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free will to eternal hell, foreseen by their creator to be the consequence of this free will which he gave to them! Must not the intellect first be created, that may bear such a thought? Is it not, moreover, contrary to every law of thought that the fault of a poor finite creature, which itself must therefore be limited and finite, should be revenged by an infinite punishment? And then, as Schopenhauer quite correctly remarks: Is it conceivable that the same god who orders men to overlook and to forgive every offence, acts himself in quite a different manner, inflicting eternal punishment even after death? But the most senseless thing is that this god who wants me to believe in this dogma of eternal punishment in hell, under threat in case of my unbelief, of having that dogma made good on my own person, on the other hand has endowed me with a power of insight which simply will not let me believe such a dogma because of its opposition to all reason.
It is not saying too much to assert that a hypothesis involving such consequences and contradictions cannot possibly stand the trial at the assize of intellect and must therefore be dismissed without more ado.*
Accordingly palingenesis remains as the only possible form of existence after death. For to a man for whom the fact of his living on after death is established, but who has to reject on the other hand all doctrines of personal continuation not only the Christian one, but all others beside that teach personal continuation in the form of metempsychosis or transmigration of souls-only the possibility of continuation involving the annihilation of personality offers itself. This annihilation is contained in palingenesis. For palingene
The doctrine of personal continuance after death is nothing but a hypothesis naturally in this case too, if it is proclaimed as the revelation of a personal god, for this argument is itself nothing but a mere hypothesis, inevitably leading to irreconcilable contradictions.
sis means decomposition and renewal of the entire individual, thus that the dying creature perishes entirely, together with its consciousness, but that there remains a germ from which a new individual arises together with new consciousness, "man thus ripening like corn, and ripening always again and again." This doctrine of continuance after death is the only one which stands in no contradiction to any other fact of the course of nature. And because it is the only one, in accepting which, continuance after death can be imagined without falling into logical contradictions, already for this reason it must be accepted as true by every one for whom the fact of continuance after death as such is established.
But this hypothesis-nothing more than a hypothesis is at first in question-is not only incontrovertible in all its parts and consequences, through its being in harmony with the whole process of nature, so much so that even Hume, though "excessively empirical," as Schopenhauer calls him, says in his sceptical treatise on immortality, that this system is the only one of its kind to which philosophy can pay heed, but it is also, according to Schopenhauer, a postulate of practical reason. This is plain from the fact that everybody comes to it of himself, that at least it becomes immediately clear to everybody who hears about it for the first time, "if the brain, confused from early youth by having become imbued with false fundamental doctrines, does not with superstitious fear, flee it from afar."
Palingenesis thus has always been the conviction of the choicest and wisest of mankind.
But how palingenesis, this renewal of existence, effects itself in the moment of death, this is the great mystery: "Every new-born creature enters its new existence full of freshness and gladness, and enjoys it as a boon: but there is no boon and there cannot be a boon. Its fresh existence is paid for by the old age and the death of a worn-out
creature that has perished but contained the indestructible germ from which this new existence originated: they are one being. To point out the bridge between the two would certainly mean the solution of a great problem," says Schopenhauer; of a problem, we may add, that from all time has been insoluble. Nobody has effected its solution, with the sole exception of one man, and this sole exception is again--the Buddha! To his insight of genius it was possible to look even into this most secret workshop of nature, and thus to find the solution of this problem, a solution as simple as only truth can be. For truth is always simple, so simple that, as Goethe once remarked, men are always angry that it is so simple. But of this we will speak later. Here we have only to establish that palingenesis is the only possible form of continuance after death, and that this only possible form of continuance is taught by the Buddha.*
What might cause offence in his doctrine, as far as the mode of rebirth taught by it is concerned, can therefore only be its third element. He teaches that palingenesis is not confined to the realm of human beings only,** but
* As soon as we have reached the insight that palingenesis is the real form of our living on, then, without further ado, the insight into the beginninglessness of the round of our rebirths and thereby into the immeasurable spaces of time we have already wandered through is reached too. For if the birth that has opened my present life was not my first one, then neither was the preceding one the first one, and so on without cessation, back to the beginningless infinity of the past. If we look down upon the immense spaces of time with which the Hindu is wont to reckon, with a supercilious smile, thinking our passing present life to be our life as such, then we only show the narrowness of our mental horizon. On this we smile again, having won the right standpoint by ascertaining that we are essentially outside of time, and time is therefore not able to harm us in any way, as will be seen in our next chapter. Therefore it is also self-evident that by entering it, we are able to see it pass in its entire endlessness, though becoming always other beings. Besides this, modern astronomy too reckons with the same immense spaces of time.
** Here it must be noted that rebirth as a man need not necessarily take place upon our earth. Quite in harmony with modern astronomy, already ancient India had reached the insight that the universe consists of countless world-systems and therefore also of countless earths.
extends just as well to the world of animals, and to that of spectres, as to hells and heavens. To this it might be objected that, on one side, realms of spectres, heavens and hells are beyond all possible experience; and that, on the other hand, the supposition is senseless and in contradiction to every idea of evolution, that man might fall back into such depths as the realm of animals or a hell would mean.
Concerning the first objection it declares ordinary experience to be the only experience possible. To this it must be replied, following a saying of Goethe: Certainly we must give in at the boundaries of experience, but not at the boundaries of our own narrow-minded individual experience, but at the boundaries of the experience of mankind. This means: the realm of the eternally unknown begins only where even the greatest of mankind are not able to penetrate. But by these greatest ones, ultimately not the intellectually, but also morally eminent must be understood, those who have fought the heaviest battle, and won the greatest victory, to wit, the victory over themselves. Measured with this measure, all our so-called great men dwindle down to dwarfs. Now these morally great men, the Christ not less than the Buddha, and their saints not less than those of other religions, assert that they know these three realms inaccessible to normal perception, even though designating them by names totally different and taken from the range of ideas wherein they were living. What gives us the right to disbelieve their assertions? Perhaps that they as morally great men were incapable of uttering a conscious falsehood? Or this, that, though separated by thousands of years and of miles, they saw the same? Or perhaps that especially the Buddha and his disciples lay stress upon complete sobriety and carefulness in regard to all inner experiences, especially in regard to those occurring upon the highest stages of holiness and conferring a vision that embraces the whole
round of rebirth, as the fundamental presupposition of right insight?*
Certainly we do not say too much if we assert that the reality of an occurrence of outer history, if testified to by such a multitude of unimpeachable witnesses as such holy men are, would be doubted by no reasonable person. If here nevertheless, especially by modern "enlightened" persons, such doubts are raised - but this is never done by people who have an eye for the real boundaries of the possible and for the criterions of reality- then this can only have its grounds in the improbability of the existence of such realms. For their existence can only be thought improbable; in no case impossible or contradictory to facts otherwise known. But are they really so improbable? On the contrary, it is improbable that the form of life existing upon our earth should be the only one that Nature, otherwise inexhaustible, has brought forth. But if the probability of the contrary presses itself upon us on the path of pure reasoning, then it is further just as probable that those forms of life we have to suspect otherwhere exhaust, with due regard to the inexhaustibility of Nature, all possibilities of a happy as well as of an unhappy existence, in as far as they may be brought into harmony with the fundamental laws of the universe, especially with the universal law of transitoriness. On a small scale we see the same thing upon our earth, where also to states of highest bliss, those of pain hardly imaginable are opposed; and to lives radiant
* Such inner illumination has even been represented as a diseased state, and the Christ as well as the Buddha, therefore, thought to have been insane! Such results are reached, if the critic's own "Pelagian common sense," as Schopenhauer calls it, is made the measure of all things. It must be a curious mental sanity which declares men to be insane who developed their mental faculties so far as to be able to triumph over all their passions, even over every kind of motion of the will in a way that seems impossible to us average mortals, and thus to acquire the highest powers of sense and mind! Is not this owning to some confusion of conceptions in regard to what is sanity and insanity?