Monday, June 30, 2014

The Christian View of Life--Quotation from Max Scheler (long!)



'...for the Christian, life--even in its highest human form: human life--is never the "greatest good." Life, and therefore human society and history, is only important because it is the stage on which the "Kingdom of God" must emerge. Whenever the preservation and advancement of life conflict with the realization of the values which exist in the kingdom of God, life becomes futile and must be rejected, however valuable it may seem in itself. The body is not "the prison of the soul", as in Plato's dualism; it is the "temple of the Holy Ghost' (I Cor. 6:19).  Yet it is only a "temple" and does not constitute the ultimate value. Therefore it is said "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out..." (Mark 9:47)
     Love is not seen as a spiritual activity which serves life, nor as life's "strongest and deepest concentration" (Guyan). It is the activity and movement of love which imbues life with its highest meaning and value. Therefore we can very well be asked to renounce life--and not only to sacrifice individual life for collective life, one's own life for somebody else's,or lower forms of life for higher forms of life; we can be asked to sacrifice life as such, in its very essence, if such an act would further the values of the Kingdom of God, whose mystic bond and whose spiritual source of strength is love.
     I insist that love for one's neighbor, in the Christian sense, is not originally meant to be a biological, political or social principle. It is directed--at least primarily--at man's spiritual core,his individual personality, through which alone he participates directly in the kingdom of God. Therefore Jesus is far removed from founding a new political order or a new economic distribution of property. He accepts the emperor's role, the social distinction between master and slave, and all those natural instincts which cause hostility between men in public and private life. There is no idea of "general brotherhood," no demand for a leveling of national distinctions through the creation of a "universal community", corresponding to the Stoic ideal of a "universal state" ("cosmopolites") and a universal law of reason and nature. Nor is there any tendency to estalish an independent Jewish state or to realize any political or social utopia. The immanence of the kingdom of God in man is not bound to any particular structure of state and society.
     ...Such demands as universal peace or the termination of the social power struggle are entirely foreign to his religious and moral sermon. The "peace on earth" for which he asks is a profound state of blissful quietude which is to permeate, as from above,the historical process of struggle and conflict which governs the evolution of life and of human associations. It is a sacred region of peace, love and forgiveness, existing in the depth of man's soul in the midst of all struggle and preventing him from believing that the goals of the conflict are ultimate and definitive. Jesus does not mean that the struggle should cease and that the instincts which cause it should whither away. Therefore the paradoxical precept that one should love one's enemy is by no means equivalent to the modern shunning of all conflict.. Nor is it mean to be a praise of those whose instincts are too weak for enmity....On the contrary, the precept of loving one's enemy presupposes the existence of hostility, it accepts the fact that there are constitutitve forces in human nature which sometimes necessarily lead to hostile relations and cannot be historically modified. It only demands that even the true and genuine enemy--he whom I know to be my enemy and whom I am justified in combating with all means at my disposal--should be my "brother in the kingdom of God"...There is no value in the disappearance or moderation of revenge, power, mastery, and subjugation which are acknowledged as belonging to a complete living being. The virtue lies in the free sacrifice of these impulses, and of the actions expressing them, in favor of the more valuable act of "forgiveness" and "toleration." Indeed, one cannot  forgive if one feels no revenge, nor can one "tolerate" if one is merely insensitive.'

       Max Scheler, Ressentiment

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