which such a mode of deciding points in dispute was based – in fact, the Authority of the Church. Luther repudiated that authority, and set up in its stead the Bible and the testimony of the Human Spirit. And it is a fact of the weightiest import that the Bible has become the basis of the Christian Church: henceforth each individual enjoys the right of deriving instruction for himself from it, and of directing his conscience in accordance with it. We see a vast change in the principle by which man’s religious life is guided: the whole system of Tradition, the whole fabric of the Church becomes problematical, and its authority is subverted. Luther’s translation of the Bible has been of incalculable value to the German people. It has supplied them with a People’s Book, such as no nation in the Catholic world can boast; for though the latter have a vast number of minor productions in the shape of prayer books, they have no generally recognized and classical book for popular instruction. In spite of this it has been made a question in modern times whether it is judicious to place the Bible in the hands of the People. Yet the few disadvantages thus entailed are far more than counterbalanced by the incalculable benefits thence accruing: narratives, which in their external shape might be repellent to the heart and understanding, can be discriminatingly treated by the religious sense, which, holding fast the substantial truth, easily vanquishes any such difficulties. And even if the books which have pretensions to the character of People’s Books, were not so superficial as they are, they would certainly fail in securing that respect which a book claiming such a title ought to inspire in individuals. But to obviate this difficulty is no easy matter, for even should a book adapted to the purpose in every other respect be produced, every country parson would have some fault to find with it, and think to better it. In France the need of such a book has been very much felt; great premiums have been offered with a view to obtaining one, but, from the reason stated, without success. Moreover, the existence of a People’s Book presupposes as its primary condition an ability to read on the part of the People; an ability which in Catholic countries is not very commonly to be met with.
The denial of the Authority of the Church necessarily led to a separation. The Council of Trent stereotyped the principles of Catholicism, and made the restoration of concord impossible. Leibnitz at a later time discussed with Bishop Bossuet the question of the union of the Churches; but the Council of Trent remains the insurmountable obstacle. The Churches became hostile parties, for even in respect to secular arrangements a striking difference manifested itself. In the non-Catholic countries the conventual establishments and episcopal foundations were broken up, and the rights of the then proprietors ignored. Educational arrangements were altered; the fasts and holy days were abolished. Thus there was also a secular reform – a change affecting the state of things outside the sphere of ecclesiastical relations: in many places a rebellion was raised against the temporal authorities. In Münster the Anabaptists expelled the Bishop and established a government of their own; and the peasants rose en masse to emancipate themselves from the yoke of serfdom. But the world was not yet ripe for a transformation of its political condition as a consequence of ecclesiastical reformation. – The Catholic Church also was essentially influenced by the Reformation: the reins of discipline were drawn tighter, and the greatest occasions of scandal, the most crying abuses were abated. Much of the intellectual life of the age that lay outside its sphere, but with which it had previously maintained friendly relations, it now repudiated. The Church came to a dead stop – “hitherto and no farther!” It severed itself from advancing Science, from philosophy and humanistic literature; and an occasion was soon offered of declaring its enmity to the scientific pursuits of the period. The celebrated Copernicus had discovered that the earth and the planets revolve round the sun, but the Church declared against this addition to human knowledge. Galileo, who had published a statement in the form of a dialogue of the evidence for and against the Copernican discovery (declaring indeed his own conviction of its truth), was obliged to crave pardon for the offence on his knees. The Greek literature was not made the basis of culture; education was intrusted to the Jesuits. Thus does the Spirit of the Catholic world in general sink behind the Spirit of the Age.
Here an important question solicits investigation: – why the Reformation was limited to certain nations, and why it did not permeate the whole Catholic world. The Reformation originated in Germany, and struck firm root only in the purely German nations; outside of Germany itself it established itself in Scandinavia and England. But the Romanic and Sclavonic nations kept decidedly aloof from it. Even South Germany has only partially adopted the Reformation – a fact which is consistent with the mingling of elements which is the general characteristic of its nationality. In Swabia, Franconia, and the Rhine countries there were many convents and bishoprics, as also many free imperial towns; and the reception or rejection of the Reformation very much depended on the influences which these ecclesiastical and civil bodies respectively exercised ; for we have already noticed that the Reformation was a change influencing the political life of the age as well as its religious and intellectual condition. We must further observe, that authority has much greater weight in determining men’s opinions than people are inclined to believe. There are certain fundamental principles which men are in the habit of receiving on the strength of authority; and it was mere authority which in the case of many countries decided for or against the adoption of the Reformation. In Austria, in Bavaria, in Bohemia, the Reformation had already made great progress; and though it is commonly said that when truth has once penetrated men’s souls, it cannot be rooted out again, it was indisputably stifled in the countries in question, by force of arms, by stratagem or persuasion. The Sclavonic nations were agricultural. This condition of life brings with it the relation of lord and serf. In agriculture the agency of nature predominates; human industry and subjective activity are on the whole less brought into play in this department of labor than elsewhere. The Sclavonians therefore did not attain so quickly or readily as other nations the fundamental sense of pure individuality – the consciousness of Universality – that which we designated above as “political power,” and could not share the benefits of dawning freedom. – But the Romanic nations also – Italy, Spain, Portugal, and in part France – were not imbued with the Reformed doctrines. Physical force perhaps did much to repress them; yet this alone would not be sufficient to explain the fact, for when the Spirit of a Nation craves anything no force can prevent its attaining the desired object: nor can it be said that these nations were deficient in culture; on the contrary, they were in advance of the Germans in this respect. It was rather owing to the fundamental character of these nations, that they did not adopt the Reformation. But what is this peculiarity of character which hindered the attainment of Spiritual Freedom? We answer: the pure inwardness of the German nation was the proper soil for the emancipation of Spirit; the Romanic Nations, on the contrary, have maintained in the very depth of their soul – in their Spiritual Consciousness – the principle of Disharmony: they are a product of the fusion of Roman and German blood, and still retain the heterogeneity thence resulting. The German cannot deny that the French, the Italians, the Spaniards, possess more determination of character – that they pursue a settled aim (even though it have a fixed idea for its object) with perfectly clear consciousness and the greatest attention – that they carry out a plan with great circumspection, and exhibit the greatest decision in regard to specific objects. The French call the Germans entiers, “entire” – i.e., stubborn; they are also strangers to the whimsical originality of the English. The Englishman attaches his idea of liberty to the special [as opposed to the general] ; he does not trouble himself about the Understanding [logical inference], but on the contrary feels himself so much the more at liberty, the more his course of action or his license to act contravenes the Understanding – i.e., runs counter to [logical inferences or] general principles. On the other hand, among the Romanic peoples we immediately encounter that internal schism, that holding fast by an abstract principle, and as the counterpart of this, an absence of the Totality of Spirit and sentiment which we call “Heart”; there is not that meditative introversion of the soul upon itself; – in their inmost being they may be said to be alienated from themselves [abstract principles carry them away]. With them the inner life is a region whose depth they do not appreciate; for it is given over “bodily” to particular [absorbing] interests, and the infinity that belongs to Spirit is not to be looked for there. Their inmost being is not their own. They leave it as an alien and indifferent matter, and are glad to have its concerns settled for them by another. That other to which they leave it is the Church. They have indeed something to do with it themselves; but since that which they have to do is not self-originated and self-prescribed, not their very own, they are content to leave the affair to be settled in a superficial way. “Eh bien,” said Napoleon, “we shall go to mass again, and my good fellows will say: ‘That is the word of command!’” This is the leading feature in the character of these nations – the separation of the religious from the secular interest, i.e., from the special interest of individuality; and the ground of this separation lies in their inmost soul, which has lost its independent entireness of being, its profoundest unity. Catholicism does not claim the essential direction of the Secular; religion remains an indifferent matter on the one side, while the other side of life is dissociated from it, and occupies a sphere exclusively its own. Cultivated Frenchmen therefore feel an antipathy to Protestantism because it seems to them something pedantic, dull, minutely captious in its morality; since it requires that Spirit and Thought should be directly engaged in religion: in attending mass and other ceremonies, on the contrary, no exertion of thought is required, but an imposing sensuous spectacle is presented to the eye, which does not make such a demand on one’s attention as entirely to exclude a little chat, while yet the duties of the occasion are not neglected.
We spoke above of the relation which the new doctrine sustained to secular life, and now we have only to exhibit that relation in detail. The development and advance of Spirit from the time of the Reformation onwards consist in this, that Spirit, having now gained the consciousness of its Freedom, through that process of mediation which takes place between man and God – that is, in the full recognition of the objective process as the existence [the positive and definite manifestation] of the Divine essence – now takes it up and follows it out in building up the edifice of secular relations. That harmony [of Objective and Subjective Will] which has resulted from the painful struggles of History, involves the recognition of the Secular as capable of being an embodiment of Truth; whereas it had been formerly regarded as evil only, as incapable of Good – the latter being considered essentially ultramundane. It is now perceived that Morality and Justice in the State are also divine and commanded by God, and that in point of substance there is nothing higher or more sacred. One inference is that Marriage is no longer deemed less holy than Celibacy. Luther took a wife to show that he respected marriage, defying the calumnies to which he exposed himself by such a step. It was his duty to do so, as it was also to eat meat on Fridays; to prove that such things are lawful and right, in opposition to the imagined superiority of abstinence. The Family introduces man to community – to the relation of interdependence in society; and this union is a moral one: while on the other hand the monks, separated from the sphere of social morality, formed as it were the standing army of the Pope, as the janizaries formed the basis of the Turkish power. The marriage of the priests entails the disappearance of the outward distinction between laity and clergy. – Moreover the repudiation of work no longer earned the reputation of sanctity; it was acknowledged to be more commendable for men to rise from a state of dependence by activity, intelligence, and industry, and make themselves independent. It is more consonant with justice that he who has money should spend it even in luxuries, than that he should give it away to idlers and beggars; for he bestows it on an equal number of persons by so doing, and these must at any rate have worked diligently for it. Industry, crafts and trades now have their moral validity recognized, and the obstacles to their prosperity which originated with the Church, have vanished. For the Church had pronounced it a sin to lend money on interest: but the necessity of so doing led to the direct violation of her injunctions. The Lombards (a fact which accounts for the use of the term “lombard” in French to denote a loan-office), and particularly the House of Medici, advanced money to princes in every part of Europe. The third point of sanctity in the Catholic Church – blind obedience, was likewise denuded of its false pretensions. Obedience to the laws of the State, as the Rational element in volition and action, was made the principle of human conduct. In this obedience man is free, for all that is demanded is that the Particular should yield to the General. Man himself has a conscience; consequently the subjection required of him is a free allegiance. This involves the possibility of a development of Reason and Freedom, and of their introduction into human relations; and Reason and the Divine commands are now synonymous. The Rational no longer meets with contradiction on the part of the religious conscience; it is permitted to develop itself in its own sphere without disturbance, without being compelled to resort to force in defending itself against an adverse power. But in the Catholic Church, that adverse element is unconditionally sanctioned. Where the Reformed doctrine prevails, princes may still be bad governors, but they are no longer sanctioned and solicited thereto by the promptings of their religious conscience. In the Catholic Church on the contrary, it is nothing singular for the conscience to be found in opposition to the laws of the State. Assassinations of sovereigns, conspiracies against the state, and the like, have often been supported and carried into execution by the priests.
This harmony between the State and the Church has now attained immediate realization. We have, as yet, no reconstruction of the State, of the system of jurisprudence, etc., for thought must first discover the essential principle of Right. The Laws of Freedom had first to be expanded to a system as deduced from an absolute principle of Right. Spirit does not assume this complete form immediately after the Reformation; it limits itself at first to direct and simple changes, as e.g., the doing away with conventual establishments and episcopal jurisdiction, etc. The reconciliation between God and the World was limited in the first instance to an abstract form; it was not yet expanded into a system by which the moral world could be regulated.
In the first instance this reconciliation must take place in the individual soul, must be realized by feeling; the individual must gain the assurance that the Spirit dwells in him – that, in the language of the Church, a brokenness of heart has been experienced, and that Divine grace has entered into the heart thus broken. By Nature man is not what he ought to be; only through a transforming process does he arrive at truth. The general and speculative aspect of the matter is just this – that the human heart is not what it should be. It was then required of the individual that he should know what he is in himself; that is, the teaching of the Church insisted upon man’s becoming conscious that he is evil. But the individual is evil only when the Natural manifests itself in mere sensual desire – when an unrighteous will presents itself in its untamed, untrained, violent shape; and yet it is required that such a person should know that he is depraved, and that the good Spirit dwells in him; in fact he is required to have a direct consciousness of and to “experience” that which was presented to him as a speculative and implicit truth. The Reconciliation having, then, assumed this abstract form, men tormented themselves with a view to force upon their souls the consciousness of their sinfulness and to know themselves as evil. The most simple souls, the most innocent natures were accustomed in painful introspection to observe the most secret workings of the heart, with a view to a rigid examination of them. With this duty was conjoined that of an entirely opposite description; it was required that man should attain the consciousness that the good Spirit dwells in him – that Divine Grace has found an entrance into his soul. In fact the important distinction between the knowledge of abstract truth and the knowledge of what has actual existence was left out of sight. Men became the victims of a tormenting uncertainty as to whether the good Spirit has an abode in them, and it was deemed indispensable that the entire process of spiritual transformation should become perceptible to the individual himself. An echo of this self-tormenting process may still be traced in much of the religious poetry of that time; the Psalms of David which exhibit a similar character were then introduced as hymns into the ritual of Protestant Churches. Protestantism took this turn of minute and painful introspection, possessed with the conviction of the importance of the exercise, and was for a long time characterized by a self-tormenting disposition and an aspect of spiritual wretchedness; which in the present day has induced many persons to enter the Catholic pale, that they might exchange this inward uncertainty for a formal broad certainty based on the imposing totality of the Church. A more refined order of reflection upon the character of human actions was introduced into the Catholic Church also. The Jesuits analyzed the first rudiments of volition (velleitas) with as painful minuteness as was displayed in the pious exercises of Protestantism ; but they had a science of casuistry which enabled them to discover a good reason for everything, and so get rid of the burden of guilt which this rigid investigation seemed to aggravate.
With this was connected another remarkable phenomenon, common to the Catholic with the Protestant World. The human mind was driven into the Inward, the Abstract, and the Religious element was regarded as utterly alien to the secular. That lively consciousness of his subjective life and of the inward origin of his volition that had been awakened in man, brought with it the belief in Evil, as a vast power the sphere of whose malign dominion is the Secular. This belief presents a parallelism with the view in which the sale of Indulgences originated : for as eternal salvation could be secured for money, so by paying the price of one’s salvation through a compact made with the Devil, the riches of the world and the unlimited gratification of desires and passions could be secured. Thus arose that famous legend of Faust, who in disgust at the unsatisfactory character of speculative science, is said to have plunged into the world and purchased all its glory at the expense of his salvation. Faust, if we may trust the poet, had the enjoyment of all that the world could give, in exchange for his soul’s weal; but those poor women who were called Witches were reputed to get nothing more by the bargain than the gratification of a petty revenge by making a neighbor’s cow go dry or giving a child the measles. But in awarding punishment it was not the magnitude of the injury in the loss of the milk or the sickness of the child that was considered; it was the abstract power of the Evil One in them that was attacked. The belief in this abstract, special power whose dominion is the world – in the Devil and his devices – occasioned an incalculable number of trials for witchcraft both in Catholic and Protestant countries. It was impossible to prove the guilt of the accused; they were only suspected : it was therefore only a direct knowledge [one not mediated by proofs] on which this fury against the evil principle professed to be based. It was indeed necessary to have recourse to evidence, but the basis of these judicial processes was simply the belief that certain individuals were possessed by the power of the Evil One. This delusion raged among the nations in the sixteenth century with the fury of a pestilence. The main impulse was suspicion. The principle of suspicion assumes a similarly terrible shape during the sway of the Roman Emperors, and under Robespierre’s Reign of Terror; when mere disposition, unaccompanied by any overt act or expression, was made an object of punishment. Among the Catholics, it was the Dominicans to whom (as was the Inquisition in all its branches) the trials for witchcraft were intrusted. Father Spee, a noble Jesuit, wrote a treatise against them (he is also the author of a collection of fine poems bearing the title of “Trutznachtigall,”) giving a full exposure of the terrible character of criminal justice in proceedings of this kind. Torture, which was only to be applied once, was continued until a confession was extorted. If the accused fainted under the torture it was averred that the Devil was giving them sleep: if convulsions supervened, it was said that the Devil was laughing in them; if they held out steadfastly, the Devil was supposed to give them power. These persecutions spread like an epidemic sickness through Italy, France, Spain and Germany. The earnest remonstrances of enlightened men, such as Spec and others, already produced a considerable effect. But it was Thomasius, a Professor of Halle, who first opposed this prevalent superstition with very decided success. The entire phenomenon is in itself most remarkable when we reflect that we have not long been quit of this frightful barbarity (even as late as the year 1780 a witch was publicly burned at Glarus in Switzerland). Among the Catholics persecution was directed against heretics as well as against witches: we might say indeed that they were placed in one category; the unbelief of the heretics was regarded as none other than the indwelling principle of Evil – a possession similar to the other.
Leaving this abstract form of Subjectiveness we have now to consider the secular side – the constitution of the State and the advance of Universality – the recognition of the universal laws of Freedom. This is the second and the essential point.
In tracing the course of the political development of the period, we observe in the first place the consolidation of Monarchy, and the Monarch invested with an authority emanating from the State. The incipient stage in the rise of royal power, and the commencement of that unity which the states of Europe attained, belong to a still earlier period. While these changes were going forward, the entire body of private obligations and rights which had been handed down from the Middle Age, still retained validity. Infinitely important is this form of private rights, which the organic constituents of the executive power of the State have assumed. At their apex we find a fixed and positive principle – the exclusive right of one family to the possession of the throne, and the hereditary succession of sovereigns further restricted by the law of primogeniture. This gives the State an immovable centre. The fact that Germany was an elective empire prevented its being consolidated into one state; and for the same reason Poland has vanished from the circle of independent states. The State must have a final decisive will: but if an individual is to be the final deciding power, he must be so in a direct and natural way, not as determined by choice and theoretic views, etc. Even among the free Greeks the oracle was the external power which decided their policy on critical occasions; here birth is the oracle – something independent of any arbitrary volition. But the circumstance that the highest station in a monarchy is assigned to a family, seems to indicate that the sovereignty is the private property of that family. As such that sovereignty would seem to be divisible; but since the idea of division of power is opposed to the principle of the state, the rights of the monarch and his family required to be more strictly defined. Sovereign possession is not a peculium of the individual ruler, but is consigned to the dynastic family as a trust; and the estates of the realm possess security that that trust shall be faithfully discharged, for they have to guard the unity of the body politic. Thus, then, royal possession no longer denotes a kind of private property, private possession of estates, demesnes, jurisdiction, etc., but has become a State-property – a function pertaining to and involved with the State.
Equally important, and connected with that just noticed, is the change of executive powers, functions, duties and rights, which naturally belong to the State, but which had become private property and private contracts or obligations – into possession conferred by the State. The rights of seigneurs and barons were annulled, and they were obliged to content themselves with official positions in the State. This transformation of the rights of vassals into official functions took place in the several kingdoms in various ways. In France, e.g., the great Barons, who were governors of provinces, who could claim such offices as a matter of right, and who like the Turkish Pashas, maintained a body of troops with the revenues thence derived – troops which they might at any moment bring into the field against the King – were reduced to the position of mere landed proprietors or court nobility, and those Pashalics became offices held under the government; or the nobility were employed as officers – generals of the army, an army belonging to the State. In this aspect the origination of standing armies is so important an event; for they supply the monarchy with an independent force and are as necessary for the security of the central authority against the rebellion of the subject individuals as for the defence of the state against foreign enemies. The fiscal system indeed had not as yet assumed a systematic character – the revenue being derived from customs, taxes and tolls in countless variety, besides the subsidies and contributions paid by the estates of the realm; in return for which the right of presenting a statement of grievances was conceded to them, as is now the case in Hungary. – In Spain the spirit of chivalry had assumed a very beautiful and noble form. This chivalric spirit, this knightly dignity, degraded to a mere inactive sentiment of honor, has attained notoriety as the Spanish grandezza. The Grandees were no longer allowed to maintain troops of their own, and were also withdrawn from the command of the armies; destitute of power they had to content themselves as private persons with an empty title. But the means by which the royal power in Spain was consolidated, was the Inquisition. This, which was established for the persecution of those who secretly adhered to Judaism, and of Moors and heretics, soon assumed a political character, being directed against the enemies of the State. Thus the Inquisition confirmed the despotic power of the King: it claimed supremacy even over bishops and archbishops, and could cite them before its tribunal. The frequent confiscation of property – one of the most customary penalties – tended to enrich the treasury of the State. Moreover, the Inquisition was a tribunal which took cognizance of mere suspicion; and while it consequently exercised a fearful authority over the clergy, it had a peculiar support in the national pride. For every Spaniard wished to be considered Christian by descent, and this species of vanity fell in with the views and tendency of the Inquisition. Particular provinces of the Spanish monarchy, as e.g., Aragon, still retained many peculiar rights and privileges; but the Spanish Kings from Philip II downwards proceeded to suppress them altogether. It would lead us too far to pursue in detail the process of the depression of the aristocracy in the several states of Europe. The main scope of this depressing process was, as already stated, the curtailment of the private rights of the feudal nobility, and the transformation of their seigneurial authority into an official position in connection with the State. This change was in the interest of both the King and the People. The powerful barons seemed to constitute an intermediate body charged with the defence of liberty; but properly speaking, it was only their own privileges which they maintained against the royal power on the one hand and the citizens on the other hand. The barons of England extorted Magna Charta from the King; but the citizens gained nothing by it, on the contrary they remained in their former condition. Polish Liberty too, meant nothing more than the freedom of the barons in contraposition to the King, the nation being reduced to a state of absolute serfdom. When liberty is mentioned, we must always be careful to observe whether it is not really the assertion of private interests which is thereby designated. For although the nobility were deprived of their sovereign power, the people were still oppressed in consequence of their absolute dependence, their serfdom, and subjection to aristocratic jurisdiction; and they were partly declared utterly incapable of possessing property, partly subjected to a condition of bond-service which did not permit of their freely selling the products of their industry. The supreme interest of emancipation from this condition concerned the power of the State as well as the subjects – that emancipation which now gave them as citizens the character of free individuals, and determined that what was to be performed for the Commonwealth should be a matter of just allotment, not of mere chance. The aristocracy of possession maintains that possession against both – viz., against the power of the State at large and against individuals. But the aristocracy have a position assigned them, as the support of the throne, as occupied and active on behalf of the State and the common weal, and at the same time as maintaining the freedom of the citizens. This in fact is the prerogative of that class which forms the link between the Sovereign and the People – to undertake to discern and to give the first impulse to that which is intrinsically Rational and Universal ; and this recognition of and occupation with the Universal must take the place of positive personal right. This subjection to the Head of the State of that intermediate power which laid claim to positive authority was now accomplished, but this did not involve the emancipation of the subject class. This took place only at a later date, when the idea of right in and for itself arose in men’s minds. Then the sovereigns relying on their respective peoples, vanquished the caste of unrighteousness; but where they united with the barons, or where the latter maintained their freedom against the kings, those positive rights or rather wrongs continued.
We observe also as an essential feature now first presenting itself in the political aspect of the time, a connected system of States and a relation of States to each other. They became involved in various wars: the Kings having enlarged their political authority, now turn their attention to foreign lands, insisting upon claims of all kinds. The aim and real interest of the wars of the period is invariably conquest.
Italy especially had become such an object of desire, and was a prey to the rapacity of the French, the Spaniards, and at a later date, of the Austrians. In fact absolute disintegration and dismemberment has always been an essential feature in the national character of the inhabitants of Italy, in ancient as well as in modern times. Their stubborn individuality was exchanged for a union the result of force, under the Roman dominion ; but as soon as this bond was broken, the original character reappeared in full strength. In later times, as if finding in them a bond of union otherwise impossible – after having escaped from a selfishness of the most monstrous order and which displayed its perverse nature in crimes of every description – the Italians attained a taste for the Fine Arts: thus their civilization, the mitigation of their selfishness, reached only the Grade of Beauty, not that of Rationality – the higher unity of Thought. Consequently, even in poetry and song the Italian nature is different from ours. Improvisation characterizes the genius of the Italians; they pour out their very souls in Art and the ecstatic enjoyment of it. Enjoying a naturel so imbued with Art, the State must be an affair of comparative indifference, a merely casual matter to the Italians. But we have to observe also that the wars in which Germany engaged, were not particularly honorable to it: it allowed Burgundy, Lorraine, Alsace, and other parts of the empire to be wrested from it. From these wars between the various political powers there arose common interests, and the object of that community of interest was the maintenance of severalty – the preservation to the several States of their independence – in fact the “balance of power.” The motive to this was of a decidedly “practical” kind, viz., the protection of the several States from conquest. The union of the States of Europe as the means of shielding individual States from the violence of the powerful – the preservation of the balance of power, had now taken the place of that general aim of the elder time, the defence of Christendom, whose centre was the Papacy. This new political motive was necessarily accompanied by a diplomatic condition – one in which all the members of the great European system, however distant, felt an interest in that which happened to any one of them. Diplomatic policy had been brought to the greatest refinement in Italy, and was thence transmitted to Europe at large. Several princes in succession seemed to threaten the stability of the balance of power in Europe. When this combination of States was just commencing, Charles V was aiming at universal monarchy; for he was Emperor of Germany and King of Spain to boot: the Netherlands and Italy acknowledged his sway, and the whole wealth of America flowed into his coffers. With this enormous power, which, like the contingencies of fortune in the case of private property, had been accumulated by the most felicitous combinations of political dexterity – among other things by marriage, – but which was destitute of an internal and reliable bond, he was nevertheless unable to gain any advantage over France, or even over the German princes; nay he was even compelled to a peace by Maurice of Saxony. His whole life was spent in suppressing disturbances in all parts of his empire and in conducting foreign wars. The balance of power in Europe was similarly threatened by Louis XIV. Through that depression of the grandees of his kingdom which Richelieu and after him Mazarin had accomplished, he had become an absolute sovereign. France, too, had the consciousness of its intellectual superiority in a refinement of culture surpassing anything of which the rest of Europe could boast. The pretensions of Louis were founded not on extent of dominion, (as was the case with Charles V) so much as on that culture which distinguished his people, and which at that time made its way everywhere with the language that embodied it, and was the object of universal admiration: they could therefore plead a higher justification than those of the German Emperor. But the very rock on which the vast military resources of Philip II had already foundered – the heroic resistance of the Dutch – proved fatal also to the ambitious schemes of Louis. Charles XII also presented a remarkably menacing aspect; but his ambition had a Quixotic tinge and was less sustained by intrinsic vigor. Through all these storms the nations of Europe succeeded in maintaining their individuality and independence. An external relation in which the States of Europe had an interest in common, was that sustained to the Turks – the terrible power which threatened to overwhelm Europe from the East. The Turks of that day had still a sound and vigorous nationality, whose power was based on conquest, and which was therefore engaged in constant warfare, or at least admitted only a temporary suspension of arms. As was the case among the Franks, the conquered territories were divided among their warriors as personal, not heritable possessions; when in later times the principle of hereditary succession was adopted, the national vigor was shattered. The flower of the Osman force, the Janizaries, were the terror of the Europeans. Their ranks were recruited from a body of Christian boys of handsome and vigorous proportions, brought together chiefly by means of annual conscriptions among the Greek subjects of the Porte, strictly educated in the Moslem faith, and exercised in arms from early youth. Without parents, without brothers or sisters, without wives, they were, like the monks, an altogether isolated and terrible corps. The Eastern European powers were obliged to make common cause against the Turks – viz.: Austria, Hungary, Venice and Poland. The battle of Lepanto saved Italy, and perhaps all Europe, from a barbarian inundation.
An event of special importance following in the train of the Reformation was the struggle of the Protestant Church for political existence. The Protestant Church, even in its original aspect, was too intimately connected with secular interests not to occasion secular complications and political contentions respecting political possession. The subjects of Catholic princes become Protestant, have and make claims to ecclesiastical property, change the nature of the tenure, and repudiate or decline the discharge of those ecclesiastical functions to whose due performance the emoluments are attached (jura stoloe). Moreover a Catholic government is bound to be the brachium seculare of the Church; the Inquisition, e.g., never put a man to death, but simply declared him a heretic, as a kind of jury; he was then punished according to civil laws. Again, innumerable occasions of offence and irritation originated with processions and feasts, the carrying of the Host through the streets, withdrawals from convents, etc. Still more excitement would be felt when an Archbishop of Cologne attempted to make his archepiscopate a secular princedom for himself and his family. Their confessors made it a matter of conscience with Catholic princes to wrest estates that had been the property of the Church out of the hands of the heretics. In Germany, however, the condition of things was favorable to Protestantism in as far as the several territories which had been imperial fiefs, had become independent principalities. But in countries like Austria, the princes were indifferent to Protestants, or even hostile to them; and in France they were not safe in the exercise of their religion except as protected by fortresses. War was the indispensable preliminary to the security of Protestants ; for the question was not one of simple conscience, but involved decisions respecting public and private property which had been taken possession of in contravention of the rights of the Church, and whose restitution it demanded. A condition of absolute mistrust supervened; absolute, because mistrust bound up with the religious conscience was its root. The Protestant princes and towns formed at that time a feeble union, and the defensive operations they conducted were much feebler still. After they had been worsted, Maurice the Elector of Saxony, by an utterly unexpected and adventurous piece of daring, extorted a peace, itself of doubtful interpretation, and which left the real sources of embitterment altogether untouched. It was necessary to fight out the battle from the very beginning. This took place in the Thirty Years’ War, in which first Denmark and then Sweden undertook the cause of freedom. The former was compelled to quit the field, but the latter under Gustavus Adolphus – that hero of the North of glorious memory – played a part which was so much the more brilliant inasmuch as it began to wage war with the vast force of the Catholics, alone – without the help of the Protestant states of the Empire. The powers of Europe, with a few exceptions, precipitate themselves on Germany – flowing back towards it as to the fountain from which they had originally issued, and where now the right of inwardness that has come to manifest itself in the sphere of religion, and that of internal independence and severalty is to be fought out. The struggle ends without an Ideal result – without having attained the consciousness of a principle as an intellectual concept – in the exhaustion of all parties, in a scene of utter desolation, where all the contending forces have been wrecked; it issues in letting parties simply take their course and maintain their existence on the basis of external power. The issue is in fact exclusively of a political nature.
In England also, war was indispensable to the establishment of the Protestant Church: the struggle was in this case directed against the sovereigns, who were secretly attached to Catholicism because they found the principle of absolute sway confirmed by its doctrines. The fanaticized people rebelled against the assumption of absolute sovereign power – importing that Kings are responsible to God alone (i.e., to the Father Confessor) – and in opposition to Catholic externality, unfurled the banner of extreme subjectivity in Puritanism – a principle which, developing itself in the real world, presents an aspect partly of enthusiastic elevation, partly of ridiculous incongruity. The enthusiasts of England, like those of Münster, were for having the State governed directly by the fear of God; the soldiery sharing the same fanatical views prayed while they fought for the cause they had espoused. But a military leader now has the physical force of the country and consequently the government in his hands: for in the State there must be government, and Cromwell knew what governing is. He, therefore, made himself ruler, and sent that praying parliament about their business. With his death however his right to authority vanished also, and the old dynasty regained possession of the throne. Catholicism, we may observe, is commended to the support of princes as promoting the security of their government – a position supposed to be particularly manifest if the Inquisition be connected with the government; the former constituting the bulwark of the latter. But such a security is based on a slavish religious obedience, and is limited to those grades of human development in which the political constitution and the whole legal system still rest on the basis of actual positive possession; but if the constitution and laws are to be founded on a veritable eternal Right, then security is to be found only in the Protestant religion, in whose principle Rational Subjective Freedom also attains development. The Dutch too offered a vigorous opposition to the Catholic principle as bound up with the Spanish sovereignty. Belgium was still attached to the Catholic religion and remained subject to Spain: on the contrary, the northern part of the Netherlands – Holland – stood its ground with heroic valor against its oppressors. The trading class, the guilds and companies of marksmen formed a militia whose heroic courage was more than a match for the then famous Spanish infantry. Just as the Swiss peasants had resisted the chivalry of Austria, so here the trading cities held out against disciplined troops. During this struggle on the Continent itself, the Dutch fitted out fleets and deprived the Spaniards of part of their colonial possessions, from which all their wealth was derived. As independence was secured to Holland in its holding to the Protestant principle, so that of Poland was lost through its endeavor to suppress that principle in the case of dissidents. Through the Peace of Westphalia the Protestant Church had been acknowledged as an independent one – to the great confusion and humiliation of Catholicism. This peace has often passed for the palladium of Germany, as having established its political constitution. But this constitution was in fact a confirmation of the particular rights of the countries into which Germany had been broken up. It involves no thought, no conception of the proper aim of a state. We should consult “Hippolytus à lapide” (a book which, written before the conclusion of the peace, had a great influence on the condition of the Empire) if we would become acquainted with the character of that German freedom of which so much is made. In the peace in question the establishment of a complete particularity, the determination of all relations on the principle of private right is the object manifestly contemplated – a constituted anarchy, such as the world had never before seen; – i.e., the position that an Empire is properly a unity, a totality, a state, while yet all relations are determined so exclusively on the principle of private right that the privilege of all the constituent parts of that Empire to act for themselves contrarily to the interest of the whole, or to neglect that which its interest demands and which is even required by law – is guaranteed and secured by the most inviolable sanctions. Immediately after this settlement, it was shown what the German Empire was as a state in relation to other states: it waged ignominious wars with the Turks, for deliverance from whom Vienna was indebted to Poland. Still more ignominious was its relation to France, which took possession in time of peace of free cities, the bulwarks of Germany, and of flourishing provinces, and retained them undisturbed.
This constitution, which completely terminated the career of Germany as an Empire, was chiefly the work of Richelieu, by whose assistance – Romish Cardinal though he was – religious freedom in Germany was preserved. Richelieu, with a view to further the interests of the State whose affairs he superintended, adopted the exact opposite of that policy which he promoted in the case of its enemies; for he reduced the latter to political impotence by ratifying the political independence of the several parts of the Empire, while at home he destroyed the independence of the Protestant party. His fate has consequently resembled that of many great statesmen, inasmuch as he has been cursed by his countrymen, while his enemies have looked upon the work by which he ruined them as the most sacred goal of their desires – the consummation of their rights and liberties. The result of the struggle therefore was the forcibly achieved and now politically ratified coexistence of religious parties, forming political communities whose relations are determined according to prescriptive principles of civil or [rather, for such their true nature was] of private right.
The Protestant Church increased and so perfected the stability of its political existence by the fact that one of the states which had adopted the principles of the Reformation raised itself to the position of an independent European power. This power was destined to start into a new life with Protestantism: Prussia, viz., which making its appearance at the end of the seventeenth century, was indebted, if not for origination, yet certainly for the consolidation of its strength, to Frederick the Great; and the Seven Years’ War was the struggle by which that consolidation was accomplished. Frederick II demonstrated the independent vigor of his power by resisting that of almost all Europe – the union of its leading states. He appeared as the hero of Protestantism, and that not individually merely, like Gustavus Adolphus, but as the ruler of a state. The Seven Years’ War was indeed in itself not a war of religion; but it was so in view of its ultimate issues, and in the disposition of the soldiers as well as of the potentates under whose banner they fought. The Pope consecrated the sword of Field-Marshal Daun, and the chief object which the Allied Powers proposed to themselves was the crushing of Prussia as the bulwark of the Protestant Church. But Frederick the Great not only made Prussia one of the great powers of Europe as a Protestant power, but was also a philosophical King – an altogether peculiar and unique phenomenon in modern times.
There had been English Kings who were subtle theologians, contending for the principle of absolutism: Frederick on the contrary took up the Protestant principle in its secular aspect; and though he was by no means favorable to religious controversies, and did not side with one party or the other, he had the consciousness of Universality, which is the profoundest depth to which Spirit can attain, and is Thought conscious of its own inherent power.
Protestantism had introduced the principle of Subjectivity, importing religious emancipation and inward harmony, but accompanying this with the belief in Subjectivity as Evil, and in a power [adverse to man’s highest interests] whose embodiment is “the World.” Within the Catholic pale also, the casuistry of the Jesuits brought into vogue interminable investigations, as tedious and wire-drawn as those in which the scholastic theology delighted, respecting the subjective spring of the Will and the motives that affect it. This Dialectic, which unsettles all particular judgments and opinions, transmuting the Evil into Good and Good into Evil, left at last nothing remaining but the mere action of subjectivity itself, the Abstractum of Spirit – Thought. Thought contemplates everything under the form of Universality, and is consequently the impulsion towards and production of the Universal. In that elder scholastic theology the real subject-matter of investigation – the doctrine of the Church – remained an ultramundane affair; in the Protestant theology also Spirit still sustained a relation to the Ultramundane; for on the one side we have the will of the individual – the Spirit of Man – I, myself, and on the other the Grace of God, the Holy Ghost; and so in the Wicked, the Devil. But in Thought, Self moves within the limits of its own sphere; that with which it is occupied – its objects are as absolutely present to it [as they were distinct and separate in the intellectual grade above mentioned] ; for in thinking I must elevate the object to Universality. This is utter and absolute Freedom, for the pure Ego, like pure Light, is with itself alone [is not involved with any alien principle] ; thus that which is diverse from itself, sensuous or spiritual, no longer presents an object of dread, for in contemplating such diversity it is inwardly free and can freely confront it. A practical interest makes use of, consumes the objects offered to it: a theoretical interest calmly contemplates them, assured that in themselves they present no alien element. – Consequently, the ne plus ultra of Inwardness, of Subjectiveness, is Thought. Man is not free, when he is not thinking; for except when thus engaged he sustains a relation to the world around him as to another, an alien form of being. This comprehension – the penetration of the Ego into and beyond other forms of being with the most profound self-certainty [the identity of subjective and objective Reason being recognized], directly involves the harmonization of Being: for it must be observed that the unity of Thought with its Object is already implicitly present [i.e., in the fundamental constitution of the Universe], for Reason is the substantial basis of Consciousness as well as of the External and Natural. Thus that which presents itself as the Object of Thought is no longer an absolutely distinct form of existence [ein Jenseits], not of an alien and grossly substantial [as opposed to intelligible] nature.
Thought is the grade to which Spirit has now advanced. It involves the Harmony of Being in its purest essence, challenging the external world to exhibit the same Reason which Subject [the Ego] possesses. Spirit perceives that Nature – the World – must also be an embodiment of Reason, for God created it on principles of Reason. An interest in the contemplation and comprehension of the present world became universal. Nature embodies Universality, inasmuch as it is nothing other than Sorts, Genera, Power, Gravitation, etc., phenomenally presented. Thus Experimental Science became the science of the World; for experimental science involves on the one hand the observation of phenomena, on the other hand also the discovery of the Law, the essential being, the hidden force that causes those phenomena – thus reducing the data supplied by observation to their simple principles. Intellectual consciousness was first extricated from that sophistry of thought, which unsettles everything, by Descartes. As it was the purely German nations among whom the principle of Spirit first manifested itself, so it was by the Romanic nations that the abstract idea (to which the character assigned them above – viz., that of internal schism, more readily conducted them) was first comprehended. Experimental science therefore very soon made its way among them (in common with the Protestant English), but especially among the Italians. It seemed to men as if God had but just created the moon and stars, plants and animals, as if the laws of the universe were now established for the first time; for only then did they feel a real interest in the universe, when they recognized their own Reason in the Reason which pervades it. The human eye became clear, perception quick, thought active and interpretative. The discovery of the laws of Nature enabled men to contend against the monstrous superstition of the time, as also against all notions of mighty alien powers which magic alone could conquer. The assertion was even ventured on, and that by Catholics not less than by Protestants, that the External [and Material], with which the Church insisted upon associating superhuman virtue, was external and material, and nothing more – that the Host was simply dough, the relics of the Saints mere bones. The independent authority of Subjectivity was maintained against belief founded on authority, and the Laws of Nature were recognized as the only bond connecting phenomena with phenomena. Thus all miracles were disallowed: for Nature is a system of known and recognized Laws; Man is at home in it, and that only passes for truth in which he finds himself at home; he is free through the acquaintance he has gained with Nature. Nor was thought less vigorously directed to the Spiritual side of things: Right and [Social] Morality came to be looked upon as having their foundation in the actual present Will of man, whereas formerly it was referred only to the command of God enjoined ab extra, written in the Old and New Testament, or appearing in the form of particular Right [as opposed to that based on general principles] in old parchments, as privilegia, or in international compacts. What the nations acknowledge as international Right was deduced empirically from observation (as in the work of Grotius) ; then the source of the existing civil and political law was looked for, after Cicero’s fashion, in those instincts of men which Nature has planted in their hearts – e.g., the social instinct; next the principle of security for the person and property of the citizens, and of the advantage of the commonwealth – that which belongs to the class of “reasons of State.” On these principles private rights were on the one hand despotically contravened, but on the other hand such contravention was the instrument of carrying out the general objects of the State in opposition to mere positive or prescriptive claims. Frederick II may be mentioned as the ruler who inaugurated the new epoch in the sphere of practical life – that epoch in which practical political interest attains Universality [is recognized as an abstract principle], and receives an absolute sanction. Frederick II merits especial notice as having comprehended the general object of the State, and as having been the first sovereign who kept the general interest of the State steadily in view, ceasing to pay any respect to particular interests when they stood in the way of the common weal. His immortal work is a domestic code – the Prussian municipal law. How the head of a household energetically provides and governs with a view to the weal of that household and of his dependents – of this he has. given a unique specimen.
These general conceptions, deduced from actual and present consciousness – the Laws of Nature and the substance of what is right and good, have received the name of Reason. The recognition of the validity of these laws was designated by the term Éclaircissement (Aufklärung). From France it passed over into Germany, and created a new world of ideas. The absolute criterion – taking the place of all authority based on religious belief and positive laws of Right (especially political Right) – is the verdict passed by Spirit itself on the character of that which is to be believed or obeyed. After a free investigation in open day, Luther had secured to mankind Spiritual Freedom and the Reconciliation [of the Objective and Subjective] in the concrete: he triumphantly established the position that man’s eternal destiny [his spiritual and moral position] must be wrought out in himself [cannot be an opus operatum, a work performed for him]. But the import of that which is to take place in him – what truth is to become vital in him, was taken for granted by Luther as something already given, something revealed by religion. Now, the principle was set up that this import must be capable of actual investigation – something of which I [in this modern time] can gain an inward conviction – and that to this basis of inward demonstration every dogma must be referred.
This principle of thought makes its appearance in the first instance in a general and abstract form; and is based on the axiom of Contradiction and Identity. The results of thought are thus posited as finite, and the eclaircissement utterly banished and extirpated all that was speculative from things human and divine. Although it is of incalculable importance that the multiform complex of things should be reduced to its simplest conditions, and brought into the form of Universality, yet this still abstract principle does not satisfy the living Spirit, the concrete human soul.
This formally absolute principle brings us to the last stage in History, our world, our own time.
Secular life is the positive and definite embodiment of the Spiritual Kingdom – the Kingdom of the Will manifesting itself in outward existence. Mere impulses are also forms in which the inner life realizes itself; but these are transient and disconnected; they are the ever-changing applications of volition. But that which is just and moral belongs to the essential, independent, intrinsically universal Will; and if we would know what Right really is, we must abstract from inclination, impulse and desire as the particular; i.e., we must know what the Will is in itself. For benevolent, charitable, social impulses are nothing more than impulses – to which others of a different class are opposed. What the Will is in itself can be known only when these specific and contradictory forms of volition have been eliminated. Then Will appears as Will, in its abstract essence. The Will is Free only when it does not will anything alien, extrinsic, foreign to itself (for as long as it does so, it is dependent), but wills itself alone – wills the Will. This is absolute Will – the volition to be free. Will making itself its own object is the basis of all Right and Obligation – consequently of all statutory determinations of Right, categorical imperatives, and enjoined obligations. The Freedom of the Will per se, is the principle and substantial basis of all Right – is itself absolute, inherently eternal Right, and the Supreme Right in comparison with other specific Rights; nay, it is even that by which Man becomes Man, and is therefore the fundamental principle of Spirit. But the next question is: How does Will assume a definite form? For in willing itself, it is nothing but an identical reference to itself; but, in point of fact, it wills something specific: there are, we know, distinct and special Duties and Rights. A particular application, a definite form of Will, is desiderated; for pure Will is its own object, its own application, which, as far as this showing goes, is no object, no application. In fact, in this form it is nothing more than formal Will. But the metaphysical process by which this abstract Will develops itself, so as to attain a definite form of Freedom, and how Rights and Duties are evolved therefrom, this is not the place to discuss. It may however be remarked that the same principle obtained speculative recognition in Germany, in the Kantian Philosophy. According to it the simple unity of Self-consciousness, the Ego, constitutes the absolutely independent Freedom, and is the fountain of all general conceptions – i.e., all conceptions elaborated by Thought – Theoretical Reason; and likewise of the highest of all practical determinations [or conceptions] – Practical Reason, as free and pure Will; and Rationality of Will is none other than the maintaining one’s self in pure Freedom – willing this and this alone – Right purely for the sake of Right, Duty purely for the sake of Duty. Among the Germans this view assumed no other form than that of tranquil theory; but the French wished to give it practical effect. Two questions, therefore, suggest themselves: Why did this principle of Freedom remain merely formal? and why did the French alone, and not the Germans, set about realizing it? With the formal principle more significant categories were indeed connected: one of the chief of these (for instance) was Society, and that which is advantageous for Society: but the aim of Society is itself political – that of the State (vid. “Droits de l’homme et du citoyen,” 1791) – the conservation of Natural Rights; but Natural Right is Freedom, and, as further determined, it is Equality of Rights before the Law. A direct connection is manifest here, for Equality, Parity, is the result of the comparison of many; the “Many” in question being human beings, whose essential characteristic is the same, viz., Freedom. That principle remains formal, because it originated with abstract Thought – with the Understanding, which is primarily the selfconsciousness of Pure Reason, and as direct [unreflected, undeveloped] is abstract. As yet, nothing further is developed from it, for it still maintains an adverse position to Religion, i.e. to the concrete absolute substance of the Universe. As respects the second question – why the French immediately passed over from the theoretical to the practical, while the Germans contented themselves with theoretical abstraction, it might be said: the French are hot-headed [ils ont la tête près du bonnet]; but this is a superficial solution: the fact is that the formal principle of philosophy in Germany encounters a concrete real World in which Spirit finds inward satisfaction and in which conscience is at rest. For on the one hand it was the Protestant World itself which advanced so far in Thought as to realize the absolute culmination of Self-Consciousness; on the other hand, Protestantism enjoys, with respect to the moral and legal relations of the real world, a tranquil confidence in the [Honorable] Disposition of men – a sentiment, which, [in the Protestant World,] constituting one and the same thing with Religion, is the fountain of all the equitable arrangements that prevail with regard to private right and the constitution of the State. In Germany the éclaircissement was conducted in the interest of theology: in France it immediately took up a position of hostility to the Church. In Germany the entire compass of secular relations had already undergone a change for the better; those pernicious ecclesiastical institutes of celibacy, voluntary pauperism, and laziness, had been already done away with; there was no dead weight of enormous wealth attached to the Church, and no constraint put upon Morality – a constraint which is the source and occasion of vices; there was not that unspeakably hurtful form of iniquity which arises from the interference of spiritual power with secular law, nor that other of the Divine Right of Kings, i.e. the doctrine that the arbitrary will of princes, in virtue of their being “the Lord’s Anointed,” is divine and holy: on the contrary their will is regarded as deserving of respect only so far as in association with reason, it wisely contemplates Right, Justice, and the weal of the community. The principle of Thought, therefore, had been so far conciliated already; moreover the Protestant World had a conviction that in the Harmonization which had previously been evolved [in the sphere of Religion] the principle which would result in a further development of equity in the political sphere was already present.
Consciousness that has received an abstract culture, and whose sphere is the Understanding [Verstand] can be indifferent to Religion, but Religion is the general form in which Truth exists for non-abstract consciousness. And the Protestant Religion does not admit of two kinds of consciences, while in the Catholic world the Holy stands on the one side and on the other side abstraction opposed to Religion, that is to its superstition and its truth. That formal, individual Will is in virtue of the abstract position just mentioned made the basis of political theories; Right in Society is that which the Law wills, and the Will in question appears as an isolated individual will; thus the State, as an aggregate of many individuals, is not an independently substantial Unity, and the truth and essence of Right in and for itself – to which the will of its individual members ought to be conformed in order to be true, free Will; but the volitional atoms [the individual wills of the members of the State] are made the starting point, and each will is represented as absolute. An intellectual principle was thus discovered to serve as a basis for the State – one which does not, like previous principles, belong to the sphere of opinion, such as the social impulse, the desire of security for property, etc., nor owe its origin to the religious sentiment, as does that of the Divine appointment of the governing power – but the principle of Certainty, which is identity with my self-consciousness, stopping short however of that of Truth, which needs to be distinguished from it. This is a vast discovery in regard to the profoundest depths of being and Freedom. The consciousness of the Spiritual is now the essential basis of the political fabric, and Philosophy has thereby become dominant. It has been said, that the French Revolution resulted from Philosophy, and it is not without reason that Philosophy has been called “Weltweisheit” [World Wisdom;] for it is not only Truth in and for itself, as the pure essence of things, but also Truth in its living form as exhibited in the affairs of the world. We should not, therefore, contradict the assertion that the Revolution received its first impulse from Philosophy. But this philosophy is in the first instance only abstract Thought, not the concrete comprehension of absolute Truth – intellectual positions between which there is an immeasurable chasm.
The principle of the Freedom of the Will, therefore, asserted itself against existing Right. Before the French Revolution, it must be allowed, the power of the grandees had been diminished by Richelieu, and they had been deprived of privileges; but, like the clergy, they retained all the prerogatives which gave them an advantage over the lower class. The political condition of France at that time presents nothing but a confused mass of privileges altogether contravening Thought and Reason – an utterly irrational state of things, and one with which the greatest corruption of morals, of Spirit was associated – an empire characterized by Destitution of Right, and which, when its real state begins to be recognized, becomes shameless destitution of Right. The fearfully heavy burdens that pressed upon the people, the embarrassment of the government to procure for the Court the means of supporting luxury and extravagance, gave the first impulse to discontent. The new Spirit began to agitate men’s minds: oppression drove men to investigation. It was perceived that the sums extorted from the people were not expended in furthering the objects of the State, but were lavished in the most unreasonable fashion. The entire political system appeared one mass of injustice. The change was necessarily violent, because the work of transformation was not undertaken by the government. And the reason why the government did not undertake it was that the Court, the Clergy, the Nobility, the Parliaments themselves, were unwilling to surrender the privileges they possessed, either for the sake of expediency or that of abstract Right; moreover, because the government as the concrete centre of the power of the State, could not adopt as its principle abstract individual wills, and reconstruct the State on this basis; lastly, because it was Catholic, and therefore the Idea of Freedom – Reason embodied in Laws – did not pass for the final absolute obligation, since the Holy and the religious conscience are separated from them. The conception, the idea of Right asserted its authority all at once, and the old framework of injustice could offer no resistance to its onslaught. A constitution, therefore, was established in harmony with the conception of Right, and on this foundation all future legislation was to be based. Never since the sun had stood in the firmament and the planets revolved around him had it been perceived that man’s existence centres in his head, i.e., in Thought, inspired by which he builds up the world of reality. Anaxagoras had been the first to say that nous; governs the World; but not until now had man advanced to the recognition of the principle that Thought ought to govern spiritual reality, This was accordingly a glorious mental dawn. All thinking beings shared in the jubilation of this epoch. Emotions of a lofty character stirred men’s minds at that time; a spiritual enthusiasm thrilled through the world, as if the reconciliation between the Divine and the Secular was now first accomplished.
The two following points must now occupy our attention: 1st. The course which the Revolution in France took; 2d. How that Revolution became World-Historical.
1. Freedom presents two aspects: the one concerns its substance and purport – its objectivity – the thing itself – [that which is performed as a free act]; the other relates to the Form of Freedom, involving the consciousness of his activity on the part of the individual; for Freedom demands that the individual recognize himself in such acts, that they should be veritably his, it being his interest that the result in question should be attained. The three elements and powers of the State in actual working must be contemplated according to the above analysis, their examination in detail being referred to the Lectures on the Philosophy of Right.
(1.) Laws of Rationality – of intrinsic Right – Objective or Real Freedom: to this category belong Freedom of Property and Freedom of Person. Those relics of that condition of servitude which the feudal relation had introduced are hereby swept away, and all those fiscal ordinances which were the bequest of the feudal law – its tithes and dues, are abrogated. Real [practical] Liberty requires moreover freedom in regard to trades and professions – the permission to every one to use his abilities without restriction – and the free admission to all offices of State. This is a summary of the elements of real Freedom, and which are not based on feeling – for feeling allows of the continuance even of serfdom and slavery – but on the thought and self- consciousness of man recognizing the spiritual character of his existence.
(2.) But the agency which gives the laws practical effect is the Government generally. Government is primarily the formal execution of the laws and the maintenance of their authority: in respect to foreign relations it prosecutes the interest of the State; that is, it assists the independence of the nation as an individuality against other nations; lastly, it has to provide for the internal weal of the State and all its classes – what is called administration: for it is not enough that the citizen is allowed to pursue a trade or calling, it must also be a source of gain to him; it is not enough that men are permitted to use their powers, they must also find an opportunity of applying them to purpose. Thus the State involves a body of abstract principles and a practical application of them. This application must be the work of a subjective will, a will which resolves and decides. Legislation itself – the invention and positive enactment of these statutory arrangements, is an application of such general principles. The next step, then, consists in [specific] determination and execution. Here then the question presents itself: what is the decisive will to be? The ultimate decision is the prerogative of the monarch: but if the State is based on Liberty, the many wills of individuals also desire to have a share in political decisions. But the Many are All; and it seems but a poor expedient, rather a monstrous inconsistency, to allow only a few to take part in those decisions, since each wishes that his volition should have a share in determining what is to be law for him. The Few assume to be the deputies, but they are often only the despoilers of the Many. Nor is the sway of the Majority over the Minority a less palpable inconsistency.
(3.) This collision of subjective wills leads therefore to the consideration of a third point, that of Disposition – an ex animo acquiescence in the laws; not the mere customary observance of them, but the cordial recognition of laws and the Constitution as in principle fixed and immutable, and of the supreme obligation of individuals to subject their particular wills to them. There may be various opinions and views respecting laws, constitution and government, but there must be a disposition on the part of the citizens to regard all these opinions as subordinate to the substantial interest of the State, and to insist upon them no further than that interest will allow; moreover nothing must be considered higher and more sacred than good will towards the State; or, if Religion be looked upon as higher and more sacred, it must involve nothing really alien or opposed to the Constitution. It is, indeed, regarded as a maxim of the profoundest wisdom entirely to separate the laws and constitution of the State from Religion, since bigotry and hypocrisy are to be feared as the results of a State Religion. But although the aspects of Religion and the State are different, they are radically one; and the laws find their highest confirmation in Religion.
Here it must be frankly stated, that with the Catholic Religion no rational constitution is possible; for Government and People must reciprocate that final guarantee of Disposition, and can have it only in a Religion that is not opposed to a rational political constitution.
Plato in his Republic makes everything depend upon the Government, and makes Disposition the principle of the State; on which account he lays the chief stress on Education. The modern theory is diametrically opposed to this, referring everything to the individual will. But here we have no guarantee that the will in question has that right disposition which is essential to the stability of the State.
In view then of these leading considerations we have to trace the course of the French Revolution and the remodelling of the State in accordance with the Idea of Right. In the first instance purely abstract philosophical principles were set up: Disposition and Religion were not taken into account. The first Constitutional form of Government in France was one which recognized Royalty; the monarch was to stand at the head of the State, and on him in conjunction with his Ministers was to devolve the executive power; the legislative body on the other hand were to make the laws. But this constitution involved from the very first an internal contradiction; for the legislature absorbed the whole power of the administration: the budget, affairs of war and peace, and the levying of the armed force were in the hands of the Legislative Chamber. Everything was brought under the head of Law. The budget however is in its nature something diverse from law, for it is annually renewed, and the power to which it properly belongs is that of the Government. With this moreover is connected the indirect nomination of the ministry and officers of state, etc. The government was thus transferred to the Legislative Chamber, as in England to the Parliament. This constitution was also vitiated by the existence of absolute mistrust; the dynasty lay under suspicion, because it had lost the power it formerly enjoyed, and the priests refused the oath. Neither government nor constitution could be maintained on this footing, and the ruin of both was the result. A government of some kind however is always in existence. The question presents itself then, Whence did it emanate? Theoretically, it proceeded from the people; really and truly from the National Convention and its Committees. The forces now dominant are the abstract principles – Freedom, and, as it exists within the limits of the Subjective Will – Virtue. This Virtue has now to conduct the government in opposition to the Many, whom their corruption and attachment to old interests, or a liberty that has degenerated into license, and the violence of their passions, render unfaithful to virtue. Virtue is here a simple abstract principle and distinguishes the citizens into two classes only – those who are favorably disposed and those who are not. But disposition can only be recognized and judged of by disposition. Suspicion therefore is in the ascendant; but virtue, as soon as it becomes liable to suspicion, is already condemned. Suspicion attained a terrible power and brought to the scaffold the Monarch, whose subjective will was in fact the religious conscience of a Catholic. Robespierre set up the principle of Virtue as supreme, and it may be said that with this man Virtue was an earnest matter. Virtue and Terror are the order of the day; for Subjective Virtue, whose sway is based on disposition only, brings with it the most fearful tyranny. It exercises its power without legal formalities, and the punishment it inflicts is equally simple – Death. This tyranny could not last; for all inclinations, all interests, reason itself revolted against this terribly consistent Liberty, which in its concentrated intensity exhibited so fanatical a shape. An organized government is introduced, analogous to the one that had been displaced; only that its chief and monarch is now a mutable Directory of Five, who may form a moral, but have not an individual unity; under them also suspicion was in the ascendant, and the government was in the hands of the legislative assemblies; this constitution therefore experienced the same fate as its predecessor, for it had proved to itself the absolute necessity of a governmental power. Napoleon restored it as a military power, and followed up this step by establishing himself as an individual will at the head of the State: he knew how to rule, and soon settled the internal affairs of France. The avocats, idealogues and abstract-principle men who ventured to show themselves he sent “to the right about,” and the sway of mistrust was exchanged for that of respect and fear. He then, with the vast might of his character turned his attention to foreign relations, subjected all Europe, and diffused his liberal institutions in every quarter. Greater victories were never gained, expeditions displaying greater genius were never conducted: but never was the powerlessness of Victory exhibited in a clearer light than then. The disposition of the peoples, i.e. their religious disposition and that of their nationality, ultimately precipitated this colossus; and in France constitutional monarchy, with the “Charte” as its basis, was restored. But here again the antithesis of Disposition [good feeling] and Mistrust made its appearance. The French stood in a mendacious position to each other, when they issued addresses full of devotion and love to the monarchy, and loading it with benediction. A fifteen years’ farce was played. For although the Charte was the standard under which all were enrolled, and though both parties had sworn to it, yet on the one side the ruling disposition was a Catholic one, which regarded it as a matter of conscience to destroy the existing institutions. Another breach, therefore, took place, and the Government was overturned. At length, after forty years of war and confusion indescribable, a weary heart might fain congratulate itself on seeing a termination and tranquillization of all these disturbances. But although one main point is set at rest, there remains on the one hand that rupture which the Catholic principle inevitably occasions, on the other hand that which has to do with men’s subjective will. In regard to the latter, the main feature of incompatibility still presents itself, in the requirement that the ideal general will should also be the empirically general – i.e. that the units of the State, in their individual capacity, should rule, or at any rate take part in the government. Not satisfied with the establishment of rational rights, with freedom of person and property, with the existence of a political organization in which are to be found various circles of civil life each having its own functions to perform, and with that influence over the people which is exercised by the intelligent members of the community, and the confidence that is felt in them, “Liberalism” sets up in opposition to all this the atomistic principle, that which insists upon the sway of individual wills; maintaining that all government should emanate from their express power, and have their express sanction. Asserting this formal side of Freedom – this abstraction – the party in question allows no political organization to be firmly established. The particular arrangements of the government are forthwith opposed by the advocates of Liberty as the mandates of a particular will, and branded as displays of arbitrary power. The will of the Many expels the Ministry from power, and those who had formed the Opposition fill the vacant places; but the latter having now become the Government, meet with hostility from the Many, and share the same fate. Thus agitation and unrest are perpetuated. This collision, this nodus, this problem is that with which history is now occupied, and whose solution it has to work out in the future.
2. We have now to consider the French Revolution in its organic connection with the History of the World; for in its substantial import that event is World-Historical, and that contest of Formalism which we discussed in the last paragraph must be properly distinguished from its wider bearings. As regards outward diffusion its principle gained access to almost all modern states, either through conquest or by express introduction into their political life. Particularly all the Romanic nations, and the Roman Catholic World in special – France, Italy, Spain – were subjected to the dominion of Liberalism. But it became bankrupt everywhere; first, the grand firm in France, then its branches in Spain and Italy; twice, in fact, in the states into which it had been introduced. This was the case in Spain, where it was first brought in by the Napoleonic Constitution, then by that which the Cortes adopted – in Piedmont, first when it was incorporated with the French Empire, and a second time as the result of internal insurrection; so in Rome and in Naples it was twice set up. Thus Liberalism as an abstraction, emanating from France, traversed the Roman World; but Religious slavery held that world in the fetters of political servitude. For it is a false principle that the fetters which bind Right and Freedom can be broken without the emancipation of conscience – that there can be a Revolution without a Reformation. – These countries, therefore, sank back into their old condition – in Italy with some modifications of the outward political condition. Venice and Genoa, those ancient aristocracies, which could at least boast of legitimacy, vanished as rotten despotisms. Material superiority in power can achieve no enduring results: Napoleon could not coerce Spain into freedom any more than Philip II could force Holland into slavery.
Contrasted with these Romanic nations we observe the other powers of Europe, and especially the Protestant nations. Austria and England were not drawn within the vortex of internal agitation, and exhibited great, immense proofs of their internal solidity. Austria is not a Kingdom, but an Empire, i.e., an aggregate of many political organizations. The inhabitants of its chief provinces are not German in origin and character, and have remained unaffected by “ideas.” Elevated neither by education nor religion, the lower classes in some districts have remained in a condition of serfdom, and the nobility have been kept down, as in Bohemia; in other quarters, while the former have continued the same, the barons have maintained their despotism, as in Hungary. Austria has surrendered that more intimate connection with Germany which was derived from the imperial dignity, and renounced its numerous possessions and rights in Germany and the Netherlands. It now takes its place in Europe as a distinct power, involved with no other. England, with great exertions, maintained itself on its old foundations ; the English Constitution kept its ground amid the general convulsion, though it seemed so much the more liable to be affected by it, as a public Parliament, that habit of assembling in public meeting which was common to all orders of the state, and a free press, offered singular facilities for introducing the French principles of Liberty and Equality among all classes of the people. Was the English nation too backward in point of culture to apprehend these general principles? Yet in no country has the question of Liberty been more frequently a subject of reflection and public discussion. Or was the English constitution so entirely a Free Constitution – had those principles been already so completely realized in it, that they could no longer excite opposition or even interest? The English nation may be said to have approved of the emancipation of France; but it was proudly reliant on its own constitution and freedom, and instead of imitating the example of the foreigner, it displayed its ancient hostility to its rival, and was soon involved in a popular war with France.
The Constitution of England is a complex of mere particular Rights and particular privileges: the Government is essentially administrative – that is, conservative of the interests of all particular orders and classes; and each particular Church, parochial district, county, society, takes care of itself, so that the Government, strictly speaking, has nowhere less to do than in England. This is the leading feature of what Englishmen call their Liberty, and is the very antithesis of such a centralized administration as exists in France, where down to the least village the Maire is named by the Ministry or their agents. Nowhere can people less tolerate free action on the part of others than in France: there the Ministry combines in itself all administrative power, to which, on the other hand, the Chamber of Deputies lays claim. In England, on the contrary, every parish, every subordinate division and association has a part of its own to perform. Thus the common interest is concrete, and particular interests are taken cognizance of and determined in view of that common interest. These arrangements, based on particular interests, render a general system impossible. Consequently, abstract and general principles have no attraction for Englishmen – are addressed in their case to inattentive ears. – The particular interests above referred to have positive rights attached to them, which date from the antique times of Feudal Law, and have been preserved in England more than in any other country. By an inconsistency of the most startling kind, we find them contravening equity most grossly; and of institutions characterized by real freedom there are nowhere fewer than in England. In point of private right and freedom of possession they present an incredible deficiency: sufficient proof of which is afforded in the rights of primogeniture, involving the necessity of purchasing or otherwise providing military or ecclesiastical appointments for the younger sons of the aristocracy.
The Parliament governs, although Englishmen are unwilling to allow that such is the case. It is worthy of remark, that what has been always regarded as the period of the corruption of a republican people, presents itself here; viz. election to seats in parliament by means of bribery. But this also they call freedom – the power to sell one’s vote, and to purchase a seat in parliament.
But this utterly inconsistent and corrupt state of things has nevertheless one advantage, that it provides for the possibility of a government – that it introduces a majority of men into parliament who are statesmen, who from their very youth have devoted themselves to political business and have worked and lived in it. And the nation has the correct conviction and perception that there must be a government, and is therefore willing to give its confidence to a body of men who have had experience in governing; for a general sense of particularity involves also a recognition of that form of particularity which is a distinguishing feature of one class of the community – that knowledge, experience, and facility acquired by practice, which the aristocracy who devote themselves to such interests exclusively possess. This is quite opposed to the appreciation of principles and abstract views which everyone can understand at once, and which are besides to be found in all Constitutions and Charters. It is a question whether the Reform in Parliament now on the tapis, consistently carried out, will leave the possibility of a Government.
The material existence of England is based on commerce and industry, and the English have undertaken the weighty responsibility of being the missionaries of civilization to the world; for their commercial spirit urges them to traverse every sea and land, to form connections with barbarous peoples, to create wants and stimulate industry, and first and foremost to establish among them the conditions necessary to commerce, viz. the relinquishment of a life of lawless violence, respect for property, and civility to strangers.
Germany was traversed by the victoriouss French hosts, but German nationality delivered it from this yoke. One of the leading features in the political condition of Germany is that code of Rights which was certainly occasioned by French oppression, since this was the especial means of bringing to light the deficiencies of the old system. The fiction of an Empire has utterly vanished. It is broken up into sovereign states. Feudal obligations are abolished, for freedom of property and of person have been recognized as fundamental principles. Offices of State are open to every citizen, talent and adaptation being of course the necessary conditions. The government rests with the official world, and the personal decision of the monarch constitutes its apex; for a final decision is, as was remarked above, absolutely necessary. Yet with firmly established laws, and a settled organization of the State, what is left to the sole arbitrament of the monarch is, in point of substance, no great matter. It is certainly a very fortunate circumstance for a nation, when a sovereign of noble character falls to its lot; yet in a great state even this is of small moment, since its strength lies in the Reason incorporated in it. Minor states have their existence and tranquillity secured to them more or less by their neighbors: they are therefore, properly speaking, not independent, and have not the fiery trial of war to endure. As has been remarked, a share in the government may be obtained by every one who has a competent knowledge, experience, and a morally regulated will. Those who oi airstoi, not ignorance and the presumptuous conceit of “knowing better.” Lastly, as to Disposition, we have already remarked that in the Protestant Church the reconciliation of Religion with Legal Right has taken place. In the Protestant world there is no sacred, no religious conscience in a state of separation from, or perhaps even hostility to Secular Right.
This is the point which consciousness has attained, and these Mr. G. H. Lewes, in his Biographical History of Philosophy, Vol. IV, Ed. 1841.
I cannot mention any work that will serve as a compendium of the course, but I may remark that in my “Outlines of the Philosophy of Law,” §§341-360, I have already given a definition of such a Universal History as it is proposed to develop, and a syllabus of the chief elements or periods into are the principal phases of that form in which the principle of Freedom has realized itself; – for the History of the World is nothing but the development of the Idea of Freedom. But Objective Freedom – the laws of real Freedom – demand the subjugation of the mere contingent Will – for this is in its nature formal. If the Objective is in itself Rational, human insight and conviction must correspond with the Reason which it embodies, and then we have the other essential element – Subjective Freedom – also realized. We have confined ourselves to the consideration of that progress of the Idea [which has led to this consummation], and have been obliged to forego the pleasure of giving a detailed picture of the prosperity, the periods of glory that have distinguished the career of peoples, the beauty and grandeur of the character of individuals, and the interest attaching to their fate in weal or woe. Philosophy concerns itself only with the glory of the Idea mirroring itself in the History of the World. Philosophy escapes from the weary strife of passions that agitate the surface of society into the calm region of contemplation; that which interests it is the recognition of the process of development which the Idea has passed through in realizing itself – i.e., the Idea of Freedom, whose reality is the consciousness of Freedom and nothing short of it.
That the History of the World, with all the changing scenes which its annals present, is this process of development and the realization of Spirit – this is the true Theodicaea, the justification of God in History. Only this insight can reconcile Spirit with the History of the World – viz., that what has happened, and is happening every day, is not only not “without God,” but is essentially His Work.