Source: Hegel: The Letters, translated by Clark Butler and Christine Seiler with commentary by Clark Butler, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, © Purdue Research Foundation.
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden for Marxists.org, 2005.
Nuremberg, July 5, 1816
... More general events and expectations in the world at large, just as in more immediate circles, move me most of all to increasingly general considerations, which push particular details and immediate happenings further aside in my thoughts, however much these hold interest for feeling. I adhere to the view that the world spirit has given the age marching orders. These orders are being obeyed. The world spirit, this essential, proceeds irresistibly like a closely drawn armored phalanx advancing with imperceptible movement, much as the sun through thick and thin. Innumerable light troops flank it on all sides, throwing themselves into the balance for or against its progress, though most of them are entirely ignorant of what is at stake and merely take head blows as from an invisible hand. Yet no lingering lies or make-believe strokes in the air can achieve anything against it. They can perhaps reach the shoelaces of this colossus, and smear on a bit of boot wax or mud, but they cannot untie the laces. Much less can they remove these shoes of gods – which according to Voss’s Mythological Letters, among other sources, have elastic soles or are even themselves seven-league boots – once the colossus pulls them on. Surely the safest thing to do both externally and internally is to keep one’s gaze fixed on the advancing giant. To edify the entire bustling zealous assemblage, one can even stand there and help daub on the cobbler’s wax that is supposed to bring the giant to a standstill. For one’s own amusement, one can even lend a hand to the enterprise that is being taken so seriously.
I have anticipated the Reaction of which we presently hear so much. It wishes to impose its right. “La verité en la repoussant, on l’embrasse,” as a deep saying of Jacobi’s goes. The Reaction is still far removed from genuine resistance, for it already stands entirely within the sphere over against which resistance stands as something external. Even if it intends to do the opposite, the will of the Reaction is chiefly restricted to matters of vanity. It wishes to place its own stamp on the events it thinks it most vehemently hates, so as to read upon them: “This have we done!” The essential content remains unaltered. The addition or subtraction of a few small ribbons or garlands changes matters as little as actual injury that is no sooner suffered than healed. For when such injury pretends to a more significant relation to the whole substance than it is capable of having, it proves ephemeral. Thus – if we largely ignore all the fuss and paltry paper successes of human ants, fleas, and bugs – has this most fearsome Reaction against Bonaparte in essence changed so much, whether for good or evil? We shall allow these ant, flea, and bug personalities to appear to us just as the good Creator has destined: that is, chiefly as a subject for jokes, sarcasm, and malicious pleasure. If need be, what we can do, in light of this provident design, is to help these poor vermin along to their destiny.
But enough of this and, indeed, too much. ...
Hegel-by-HyperText Home Page @ marxists.org