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Friedrich Schiller


Friedrich Schiller’s
Philosophical Letters

translated by William Wertz, Jr.

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Philosophical Letters
Translated by William F. Wertz, Jr.


The Philosophical Letters were published by Schiller in the March 1786 edition of Thalia, Schiller’s journal of poetry and philosophical writings. The idea for the letters arose earlier, during Schiller’s academic years. The poem Friendship, which is quoted in part in the letters, originally appeared in an anthology of his poems in the year 1782 and was referred to as coming from the letters of Julius to Raphael, a yet unpublished fictional work.

Although the letters are represented as a fiction, the Theosophy of Julius, which is the centerpiece of the correspondence, clearly reflects the philosophical outlook of the young Schiller. The role of Raphael was assumed by Schiller’s friend Christian Gottfried Körner. The beginning of the first letter from Raphael was apparently written by Körner, and the second letter from Raphael, which is the concluding letter of the correspondence, was definitely written by Körner and not Schiller.

Although Schiller printed the final letter by Körner in Thalia, it did not appear in the first printing, nor in subsequent printings. This letter was apparently part of a plan by Schiller to continue the letters beyond the Theosophy of Julius, but this plan was never carried out beyond Körner’s final letter. This letter is therefore included in this translation for its historical interest, but should not be read as a direct philosophical statement by Schiller. It in no way contradicts the view, that the Theosophy of Julius and the poem Friendship reflect the youthful philosophical outlook of the Poet of Freedom.

Reason has its epochs, its destinies, like the heart, but its history is far more rarely treated. One seems to be satisfied therewith, to develop the passions in their extreme, their aberrations and consequences, without taking into consideration, how exactly they cohere with the intellectual system of the individual. The universal root of moral degeneration is a one-sided and wavering philosophy, so much the more dangerous, because it blinds the beclouded reason with an appearance of lawfulness, truth, and conviction, and just for this reason is held less in bounds by the inborn moral feeling. An enlightened understanding, on the other hand, also ennobles the sentiments—the head must form the heart.

In an epoch like the present one, where facilitation and spread of reading so astonishingly enlarges the thinking part of the public, where the happy resignation to ignorance begins to make room for a half enlightenment and only a few still wish to remain there, where the accident of birth has cast them down, it seems not to be so entirely unimportant to call attention to certain periods of awakening and progressing reason, to correct certain truths and errors, which are connected to morality and can be a source of felicity and misery, and, at the very least, to indicate the concealed reefs on which proud reason has already run aground. We arrive at truth only rarely other than through extremes—we must first exhaust the error—and often the nonsense, before we work ourselves up to the beautiful goal of tranquil wisdom.

Some friends, inspired by an equal warmth for the truth and moral beauty, who have united upon entirely different pathways in the same conviction and now survey with more tranquil glance the already traveled course, have joined in the plan, to develop several revolutions and epochs of thought, several excesses of the pondering reason in the portrait of two young men of unequal character, and to place them before the world in the form of an exchange of letters. The following letters are the beginning of this attempt.

The opinions which will be presented in these letters, can therefore also only be respectively true or false, just so, as the world is mirrored in this one’s soul and no other. The pursuit of the letter exchange will show how these one-sided, often exaggerated, often contradictory assertions finally are resolved in a universal, purified, and firmly grounded truth.

Skepticism and free-thinking are the feverish paroxysms of the human spirit and must, through the very same unnatural concussion, which they cause in well-organized souls, at last help fortify the health. The more blinding, the more seducing the error, that much more the triumph for truth, the more tormenting the doubt, the greater the invitation to conviction and firm certainty. However, to express this doubt, this error, was necessary; the knowledge of the disease had to precede the cure. The truth loses nothing, if a passionate youth misses it, just as little as virtue and religion, if a scoundrel renounces them.

This had to have been said in advance, in order to specify the point of view from which we wish the following exchange of letters to be read and judged.

Julius to Raphael

In October.
Thou art gone, Raphael—and the beautiful nature sinks below, the leaves fall yellow from the trees, a thick autumn fog lies like a pall over the deserted fields. Alone I wander through the melancholy region, call out thy name aloud and am wroth, that my Raphael does not answer me.

I have survived thy last embraces. The sad rush of the carriage, which transported thee away, was at last silenced in mine ear. I, the fortunate one, had already piled up a charitable hill of earth over the joys of the past, and now thou standest up like thy departed spirit anew in these regions, and announcest thyself to me at each favorite site of our walks. These rocks have I ascended at thy side, at thy side I wandered through this immeasurable perspective. In the black sanctuary of this beech grove we first devised the bold ideal of our friendship. Here it was, where we for the first time unrolled the genealogical tree of the spirit and Julius found in Raphael such a close relative. Here is no spring, no thicket, no hill, where some memory of departed happiness did not take aim at my tranquility. Everything, everything has conspired against my recovery. Wherever I but tread, I repeat the anxious scene of our separation.—

What hast thou made of me, Raphael? What has in a short time become of me! Dangerous great man! that I never had known or never lost thee! Hasten back, come back upon the wings of love, or thy tender planting is past. Couldst thou venture with thy gentle soul, to abandon thy work just begun, still so far from its completion? The founding pillars of thy proud wisdom totter in my brain and heart, all the magnificent palaces, which thou didst construct, collapse, and the worm, crushed to death, writhes whimpering under the ruins.

Blessed paradisiacal time, when with eyes bound, I still staggered through life like a drunk—when all my forwardness and all my wishes turned back once again to the boundaries of my fatherly horizon—when a serene sunset caused me to have a presentiment of nothing higher than a beautiful day in the morrow—when only a political newspaper reminded me of the world, only the funeral bell of eternity, only ghost stories of being called to account after death, when I still trembled before a devil and all the more heartily clung to the Divinity. I felt and was happy. Raphael has taught me to think, and I am on the way to weep over my creation.

Creation? —No, that is indeed only a sound without meaning, which my reason may not permit. There was a time, when I knew of nothing, when no one knew of me, therefore one says, I was not. That time is no longer, therefore one says, that I be created. However, one now also knows nothing more of the millions, who were present centuries ago, and yet one says, they are. Whereupon ground we the right, to affirm the beginning and to deny the end? The cessation of thinking beings, one asserts, contradicts infinite Goodness. Did this infinite Goodness then originate first with the creation of the world? —If there had been a period, when there were still no spirits, was infinite Goodness thus indeed ineffective for an entire preceding eternity? If the structure of the world is a perfection of the Creator, so did He indeed lack a perfection before the creation of the world? However, such an assumption contradicts the idea of the perfect God, therefore there was no creation—Where have I gotten to, my Raphael?—Terrible fallacy of my conclusions! I give up the Creator, so soon as I believe in a God. Wherefore do I need a God, if I suffice without the Creator?

Thou hast stolen the belief from me, which gave me peace. Thou hast taught me to despise, where I worshipped. A thousand things were so venerable to me, before thy sad wisdom undressed them to me. I saw a crowd of people stream toward the church, I heard their inspired devotion unite in a brotherly prayer—twice did I stand before the bed of death, saw twice—powerful wonderwork of religion!—the hope of heaven triumph over the horror of annihilation and kindle the fresh light beams of joy in the dimmed eyes of the dying. Godly, yes godly must the doctrine be, I called out, which the best among men acknowledge, which so powerfully triumphs and so wonderfully comforts. Thy cold wisdom extinguished my enthusiasm. Just as many, thou didst say to me, once thronged around the Statue of Armenius and to Jupiter’s temple, just as many have just as joyfully ascended the stake to honor their Brahma. What thou findest so abominable in heathenism, shall that prove the divinity of thy doctrine?

Believe none but thine own reason, thou didst further say. There is nothing more holy than the truth. What reason discerns, is the truth. I have thee obeyed, have all opinions sacrificed, have, like that desperate conqueror, set fire to all my ships, when I landed on this island, and destroyed all hope of return. I can never again reconcile myself with an opinion, which I once ridiculed. My reason is now all to me, my only guarantee for divinity, virtue, immortality. Woe to me from now on, if I meet this only guarantor in a contradiction! if my respect for its conclusions sinks! if a broken thread in my brain shifts its course! —My happiness is from now on entrusted to the harmonious rhythm of my sensorium. Woe to me, if the strings of this instrument give a false sound in the critical periods of my life—if my convictions waver with my pulse beat!

Julius to Raphael

Thy theory has flattered my pride. I was a prisoner. Thou hast led me out into the day, the golden light and the immeasurable open air have delighted mine eyes. Before, I was satisfied with the modest reputation of being called a good son of my house, a friend of my friends, a useful member of society, thou hast transformed me into a citizen of the universe. My wishes had not yet encroached upon the rights of the great. I tolerated those fortunate ones, because beggars tolerated me. I did not blush to envy a part of the human species, because there was yet a greater part remaining, which I had to lament. Now I learned for the first time, that my pretensions to enjoyment were as weighty as those of my remaining brothers. Now I realized, that a layer above this atmosphere I was worth exactly as much and as little as the rulers of the earth. Raphael cut all bonds of agreement and of opinion in two. I felt myself entirely free—for reason, Raphael said to me, is the only monarchy in the world of spirits, I carried my imperial throne in my brain. All things in heaven and upon the earth have no worth, no valuation, except so much as my reason concedes them. The entire creation is mine, for I possess an unchallengable full power, to enjoy it fully. All spirits—one step below the most perfect Spirit—are my fellow brothers, because we all obey one rule, to pay homage to one Supreme Master.

How sublime and magnificent this announcement sounds! What a store for my thirst of knowledge! but—unfortunate contradiction of nature—this free upward-striving spirit is woven into the rigid, unchangeable clockwork of a mortal body, mixed up with its small requirements, yoked to its small destiny—this god is banished into a world of worms. The enormous space of nature is opened to his activity, but he may only not think two ideas at the same time. His eyes carry him up to the sunny goal of the Divinity, but he himself must first creep toward Him inertly and laboriously through the elements of time. To exhaust one enjoyment, he must give up for lost every other; two unrestricted desires are too great for his small heart. Every newly acquired joy costs him the sum of all the previous ones. The present moment is the tomb of all of the past ones. A shepherd’s rendezvous is an intermittent pulse beat in friendship.

Wherever I but look, Raphael, how limited is man! How great the distance between his pretensions and their fulfillment!—Oh yet envy him his beneficent sleep. Wake him not. He was so happy, until he began to question, whither he had to go, and whence had come. Reason is a torch in a prison. The prisoner knew nothing of the light, but a dream of freedom appeared over him like a lightning flash in the night, which leaves it darker behind. Our philosophy is the unhappy curiosity of Oedipus, who did not slacken his search, until the horrible oracle was solved.

Mayest thou never discover who thou art!

Does thy wisdom compensate me, for what it has taken from me? If thou hadst no key to heaven, why didst thou have to lead me away from the earth? If thou didst know in advance, that the way to wisdom led through the terrible abyss of doubt, why didst thou venture the peaceful innocence of thy Julius upon this dubious design?

—If to the good,
Which I intend to do, there borders all
Too near what’s very bad, so I would rather
Not do the good—

Thou hast torn down a cottage which was inhabited, and founded a magnificent dead palace upon the spot.

Raphael, I claim my soul from thee. I am not happy. My courage is gone. I despair of mine own strength. Write me soon. Only thy healing hand can pour balsam on my burning wound.

Raphael to Julius

A happiness such as ours, Julius, without interruption, were too much for a human lot. This thought quite often pursued me in the full enjoyment of our friendship. What then embittered my bliss was curative preparation, for alleviating my present condition. Hardened in the rigorous school of resignation, I am still more susceptible to the comfort of seeing in our separation a small sacrifice, in order to earn from fate the joys of our future union. Thou didst not yet know until now what privation be. Thou dost suffer for the first time—

And yet is it perhaps a benefit for thee, that I was just now torn from thy side. Thou hast to survive an illness, from which thou canst only recover through thine own self alone, in order to be safe from any relapse. The more deserted thou feel’st thyself, the more thou wilt summon all healing power in thyself; the less thou receivest momentary alleviation from deceptive palliatives, the more certain wilt thou succeed in rooting out the evil at its foundation.

That I have roused thee from thy sweet dreams, I do not yet regret, even if thy present condition is unpleasant. I have done nothing except accelerate a crisis, which, to such souls as thine, sooner or later is inevitably imminent and in which everything depends thereon, in which period of life it is endured. There are situations in which it is terrible, to despair at truth and virtue. Woe to him, who, in the storms of passion, has to fight with the subtleties of a caviling reason. What this means I have felt myself in its entire extent, and, in order to preserve thee from such a destiny, nothing remained left to me, but to neutralize this unavoidable epidemic through inoculation.

And what more favorable moment could I have chosen, my Julius! In the full strength of youth thou stoodst before me, body and spirit in the most glorious bloom, oppressed by no cares, fettered by no passion, to succeed freely and strongly in the great fight, whereof the sublime peace of conviction is the prize. Truth and error were not yet interwoven in thine interest. Thine enjoyment and thy virtues were independent of both. Thou didst require no deterring images to pull thee back from base debaucheries. The feeling for noble joys had made these disgusting to thee. Thou wert good from instinct, from undesecrated moral grace. I had nothing to fear for thy morality, if a structure collapsed on which it was not grounded. And yet thine apprehensions did not yet frighten me. Whatever may inspire in thee a melancholy temper, I know thee better, Julius.

Ungrateful one! Thou dost decry reason, thou forgetest, what joys it has already awarded to thee. Even hadst thou been able to escape the addiction to doubt for thine entire life, so was it a duty for me, not to withhold pleasures from thee, of which thou wert capable and worthy. The step, whereon thou stoodst, was not worthy of thee. The path, on which thou didst climb upward, offered thee compensation for everything that I robbed from thee. I still remember with what delight thou didst bless the moment, when the bandage fell from thine eyes. That warmth, with which thou didst grasp the truth, has perhaps led thine all-devouring imagination to the abyss, before which, terrified, thou drawest back shuddering.

I must trace the course of thine inquiries, in order to discover the sources of thy complaints. Thou hast otherwise written up the results of thy reflections. Send me these papers, and then I will answer thee.—

Julius to Raphael

This morning I root through my papers. I find a lost composition again, drawn up in those happy hours of my proud enthusiasm. Raphael, how entirely different do I find everything now! It is the wooden stage of the theater, when the lighting is gone. My heart sought a philosophy, and phantasie substituted her dreams. The warmest was to me the true.

I search for the laws of the spirit—swing myself up to the infinite, but I forgot to prove, that they really are at hand. A bold assault of materialism collapses my creation.

Thou wilt read through this fragment, my Raphael. Would that thou dost succeed, in kindling once again the extinct sparks of my enthusiasm, to reconcile me again with my genius—but my pride has sunk so deeply, that even Raphael’s applause will hardly raise it up again.

Theosophy of Julius

The world and the thinking being

The universe is a thought of God. After this ideal mental image stepped over into reality and the engendered world fulfilled the plan of its Creator—permit me this human presentation—so is the vocation of all thinking beings to find once again the first design in this existing whole, to seek out the rule in the machine, the unity in the composition, the law in the phenomenon and to pass backwards from the structure to its founding design. Therefore for me there is a single appearance in nature, the thinking being. The great composition, which we name the world, remains only noteworthy to me know, because it is present, to indicate to me symbolically the manifold expressions of that being. Everything in me and outside of me is only the hieroglyph of a power, which is similar to me. The laws of nature are the ciphers, which the thinking being joins together, to make itself understandable to the thinking being—the alphabet, by means of which all spirits converse with the most perfect spirit and with themselves. Harmony, truth, order, beauty, excellence give me joy, because they remove me into the active condition of their inventor, of their possessor, because they betray to me the presence of a rational, feeling being and let me divine my relationship with this Being. A new experience in this realm of truth, gravitation, the discovered circulation of the blood, the natural system of Linnaeus, are to me originally the same, as an antique, dug up at Herculaneum—both only the reflection of one spirit, a new acquaintance with a being similar to me. I confer with the infinite through the instrument of nature, through the history of the world—I read the soul of the Artist in his Apollo.

Wouldst thou convince thyself, my Raphael, so search backwards. Each state of the human sould has some parable in the physical creation, through which it is indicated, and not artists and poets alone, but even the most abstract thinkers have drawn from this abundant warehouse. Lively activity we name fire, time is a stream, which rolls rapaciously forth, eternity is a circle, a mystery is wrapped in midnight, and the truth dwells in the sun. Yes, I begin to believe, that even the future destiny of the human spirit lies proclaimed in advance in the dark oracle of the physical creation. Each coming spring, which forces the shoots of plants out of the womb of the earth, gives me explanation of the uneasy riddle of death and refutes my anxious apprehension of an eternal sleep. The swallow, which we find benumbed in winter and in spring see come to life again, the dead caterpillar, which, made young anew as the butterfly, rises into the air, give us an excellent sensuous image of our immortality.

How noteworthy everything becomes to me now!—Now, Raphael, all is peopled round about me. There is for me no longer any solitude in the whole of nature. Where I discover a body, there I divine a spirit—Where I notice movement, there I conjecture a thought.

“Where no dead lies buried, where no resurrection will be,” speaks Omnipotence indeed to me through His works, and so I understand the theory of an omnipresence of God.


All spirits are drawn by perfection. All—there are aberrations here, but no single exception—all strive after the condition of the highest free expression of their powers, all possess the common drive, to extend their activity, to draw all to themselves, to assemble in themselves, to make their own, what they recognize as good, as excellent, as attractive. Intuition of the beautiful, of the true, of the excellent is the instantaneous taking possession of these properties. Whichever condition we perceive, we enter into it ourselves. In the moment, when we think of them, we are the proprietors of a virtue, the authors of an action, inventors of a truth, owners of a happiness. We ourselves become the perceived object. Let me be confused here by no ambiguous smile, my Raphael—this assmption is the basis, whereupon I based all the following, and we must be agreed; before I have courage, to complete my construction.

The inner feeling already tells everyone something similar. When we, for example, admire an act of generosity, of bravery, of intelligence, does not a secret consciousness stir here in our heart, that we were capable of doing the same? Does not the bright red, which at the hearing of such a story colors our cheeks, already betray, that our modesty trembles at the admiration? that we become embarrassed over the praise, which the ennobling of our being must earn us? Yes, even our body in this moment expresses itself in the gestures of the acting man and shows clearly, that our soul has passed over into this condition. If thou wert present, Raphael, when a great event was related before a large assembly, didst thou not take a look at the narrator, how he himself awaited the incense, he himself consumed the applause, which was offered to his hero—and, if thou wert the narrator, didst thou never surprise thy heart in this happy deception? Thou hast examples, Raphael, how lively I can even wrangle with my heart’s friend about the reading of a beautiful anecdote, of an excellent poem, and my heart has softly confessed to me, that I only begrudged thee the laurel, which passed over from the creator to the reader. A quick and intimate artistic feeling for virtue is universally held to be a great talent for virtue, just as one on the contrary has no hesitation, to question the heart of a man, whose head grasps moral beauty difficultly and slowly.

Do not object to me, that not infrequently the opposing defect is found with the lively perception of a perfection, that a high enthusiasm for the excellent often overcomes even the villain, an enthusiasm of high herculean greatness sometimes flames through even the weak. I know for example, that our admired Haller, who unmasked in such a manly way the esteemed nothingness of vain honors, whose philosophical greatness I afforded so much admiration, that even he was not able to despise the even more vain nothingness of a knight’s star (medallion), which offended his greatness. I am convinced, that in the happy moments of the ideal, the artist, the philosopher and the poet are really the great and good men, whose image they throw away—however, this ennobling of the spirit is with many only an unnatural condition produced forcibly by a more lively boiling of the blood, a more rapid flight of the phantasie, which, however, for that very reason, disappears as fleetingly as any other enchantment and delivers the heart all the more exhausted over to the despotic caprice of the base passions. All the more exhausted, I say—for a universal experience teaches, that the relapsing criminal is always the more furious, that the renegades of virtue only recover all the more sweetly from the uncomfortable compulsion of repentence in the arms of vice.

I wanted to prove, my Raphael, that it is our own condition, when we feel a strange one, that the perfection becomes ours at the moment, wherein we awaken in ourselves a conception of it, that our pleasure in truth, beauty and virtue is resolved at last in the consciousness of our own ennobling, our own enriching, and I believe, I have proven it.

We have concepts of the wisdom of the highest Being, of his goodness, of his righteousness—but none of his omnipotence. To indicate his omnipotence, we help ourselves with the stepwise presentation of three successions: Nothing, His Will, and Something.l It is waste and dark—God calls: Light—and it becomes light. Had we a real idea of His working omnipotence, so were we creators, as He.

Every perfection, therefore, which I perceive, becomes mine own, it gives me joy, because it is mine own, I desire it, because I love myself. Perfection in nature is no property of matter, but rather of the spirit. All spirits are happy through their perfection. I desire the happiness of all spirits, because I love myself. The happiness, which I present to myself, becomes my happiness, therefore it depends upon me, to awaken these presentations, to multiply and to elevate them—therefore, it depends upon me, to extend happiness all around me. What beauty, what excellence, what enjoyment I bring forth outside me, I bring forth myself, that which I neglect, destroy, I destroy myself, I neglect myself—I desire the happiness of others, because I desire my own. Desire for the happiness of others we name benevolence, love.


Now, best Raphael, let me look around. The height has been scaled, the fog has fallen, as in a blossiming landscape I stnd in the midst of the immeasurable. A purer sunlight has refined all my concepts.

Love therefore—the most beautiful phenomenon in the soul-filled creation, the omnipotent magnet in the spiritual world, the source of devotion and the most sublime virtue—Love is only the reflection of this single original power, an attraction of the excellent, grounded upon an instantaneous exchange of the personality, a confusion of being.

When I hate, so take I something from myself; when I love, so become I so much the richer, by what I love. Forgiveness is the recovery of a lost property—hatred of man a prolonged suicide; egoism the highest poverty of a created being.

As Raphael stole away from my last embrace, my soul was torn apart, and I cry at the loss of my more beautiful half. On that blessed evening—thou art acquainted with it—when our souls for the first time ardently came in touch, all thy great perceptions became mine own, I only asserted mine eternal property right upon thine excellence—prouder thereof, to love thee, than to be loved by thee, for the first had made me into Raphael.

“Was’t not this omnipotent desire,
That in love’s eternal happy fire
Did our hearts unto each other force?
Raphael, upon thine arm—delight!
Venture I to th’spir’tual sun so bright
Joyful on perfection’s course.

Happy! Happy! Thee have I thus found,
Have from out of millions thee wound round,
And from out the millions thou art mine.
Let the savage chaos come once more,
Let the atoms in confusion pour,
For eternity our hearts entwine.

Must I not from out thy flaming eyes
Draw th’ reflection of my paradise?
But in thee I wonder at myself.
Fairer doth th’ fair earth to me appear,
In the friend’s demeanor shines more clear,
Lovelier the Heav’n itself.

Melancholy drops the tearful weight,
Sweetly th’storm of passion to abate,
In the breast of charity.
Seeks not e’en the torturous delight,
Raphael, within thy spirit’s sight,
A voluptuous grave impatiently?

Stood i’th’ All o’ creation I alone,
Do I dream of souls i’th’ rocky stone,
And embracing them I kiss.
My complaints I moan into the sky
I enjoyed, the chasm did reply,
Fool enough, sweet sympathetic bliss.”—

Love does not take place between similarly sounding souls, but between harmoneious ones. With pleasure I discern again my perceptions in the mirror of thine, but with more fiery longing I devour the higher ones, which are lacking in me. One rule guides friendship and love. The gentle Desdemona loves her Othello for the dangers, which he survived; the manly Othello loves her for the tears, which she shed for him.

There are moments in life, when we are disposed, to press to our bosoms every flower and every distant star, every worm and every higher spirit thought of—an embrace of the whole of nature like our beloved. Thou dost understand me, my Raphael. The man, who has brought it so far, as to gather up all beauty, greatness, excellence in the small and great of nature and to find the great unity in this manifoldness, has already moved very much nearer to the Divinity. The entire creation runs into his personality. If each man loved all men, so each individual possessed the world.

The philosophy of our time—I fear—contradicts this theory. Many of our thinking heads have made it their business, to mock this heavenly instinct away from the human soul, to effact the stamp of divinity and to dissolve this energy, this noble enthusiasm in the cold, deadening breath of a pusillanimous indifference. In the slavish feeling of their own loss of worthiness, they have resigned themselves to the dangerous enemy of benevolence, self-interest, to explain a phenomenon, that was too godlike for their limited hearts. Out of a scanty egoism they have spun their comfortless theory and have made their own limits into the measure of the Creator—Degenerate slaves, who decry freedom amidst the clang of their chains. Swift, who carried the reproach of folly up to the insult of mankind and at first wrote his own name on the pillory, which he erected for the whole species, even Swift could not inflict so deadly a wound upon human nature as these dangerous thinkers, who adorn their self-interest with every display of sagacity and genius and ennoble it into a system.

Why should the entire species suffer, if several members despair of their worth?

I admit it frankly; I believe in the reality of an unself-interested love. I am lost, if it is not, I give up the Divinity, immortality and virtue. I have no further remaining proof for these hopes, if I cease, to believe in love. A spirit, which loves itself alone, is a swimming atom in the immeasurable empty space.


But love has brought forth effects, which seem to contradict its nature.

It is thinkable, that I enlarge my own happiness through a sacrifice, which I offer for the happiness of others—but also then, when this sacfifice is my life? And history has examples of such sacrifice—and I feel it lively, that it should cost me nothing, to die for Raphael’s deliverance. How is it possible, that we regard death as a means, to enlarge the sum of our enjoyments? How can the cessation of my existence agree with the enrichment of my being?

The assumption of an immortality lifts this contradiction—but it also distorts forever the high gracefulness of this appearance. Consideration of a rewarding future excludes love. There must be a virtue, which even without the beliefe in immortality suffices, which even at the danger of annihilation effects the same sacrifice.

It is indeed ennobling to the human soul to sacrifice the present advantage for the eternal—it is the noblest degree of egoism—but egoism and love separate mnankind into two higly dissimilar races, whose boundaries never flow into one another. Egoism erects its center in itself; love plants it outside of itself in the axis of the eternal whole. Love aims at unity, egoism at solitude. Love is the co-governing citizen of a blossoming free state, egoism a despot in a ravaged creation. Egoism sows for gratitude, love for ingratitude. Love gives, egoism lends—immaterial before the throne of the judging truth, whether for the enjoyment of the next-following moment, or with the view towards a martyr’s crown—immaterial, whether the tributes fall in this life or in the other!

Think thee of a truth, my Raphael, which benefits the whole human species into distant centuries—add thereto, this truth condemns its confessors to death, this truth can only be proven, only be believed, if he dies. Think thee then of the man with the bright encompassing sunny look of genius, with the flaming wheel of enthusiasm, with the wholly sublime predisposition to love. Let the complete ideal of this great effect climb aloft in his soul—let pass to him in a faint presentiment all happiness, which he shall create—let the present and the future press together at the same time in his spirit—and now answer this, does this man require the assignment to an other life?

The sum of all these perceptions will become confused with his personality, will flow together into one with his I. The human species, that he now thinks, is he himself. It is one body, in which his life, forgotten and dispensible, swims like a blood drop—how quickly will he shed it for his health!


All perfections in the universe are united in God. God and nature are two quantities, which are perfectly alike.

The whole substance of harmonic activity, which exists together in the divine substance, is in nature, the image of this substance, scattered in innumerable degrees and measures and steps. Nature (permit me this pictorial expression), nature is an infinitely divided God.

As in the prismatic glass a white stripe of light is split up into seven darker beams, the divine has been broken into countless perceiving substances. As seven darker beams melt together again in one bright stripe of light, out of the union of all these substances a divine being would issue forth. The existing form of nature’s structure is the optical glass, and all activities of the spirit only an infinite play of colors of that simple divine beam. If it pleased the Omnipotence one day, to smash this prism, so the dam between it and the world would collapse, all spirits would sink into one infinity, all accords flow into one another in one harmony, all brooks cease in one ocean.

The attractive power of the elements brought about the bodily form of nature. The attractive power of spirits, multiplied and continued into the infinite, had to lead at last to the annulment of that separation, or (may I express it, Raphael?) bring forth God. Such an attractive power is love.

Therefore love, my Raphael, is the ladder, whereby we climb aloft to divine likeness. Without laying claim thereto, unconsciously to ourselves, we aim therat.

“Lifeless groups are we, whene’er we hate,
Gods, when lovingly we do relate,
Yearning for the gentle shackles’ force.
Upwards through the thousandfold gradation
Of the countless spirits in creation,
Does this urge divinely course.

Arm in arm, e’er freer still and freer
From barbarian to Grecian seer, Who unto the last Seraph is near,
Of one mind in coiling dance we flow,
Till there in the sea of everlasting glow
Time and measure dying disappear.

Friendless was the lord o’th’ world so great,
Lack he felt, thus spirits did create,
Mirrors blest of his felicity.
Though the Highest one no equal found,
From the cup of all of being’s round,
Foams to him Infinity.”

Love, my Raphael, is the exuberantly growing arcanum to produce again the dishonored king of gold from the plain chalk, to rescue the eternal from the ephemeral, and the great oracle of duration from the destroying blaze of time.

What is the sum of all the foregoing?

Let us look into excellence, so it becomes ours. Let us become intimate with the high idealistic unity, so we shall join to one another with brotherly love. Let us plant beauty and joy, so we harvest beauty and joy. Let us think clearly, so shall we love ardently. Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect, says the founder of our belief. Weak humanity grew pale at this command, therefore He explained Himself more clearly: Love one another.

“Wisdom with the sunlike view,
Goddess great, step backward do,
Yield the way to love.
Who i’th’ steep and starry sky
Led thee like a hero nigh
To the Godhead’s room?
Who unveiled the holy home,
Showed to thee Elysium
Through the breach o’th’ tomb?

Bid us enter did not she,
Wished we immortality?
Sought we too the spirits
Without her the master?
Love and Love alone doth lead
To the Father of the seed,
Love alone the spirits.”

(Translators Note: These two stanzas are excerpted
by Schiller from his poem The Triumph of Love

Here, my Raphael, hast thou my reason’s confession of belief, a fleeting outline of my undertaken creation. Just as thou findest here, the seed came up, which thou strewest thyself in my soul. Mock now or take joy or blush at thy student. As thou wishest—but this philosophy has ennobled my heart and beautified the perspective of my life. ’Tis possible, my Best, that the entire scaffolding of my conclusions has been a non-existent vision—the world, as I paint it here, is real perhaps nowhere, except in the brain of thy Julius—perhaps, at the end of a thousand thousand years of that Judge, when the promised wiser man sits upon the seat, at the sight of the true original I shall blushingly tear into pieces my schoolboy design—All of this may transpire, I await it; then, however, even if the reality never once resembles my dream, the reality will surprise me all the more charmingly; all the more magestically. Should my ideas be more beautiful than the ideas of the eternal Creator? How? Should He tolerate it, that His sublime work of art lagged behind the expectations of a mortal connoisseur?—

That is exactly the unique experiment of His great perfection and the sweetest triumph for the highest spirit, that even false conclusions and deception do not injure His acknowledgement, that all serpentine writhings of the unbridled reason at last strike in the straight direction of the eternal truth, at last all apostate arms of its stream run towards the same estuary. Raphael—what idea the Artist rouses in me, who distorts differently in a thousand copies, nevertheless in all the thousands remains self-similar, from whom even the devastating hand of a bungler cannot withdraw worship!

By the way, my representation could be thoroughly wrong, could be thoroughly illegitimate—still more, am I convinced, that it must necessarily be so, and nevertheless it is possible, that all results of it take place. Our whole knowledge, as all wisemen of the world agree, amounts in the end to a conventional deception, with which however the strictest truth can exist. Our purest concepts are in no way images of things, but rather merely their necessary determined and coexisting signs. Neither God, nor the human soul, nor the world is really, that which we consider them. Our thoughts of these things are only the endemic forms, wherein the planet which we inhabit delivers them over to us—our brain belongs to this planet, consequently even the idioms of our concepts, which lie preserved therein. But the power of the soul is peculiar, necessary and always self-similar: the capriciousness of the materials, through which it expresses itself, changes nothing in the eternal laws, according to which it expresses itself, so long as this capriciousness does not stand in contradiction with itself, so long as the sign remains thoroughly true to the thing designated. Thus, as the thinking power develops the relations of the idioms, these relations must also be actually present in the things. Truth, therefore, is no property of the idioms, but rather of the conclusions; not the similarity of the sign with the designated, of the concept with the object, but rather the agreement of these concepts with the laws of the thinking power.

Just so does the theory of quantity make use of ciphers, which are nowhere present except on the paper, and finds therewith, what is present in the real world. What similarity, for example, have the letters A and B, the signs “:” and “=”, “+” and “” with the fact, that should be gained? —And yet the comet announced centuries before rises in the distant heaven, yet the expected planet steps before the disc of the sun. Upon the infallibility of his calculation the world discoverer Columbus makes a risky bet with an unnavigated ocean, to seek the missing second half of the known hemisphere, the great island of Atlantis, which should fill out the gap in his geographical map. He found it, this island of his paper, and his reckoning was right. Would it have been less so, if a hostile storm had shattered his ships or had driven them back toward their home? —The human reason makes a similar calculation, when it measures the nonsensuous with the help of the sensuous and mathematics applies its conclusions to the hidden physics of the super human. But the last test of its calculations is still lacking, for no traveller came back from that land, to tell of his discovery.

Human nature has its own limits, each individual his own. Respecting the former, we wish to comfort ourselves in turns; Raphael will grant this to the boyhood of his Julius. I am poor in conceptions, a stranger in many knowledges, which one assumes to be indispensible to investigations of this kind. I have belonged to no philosophical school and have read few printed writings. It may be, that here and there I substitute my phantasies for stricter conclusions of reason, that I exchange the boilings of my blood, the forebodings and wants of my heart for sober wisdom, also that, my Good one, shall nevertheless not cause me to regret the lost moment. It is real gain for universal perfection, it was the foresight of the wisest spirit, that the erring reason also people even the chaotic land of dreams and should make arable the barren ground of contradiction. Not the mechanical artist only, who polishes the rough diamond into the brilliant—also the other is valuable, who ennobles common stones till they approach the apparent dignity of the diamond. The industry in the forms can sometimes cause one to forget the massive truth of the matter. Is not every exercise of the thinking power, every fine sharpness of the spirit a small step towards its perfection, and every perfection must have obtained existence in the complete world. The reality is not limited to the absolutely necessary: it encompasses also the conditionally necessary; every birth of the brain, every tissue of the wit has an undeniable citizen’s right in this greater sense of creation. In the infinite design of nature no activity was to be left out, no degree of enjoyment was to be lacking to universal happiness. That great Housekeeper of His world, who lets no splinter fall unused, no gap be unpeopled, where still some enjoyment of life has room, who with the poison, that acts hostilely towards man, satisfies vipers and spiders, who sends plantings into the dead province of decay, the small blossoms of voluptuousness, which can germinate in madness, still gives out economically, who still at length processes vice and folly into excellence and knew to spin the great idea of the world-ruling Rome from the lechery of Tarquinius Sextus—This inventive spirit shall also not allow error to consume his great purpose and this wide-ranging world course to run wild in the soul of man and to lie empty of joy? Every facility of reason, even in error, increases the facility for conception of truth.

Let, dear friend of my soul, let me also bear that of mine to the wide-ranging cobweb of human wisdom. The image of the sun is painted differently in the dewdrops of the morning, differently in the majestic mirror of the earth-girdling ocean! But shame to the turbid, cloudy swamp, which never receives it and never reflects it back. Millions of plants drink from the four elements of nature. One room of provisions is open for all; but they mix their sap in a million different ways, return it in a million different ways; the beautiful manifoldness announces a rich master of the house. There are four elements, wherefrom all spirits draw: I, Nature, God, and the Future. All mix them in a million different ways, return them in a million different ways, but there is one truth, which, like a firm axis, goes commonly through all religions and all systems—“Draw near to the God, whom you love.”

Raphael to Julius

That were then certainly bad, if there were no other means, to quiet tee, Julius, than to reproduce in thee the first born of they reflection. I have again found with inner pleasure these ideas, which I saw sprouting up in thee, in thy papers. They are worthy of a soul, such as thine, but here thou couldst and mayest not remain. There are joys for every age, and enjoyments for every degree of the spirit.

Difficult must it have been for thee, to sever thyself from a system, that was so entirely created for the requirements of thine heart. No other one, I wager thereon, will ever again strike such deep roots in thee, and perhaps mayest thou be left entirely but to thyself, in order to become reconciled again sooner or later to thy favorite ideas. The weaknesses of the opposite systems thou wouldst soon observe, and then in their equal unprovability, prefer the one most worthy of being desired, or perhaps discover new grounds of proof, to rescue at least that which is essential thereof, even if thou hadst to abandon some ventured assertions.

But all of this is not in my plan. Thou shalt arrive at a higher freedom of the spirit, where thou art no more in need of such expedients. This is of course not the work of a moment. The ordinary aim of the earliest education is subjugation of the spirit; of all the feats of the art of education this almost always succeeds the first. Even thou in all the elasticity of thy character appearest determined to a wiling submission to the domination of opinions before thousands of others, and this condition of being under age could last in thee all the longer, the less thou feelest the oppression thereof. Head and heart are in thee in the closest connection. The theory became of worth to thee through the teacher. Soon thou didst succeed, to discover an interesting side therein, to ennoble it according to the needs of thine heart, and in regard to the points, which had to be striking to thee, to becalm thyself through resignation. Attacks against such opinions thou didst despise, as boyish revenge of a slavish soul against the rod of the disciplinarian. Thou madest a show with thy fetters, which thou didst believe to carry of thine own free choice.

So I found thee, and it was a sorrowful sight, how thou wert so often hemmed in by anxiouis considerations in the midst of the enjoyment of thy most blossoming life, and in the expression of thy most noble powers. The consistency, with which thou actest according to thy convictions, and the strength of the soul, which made every sacrifice light to thee, were double restrictions of thine activity and thy joys. Then I resolved to frustrate those bungling efforts, whereby one had sought to compel a spirit, like thine, into the form of everyday heads. Everything depended thereon, to make thee attentive to the worth of self-thinking, and to infuse thee with confidence in thine own powers. The result of thy first attempts favored my intention. Thy phantasie was indeed more employed thereby, than thy acumen. Its presentiments compensated thee more rapidly for the loss of thy most dear convictions, than thou couldst expect from the snail’s pace of cold-blooded research, which progresses stepwise from the known to the unknown. However, even this inspired system gave thee the first enjoyment in this new field of activity and I guarded myself more against destroying a welcome enthusiasm, which promoted the development of thy most excellent predisposition. Now the scene has changed. The return under the guardianship of thy childhood is obstructed forever. Thy way goes forward, and thou dost require no further sparing.

That a system such as thine could not endure the test of a strong criticism, may not surprise thee. All attempts of this kind, which resemble thine in boldness and breadth of extent, have no other fate. Also nothing was more natural, than that thy philosophical career began with thee individually, as with the human species as a whole. The first object, on which the human spirit of research attempted, was always—the universe. Hypothesis about the origin of the cosmos and the coherence of its parts had occupied the greatest thinkers for centuries, when Socrates called the philosophy of his times down from the heaven to the earth. But the boundaries of the wisdom of life were too narrow for the proud thirst for knowledge of his followers. New systems arose from the debris of the old. The acument of later times roamed through the immeasurable field of possible answers to those ever anew obtruding questions about the mysterious interior of nature, which could be uncovered through no human experience. Some indeed succeeded, to give the results of their reflections a color of certainty, completeness and evidence. There are many juggling arts, whereby the vain reason seeks to escape the disagrace, not to be able to step beyond the bounds of human nature in the extension of its knowledge. Soon one believes to have uncovered new truths, when one takes apart a concept into the individual components, out of which it was first capriciously composed. Soon an imperceptible assumption serves as the basis of a chain of conclusions, whose gaps one knows how to slyly conceal, and the surreptitiously obtained conclusions are wondered at as high wisdom. Soon one accumulates one-sided experience, in order to found an hypothesis, and conceals the contradictory phenomena, or one mistakes the meaning of words according to the requirements of the line of reasoning. And there are not only artifices for the philosophical charlatan, to deceive his public. Even the most honest, most unprejudiced researcher often employs similar means, without being conscious of it, to satisfy his thirst for knowledge, so soon as he once steps out of the sphere, in which alone his reason can legitimately enjoy the results of its activity.

After what thou hast formerly heard from me, Julius, these expressions must not surprise thee a little. And yet they are not the product of a sceptical whim. I can give thee an account of the grounds, whereon they rest, but hereto I would indeed have to send out in advance a somewhat dry examination into the nature of human knowledge, which I prefer to save for a time, when it will be a requirement for thee. Thou art not yet in that state of mind, where the humiliating truths of the limits of human knowledge can be of interest to thee. First make an attempt at a system, which pushed aside that of thine own with thee. Examine it with the same impartiality and severity. Proceed just the same with the other theoretical structures, which have recently become known to thee; and if none completely satisfies all of thy demands, then the question will be forced upon thee: whether these demands were also really just?

“A disagreeable consolation,” wilt thou say. “Resignation is therefore mine whole prospect after so many glowing hopes? Was it indeed then worth the effort, to summon me to the full employment of my reason, in order to establish bounds to it right then, when it begins to become the most fruitful to me? Did I have to become acquainted with a higher enjoyment, only in order to feel doubly the pain of my limitations?”

And yet it is just this suppressed feeling, which I would so gladly put down in thee. To remove everything, which hinders thee in the full enjoyment of thy existence to bring to life in thee, the germ of every higher inspiration—the consciousness of the nobility of thy soul—this is mine aim. Thou art awakened from the slumber, in which slavery rocked thee among strange opinions. But the measure of the greatness, whereto thou art determined, wouldst thou never fulfill, if thou didst squander thy strength in striving after an unattainable goal. Until now this might have passed, and was also a natural consequence of thy newly achieved freedom. The ideas, which had occupied thee formerly for the most part necessarily had to give the first direction to the activity of thy spirit. Whether this be the most fruitful among all the possible ones, thy own experiences would have to inform thee sooner or later. My job was simply, to accelerate, where possible, this moment.

It is an ordinary prejudice, to estimate the greatness of man according to the matter, with which he is employed, not according to the manner, in which he works upon it. But a higher being certainly honors the stamp of perfection even in the smallest sphere, when in comparison he looks down with pity upon the vain attempt, to survey the cosmos with the sight of an insect. Among all the ideas which are contained in thy essay, I can grant thee from this least of all the proposition, that it be the highest determination of man, to divine the spirit of the Creator of the world in his work of art. Indeed, I also know no more sublime image than art to express the activity of the most perfect being. But an important distinction thou dost appear to have overlooked. The universe is no pure impression of an ideal, like the completed work of a human artist. The latter rules despotically over the dead matter, which he uses to render sensuous his ideas. But in the divine art work, the peculiar value of each of its components is looked after, and this preserving view, with which he values every germ of energy even in the smallest creature, glorifies the master just so much, as the harmony of the immeasurable whole. Life and Freedom, to the greatest possible extent, is the stamp of divine creation. It is never more sublime, than, where it seems to be most short of its ideal. But even this higher perfection can not be grasped by us in our present limitation. We survey a too small part of the cosmos, and the resolution of the great abundance of dissonances is unachievable to our ears. Every step, which we climb up the ladder of being, will make us more susceptible of this enjoyment of art, but even then it certainly has its value only as a means, only insofar as it inspires us to similar activity. Lazy admiration of an unknown greatness can never be a higher merit. The nobler man is neither lacking in matter for his efficacy nor in the powers, to become himself a creator in his own sphere. And this vocation is also thine, Julius. Hast thou once recognized it, so wil it never occur to thee again, to complain about the limits, which thy thirst for knowledge can not overstep.

And this is the moment, which I expect, to see thee completely reconciled with me. First must the extent of thy powers become fully known to thee, before thou canst appreciate the value of its freest expression. Until then, be angry with me always, only do not despair of thyself.

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