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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Court Physician’s Philosophy
By Berthold Auerbach (1812–1882)
 
From ‘On the Heights’: Translation of Simon Adler Stern

GUNTHER continued, “I am only a physician, who has held many a hand hot with fever or stiff in death in his own. The healing art might serve as an illustration. We help all who need our help, and do not stop to ask who they are, whence they come, or whether when restored to health they persist in their evil courses. Our actions are incomplete, fragmentary; thought alone is complete and all-embracing. Our deeds and ourselves are but fragments—the whole is God.”  1
  “I think I grasp your meaning [replied the Queen]. But our life, as you say, is indeed a mere fraction of life as a whole; and how is each one to bear up under the portion of suffering that falls to his individual lot? Can one—I mean it in its best sense—always be outside of one’s self?”  2
  “I am well aware, your Majesty, that passions and emotions cannot be regulated by ideas; for they grow in a different soil, or, to express myself correctly, move in entirely different spheres. It is but a few days since I closed the eyes of my old friend Eberhard. Even he never fully succeeded in subordinating his temperament to his philosophy; but in his dying hour he rose beyond the terrible grief that broke his heart—grief for his child. He summoned the thoughts of better hours to his aid,—hours when his perception of the truth had been undimmed by sorrow or passion,—and he died a noble, peaceful death. Your Majesty must still live and labor, elevating yourself and others, at one and the same time. Permit me to remind you of the moment when, seated under the weeping ash, your heart was filled with pity for the poor child that from the time it enters into the world is doubly helpless. Do you still remember how you refused to rob it of its mother? I appeal to the pure and genuine impulse of that moment. You were noble and forgiving then, because you had not yet suffered. You cast no stone at the fallen; you loved, and therefore you forgave.”  3
  “O God!” cried the Queen, “and what has happened to me? The woman on whose bosom my child rested is the most abandoned of creatures. I loved her just as if she belonged to another world—a world of innocence. And now I am satisfied that she was the go-between, and that her naïveté was a mere mask concealing an unparalleled hypocrite. I imagined that truth and purity still dwelt in the simple rustic world—but everything is perverted and corrupt. The world of simplicity is base; aye, far worse than that of corruption!”  4
  “I am not arguing about individuals. I think you mistaken in regard to Walpurga; but admitting that you are right, of this at least we can be sure: morality does not depend upon so-called education or ignorance, belief or unbelief. The heart and mind which have regained purity and steadfastness alone possess true knowledge. Extend your view beyond details and take in the whole—that alone can comfort and reconcile you.”  5
  “I see where you are, but I cannot get up there. I can’t always be looking through your telescope that shows naught but blue sky. I am too weak. I know what you mean; you say in effect, ‘Rise above these few people, above this span of space known as a kingdom: compared with the universe, they are but as so many blades of grass or a mere clod of earth.’”  6
  Gunther nodded a pleased assent: but the Queen, in a sad voice, added:—  7
  “Yes, but this space and these people constitute my world. Is purity merely imaginary? If it be not about us, where can it be found?”  8
  “Within ourselves,” replied Gunther. “If it dwell within us, it is everywhere; if not, it is nowhere. He who asks for more has not yet passed the threshold. His heart is not yet what it should be. True love for the things of this earth, and for God, the final cause of all, does not ask for love in return. We love the divine spark that dwells in creatures themselves unconscious of it: creatures who are wretched, debased, and as the church has it, unredeemed. My Master taught me that the purest joys arise from this love of God or of eternally pure nature. I made this truth my own, and you can and ought to do likewise. This park is yours; but the birds that dwell in it, the air, the light, its beauty, are not yours alone, but are shared with you by all. So long as the world is ours, in the vulgar sense of the word, we may love it; but when we have made it our own, in a purer and better sense, no one can take it from us. The great thing is to be strong and to know that hatred is death, that love alone is life, and that the amount of love that we possess is the measure of the life and the divinity that dwells within us.”  9
  Gunther rose and was about to withdraw. He feared lest excessive thought might over-agitate the Queen, who, however, motioned him to remain. He sat down again.  10
  “You cannot imagine—” said the Queen after a long pause, “—but that is one of the cant phrases that we have learned by heart. I mean just the reverse of what I have said. You can imagine the change that your words have effected in me.”  11
  “I can conceive it.”  12
  “Let me ask a few more questions. I believe—nay, I am sure—that on the height you occupy, and toward which you would fain lead me, there dwells eternal peace. But it seems so cold and lonely up there. I am oppressed with a sense of fear, just as if I were in a balloon ascending into a rarer atmosphere, while more and more ballast was ever being thrown out. I don’t know how to make my meaning clear to you. I don’t understand how to keep up affectionate relations with those about me, and yet regard them from a distance, as it were,—looking upon their deeds as the mere action and reaction of natural forces. It seems to me as if, at that height, every sound and every image must vanish into thin air.”  13
  “Certainly, your Majesty. There is a realm of thought in which hearing and sight do not exist, where there is pure thought and nothing more.”  14
  “But are not the thoughts that there abound projected from the realm of death into that of life, and is that any better than monastic self-mortification?”  15
  “It is just the contrary. They praise death, or at all events extol it, because after it life is to begin. I am not one of those who deny a future life. I only say, in the words of my Master, ‘Our knowledge is of life and not of death,’ and where my knowledge ceases my thoughts must cease. Our labors, our love, are all of this life. And because God is in this world and in all that exist in it, and only in those things, have we to liberate the divine essence wherever it exists. The law of love should rule. What the law of nature is in regard to matter, the moral law is to man.”  16
  “I cannot reconcile myself to your dividing the divine power into millions of parts. When a stone is crushed, every fragment still remains a stone; but when a flower is torn to pieces, the parts are no longer flowers.”  17
  “Let us take your simile as an illustration, although in truth no example is adequate. The world, the firmament, the creatures that live on the face of the earth, are not divided—they are one; thought regards them as a whole. Take for instance the flower. The idea of divinity which it suggests to us, and the fragrance which ascends from it, are yet part and parcel of the flower; attributes without which it is impossible for us to conceive of its existence. The works of all poets, all thinkers, all heroes, may be likened to streams of fragrance wafted through time and space. It is in the flower that they live forever. Although the eternal spirit dwells in the cell of every tree or flower and in every human heart, it is undivided and in its unity fills the world. He whose thoughts dwell in the infinite regards the world as the mighty corolla from which the thought of God exhales.”  18
 
 
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