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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Spiritual Light and Truth
By Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814)
From ‘The Characteristics of the Present Age’

HAS the light of religion arisen within us? Then it not only dispels the previous darkness, but it has also had a true and essential existence within us, even while it could not dispel this darkness; now it spreads itself forth until it embraces our whole world, and thus becomes the source of new life. In the beginning of these lectures we have traced everything great and noble in man to this,—that he lose sight of his own personal existence in the life of the race; devote his own life to the purposes of the race; labor, endure, suffer, and if need be die, as a sacrifice to the race. In this view it was always deeds, always that which could manifest itself in outward and visible appearance, to which we looked. In this way it was necessary for us to open our communication with the age. Now, ennobled by our progress from this point of view, as I foretold, we use this language no longer. The one thing truly noble in man, the highest form of the one idea which reveals itself within him, is religion: but religion is nothing external, and never clothes itself in any outward manifestation, but it completes the inward life of man; it is spiritual light and truth. The true course of action is now discovered of itself, for truth cannot act otherwise than according to truth; but this true course of action is no longer a sacrifice, no longer demands suffering and endurance, but is itself the manifestation and effluence of the highest inward blessedness. He who, although with reluctance and in conflict with internal darkness, yet acts according to truth, let him be admired, and let his heroism be extolled: he upon whom this inward light has arisen has outgrown our admiration and our praise; there is no longer any doubt, hesitation, or obstruction in his being, but all is the one clear, ever-flowing fountain of truth.  1
  Formerly we expressed ourselves in the following language:—“As when the breath of spring enlivens the air, the strong and fixed ice which but a few moments before imprisoned each atom within its own limits, and shut up each neighboring atom in similar isolation, now no longer holds nature in its rigid bondage, but flows forth in one free, animated, and glowing flood,—so does the spirit world ever flow at the breath of love, and is and abides in eternal communion with the mighty whole.” Let us now add:—“This atmosphere of the spirit world, this creating and combining element, is light—this originally; warmth, if it do not again exhale, but bear within itself an element of duration, is but the first manifestation of this light. In the darkness of mere earthly vision, all things stand divided from each other; each individual thing isolated by means of the cold and unillumined matter in which it is embraced. But in this darkness there is no unity. The light of religion arises!—and all things burst forth and rush towards each other in reciprocal order and dependence, and float on together as a united whole in the one eternal and all-embracing flood of light.  2
  This light is mild, silent, refreshing, and wholesome to the eye. In the twilight of mere earthly vision the dim shapes which crowd in confusion around us are feared, and therefore hated. In the light of religion all things are pleasing, and shed around them calmness and peace. In it all unlovely shapes disappear, and all things float in the glowing ether of love. Not that man devotes himself to the high will of fate, which is unchangeable and unavoidable; in religion there is no fate, but only wisdom and goodness, to which man is not compelled to resign himself, but which embrace him with infinite love. In these contemplations in which we have been engaged, this joyful and friendly view ought to have spread itself over our own age, and over the whole earthly life of our race. The more closely this mild influence has embraced us, the deeper it has penetrated all our thoughts and aspirations,—in a word, the more we have attained to peace with the whole world, and joyful sympathy with every form of existence, the more sure may we be and the more confidently may we affirm, that our previous contemplations have belonged not to vacant but to true time.  3

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