Frederick Engels
Schelling and Revelation


That is the main content of Schelling’s lectures, as far as it could be made out by comparing three notebooks. I am conscious of having proceeded with the greatest sincerity and candour. Here we have the entire dogma: the Trinity, the creation from nothing, the fall of man, original sin and the impotence to do good, the reconciliation through the death of Christ, the resurrection, the descent of the Holy Ghost, the community of the Saints, the resurrection of the dead and eternal life. Thus Schelling himself negates the separation of fact and dogma which he had stipulated. But if we look at the matter more closely, is this Christianity still the old one? If you approach it without prejudice you will have to say: Yes and No. The irreconcilability of philosophy and Christianity has gone so far that even Schelling falls into a still worse contradiction than Hegel. The latter had at least a philosophy, even if the outcome was only an apparent Christianity; by contrast, what Schelling produces is neither Christianity nor philosophy, and his passing it off for both is the measure of his “straightforwardness and frankness”, of the merit that “to those who asked him for bread he gave real bread, not a stone, while saying it was bread”. That Schelling does not know himself in the least is again proved by the speech from which these words are taken. Such a doctrine again really brings home to one how weak are the foundations on which modern Christianity rests.

If we once more review this doctrine in its entirety, in addition to what has already been said we obtain also the following results for the definition of the neo-Schellingian manner of thinking. The confusion of freedom and arbitrariness is in full flower. God is always conceived as acting in a humanly arbitrary fashion. This is indeed necessary so long as God is conceived as single, but it is not philosophical. Only that freedom is genuine which contains necessity, nay, which is only the truth, the reasonableness of necessity. Therefore Hegel’s God cannot now or ever be a single person, since everything arbitrary has been removed from Him. Therefore when he speaks of God, Schelling has to employ “free” thinking, for the necessary thinking of logical inference excludes any kind of divine person. The Hegelian dialectic, this mighty, never resting driving force of thought, is nothing but the consciousness of mankind in pure thinking, the consciousness of the universal, Hegel’s consciousness of God. Where, as with Hegel, everything produces itself, a divine personality is superfluous.

Furthermore, another contradiction is revealed in the division of philosophy. If the negative philosophy is without all reference to existence, “there is no logical necessity” that it should not also contain things which do not occur in the real world. Schelling admits this when he says of it that it is not concerned with the world, and that if the world agrees with its constructions, this is accidental. In this way, however, negative philosophy becomes quite empty and hollow, wandering around in the most arbitrary possibility and flinging its doors wide open to fantasy. On the other hand, however, if it contains only what is real in nature and spirit, it, of course, includes reality and the positive philosophy is superfluous. This is to be seen also from the other side. Nature and spirit are for Schelling all that is rational. God is not rational.. So here also it is shown that the infinite can only rationally exist in reality when it appears as finite, as nature and spirit, and that any other-worldly, extra-mundane existence of the infinite must be relegated to the realm of abstractions. That particular positive philosophy depends entirely on faith, as we have seen, and exists only for faith. If now a Jew or Mohammedan accepts Schelling’s premises in the negative science, he will necessarily also have to fashion for himself a Jewish or Mohammedan positive philosophy. Indeed, it will differ even for Catholicism and for the Anglican Church. All are equally justified, for “it is not dogma that matters, but fact”. And the so beloved “free” thinking allows everything to be construed as absolute. Particularly in Mohammedanism, the facts are far better construed than in Christianity.

So we have come to the end of Schelling’s philosophy and can only regret that such a man should have become so caught in the snares of faith and unfreedom. He was different when he was still young. Then there arose from the ferment of his brain forms as radiant as Pallas, of which many a one forged to the front also in later struggles; then freely and boldly he sailed into the open sea of thought to discover Atlantis, the absolute, whose image he had so often seen rising from the distant horizon of the sea like a dreamily shimmering fata morgana; then all the fire of youth broke from him in flames of enthusiasm; a prophet drunk with God, he foretold a new era; carried away by the spirit which came over him, he often did not know himself the meaning of his words. He tore wide open the doors to philosophising so that the breath of nature wafted freshly through the chambers of abstract thought and the warm rays of spring fell on the seed of the categories and awakened all slumbering forces. But the fire burnt itself out, the courage vanished, the fermenting new wine turned into sour vinegar before it could become clear wine. The old ship dancing joyfully through the waves turned back and entered the shallow haven of faith, ran its keel so fast into the sand that it is still stuck there. There it lies, and nobody recognises in the old, frail wreck the old ship which went out with all sails spread and flags flying. The sails have long since rotted, the masts are broken, the waves pour in through the gaping planks, and every day the tides pile up more sand around the keel.

Let us turn away from this waste of time. There are finer things for us to contemplate. No one will want to show us this wreck and claim that it alone is a seaworthy vessel while in another port an entire fleet of proud frigates lies at anchor, ready to put out to the high seas. Our salvation, our future, lies elsewhere. Hegel is the man who opened up a new era of consciousness by completing the old. It is curious that just now he is being attacked from two sides, by his predecessor Schelling and by his youngest follower Feuerbach. When the latter charges Hegel with being stuck deeply in the old, he should consider that consciousness of the old is already precisely the new, that the old is relegated to history precisely when it has been brought completely into consciousness. So Hegel is indeed the new as old, the old as new. And so Feuerbach’s critique of Christianity is a necessary complement to the speculative teaching on religion founded by Hegel. This has reached its peak in Strauss, through its own history the dogma dissolves objectively in philosophical thought. At the same time Feuerbach reduces the religious categories to subjective human relations, and thereby does not by any means annul the results achieved by Strauss, but on the contrary puts them to the real test and in fact both come to the same result, that the secret of theology is anthropology.

A fresh morning has dawned, a world-historic morning, like the one in which the bright, free, Hellenic consciousness broke out of the dusk of the Orient. The sun has risen greeted with smiles by sacrificial fires on all the mountain peaks, the sun, whose coming was announced in ringing fanfares from every watch-tower, whose light mankind was anxiously awaiting. We are awakened from long slumber, the nightmare which oppressed us has fled, we rub our eyes and look around us in amazement. Everything has changed. The world that was so alien to us, nature whose hidden forces frightened us like ghosts, how familiar, how homely they now are! The world which appeared to us like a prison now shows itself in its true form, as a magnificent royal palace in which we all go in and out, poor and rich, high and low. Nature opens up before us and calls to us.. Do not flee from me, I am not depraved, I have not fallen away from the truth; come and see, it is your own inmost and truest essence which gives also to me the fullness of life and the beauty of youth! Heaven has come down to earth, its treasures lie scattered like stones on the road-side, whoever desires them has but to pick them up. All confusion, all fear, all division has vanished. The world is again a whole, independent and free; it has burst open the doors of its dank cloister, has thrown off its sackcloth and chosen the free, pure ether to dwell in. No longer does it have to justify itself to unreason, which could not. grasp it; its splendour and glory, its fullness and strength, its life is its justification. He was surely right who eighteen hundred years ago divined that the world, the cosmos, would one day push him aside, and bade his disciples renounce the world.

And man, the dearest child of nature, a free man after the long battles of youth, returning to his mother after the long estrangement, protecting her against all the phantoms of enemies slain in battle, has overcome also the separation from himself, the division in his own breast. After an inconceivably long age of wrestling and striving, the bright day of self-consciousness has risen for him. Free and strong he stands there, confident in himself and proud, for he has fought the battle of battles, he has overcome himself and pressed the crown of freedom on his head. Everything has become revealed to him and nothing had the strength to shut itself up against him. Only now does true life open to him. What formerly he strove towards in obscure presentiment, he now

attains with complete, free will. What seemed to lie outside him, in the hazy distance, he now finds in himself as his own flesh and blood. He does not care that he has bought it dearly, with his heart’s best blood, for the crown was worth the blood; the long time of wooing is not lost to him, for the noble, splendid bride whom he leads into the chamber has only become the clearer to him for it; the jewel, the holy thing he has found after long searching was worth many a fruitless quest. And this crown, this bride, this holy thing is the self-consciousness of mankind, the new Grail [126] round whose throne the nations gather in exultation and which makes kings of all who submit to it, so that all splendour and might, all dominion and power, all the beauty and fullness of this world lie at their feet and must yield themselves up for their glorification. This is our calling, that we shall become the templars of this Grail, gird the sword round our loins for its sake and stake our lives joyfully in the last, holy war which will be followed by the thousand-year reign of freedom. And such is the power of the Idea that he who has recognised it cannot cease to speak of its splendour or to proclaim its all-conquering might, that in gaiety and good heart he gives up all else at its bidding, that he sacrifices body and soul, life and property in order that it and it alone shall triumph. He who has once beheld it, to whom in the nightly stillness of his little room it has once appeared in all its brightness, can never abandon it, he must follow where it leads, even to death. For he knows that it is stronger than everything in heaven and on earth, that it fights its way through against all enemies. And this belief in the all-conquering might of the Idea, in the victory of eternal truth, this firm confidence that it can never waver or yield, even if the whole world were to rise against it, that is the true religion of every genuine philosopher, that is the basis of the true positive philosophy, the philosophy of world history. This is the supreme revelation, that of man to man, in which all negation of criticism is positive. This press and storm of nations and heroes over which the Idea hovers in eternal peace and at last comes down into the midst of the turmoil and becomes its inmost, most living, self-conscious soul, that is the source of all salvation and all deliverance; that is the realm in which each one of us in his place has to work and act. The Idea, the self-consciousness of mankind, is that wonderful phoenix who builds for himself a funeral pyre out of all that is most precious in the world and rises rejuvenated from the flames which destroy an old time.

So let us carry to this phoenix on the funeral pyre all that is most dear to us and most beloved, all that was sacred and great for us before we were free! Let us not think any love, any gain, any riches too great to sacrifice gladly to the Idea — it will repay us everything a thousandfold! Let us fight and bleed, look undismayed into the grim eye of the enemy and hold out to the end! Do you see our flags wave from the mountain peaks? Do you see the swords of our comrades glinting, the plumes on the helmets fluttering? They are coming, they are coming, from all valleys, from all heights they are streaming towards us with song and the call of trumpets; the day of the great decision, of the battle of the nations, is approaching, and victory must be ours!