Metaphysics and Religion

If man has ever emerged from the whole of nature (that belongs to his essence, is an act of becoming man) and made it his “subject”, he must somehow turn himself backwards with trembling and ask, “So where do I stand myself? What is my place then?” Indeed, he no longer can say: “I am a part of the world, I am surrounded by it”, because the active being of spirit and human person surpasses the forms of existence of this “world” in time and space.

So, in turning, he looks somehow into nothingness; in this view he discovers the possibility of “absolute nothingness” and that prompts him to question further: “Why is there any world at all? why and how do «I» exist?” Having discovered the randomness of the world, man could behave in two ways:

  1. He could become amazed at it and activate his cognizant spirit to capture the absolute, and become part of it – this is a beginning of every metaphysics; in history has not it appeared until very late and only among very few people.
  2. But he could also, caused by unsurmountable desire to save – not only his individual being, but above all, his entire group – based upon and with huge surplus of fantasy, which, unlike animals, exists in man from the very beginning, populate that sphere of existence with any characters, and through worship and ritual shelter himself under the cover of their power, to get from “behind” some little care and assistance; because in the basic act of alienation from nature and objectification of her – while developing his own being and self-awareness – he seemed to be sinking into pure nothingness. Overcoming of nihilism in the form of such rescue, such support, we call religion. In our philosophical reflections on the relationship of man to the highest principles we must reject all similar ideas.

For us, the basic relationship between man and the Ground of Being consists in the fact that in man – who as such, both as a spiritual and alive being, is only a partial center of the spirit and momentum of “what is real by itself” – I say: in man this Ground is directly comprehended and realized.

The old thought of Spinoza and Hegel and many others is: primary existence becomes self-aware in man himself in the same act in which man sees himself rooted in it. The place of this self-realization, we say: of this self-deification, which is sought by ‘being by himself’ and because of which becoming he accepted the world as “history” – is the man, the human self and the human heart. They are the only place of becoming God that is available to us.

You could tell me, and I was actually told, that man cannot stand unready, becoming God. My response to that is that metaphysics is not an insurance company for the weak people, requiring support. The absolute being does not exist to support man, to complement his ordinary weaknesses and needs.

Max Scheler – The Human Place in the Cosmos

Published by Diogenes

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