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In the vast and varied literary production of the master-mind of German literature-extending over a period of seventy years of unprecedented activity in discussion, legislation, and administration in every department of the educational field, Goethe found occasion to touch on most of the problems, which occupied the attention of statesmen and educators among his cotemporaries.
Mr. Carlyle, in his Essay in the Foreign Review for 1828, on Göethe, dwells with earnest approbation on the chapters (the tenth and eleventh) of Wanderjahre,* devoted to the nature, objects, and present ground of religious belief. "They come from the depths of his mind, and are not in their place till they reach the depths of ours. The wisest man, we believe, may see in them a reflex of his own wisdom; but to him who is still learning, they become as seeds of knowledge; they take root in the mind, and ramify as we meditate them, into a whole garden of thought." Forty years later, in his Address to the University of Edinburgh, on the occasion of his installation as Rector (fifty-six years after he entered that city a boy of not quite fourteen), when, with a beautiful enthusiasm, the third generation of his dear old native land welcomed him as 'not altogether an unworthy laborer in the vineyard,' the Rector pronounces these ten pages "the most remarkable bit of writing which I have known to be executed in these late centuries. These I would rather have written, been able to write, than have written all the books that have appeared since I came into the world." Of these chapters, instead of attempting to give them in full, we will here introduce Mr. Carlyle's own version and epitome of them. We must confess to our inability to see either novelty or profundity of the wisdom which Mr. Carlyle finds secreted in them. The old New England schoolboy reverence was of the same type.
Wanderjahre denotes the period which a German artisan is obliged by law or usage to pass in traveling, to perfect himself in his craft, after the conclusion of his Leherjahre (Apprenticeship), and before his mastership can begin. Most of the guilds extend help in some shape to the needy wandering brothers, as they travel from city to city, studying their future craft.
CULTIVATION OF REVERENCE.*
We must fancy Wilhelm in the 'Pedagogic province,' proceeding towards the 'CHIEF, or the THREE,' with intent to place his son under their charge, in that wonderful region, 'where he was to see so many singularities.'
Wilhelm had already noticed that in the cut and color of the young people's clothes a variety prevailed, which gave the whole tiny population a peculiar aspect: he was about to question his attendant on this point, when a still stranger observation forced itself upon him: all the children, how employed soever, laid down their work, and turned, with singular yet diverse gestures, towards the party riding past them; or rather, as it was easy to infer, towards the Overseer, who was in it. The youngest laid their arms crosswise over their breasts, and looked cheerfully up to the sky; those of middle size held their hands on their backs, and looked smiling on the ground; the eldest stood with a frank and spirited air,-their arms stretched down, they turned their heads to the right, and formed themselves into a line; whereas the others kept separate, each where he chanced to be.
The riders having stopped and dismounted here, as several children, in their various modes, were standing forth to be inspected by the Overseer, Wilhelm asked the meaning of these gestures; but Felix struck-in and cried gaily: "What posture am I to take then ?" "Without doubt," said the Overseer, "the first posture: the arms over the breast, the face earnest and cheerful towards the sky." Felix obeyed, but soon cried: "This is not much to my taste; I see nothing up there: does it last long? But yes!" exclaimed he, joyfully, "yonder are a pair of falcons flying from the west to the east: that is a good sign, too?"-"As thon takest it, as thou behavest," said the other: "Now mingle among them as they mingle." He gave a signal, and the children left their postures, and again betook them to work or sport as before.
Wilhelm a second time 'asks the meaning of these gestures;' but the Overseer is not at liberty to throw much light on the matter; mentions only that they are symbolical, 'nowise mere grimaces, but have a moral purport, which perhaps the CHIEF or the THREE may farther explain to him.' The children themselves, it would seem, only know it in part; 'secrecy having many advantages; for when you tell a man at once and straightforward the purpose of any object, he fancies there is nothing in it.' By and by, however, having left Felix by the way, and parted with the Overseer, Wilhelm arrives at the abode of the Three 'who preside over sacred things,' and from whom farther satisfaction is to be looked for.
Wilhelm had now reached the gate of a wooded vale, surrounded with high walls on a certain sign, the little door opened, and a man of earnest, imposing look received our Traveler. The latter found himself in a large beautifully umbrageous space, decked with the richest foliage, shaded with trees and bushes of all sorts; while stately walls and magnificent buildings were discerned only in glimpses through this thick natural boscage. A friendly reception from the Three, who by and by appeared, at last turned into a general conversation, the substance of which we now present in an abbreviated shape.
"Since you intrust your son to us," said they, "it is fair that we admit you to a closer view of our procedure. Of what is external you have seen much that does not bear its meaning on its front. What part of this do you wish to have explained?"
"Dignified yet singular gestures of salutation I have noticed; the import of which I would gladly learn: with you, doubtless, the exterior has a reference to the interior, and inversely; let me know what this reference is."
"Well-formed healthy children," replied the Three, “bring much into the world along with them; Nature has given to each whatever he requires for time and duration; to unfold this is our duty; often it unfolds itself better of
* Carlyle's Critical and Miscellaneous Essays. Vol. I, 204.
its own accord. One thing there is, however, which no child brings into the world with him; and yet it is on this one thing that all depends for making man in every point a man. If you can discover it yourself, speak it out." Wilhelm thought a little while, then shook his head.
"Reverence !" Wilhelm
The Three, after a suitable pause, exclaimed, seemed to hesitate. "Reverence!” cried they, a second time. perhaps yourself."
"All want it,
"Three kinds of gestures you have seen; and we inculcate a threefold reverence, which, when commingled and formed into one whole, attains its full force and effect. The first is Reverence for what is Above us. That posture, the arms crossed over the breast, the look turned joyfully towards heaven; that is what we have enjoined on young children; requiring from them thereby a testimony that there is a God above, who images and reveals himself in parents, teachers, superiors. Then comes the second; Reverence for what is Under us. Those hands folded over the back, and, as it were, tied together; that down-turned smiling look, announce that we are to regard the earth with attention and cheerfulness: from the bounty of the earth we are nourished; the earth affords unutterable joys; but disproportionate sorrows she also brings us. Should one of our children do himself external hurt, blamably or blamelessly; should others hurt him accidentally or purposely; should dead invol untary matter do him hurt; then let him well consider it; for such dangers will attend him all his days. But from this posture we delay not to free our pupil, the instant we become convinced that the instruction connected with it has produced sufficient influence on him. Then, on the contrary, we bid him gather courage, and, turning to his comrades, range himself along with them. Now, at last, he stands forth, frank and bold; not selfishly isolated; only in combination with his equals does he front the world. Farther we have nothing to add."
"I see a glimpse of it!" said Wilhelm. "Are not the mass of men so marred and stinted, because they take pleasure only in the element of evil-wishing and evil-speaking? Whoever gives himself to this, soon comes to be indifferent towards God, contemptuous towards the world, spiteful towards his equals; and the true, genuine indispensable sentiment of self-estimation corrupts into self-conceit and presumption. Allow me, however," continued he, "to state one difficulty. You say that reverence is not natural to man: now has not the reverence or fear of rude people for violent convulsions of nature, or other inexplicable mysteriously foreboding occurrences, been heretofore regarded as the germ out of which a higher feeling, a purer sentiment, was by degrees to be developed ?"
"Nature is indeed adequate to fear," replied they, "but to reverence not adequate. Men fear a known or unknown powerful being; the strong seeks to conquer it, the weak to avoid it; both endeavor to get quit of it, and feel themselves happy when for a short season they have put it aside, and their nature has in some degree restored itself to freedom and independence. The natural man repeats this operation millions of times in the course of his life; from fear he struggles to freedom; from freedom he is driven back to fear, and so makes no advancement. To fear is easy, but grievous; to reverence is difficult, but satisfactory. Man does not willingly submit himself to reverence, or rather he never so submits himself: it is a higher sense which must be communicated to his nature; which only in some favored individuals unfolds itself spontaneously, who on this account, too, have of old been looked upon as Saints and Gods. Here lies the worth, here lies the business of all true Religions, whereof there are likewise only three, according to the objects towards which they direct our devotion."
With the rev
The men paused; Wilhelm reflected for a time in silence; but feeling in himself no pretension to unfold these strange words, he requested the Sages to proceed with their exposition. They immediately complied. "No Religion that grounds itself on fear," said they, "is regarded among us. erence to which a man should give dominion in his mind, he can, in paying honor, keep his own honor; he is not disunited with himself as in the former The Religion which depends on Reverence for what is Above us, we denominate the Ethnic; it is the Religion of the Nations, and the first happy deliverance from a degrading fear: all Heathen religions, as we call them, are
of this sort, whatsoever names they may bear. The Second Religion, which founds itself on Reverence for what is Around us, we denominate the Philosophical; for the Philosopher stations himself in the middle, and must draw down to him all that is higher, and up to him all that is lower, and only in this medium condition does he merit the title of Wise. Here as he surveys with clear sight his relation to his equals, and therefore to the whole human race, his relation likewise to all other earthly circumstances and arrangements necessary or accidental, he alone. in a cosmic sense, lives in truth. But now we have to speak of the Third Religion, grounded on Reverence for what is Under us: this we name the Christian; as in the Christian Religion such a temper is the most distinctly manifested: it is a last step to which mankind were fitted and destined to attain. But what a task was it, not only to be patient with the Earth, and let it lie beneath us, we appealing to a higher birthplace; but also to recognize humility and poverty, mockery and despite, disgrace and wretchedness, suffering and death, to recognize these things as divine; nay, even on sin and crime to look not as hindrances, but to honor and love them as furtherances, of what is holy. Of this, indeed, we find some traces in all ages: but the trace is not the goal: and this being now attained, the human species can not retrograde; and we may say that the Christian Religion, having once appeared, can not again vanish; having once assumed its divine shape, can be subject to no dissolution."
"To which of these Religions do you specially adhere ?" inquired Wilhelm. "To all the three," replied they, "for in their union they produce what may properly be called the true Religion. Out of those three Reverences springs the highest Reverence, Reverence for One's self, and these again unfold themselves from this; so that man attains the highest elevation of which he is capable, that of being justified in reckoning himself the Best that God and Nature have produced; nay, of being able to continue on this lofty eminence, without being again by self-conceit and presumption drawn down from it into the vulgar level."
The Three undertake to admit him into the interior of their Sanctuary; whither, accordingly, he, 'at the hand of the Eldest,' proceeds on the morrow. Sorry are we that we can not follow them into the octagonal hall,' so full of paintings, and the 'gallery open on one side, and stretching round a spacious, gay, flowery garden.' It is a beautiful figurative representation, by pictures and symbols of Art, of the First and the Second Religions, the Ethnic and the Philosophical; for the former of which the pictures have been composed from the Old Testament; for the latter from the New. We can only make room for some small portions.
"I observe," said Wilhelm, "you have done the Israelites the honor to select their history as the groundwork of this delineation, or rather you have made it the leading object there."
As you see," replied the Eldest; "for you will remark, that on the socles and friezes we have introduced another series of transactions and occurrences, not so much of a synchronistic as of a symphronistic kind; since, among all nations, we discover records of a similar import, and grounded on the same facts. Thus you perceive here, while, in the main field of the picture, Abraham receives a visit from his gods in the form of fair youths, Apollo among the herdsmen of Admetus is painted above on the frieze. From which we may learn, that the gods, when they appear to men, are commonly unrecog
nized of them."
The friends walked on. Wilhelm, for the most part, met with well-known objects; but they were here exhibited in a livelier, more expressive manner, than he had been used to see them. On some few matters he requested explanation, and at last could not help returning to his former question: "Why the Israelitish history had been chosen in preference to all others?"
The Eldest answered: "Among all Heathen religions, for such also is the Israelitish, this has the most distinguished advantages; of which I shall mention only a few. At the Ethnic judgment-seat; at the judgment-seat of the
God of Nations, it is not asked whether this is the best, the most excellent nation; but whether it lasts, whether it has continued. The Israelitish people never was good for much, as its own leaders, judges, rulers, prophets, have a thousand times reproachfully declared; it possesses few virtues, and most of the faults of other nations: but in cohesion, steadfastness, valor, and when all this would not serve, in obstinate toughness, it has no match. It is the most perseverant nation in the world; it is, it was, and it will be, to glorify the name of Jehovah through all ages. We have set it up, therefore, as the pattern figure: as the main figure, to which the others only serve as a frame.”
"It becomes not me to dispute with you," said Wilhelm, "since you have instruction to impart. Open to me, therefore, the other advantages of this people, or rather of its history, of its religion."
"One chief advantage," said the other, "is its excellent collection of Sacred Books. These stand so happily combined together, that even out of the most diverse elements, the feeling of a whole still rises before us. They are complete enough to satisfy; fragmentary enough to excite; barbarous enough to rouse; tender enough to appease; and for how many other contradicting merits might not these Books, might not this one Book, be praised ?" *** Thus wandering on, they had now reached the gloomy and perplexed periods of the History, the destruction of the City and the Temple, the murder, exile, slavery of whole masses of this stiff-necked people. Its subsequent fortunes were delineated in a cunning allegorical way; a real historical delineation of them would have lain without the limits of true Art.
At this point, the gallery abruptly terminated in a closed door, and Wilhelm was surprised to see himself already at the end. "In your historical series," said he, "I find a chasm. You have destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem, and dispersed the people; yet you have not introduced the divine man who taught there shortly before; to whom, shortly before, they would give no ear."
"To have done this, as you require it, would have been an error. The life of that divine Man, whom you allude to, stands in no connection with the general history of the world in his time. It was a private life; his teaching was a teaching for individuals. What has publicly befallen vast masses of people, and the minor parts which compose them, belongs to the general History of the World, to the general Religion of the World; the Religion we have named the First. What inwardly befalls individuals belongs to the Second Religion, the Philosophical: such a Religion was it that Christ taught and practiced, so long as he went about on Earth. For this reason, the external here closes, and I now open to you the internal."
A door went back, and they entered a similar gallery; where Wilhelm soon recognized a corresponding series of Pictures from the New Testament. They seemed as if by another hand than the first: all was softer; forms, movements, accompaniments, light and coloring.
Into this second gallery, with its strange doctrine about 'Miracles and Parables,' the characteristic of the Philosophical Religion, we can not enter for the present, yet must give one hurried glance. Wilhelm expresses some surprise that these delineations terminate "with the Supper, with the scene where the Master and his Disciples part." He inquires for the remaining portion of the history.
"In all sorts of instruction," said the Eldest, "in all sorts of communication, we are fond of separating whatever it is possible to separate; for by this means alone can the notion of importance and peculiar significance arise in the young mind. Actual experience of itself mingles and mixes all things together; here, accordingly, we have entirely disjoined that sublime Man's life from its termination. In life, he appears as a true Philosopher,-let not the expression stagger you,-as a Wise Man in the highest sense. He stands firm to his point; he goes on his way inflexibly, and while he exalts the lower to himself, while he makes the ignorant, the poor, the sick, partakers of his wisdom, of his riches, of his strength, he, on the other hand, in nowise conceals his divine origin; he dares to equal himself with God, nay, to declare that he himself is God. In this manner he is wont, from youth upwards, to astound his