The Real World

(4.) What was stated separately in our first and second propositions, and

has hitherto been discussed, now unites and culminates in the fourth. For

if we note the vital expressions of religion wherever it occurs, we find

above all one thing as its most characteristic sign, indeed as its very

essence, in all places and all times, often only as a scarce uttered wish

or longing, but often breaking forth with impetuous might. This one

is the impulse and desire to get beyond time and space, and beyond the

oppressive narrowness and crampingness of the world surrounding us, the

desire to see into the depth and "other side" of things and of existence.

For it is the very essence of religion to distinguish this world from, and

contrast it as insufficient with the real world which is sufficient, to

regard this world which we see and know and possess as only an image, as

only transiently real, in contrast with the real world of true being which

is believed in. Religion has clothed this essential feature in a hundred

mythologies and eschatologies, and one has always given place to another,

the more sublimed to the more robust. But the fundamental feature itself

cannot disappear.

In apologetics and dogmatics the interest in this matter is often

concentrated more or less exclusively upon the question of "immortality."

Wrongly so, however, for this quest after the real world is not a final

chapter in religion, it is religion itself. And in the religious sense the

question of immortality is only justifiable and significant when it is a

part of the general religious conviction that this world is not the truly

essential world, and that the true nature of things, and of our own being,

is deeper than we can comprehend, and lies beyond this side of things,

beyond time and space. To the religious mind it cannot be of great

importance whether existence is to be continued for a little at least

beyond this life. In what way would such a wish be religious? But the

inward conviction that "all that is transitory is only a parable," that

all here is only a veil and a curtain, and the desire to get beyond

semblance to truth, beyond insufficiency to sufficiency, concentrate

themselves especially in the assertion of the eternity of our true being.

It is with this characteristic of religion that the spirit and method of

naturalism contrast so sharply. Naturalism points out with special

satisfaction that this depth of things, this home of the soul is nowhere

discoverable. The great discoveries of Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton have

done away with the possibility of that. No empyrean, no corner of the

world remains available. Even the attempted flight to sun, moon, or stars

does not help. It is true that the newly discovered world is without end,

but, beyond a doubt, in its outermost and innermost depths it is a world

of space and time. Even in the stellar abysses "everything is just the

same as with us."

All this is doubtless correct, and it is very wholesome for religion. For

it prompts religion no longer to seek its treasure, the true nature of

things, and its everlasting home in time and space, as the mythologies and

eschatologies have sought them repeatedly. It throws religion back on the

fundamental insight and on the convictions which it had attained long

before philosophy and criticism of knowledge had arrived at similar views:

namely, that time and space, and this world of time and space, do not

comprise the whole of existence, nor existence as it really is, but are

only a manifestation of it to our finite and limited knowledge. Before the

days of modern astronomy, and without its help, religion knew that God was

not confined to "heaven," or anywhere in space, and that time as it is for

us was not for Him. Even in the terms "eternity" and "infinity" it shows

an anticipatory knowledge of a being and reality above time and space.

These ideas were not gained from a contemplation of nature, but before it

and from independent sources.

But though it is by no means the task of apologetics to build up these

ideas directly from a study of things, it is of no little importance to

inquire whether religion possesses in these convictions only postulates of

faith, for which it must laboriously and forcibly make a place in the face

of knowledge, or whether a thorough and self-critical knowledge does not

rather confirm them, and show us, within the world of knowledge itself,

unmistakable signs that it cannot be the true, full reality, but points to

something beyond itself.

To study this question thoroughly would involve setting forth a special

theory of knowledge and existence. This cannot be attempted here. But

Kant's great doctrine of the "Antinomy of Reason" has for all time broken

up for us the narrowness of the naturalistic way of thinking. Every one

who has felt cramped by the narrow limits in which reality was confined by

a purely mundane outlook must have experienced the liberating influence of

the Kantian Antinomy if he has thought over it carefully. The thick

curtain which separates being from appearance seems to be torn away, or at

any rate to reveal itself as a curtain. Kant shows that, if we were to

take this world as it lies before us for the true reality, we should land

in inextricable contradictions. These contradictions show that the true

world itself cannot coincide with our thought and comprehension, for in

being itself there can be no contradictions. Otherwise it would not exist.

The ancient problems of philosophy, from the time of the Eleatic school

onwards, find here their adequate formulation. Kant's disciple, Fries, has

carried the matter further, and has attempted to develop what for Kant

still remained a sort of embarrassment of reason to more precise

pronouncements as to the relation of true being to its manifestation,