Part 5 out of 5
he shares. It is absolutely vain and useless to wish to draw him from
this union by logical, sensible arguments. Though logically he can find
nothing to say against such arguments, though the system in which he
lives conflicts wholly with his original disposition, he must continue
in it, because otherwise he would run wild, and he will sooner twist
and falsify his ideas and feelings completely than be disobedient to
the voice of the herd in which be finds his conditions of life.
But these group-ideas and these group-formations are continually
changing. Not through the influence of the mass, the herd, which may
not judge independently, because otherwise no union would be possible.
The strength of the group depends on the obedience of the members to
the voice of the herd. Did the members think and act independently,
they could not subsist as a group.
But the group-formation is changed through the influence of some few
individuals, original enough to understand humanity's own voice, the
voice of Christ, and powerful enough to make themselves followed by the
herd. And the influence of these few shall be the stronger, the closer
their original ideas stand to the ideas of the group. All the members
of the group feel something of the Original element, of the Genius of
humanity, they are all still bound to our Genitive Spirit, though not
nearly as closely and as fervently as the few originals. If now the
original individual is all too original, the herd does not follow, but
hates and destroys him. That is the martyr the man who is "in advance
of his age."
But if the originality of the single individual is felt by the herd,
then it follows and respects and reveres him, and later it erects
statues in his honor and eulogizes him. And all the more if the seceder
possesses a personally suggestive power, and impresses people by the
display of some one amazing talent - organizing, dramatic or musical.
Meanwhile this leader and example has done nothing more than bring the
outer organization more in unison with the inner life of humanity,
Christ's own being.
This consideration led me to seek for a man sufficiently intelligent
and independent to absorb my thoughts, and yet in his inclinations and
feelings standing so much nearer than I to the herd, that he could
exert an influence. Moreover, some one with the prestige lent by some
extraordinary quality or other - as learnedness, or still better,
organizing talent - and with the ability, the aplomb, the ruling power
which the herd tolerates and demands. Thus a mediator between me, the
all too original and practically unqualified, for whom an attempt to
make himself prevail would signify a useless martyrdom, and the herd,
that in its unoriginality is yet so greatly in need of the stirring
ferment of my ideas.
Before we neared the American shores I had made my choice from the
persons that had come to my mind as qualified for my purpose. I shall
call the man Judge Elkinson, concealing his real name, as he is still
in the public eye. He had been governor of his state and at my arrival
was a member of the Supreme Court, the highest tribunal in the United
States, sovereign in its judgments and only admitting to membership the
most trusted and esteemed men of this mighty realm.
- - -
It was a clear, cold, bright day when we steamed up the Hudson and saw
the white building masses of the giant city rising from the centre of
the wide, grayish-yellow stream. A strong icy wind was blowing from the
blue sky, and the valiant little tug-boats rocking on the turbulent
waters and amid shrill whistles running quickly in and out among the
great ships, like sea-monsters hunting for prey, were covered with a
solid coating of ice from the splashing water.
Upon the elongated island protruding into the wide mouth of the river
stretched the mighty city, a densely packed conglomeration of houses
piled up toward the sea, block upon block, so that the tall masses of
masonry at the point of the island appeared to be heaped up one upon
the other like pack-ice. There where the blocks were the highest and
stood facing each other like giant building-blocks set on end, there
was Wall Street, the centre of activity, where the stony growth seemed
as though spurred on by the restless stir, the yet unregulated and
uncomprehended instinct of accumulation.
As we drew nearer we saw the delicate, fresh colors, the soft reds and
creamy whites of the buildings in the clear, smokeless atmosphere, the
white exhausts of the beating systems, standing out like little white
flags against the light blue sky, and the myriad dark, twinkling eyes
of the houses, row upon row, severe, square, strong, firm and light
with a myriad grave, fixed questioning glances reviewing the new
arrivals from across the sea, who streamed from all the quarters of the
globe to this land of future promise and expectation.
Then followed the confusing and confounding impressions of the landing,
where the great nation, compelled by experience, seems to guard itself
against the instreaming invasion of undesired elements, and
investigates and selects with humiliating, apparently heartless
strictness, as though we were animals to be examined.
Elsje's smile and cheerful endurance alleviated for me the bitterness
of standing in the long line for examination, ordered about by the
gruff officials - I, the proud aristocrat, who had never come here
otherwise than surrounded by luxury, and treated with distinction as an
When we were finally released and found ourselves in the noise and
tumult of that tremendous life, where the selfish seeking of the few is
by a secret and uncomprehended power forced together into a mysterious
and curious order, - as out of the seemingly aimless and orderless
agitation of ants or bees one sees a well-planned structure arise, -
amid the rattling of the trucks, the shuffling of thousands of feet
upon the worn and ill-kept pavement, the ceaseless thunder of the
elevated trains running between the graceless buildings and signs,
designed solely for doing business or attracting attention, in this so
preeminently incomplete, imperfect, half-barbarous and half-polished
world, I saw my dear, delicate wife, overwhelmed and confounded, cling
to me as though she sought everything that still attracted her to the
world with me, powerless to find it in this tumult of life.
I did not remain in the city a day, knowing everything that here preys
upon the inexperienced arrival, but went directly to one of those
vaguely scattered villages in the immediate vicinity of the town, where
spots of nature, still wild or again run wild, can be found in the
midst of the remote, neglected precincts of a quickly and carelessly
growing human colony. There in the woody, rocky territory little,
dingy, wooden houses are to be found, built of unsightly boards,
outwardly no better than sheds or barns, as though put up temporarily
by people who would probably move on further soon - houses that one may
occupy for comparatively little money.
It did not look inviting for a woman accustomed to the choice solidity
of a Dutch house, and the well-sustained intimacy of a Dutch landscape,
where man and nature through long-continued symbiosis have grown
together in a harmonious union.
Everywhere all through the woods were tumbledown houses, heaps of
rubbish, crockery, old iron and dirt, trees chopped down and left to
rot, burnt underbrush, annoying signs of the proximity of a heedless,
careless, prodigal human world. And close by, between long rows of
signboards, monstrously drawn and painted in glaring colors, rushed the
trains, besmirching everything with their smoke.
But after all it was a home, and with all the energy that the long
years of suffering had left in her, Elsje joyously began to turn the
dear illusion of these years of pining and waiting into reality.
And when the humble dwelling had been made somewhat habitable, when
there was a pantry stocked with provisions, an extremely fresh and
spotlessly-kept bedroom, a table with a cover upon which the kerosene
lamp threw its circle of light at night, so that I could sit and read
the paper while Elsje sewed and mended busily, her head full of
tenderly solicitous domestic thoughts, and when to the great
satisfaction of the housewife a young negro girl had been found who
came daily to help a few hours, thereby giving to the household,
according to Dutch ideas, a necessary air of completeness - then I saw
upon Elsje's wan countenance and in her clear, dark-ringed eyes a light
that shone out above all gloomy memories or sad forebodings.
Only then I saw her faithful, loving nature in its perfect radiant
glory, but also, alas! with the distressing realization of its
The so universally-recognized type of human excellence indicated by the
term "gentleman," cannot go hand in hand with true originality that
makes itself prevail. For one of the chief characteristics of the
gentleman is the respect for group ideas, the obedience to the voice of
the herd; while the characteristic quality of the Original is precisely
his breaking away from the group union, his reversing of ideas, his
making himself obeyed instead of obeying.
The seceder who is not able to change the ideas of the group and to
make the herd follow, is annihilated and deserves annihilation. In the
human economy he is only harmful and his existence is unwarranted.
The gentleman on the contrary has a pre-eminently useful and important
function. He is that member of the group who without separating from
the union retains most of the original element. He combines the highest
possible originality with the strictest subordination to the group
nature, which only very few exceptional natures can defy with impunity.
He changes nothing, but he inclines toward the original, thus making
the entire herd more adaptable to change, while be lacks the
ever-dangerous tendency of the originals to break loose, and keeps
alive in the herd the lofty, indispensable virtue of respecting and
upholding the sacredness of the union.
The more the group ideas diverge from the elemental ideas of human
nature, the rarer the type of "gentleman" becomes in the group. And so
my little brother Shaw's lament that the true English gentleman has
become extinct is comprehensible, as in the entire tremendous herd of
the nations of West-European or Anglo-Saxon civilization, ideas are
current which every original immediately recognizes as conflicting with
the nature of humanity, as hostile to Christ.
The term "un-Christian" is with just consistency applied to them.
Un-Christian means the enriching oneself at the cost of others, the
enriching oneself by means of craft, the enriching oneself without
bound or measure. In many groups of ancient times these things were not
lawful. But the great herd of the nations calling themselves Christian,
include these so unmistakably un-Christian actions among the lawful,
even honorable and generally admitted. And this moreover in the very
worst form. It is one of the group-ideas of the great herd, that
without oneself doing any work, one may enrich oneself unrestrictedly,
by means of craft, at the expense of the very poorest. Only the
unprecedented magnitude of the herd and its unparalleled firm coherence
made so great a deviation from Primal Reason conceivable and possible.
The type of "gentleman" has changed, however, and grown rarer in this
process. It is well-nigh impossible to preserve one's originality
without separating from the union of the group, or without, as the
socialists and anarchists, forming new groups that stand hostile to the
great herd. The respecting of group-ideas and at the same time
preserving one's original human feelings, demands a forcing and
straining of truth that only few sagacious and honest people succeed in.
Judge Elkinson still represented the fast disappearing type of
gentleman, and I knew that for him this was possible through an
extraordinary suppleness of mind, fineness of tact and feeling, and a
philosophic broadness of view.
Honest in the strict sense of the word, with na´ve uprightness - that
he could not be any more than any other faithful member of the herd,
with some astuteness. But he was at least capable of giving everyone
the impression that he always desired to be honest. He forgave himself
the necessary distortion demanded by the group union, as the humane
physician does not charge himself with the lies he tells for the good
of his patients. He also comprehended the relativeness of words, the
vagueness of conceptions, the faultiness of all communion, but was
nevertheless not so broad-minded that he found extenuating
circumstances everywhere and for everyone. His great power lay in his
demand for fixedness of opinion. Growth and development were thereby
excluded, but he sacrificed these, for the sake of the support so
necessary to the herd, that positiveness and regularity afford.
One could depend on him absolutely; he was called "a man of character"
and thereby exercised the most beneficial influence at the cost of
personal development, actuated as it were by unconscious love, by a
preservative instinct for the masses. His moral code was as broad as
the group-ideas allowed, but beyond that point - immutable. He
maintained it with the same sacred respect which as judge he demanded
for the law, though his philosophic reason told him that neither could
by any means exclude injustice. He called a rogue a rogue, though he
realized that complete comprehension means complete forgiveness; he
considered an anarchist an enemy to mankind, a harmful monster, even
though he had to admit that the anarchistic criticism of society was
If the group-ideas and the group-union of those calling themselves
socialists, had not been so wretchedly vague, confused and based on
pseudo-science and hollow rhetoric, he would perhaps have joined that
brotherhood. For he had the full measure of American courage and
resolution. And he would have represented the "gentleman" in that
confederacy just as well as in the old union. But, as every
"gentleman," he had the intuitive dislike of bad company, the natural
and wholesome aristocracy that makes one shun a group if it is
represented by inferior people. And in the socialist herd he saw
nothing much better than uncultured followers driven by fanatic
leaders, a very sorry realization of the Originals who had brought
about the movement. Moreover the union of this group was so weak, so
entirely based upon the negative, so badly formulated, that it was
impossible for him to transfer to it his natural respect for the union.
With this man, then, I considered that I might try my luck. He had
grown very rich by clever, but according to group-ideas perfectly
lawful money transactions, as commissioner of all sorts of large
undertakings, and he had a fine mansion in Washington and in New York.
Toward me he would, as a philosopher, sometimes jokingly excuse his
wealth, referring in this connection to the example of Seneca the sage.
I called on him as soon as I knew he was in New York, and was received
Elkinson had a large, bony head upon a lean, muscular body. He was not
yet sixty, and his clean-shaven face was of a youthfully fresh and
ruddy complexion. His hair was snow-white, but still thick and full,
parted in the middle and trimly cut. His strongly-pronounced jawbones,
large teeth and firm chin, lent him an expression of will-power and
energy; the thin-lipped large mouth and the clear, gray, steady eyes
commanded respect and marked the man who would not let himself be
imposed upon or put out of countenance; his eyes twinkled at the
slightest occasion with an expression of subtle roguishness, evidence
of the general American inclination for jesting and joking.
"It is very kind of you, my dear Count Muralto, very kind indeed to
look me up again. Have you been assigned to the post at Washington
again? And how are the countess and the children?"
"Don't bother about using my title, Mr. Elkinson. It must be
distressing to your democratic spirit."
The mocking eyes twinkled as though they enjoyed my sally.
"On the contrary! on the contrary! - that is atavism! It does us good.
We are above such things, to be sure, but just as eager to do them as a
worthy professor to sing the college songs at a reunion."
"Then I regret that I must deprive you of this pleasure. I am no longer
a count and intend to become a citizen of your republic."
"What is that you tell me? Well, well, well! that is a remarkable
"Your enthusiasm is not as hearty as one should expect of a true
American. I believe you think that something is lost by this
transaction after all."
"Perhaps I do! - Italian counts are rarer than American citizens. With
these titles it's the same as with sailing vessels and feudal castles.
They are unpractical and out of date. And yet it is a pity to see one
after another disappearing."
"Would you put me into a museum and have the state support me?"
"No! No! - we are glad to make use of such excellent working powers. We
need men like you. And what does madame say to it?"
"Contessa Muralto remains Contessa Muralto. I have broken completely
with her and with my old life. I wish to make my position clear to you.
I have come here as an emigrant, poor, and accompanied by a woman who
is my true wife, but can never be lawfully recognized as such."
"H'm! H'm! - that is grave, very grave," said Judge Elkinson. The
roguish twinkle in his eyes vanished and he assumed the severe,
inexorable expression of the judge.
Then, as simply as possible and with the trusting uprightness that
would make the strongest appeal to his kind heart, I recounted the
vicissitudes of my lot. Mutely he listened to my story, obviously
interested and touched, wondering what to make of this cage.
"And now?" he finally asked. "What do you expect now? I know that a
deep sensibility to what we here call the tender passion is one of your
national characteristics. But after all you are no longer a boy, and
you have enough sense and experience of life to know that your present
position does not offer you much chance of success, not even in this
"I do not expect or desire success in the American sense of the word. A
frugal, existence is all I want. I shall endeavor to obtain that. By
giving lessons, for example."
"And had you hoped to be in any degree supported by me in that
direction?" asked the careful and practical American.
"No! - I did not come to you for that. I have not the slightest
intention of burdening my old acquaintances by presuming on our former
"Good!" said Elkinson honestly.
"I know them too well for that," said I, perhaps a bit scornfully.
"You know what it would signify for them, don't you? You can easily put
yourself in their position. You defy public opinion for the sake of a
woman, but you can't expect that your former friends should do it for
"If I had thought that they were friends, I should perhaps expect it.
But I know that they are not friends, only acquaintances, and I demand
nothing of them."
The judge looked at me a while, not without kindliness. He seemed to
feel a certain respect for my stoicism.
"Good!" he said again. "But what can I do for you then? What is your
object in calling on me?"
"To make you happier than you are."
"That is indeed very generous. For after all I did not get the
impression that I was the unhappier of us two. And if you would have me
continue to believe in your mental balance, you must give me a more
"Is it so unlikely that I should increase my own happiness by means of
"Aha! Of what kind of happiness are we talking?"
"Of the most desirable, that can alone be attained by straining all our
energies to their utmost capacity, their utmost efficiency."
"Ho capito! - accord! - now for the explanation. What slumbering
qualities in me would you rouse to action?"
"Your qualities as a leader of men. The qualities that I lack."
"And which in yourself then?"
"Those of the thinker. Of the original thinker."
Elkinson glanced at me with a look, sharp, cold and penetrating as a
dissecting-knife. He thought he understood what it was that he had to
"A system?" he asked gruffly.
"On the contrary - the release from a system. The shattering of
inhuman, un-Christian morals. The breaking through a wall of horrible
"First of all, that which everyone condemns and everyone nevertheless
maintains - the remuneration of the rich simply because he is rich,
even though he does nothing to deserve remuneration. The morally and
lawfully tolerated unlimited squandering of the products of common
labor by irresponsible persons. The exploiting of the weaker, approved
and even accounted honorable, without control, by means of craft,
through the agency of countless middle men. The tenant-farmer, the
laborer; the property owner, the tenant-farmer. The manufactory, the
factory hands; the share-holder, the manufacturer. The landlord, the
lessee; the lessee, the sub-lessee; the sub-lessee, the lodger. The
speculator again exploits all the others, while the waster of finance
exploits the speculator, and thus ad infinitum. The system, in one
word, of mutual ruthless exploitation and of irresponsible, no less
ruthless, squandering. A system in which what each holds in view as the
crowning ideal is to do nothing himself, to squander without measure or
care, and to have as many as possible work for his own personal profit,
without asking who they are and how they live. A system that slowly but
surely must demoralize and impoverish every nation to the core, even
the richest and the strongest. A system that gives peace to none and
can bring none to the highest possible grade of development and
happiness. A system by which at least ninety per cent of the national
wealth is lost without a trace. A system under which no art, no
science, no higher element in man can attain to perfect bloom. A system
that is further removed from the original desires and sentiments of
humanity than any other that has ever been maintained by large masses
of men - a system that no one with any consideration can approve or
wish to preserve, that is only maintained because we know or believe in
nothing better, and that is doomed to disappear because of its suicidal
character. A system that can only be declared lasting and necessary by
him who thinks that men are not capable of education and development
and, with open eyes, shall ever seek their own ruin."
Elkinson remained silent a while after I had finished speaking. The
expression in his eyes was serener now.
"As a criticism nothing new," he said, nodding his head. "But what new
remedy do you propose? - Government aid?"
"First morals, then laws," said I; "no Government initiative; perhaps,
if necessary, Government assistance. Begin with the most powerful
public opinion, the group instinct."
"And how? - orations? - pamphlets? - meetings? and addresses? - That
seems to me nothing exactly new either, nor has it proved effectual. Is
one deformity like the social democracy not enough?"
"More than enough. The dead child with two heads has itself made its
own name impossible. Use that name no more, for the mother who has
borne the child is ashamed of it and will hear of it no more. Give the
potion another label and another color if you would make men take it,
or better, give it no color. And talk as little as possible, but do,
act, carry out. Make of the deed your shepherd's staff and of facts
your milestones and your guideposts. Let your shepherd dog not bark,
but bite, and see to it that the flock find something to graze on."
"Clearer! clearer! - no Eastern metaphors, American facts."
"Very well! Judge Elkinson is acquainted with the psychology of the
mass and he knows the individuals of which it is composed. He has
governed a state, organized and conducted commercial undertakings,
instituted laws and seen them carried out. He knows thousands of
individuals, their worth and their abilities. He enjoys the universal
confidence, and possesses great influence. His name alone guarantees
the help of thousands, and of the very best moreover. Let him form a
group, with better group-ideas, with better group-ethics, better
morals, better customs, and higher standards of right and wrong, good
and evil, than the group in which he now lives and works."
"Clearer still and more concrete if you please. How do you imagine the
"As every group began always. As every business man forms his business,
every general his army. Select a staff of the most capable and tell
them what is essential for them to know. Formulate the plan so that in
the course marked out the chief idea cannot be missed, without
frightening off any one of the great herd by peculiar, unusual or
doubtful terms, theories or visions of the future. And then organize,
practically, systematically, always aiming directly at the concrete
reality without troubling yourself in the least about abstractions. And
see that your herd is fed and sheltered and stabled as quickly as
possible, and that it find gratification of its instincts in the course
once marked out. And on the way - heed it well, on the way, not
beforehand - teach them to comprehend the object of the fight and what
they shall gain. Teach them first to follow and to find gratification
in following, and then they will gradually go of their own accord, if
it agrees with them, and be less and less in need of guidance. Promise
as little as possible, but show and prove by the result, and predict
nothing that you cannot immediately prove."
"Thus a non-political organization? An ethical corporation?"
"A business proposition, judge, a business proposition. But a great and
holy business. A business for making money, for accumulating as much
and as quickly as possible. The herd must eat, must have a good time,
must have abundance and must have its future assured. What kind of
business is indifferent. Every kind that is possible. If the group only
learns that it can obtain enough and much more even than before - much
greater wealth and much more happiness and content - by no longer
pilfering one another and squandering, but by intelligent mutual
agreement and by restriction of personal boundless liberty for the sake
of the whole common welfare."
"And your own part in this affair? How do you imagine that?"
"As the part of a match at a forest fire. For myself full of profound
satisfaction, for the outer world absolutely obscure. I shall come to
talk with you now and then. Judge Elkinson is the man, the benefactor
of his people, the liberator of mankind."
"And for you - nothing? No money, no glory, no honor?"
"This disinterestedness seems incredible to you. But it is a natural
outcome of our different functions. Every different function involves
different passions and desires. Practical work involves a love of glory
and honor. We are so organized that we find enjoyment only in what our
own peculiar endowment can yield. A very sensible organization which
you may take as an example. My work is contemplative, speculative and
affords enjoyment through the satisfaction of correct discoveries and
clear vision. In practical life I am unhappy, with money, honor, glory
and all. But you, Judge Elkinson, have need of me for this very
quality. Humanity must not only act organizedly but also think
organizedly. No greater folly than to imagine that the safe way for the
herd shall be found by its own blind instinct, or that as a mass it can
itself think out what it must do. No greater nonsense than the work of
these sages who sling a few formulas at the masses, and then, with the
aid of these uncomprehended and incorrectly interpreted terms and
abstractions, would let them find the way alone. Humanity would and
must think, and advance by the light of contemplation and reflection,
but it must think organizedly, so that each in this great thinking
process exercises his own peculiar function - the scholar, the
business-man, the statesman, the artist, the poet. And only when this
organization for the good of all is completed, is there a chance that
every member of the herd will participate more and more in the thinking
functions, and thus also in the delights of the others, that we obtain
a world of free men and majors, a truly mature and full-grown humanity,
the flaming ideal in which the poor anarchistic moths now still scorch
"My dear Mr. Muralto, in a way I really feel that you are placing me in
the position of Dr. Faustus, to whom every imaginable glory was held
out, all that human ambition could desire, if he would but sign his
name. You will pardon the comparison, I hope."
"Certainly, but you will probably have something more to do than sign
your name. And I will gladly give you every occasion to search your
deepest conscience whether I should be counted among the good or the
"Until now, my friend, I considered myself capable of getting on
without guiding spirits."
"But after all that was only an opinion, as all other opinions very
open to criticism."
"That is possible! - At any rate I am very grateful to you for the most
interesting conference. I hope that we may continue it another time."
"I gave you my address. I shall be at your disposal there at any
"Much obliged! - I feel myself, honored by your confidence and by the
high opinion you seem to entertain of me. Once more - many thanks."
With these ceremonious courtesies we parted from one another.
Then I went back to my little house where Elsje awaited me. I had the
dissatisfied and well-nigh angry feeling of one who has not been able
to do himself and his ideas justice. The process of realizing our ideas
is always full of surprises and disappointments, like the performing of
a play or the developing of a photograph.
Elsje awaited me, with everything in readiness that the little house
could offer of comfort and of cheer - and best of all, with eager
interest in that which stirred my heart so deeply. She knew that this
was my first stroke in the campaign and she participated in it, with
all her soul, as I gratefully read by her looks and her attitude when I
"How was it?" she asked.
"So, so! dearest. - I did what I could. But I do not know whether I
said just what I should have to make the most impression. It isn't
enough to say the right thing, but one must say it in such a way and so
often that it makes an impression and takes effect. You can never do
that all at once. But nevertheless I am not dissatisfied with my first
And I told her how my words had been received.
"You dear, good man! You do your best so faithfully. If only they knew
what I know, how good you are, and how sincere your intentions."
One usually attaches little value to a loving woman's judgment upon the
man she loves. But the perfect faith of a pure spirit is not alone a
wondrous comfort and consolation, but also a mighty creative power for
the good. And it is not confusing and blinding, but calming and
beneficial to see oneself reflected in a clear glass, in a favorable
I shall never admit that the plan of my campaign was unpracticable or
ill contrived. I remain firmly convinced that the main idea was correct
and will be of service to future combatants. But it had one fault which
I could not be aware of and which could only reveal itself in the
practice. It is not impossible to inoculate men like Elkinson with an
original and to them new idea, and even to impress it. On them in such
a manner that they come to conceive of it as their own idea and are
driven to action by it.
But then this operation must be performed as skilfully and carefully as
a botanical or surgical grafting, so that the idea becomes one with
their own nature, and continues to grow, nourished by their own life.
Now in my case the grafting did not succeed - just as the first
botanical graftings did not succeed - because I was not sufficiently
experienced and practised in it and had not yet found the right method.
Still this does not prove the impossibility of the principle.
One can never remind oneself too often that no one, not even the most
sagacious, broadest mind, is led to assume different fundamental ideas
solely by reasonable arguments. The element of faith is always
indispensable, even in purely scientific questions.
What I said to Judge Elkinson would have been entirely sufficient to
convince him and to stir his powers into action, had it been told him
in the same words but under more favorable circumstances; or if he had
heard it oftener, from different persons and in different words.
The unfavorable, hampering circumstance was that because of my poverty
and my illegitimate marriage I now stood outside the circle of
Elkinson's social intercourse. I had foreseen this to be sure, but
thought nevertheless that he would confer with me in secret and private
interviews often enough to afford me the opportunity of keeping in
contact with him and in the end convincing him. I did indeed see him
now and then too, once also he came to me and evinced as much interest,
kindliness and broad mindedness as could be expected of a man in his
position. But illogical as it may seem, the influence of my words was
much slighter because we no longer stood on an equal footing. Had he,
as formerly, met me everywhere in the distinguished circles, had he
there, in club or salon, parried on the same conversations with me, and
above all, had he not gained the impression that I spoke intentionally
and with the purpose of rousing him to action, he would then, I am
sure, have assimilated these same ideas and seemingly on his own
initiative would have commenced to act upon them.
But the arguments that upon the lips of a man of position and
distinction are convincing lose their persuasive power when spoken by
an erratic or eccentric, even though they may be exactly as logical,
because the element of faith and of trust are wanting.
Thus the release from social convention, which liberated my spirit and
gave me the courage to honestly assert and maintain myself, at the same
time had a crippling effect upon my powers. When the knight had buckled
his coat of mail he could no longer move his arms.
I did not stop at this first attempt, but continued working restlessly,
trying to provide a living for us and seeking a fertile ground for the
seed of my thoughts. I tried to find pupils to take lessons in
languages and strove to gain admission to the editors of magazines and
newspapers. I composed short articles in which I endeavored to make
ideas of great importance and value interesting and readable. Urged by
necessity I even attempted to write short stories, which were complete
failures however, and caused me miserable hours of struggle and inward
shame. For purposely manufactured art is just as insipid, unworthy and
humiliating as true art is sacred and exalting. The last is divine
worship, the first waste of time.
I also tried to engage the interest of other influential persons
besides Judge Elkinson. But I had rightly selected him as the most
available, and with all the others met with less success. I had used up
my best powder at the first onslaught. Now I ran great danger of being
looked upon as one of the many harmless, but troublesome and tiresome
fools, who are called "cranks" over there, and who seem to flourish in
America. People who go about everywhere and pursue everyone with an
infallible system, an ingenious invention, a gigantic scheme. They have
calculated everything and only want a millionaire or an influential
person to realize their idea - to reform the world and make it happy or
to amass fabulous riches.
Once counted in that category and my chance was lost, that I knew.
People would warn one another against me and no one in this
hastily-living world would have even one minute to spare to listen to
Every day of the campaign on which I had so bravely entered, I saw more
distinctly the fatal difficulty I was facing. In order to be able to
carry out anything I should have to "make a name," as it is called. And
making a name, the forming of a centre of suggestive influence working,
not through essential worth but through idle sound, - this is in
conflict with a contemplative nature and a lover of reality as I am.
The man of action will make a name, he will work for it unashamed, he
finds unadulterated pleasure in being honored and celebrated and
renowned. For in his capacity the power of a name, a personality, is
indispensable. Wisely he has been equipped with the suitable instincts
But I myself had an insurmountable horror of anything that would tend
to bring my own personality, my most transitory, spectral unimportant
being into the limelight. To see my name printed or to hear it
discussed was quite indifferent to me, even very disagreeable. I should
be willing to bear it for Christ's sake, if I realized that I could
only thus serve him and that he demanded it of me. But it was
impossible for me to exert myself to that end. It is harder for the
Original than for anyone else to act contrary to his natural
disposition. To uphold the important truths whereof I knew myself to be
the sole and responsible supporter, I was always ready to make any
sacrifice. But to fight for my person, my career, my name, did not
attract me in the least and thus also rarely met with success.
So for days, weeks, and months I worked without the slightest result. A
pupil, sent to me by Elkinson, stayed away after a few weeks without
paying me - perhaps because he may have heard something about my
illegitimate marriage. Some journalists who had known me in former days
received me with superficial friendliness and promised to do something
for me. But they did nothing - speedily absorbed again in their own
interests. Of Elkinson, I heard that he had been brought into
consideration for the presidential candidacy; sufficient reason for him
to forget hundreds of conversations with a Muralto, shipwrecked through
his own folly.
Just as prosperity again begets prosperity, so also does misery grow
like a snowball rolling down hill. The great, tremendous, busy world
about me rushed restlessly onward in the fog - striving, seeking,
building up and demolishing, urged on by uncomprehended impulses - and
considered we no more than any of the thousand lost creatures that are
crushed under its blind and heavy tread, cruel as the machine that
catches the careless worker in its wheels. And yet I knew that this
tremendous structure was the obedient tool of the same power that had
entrusted me with its most precious gifts, that had urged me on my way,
that was responsible for my strength and for my weakness.
And in proportion as the want that reigned in my little house grew more
and more real and the struggle for existence more and more anxious, in
the same proportion this humble home also began to grow dearer to me. I
was approaching the age when a man, even though not yet tired and worn
out, still, more than ever before, longs for a resting place, a small
intimate sphere of quiet and rest, of cherishing love and peace, a
home. What had formerly been my home had always remained inwardly
strange to me. It afforded me every comfort and physical ease, but my
heart found no happiness there. And now I had more than I had ever
expected to find. I found the true domestic happiness more beautiful,
more sublime and holy than I had imagined - but its beauty was touched
with anguish and its joy with anxious sorrow because it was so
We needed so little - a couple of tidy rooms with few ugly things and
one or two objects of beauty, a small garden plot with flowers, some
sunlight by day, some lamplight cheer at night, enough to eat, and
quiet and serenity for study - and all the hours spent together were
completely satisfying in their measure of glory and every minute of
separation became endurable through the prospect of finding each other
Elsje had the child-like power of enjoyment, that in a trifle - an
opening flower, a new piece of furniture, an ornament or decoration, a
song, a few fine lines of poetry - can find gratification and delight
for hours and days. She had the pure taste that, above all, fears
overloading and over-excitement, and takes pleasure only in what is
simple and what is truly enjoyed.
How little I would have needed to make her life a constant joy. But
even that little I was not able to give. The poverty from which I had
wished to teach men to escape, the poverty falsely, proclaimed as
Jesus' friend and the bride of the devout, - in truth Christ's fiercest
enemy and a horror and terror to every truly devout man - this poverty
slunk into my house and with a grim laugh of scorn revenged herself
upon me who had dared assail her sacredness and sublimity. And she
struck the most beautiful and the dearest that life had offered me, she
menaced my greatest treasure, won but so shortly and at such great
It seemed as though Elsje's dauntless efforts to prepare a comforting
home for me, her unfailing patience and brave cheerfulness consumed her
physical being all the more. I saw the battle that she was waging, and
it tortured me with a thousand variations of pain. Her keeping up when
she was well-nigh powerless with exhaustion. Her increased tenderness
when she saw me yield under the heavy pressure of care, whereby I
noticed that she felt herself responsible for my suffering, as it was
for her sake that I had given up my life of prosperity.
Then at the time of our greatest troubles, came that which Elsje had
expected and longed for as the highest blessing - maternity.
I too had desired the child and had longed for it with fervent
tenderness, picturing to myself how I could now bestow all the interest
and fatherly devotion without self-constraint, from natural instinct,
from overpowering love. How I should love this child and delight in the
sight of its development day by day. Recalling with bitter sorrow how
vaguely and distantly the lovely blossoming of Lucia's children had
passed by me, because I had not participated with my entire being in
their growth and their development, I now hoped after all to be father
in the full sense of the word, and with clear perception and unabating
interest to delight in this lovely miracle. Surely no child before it
had yet breathed the air, has ever been an fervently loved, as tenderly
discussed, as devoutly looked forward to as this.
But a dark foreboding dwelt in me with relentless certainty. I knew
that calamity threatened, my dreams betokened it and it became daily
clearer what form this calamity would take. The glad promise had a
diabolically mocking sound, the subtle perceptive faculty of my
insensible being felt the falseness of the sweet announcement. Toward
Elsje as she tranquilly sat by my side sewing at tiny garments and
absorbed in the sweet prospect of her child, toward Elsje I could feign
hopefulness and enter into her sweet phantasies - but myself I could
not deceive. I knew that a picture of happiness was teasingly held out
to me that my eyes would never behold. I knew that the genuineness of
my conviction, the strength of my faith, would be submitted to the
severest test, to the keenest torture.
Then too, through Elsje's peculiar condition, which makes certain
spiritual longings speak so loudly, it became clear to me what she had
so carefully hidden from me.
She always questioned me about my dreams what and whom I had seen,
where I had been. And once the words escaped her:
"Oh, I wish that I could dream like you!"
"Why, Elsje? What would you do?"
"I should try to go to Holland," she said softly.
Then I understood her. It was homesickness that had taken hold upon her.
"Do you long to be back in Holland?"
She nodded mutely, but immediately added in a livelier tone:
"But I don't want you to mind that, my dear husband, as long as you
consider your work here is not yet accomplished. I am patient and can
very well wait a while. But there is a possibility after all, isn't
there, - when our child is a little bigger - that we go back to live in
"If my endeavors meet with no better success than they have so far,
Elsje, we can just as well live in Holland."
Then no longer restraining herself, she said:
"I should have thought it so lovely if my baby had been born in
Holland, amid the green pastures in a bright pretty little Dutch house,
under the lovely Dutch clouds, near our sea. And then I could already
early have shown him all the beautiful things that we have only in
Holland - our quaint little town, and the paintings in the museum, and
the peasant houses, and the dunes. Here everything is so big, so hard,
and so ugly -"
I promised to remain here no longer than I considered strictly
necessary. But I knew that her wish could not be fulfilled. Even had I
had the money, she would not have had the strength at the time to take
the trip. But her mind was constantly occupied with Holland and her
child in Dutch environment. And her growing aversion to the food in the
strange country, her desire for the diet of the land where she had been
brought up, wrought fatally upon her system.
One day when I had again returned home discouraged after a useless
attempt to induce a learned society to apply and test its sociological
and biological knowledge in a practical direction, she said:
"Dearest husband, is it stupid of me to think that Jesus who has drawn
and led you hither, could now so easily also move others to listen to
you, and to translate your thoughts into deeds?"
"No, Elsje. For if I assume that Christ has influenced me in
particular, for his purpose, then I can also think that he influences
others for that purpose. But yet such a thought seems like
superstition. That is to say like the regarding of things divine in a
human way. Yes, if Christ went to work as a man, then we might be
surprised that he did not act as we should.
"But though he is a thinking, feeling being, that loves us, still he
acts toward us individuals with the exalted greatness and seeming
ruthlessness of a natural force, of a divine power. He can love us and
know us, better than we know the cells of our own body, and yet take no
account of our little worries, because he knows how insignificant they
are. And he always acts through great, universal things, instincts and
impulses, that must serve for all, but under which the individual must
often suffer. His laws are good, good for us all, but not perfect, any
more than human laws. Cannot all impulses degenerate? Are not all our
tendencies full of danger? Is not our body full of defects? Must we not
help and improve continuously? And nevertheless is not everything again
compiled with an ingenuity incomprehensible to us? Think what it means
to heal a slight wound or, a thousand times more wonderful still, to
give birth to a new human being!"
"But new plants and animals are born too, and the construction of a
plant or an animal is just as ingenious. Is that all the work of Jesus?
Let me say Jesus instead of Christ, I love that name better."
"Yes, there is perhaps something more intimate in this name. When in my
dream I asked my father about Christ, he pointed out to me the
beautiful markings on the wings of a butterfly. And with this in mind I
began to suspect what Jesus is. It is really so simple, so perfectly
obvious. One or the other: either this butterfly decoration originated
accidentally, or it was made with intention, feeling and thoughtful
consideration. For centuries God, the Supreme Omnipotence, has been
held responsible for it. And when the scholars finally could no longer
believe in so many contradictions and so many imperfections in an
almighty, perfect Being, then they tried their best to prove that the
beautiful markings of the butterfly had originated quite accidentally;
which is even more foolish than to think that an etching by Rembrandt
or a statue by Phidias is an accidental formation. And absolutely to
prove the contrary is impossible. One can merely speak of extreme
improbability. But I know nothing more improbable than this - that a
butterfly, a flower or a human being should be the accidental product
of blind forces, supposing that one may speak of blind or unconscious
forces. That the sun and the stars revolve around the earth, that the
Egyptian hieroglyphics are accidental scratches on the granite - all
this is even a great deal less improbable. But then they must also be
living, thinking, feeling and reasoning beings that have created
butterfly, flower and man and are still constantly creating and
changing them, with infinite skill, with incomprehensible ingenuity,
but nevertheless with ever-recurring imperfection. And probably beings
who are by no means always in harmony with one another, that fight and
struggle among them, supplanting and replacing one another, whose
desires, endeavors, joys and sorrows are far beyond the comprehension
of insignificant individuals as we - but whose expressions of life we
nevertheless clearly discern as separate entities, as races and species
struggling side by side, sometimes with, sometimes sharply opposite to
one another. The being that has created us, whose spirit, mind, will
and sensibility binds us together, as does our body its cells, into one
great unity, outwardly imperceptible, but perfectly evident to our
inner sensibility, is the Spirit of Humanity, the Primal Reason, the
Genitive Soul of Mankind - Christ."
"Thus every species of animal and plant then must have its Jesus?"
"Certainly, every species must have its genitive Soul, - and every cell
in every individual has its own. How these entities are connected and
how they are separated from one another - that the biologists will
learn gradually. They are scarcely at the beginning of their knowledge."
"But God the Supreme Omnipotence nevertheless just calmly tolerates all
this struggle, this suffering and this imperfection."
"Certainly - for it is."
"Why? Wherefore? Isn't that just as unsatisfactory?"
" Dearest wife, the difficulty is ever merely transferred; this will
continue so, until we possess higher insight. I shall not pretend that
as Milton I can justify God's ways before mankind, nor yet that as
Dante I can say everything there in to be said concerning God and the
Universe, nor even that as Spinoza, Hegel or Schopenhauer I can build
up a complete system. That is unscientific, all true science is
assuming and computing. Of the highest Power we know next to nothing:
but nevertheless enough for our life. We know that his laws obtain
everywhere as far as our perception reaches, and we know that He works
equally in the living and in the apparently not living, in the smallest
and in the greatest, and that our life rests on faith in him, that our
peace lies in His will. But of Jesus we know much more, for,
scientifically, we see his expressions of life and we feel his effect
upon our spirit. And that is over and above sufficient to comfort us in
all our suffering and all our troubles. But future generations will
know much more, will go much more surely, will lead much more beautiful
lives and die much happier."
"Didn't you tell me, dear, that Emmy, your first love, did not seem to
know Jesus, but Lucia did? And yet you loved Emmy so and have seen her
in your dreams and she has brought you to Jesus and to me. But Lucia
has always remained a stranger to you. How is that?"
"Yes, it is so, Elsje. And I see no contradiction in it. Emmy lived in
a dead, false Protestantism, but she was designed for something better.
Lucia lived in the warm, living faith of the Middle Ages, which,
however, we are outgrowing. The Middle Ages knew Jesus and lived in him
fervently, truly and really, as is manifest in their entire nature.
Their inner sensibility of him was much stronger than ours, but their
knowledge, their definite realization of him was much more faulty.
Lucia's piety belongs to an earlier phase - never can it reconcile
itself to ours. She is a perfect blossom on a more ancient branch of
humanity. But she can never be perfectly mated with any who, as we,
belongs to a more modern generation. My love for Emmy was not as deep
and as strong as my love for you, Elsje. Never. It was a much more
superficial, personal sentiment, not encouraged by return, not
sufficiently powerful to stream out further. I never learned to love
mankind through Emmy, as I did through you. And that Emmy in my dreams
as it were reserved me for herself, and then brought me to Elsje, so
that my power of love has attained to perfect, glorious development,
that I shall never be able to regard otherwise than as the greatest
blessing, the greatest privilege that Jesus ever let me experience."
"And do you believe, dearest, even though now your work should remain
entirely useless here, that humanity shall nevertheless be benefitted
by our love?"
"I believe it. But it goes beyond my responsibility and beyond my care.
Our responsibility goes no further than our comprehension. I am simply
obedient to what I recognize as my noblest and highest inclinations. I
act according to the beat of my knowledge. The responsibility I leave
to Him, who gave us our impulses and our faculty of judging, whose
wisdom and sensibility are so far exalted above ours as a human body is
exalted above the most ingenious machine invented by man. But though
now I am powerless to exert a direct influence, I shall not give it up
and shall not rest. I shall write down everything and testify of Him.
And He in His own way and in His own time, will bring it all into
regard and into practice."
"Perhaps through our child," said my poor wife; and my firmness forsook
The child of our love lived only one day.
When, a hundred years earlier, it befell my brother Lessing that he
lost his only-born after a single day of life, he bitterly reviled
Christ in his sorrow. With cutting sarcasm be lauded the wisdom of this
child, who would not enter life until he was dragged into it with tongs
of iron, - and the same night departed again.
My brother Lessing was a devout man, but yet not sufficiently devout to
revere the beauty, the majesty and greatness of Human Being amid the
suffering he had to undergo. The true, living Christ had also called
him to testify, and he did not in his testimony spare the Bible-Jesus,
the artificial product of human fancy. But the belief in the future
Glory of Mankind for which the suffering of the individual is not too
high a price, afforded him no solace and did not reconcile him to the
bitterness of life.
I will not laud my strength. I was as weak in my overwhelming sorrow as
one might expect of a poor mortal. As long as my wife survived her
child, my love for her gave me the strength outwardly to show nothing
that might resemble bitterness or despair. When she too was taken from
me, there was nothing or no one to force me to a display of
cheerfulness and resignation, and for a while I was a crushed, beaten
and broken creature, a faded, falling leaf.
But the knowledge, the spiritual, intellectual knowledge, could not
forsake me even though all sensibility had been dulled and stifled by
excess of grief. As long as we contemplate ourselves with the
scientific eye, from the height of our inmost consciousness, so long
too there is something that exists above pain, old age and death. He
who accurately observes himself in suffering and old age, is thereby
exalted above time and sorrow, for that which contemplates is always
more and higher than that which is contemplated. And so in the midst of
ray wretchedness I knew that gladness and eternal youth dwelt within me
through this tiny spark of contemplative power.
I knew and never forgot that the Eternal in which we live does not take
anxious account of a little more or less of suffering and does not
spare his creatures.
It suffers thousands of seeds to perish in order that one of them may
attain perfect growth. I knew that the pain I felt was the after effect
of a craving now grown useless and that I should no longer be sensible
of it as soon as I considered what had been attained, and desisted from
the unessential and unattainable.
And I saw no reason to doubt of the supremacy of blessedness and joy
above all sorrow, because I, insignificant individual, in a few short
years of life had been made to suffer the utmost that I could endure.
I was weak, weak as all human beings, but an inconceivable spark of
knowledge shone out like a bright tiny star above all my dark
infirmities. And it is upon this little twinkling star, dear reader,
that I would fix your attention, and not upon my frailties.
What else is it but weakness, miserable, lamentable weakness, that is
spread out before us in the bitter invective speeches against Life by
those who are called pessimists, by Schopenhauer, Wagner, Ibsen,
dragged along as they were in the ebb of life toward the middle of this
I was born at the shifting of the tide and I know that the rising
waters are bearing me upon them. I know full well that pure blessedness
is not yet in Human Being, but that it must be created and that the
first condition for its advent is the faith and the will, the courage
and the strength of the Originals. Wherever true being obtains there is
pure blessedness, and it is our part to attain this true being - but
the first essential for it is the foreseeing conviction. For willing is
creating and each of us, building in eternity, follows his own plan.
My optimism is truly not the hiding myself from inevitable grief, for
with towering waves the sea of sorrow has pounded against my beacon
towers. The fires were not extinguished and beamed out above it all.
But not a moment longer than I can help it do I allow myself to dwell
on the dark, the gloomy and melancholy side of life. Nor shall I try to
thrill your heart, dear reader, with scenes of melancholy, sad as the
things may be that I have to tell you. The worst of all demoniacal
aberrations is a passion for wallowing in the mire of dreariness, of
melancholy. Guard yourself, guard yourself against the dismal lime rods
that threaten the free flight of your thoughts.
Elsje and I had frequently spoken of dying, but only when a vigorous
mood permitted us to do so without sadness or apprehension. For the
worst thing about death is not the actual dying, but the breath of
horror that it sometimes casts upon our sensibilities.
That our age permits so few to live beautifully is sad, but it is far
worse that it gives to so few the opportunity and the courage to die
worthily. Our generation ill understands how to lives but it knows even
less how to die. Most die, not the quite unappalling death of the hero,
but the horrible Philistine's death, as Goethe called it.
To die beautifully and worthily had been the dearest wish of both of
us, after that of a long life in happy unison. And Elsje attained this
desire as nearly as our wretched circumstances allowed.
"It is good after all now," she said when she felt the certainty of
what was about to take place, "that our darling baby did not live. For
it would have been so hard for you, poor, dear man, to care for the
child alone and at the same time continue with your work."
Eagerly she questioned me every morning about my dreams and it pleased
her exceedingly when I could honestly say that despite my anxieties my
dreams had been of a serene, refreshing splendor. And she always wanted
to know more of this wonderful state, that must be so like what we
shall experience after this body's decay and is so difficult to
describe and to comprehend.
"I think the worst," she said, "is that perhaps we shall never be
certain, when we see each other again, whether it is not a delusive
image, a product of our own imagination, instead of the other's actual
being. For then we no longer, as now, have our senses and thus nothing
to convince us that what we perceive is the same as what we perceived
"I can't say much in answer to that, dearest, except this - that even
in the brief moments of perception during sleep, I have felt assurance.
Self-deception may indeed be possible, but there is also infinite,
quiet time for consideration, observation, recollection, which in my
sleep is always wanting. And there must also be amalgamation,
dissolution of personality, perception through the medium of still
living beings - a multitude of conditions and faculties now still
wholly incomprehensible to us."
"That sounds sad to me: dissolution of the personality. For it will be
for you, for you as you are now, for your own personal nature, your
dear voice, your gentle eyes that I shall long for ever and ever, and
for that above everything."
"I only know, Elsje, that nothing has been lost or can be lost of all
our impressions, of all the most beautiful and precious things we have
experienced. Nothing perishes, and surely least of all that which is
the constituent element of all that is: feeling. All feeling is
eternal, and the least that we experience is lastingly recorded in the
memory of the Almighty. I can say nothing more nor be more explicit
about it, we must comfort ourselves with this main thought."
"If you are comforted and brave, dearest husband, I am too."
"I am, for even if I must live on ten or twenty solitary years after
our separation, I have my work and my study, and I also have my nights
in which I shall call you. And you'll surely want to come when I call
"Oh, dearest, whether I will want to? If I know that it can comfort
you! Whether I will want to?"
And her dim eyes smiled at the extreme superfluence of my question.
"And when you have your gloomy moments again, dear, will you forgive me
then that I induced you to cause and to experience so much sorrow? - I
know of course that you never think bitterly of me, and that you
forgive me everything in your joyous, vigorous times, when your real,
true nature dominates. But there are periods of dejection too. Will you
not think bitterly of me then?"
"Rather ask me, Elsje, whether I will forgive Christ that he induced me
to cause you so much suffering, that he did not point out my way to me
sooner and more distinctly, and left you to pine and wait so long.
Christ is the Mighty, the Strong, the Wise, who governs us and who
bears the greatest responsibility. We two are poor, blind, little
toilers who have helped one another to the best of our abilities. For
each other we have only gratitude!"
"Yes!" said Elsje, contented; "for each other only gratitude."
And to the last moments of her life she was absorbed and comforted in
the thought that I would still have the nights, in which I would call
her and find strength and encouragement for the lonely day.
"To forgive Jesus," she said another time, "is really absurd, isn't it?
For I would love him at least just as much as you, if only I might
think of him as human."
"Everything we say, Elsje, is absurd. But what we feel is not absurd.
When we have returned to the Source of Life, to the Genitive-soul of
humanity, only then I think shall we realize how absurd were our words,
but how true our feeling."
The last words I heard from her, in her anxious care for me, were a
whispered: "Will you call me!" and once more when her voice had grown
toneless her lips formed the word: "Call!"
Then the blossom withered, and fell. But the mighty stem had grown
richer through the beautiful bloom of her love-breathing life.
After Elsje's death I had no more peace in the new country. It seemed
as though her homesickness had passed on to me. My dreams spoke night
after night of Holland, only Holland, and of the place where I had
found my wife. Her supernatural being seemed to drive me toward the
land of her longing.
A long time I resisted this desire, unwilling to give up the work that
I had begun with go much sacrifice and carried through with so much
Then I received a strange communication. I heard through a business
agent of my family in Italy, with whom I had remained in touch, that my
mother had died and had left her fortune to my children; and that my
daughter Emilia, having attained her majority, was determined not to
accept the money but to give it to me. My children were all married or
independent, and the whole family was scattered. Lucia was an abbess in
a religious institution.
Then I could no longer resist the secret craving which did not cease
night or day and so distinctly appeared to me like a warning from my
dead wife, and I went back to this little town, where I bought my
present house and the small nursery garden, which still furnishes me
What I received from my daughter was not much, but sufficient for
maintaining my simple, provincial life here. Gradually I succeeded in
accustoming the petty provincials to my strange ways, and now my life
is as endurable as any that I could still have hoped to find on earth.
Only by this strange communication and Emilia's friendly act was I
aroused from the dark stupor into which Elsje's death had plunged me. I
would not perhaps have had the power to rouse myself to an interest in
life and in my work, would perhaps have fallen ill and died without
once seeing Elsje in my dreams. For my despair and my homesickness had
also dimmed the clarity of my dreamlife. I slept little and badly, the
tortured soul could not separate itself sufficiently from the restless
body to attain to reintegration and transcendental perception.
Emilia's act saved me. And then I made the comforting observation, that
with the recovery from a period of deep affliction the power of
enjoyment is extraordinarily heightened. I saw my daughter again in
Paris, where we had agreed to meet before I should go to Holland, and
the one single day there was marked by a wondrous indescribable joy.
It overcame me quite suddenly - during the journey from America - that
I felt the dark melancholy giving way. And then too came the clear
perception during the night, brief but intense, in which I for the
first time summoned the beloved dead, heard her soft, loving voice, and
saw her eyes.
In Paris the reunion with the only one of my children who had remained
true to me - the gentle devoted girl who wanted to continue to
understand and to help her father - was an exquisite joy.
It is impossible to put into words what takes place in the soul at such
a time, and the effect is so strange that, even while experiencing it,
I was filled with continual devout wonder.
The connection between the spiritual body and waking body must then
suddenly be supplied and firmly restored again, and the weakness of
this spiritual joint that was caused by melancholy all at once relieved.
All that I saw that day was joy, was well-nigh bliss. And above all -
it signified so much! With everything I saw, I felt the existence of
infinite prospects of joy and beauty that were indicated by it, only
just briefly indicated -but unmistakable.
There was a large exposition - one of these banal world fairs which I
had often railed at. But now with my thousand-fold heightened
sensibility of joy and beauty, I saw it all as a distinct dawning and
precursor of untold approaching glory.
The wide, sunny avenues with the gilded statues gleaming in the clear
sunlight, the temples and galleries white and stately, the thousands
and thousands of people assembled from every land, the joyous festive
aspect, the music on all sides, the odor of dust, of linden-blossoms,
of faintly perfumed clothes - ah! how powerless is this summary to
picture the indescribable, the beautiful joy whereof all this seemed to
me to be a fleeting proclaimer. I could look about me where I would -
at an Eastern fašade, at a group of musicians, at a leafy row of sunlit
trees, at the sweet, pretty, well-dressed girl who walked by my side
and who was my daughter - everything betokened gladness, strange,
subtle, unknown joy, intense splendor, secret expectation of great,
never-suspected mysteries and wonders.
On this happy day these two truths were firmly rooted in my soul:
First, that humanity is on its upward course, that the wound of God is
healing, that a new common welfare, surpassing all imagination, is in
store, even on this earth, with a glory beyond measure or example. And
secondly, that our power of enjoyment continues to grow under the
weight of our mortal body and that there is nothing improbable in the
expectation of the ancient believers that we shall only then really
know what true blessedness is when we are forever delivered from this
Even as all faculties, all organs, are developed by opposition,
provided it is not overpowering, so also the power of loving and of
being blessed is developed under the outward opposition of the mortal,
physical life, provided the spirit retains the once acquired knowledge
and is able to endure the tribulations and with prudence to conquer
This advantage I did not lose again in my later solitary life. My old
age, monotonous and inwardly lonely though it may be, is joyous and
happy, full of bright expectation, full of gentle resignation.
A few times I again had the great outward pleasure of having my
daughter visit me and of being able to speak with her openly and
honestly about my life, about her mother, about Elsje, my eternally
beloved, true wife. I could speak to no one else of this. But Emilia
always listened attentively and reverently, and I do not doubt but that
it taught her something and that it broadened and cleared her mind.
Aside from these few eminently happy days, I do not despise the most
trifling daily pleasures - nevertheless I leave my little city but
seldom. I find pleasure in the beauties of my little town and this low
land at all seasons, in the working and cultivating of my little plot
of land, in the freshly plowed earth with its sweet smell, in the eager
interest in the thriving of my plants, and also in the small domestic
An old faithful servant from "The Toelast" has, after the death of Jan
Baars, gone over into my employ, and she cooks deliciously and cares
for me as for her own child. And the long, solemn, solitary evenings in
my quiet house with my books, papers, memories and a little music are
never too long for me.
What I mind most are the meetings of the board of directors of the
orphanage, but I shall tell of that another time. It is not a heavy
The nights have, as formerly, continued to be my greatest solace. The
years now pass swiftly and fleetingly, for in age one measures the
flight of time with a larger scale. I now reckon its flight almost
solely by the milestones of my dreams, by the times when I could summon
my beloved and was sensible of her presence.
In this connection I shall recount one more dream - it was in the late
morning hours between seven and eight o'clock. The dream began with a
conversation concerning the life after death, in which I tried to
convince some one that there would be a fusion of units, not a personal
continuation of life, but an absorbing of our individual being into the
universal being with complete retention of our memory and our
experience. This was clearer to me than ever before.
Then all at once came the thought: I have not yet seen my beloved, she
is waiting, I must go quickly to greet her. Thereupon the consciousness
that I was dreaming and was in E------ and that I should find her
there. I went out of doors and saw the blue sky and a magnificent
landscape. Then I passed into the state of ecstasy. Following one upon
the other in rapid succession, the most glorious spectacles unfolded
themselves and I did nothing but utter cries of rapture and fervid
thanks. I saw an entrancing mountain landscape, clearly and sharply
outlined, the crevices in the rocks, the rough stony ledges lit up by
the sun, the mountain pastures o'erspread with golden radiance. And
then all at once there lay before me a fair green valley, with low
shrubs, a clear, gently-flowing, winding stream, quiet houses and a few
tall-stemmed tropical trees. An indescribable, deeply-significant calm
and stillness reigned there. The land was populated and thickly
settled, but enwrapped in a universal breathless consecration of peace
and joy. I saw light-blue peacocks quietly strutting about in the sun,
their images reflected by the water. The colors, the pure atmosphere,
the pretty, quiet house, the solemn silence, the presence, felt but not
seen, of thousands of peaceful, happy human beings, the light horizon
with the mighty sun-lit mountain chain - all this was too beautiful for
I called my beloved that she should come and look too. I did not see
her, but I heard her dear voice saying:
"What a quantity of flowers!"
Then I felt the desire to pray, and facing toward the direction whence
the light came, I for the first time no longer saw the dark cloud which
I had always seen there until Elsje's death and which after that time
only gradually dissolved. And for the first time in the dream-world I
saw the disc of the sun.
Then I spoke to Christ, passionately and eloquently as I had never done
before and surely would never be able to do in the day-time. Gratitude
and love I gave utterance to.
"My father and my mother thou art, and I love thee despite all I have
suffered for thee. I am willing to suffer for thee, and I feel no
bitterness for the grief I have suffered. I forgive thee, I forgive
thee, and I know that thou forgivest me all my follies and my
weaknesses - for between us there shall no longer be any question of
forgiveness, but only of gratitude, even as between myself and my
beloved. For we cannot conceive thee and therefore cannot love thee
sufficiently, and we only love thee in each other, even as we know each
other. But I know that the love for my beloved is love for thee and
that in her I love thee. And I feel no regret and am happy and
thankful, content to have followed thee and served thee, firmly
believing that I shall grow in power till I shall recognize and attain
fitness for eternal blessedness. I ask for nothing, but I long for thee
and for thy Glory, and I shall leave behind a glowing trail of
gratitude so that the others may find thee by it."
As I said this, I saw light mists draw away from the face of the sun,
and it began to shine with blinding radiance. This seemed such a
gracious revelation to me that I could only cry: Ah! Ah! in my
transport. Then I felt that I would weep or faint from joy, but that I
did not want, and I awoke!
That morning I was refreshed and well fortified against trouble.
The only thing I still fear is a weakening of the mind in my declining
years, so that I should have to drift about for years as a hopeless
wreck. I have a theory that one can prevent this by sagacious prudence
and by exertion and exercise of the contemplative power.
But this theory has yet to be proved. And my example alone would not be
sufficient for that.
As long as I retain my clearness of mind, I have plenty of work in
elaborating these ideas and conceptions which so far I have only
In the first place?
- - -
The E------ Journal in its issue of June 12th, 1908, published the
"To-day a sad accident occurred outside the harbor within eight of our
town. On the yacht 'Elsje,' belonging to Mr. Muralto, a fire started,
presumably caused by the upsetting of an alcohol lamp. The entire
vessel was speedily ablaze. Mr. Muralto, despite his great age a strong
swimmer, jumped overboard, endeavoring to carry his companion, a
skipper's lad who could not swim, to the haven on some planks. But the
strong current pulled both out to sea. The boy was picked up by a
home-sailing sloop, Mr. Muralto was drowned. As the deemed was
universally respected and loved for his benevolence and unassuming
manner, his death arouses universal sympathy in our town."