The Protestant Era by Paul Tillich
Paul Tillich is generally considered one of the century's outstanding and influential thinkers. After teaching theology and philosophy at various German universities, he came to the United States in 1933. For many years he was Professor of Philosophical Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, then University Professor at Harvard University. His books include Systematic Theology; The Courage to Be; Dynamics of Faith; Love, Power and Justice; Morality and Beyond; and Theology of Culture. The Protestant Era was published by The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois in 1948. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock<
Chapter 8: The Idea and the Ideal of Personality
Personality is that being which has power over itself. Every finite being has a special power, a special vitality, and a meaningful structure. It has a unique form that expresses in a unique way the creative ground of its being as well as of all being. And it has a special higher or lower place in the context of all things, according to the power it represents in the whole of reality. This power of being, of action, reaction, and expression, is given to everything with its very existence. It is its nature, that which makes it what it is—this and nothing else. The same is true of that reality out of which personality grows. In spite of the special character of this reality, it is like everything else, something given, a nature with a unique power and form. We call it "person" and attribute to it the capacity of becoming personality. Only on the basis of that kind of being which we acknowledge as a person in our social evaluations can personality develop. "Person" in this sense is not a legal concept (a corporation can be a legal person); it is a moral concept, pointing to a being which we are asked to respect as the bearer of a dignity equal to our own and which we are not permitted to use as a means for a purpose, because it is purpose in itself. This is the basis of personality, the individual human being, the person who alone among all beings has the potentiality of self-determination and, consequently, of personality.
Personality is that being which has the power of self-determination, or which is free; for to be free means to have power over one’s self, not to be bound to one’s given nature. This is the root of the eternal problem of freedom, that he who is free is so as this special individual with his special nature, law, and form to which he is subject, and which he expresses and transcends in every personal act. It is the same reality, the human individual, the person, who is bound to his nature and to the whole of all nature and yet who controls his nature, thus being in it and above it at the same time. The depth of the problem of freedom is this cleavage in the same being; it exists and yet it is related to its existence by determining it. We can understand this only by a sharp awareness of the way in which we act and determine ourselves. The academic discussions concerning the freedom of the will use concepts that are inappropriate to the act of self-determination as we experience it in every decision. They are inappropriate because, while referring to human beings, they use the pattern of a "thing with qualities." If man is considered an object and nothing more than an object, the question of freedom is answered before it is even asked. And the answer is negative, whether it is expressed in deterministic or in indeterministic terms, for indeterminism is just as far removed from the experience of self-determination as determinism is. Freedom cannot be explained in concepts taken from a reality that is the opposite of freedom. Freedom can be described only in concepts that point to the experience of actual self-determination.
Personality can also be defined as that individual being which is able to reach universality. Freedom is the power of transcending one’s own given nature; but it would not be real freedom if the individual merely exchanged its peculiar nature for another one. Freedom is not the power of transmutation, and personality is not the power of a constant change of attitude, as some romanticists have believed. They surrendered the basis of all freedom, the unique person, the incomparable individuality. Through a universal empathy they were apparently able to understand everything, the remotest past and the strangest forms of life. Something of this is still effective in our historical relativism which can appreciate everything and cannot decide for anything. But the result is not freedom, it is emptiness and cynicism. It is not self-determination but loss of one’s self. And the final outcome is a yearning for something definite and authoritarian, to which the romantic pseudo-freedom is sacrificed. In earlier romanticism it was the authority of the Catholic church which gave security and content; today it is any strong authoritarian system in which the romanticists of our time take refuge. But personality cannot develop on this basis. The freedom of personality is not freedom from one’s individual nature for the sake of another one or none at all; it is freedom for universality on the basis of individuality. Personality is that being in which the individual is transformed by, and united with, the universal structure of being.
If we call "world" the structural unity of an infinite manifoldness, personality and world may be understood as correlative concepts. Man alone has a world, while all living beings, including man, have an environment. But man transcends any given environment in the power of the universal forms and structures of reality which make him a person and make the whole of being a world, a "cosmos." Confronting a world, man becomes a definite self; and, being a definite self, he can confront a world. This basic correlation describes the structure of the reality in which man lives, it makes him a person and a potential personality. The correlation of macrocosm and microcosm which was so important for the thinking of Greek and Renaissance philosophy expresses this interdependence of personality and the universal structure of being. Through confronting the macrocosm, the personal self becomes aware of its own character as a cosmos, and by being a microcosm the personal self is able to apprehend the macrocosm, the world as world. Human freedom is a function of this structural interdependence of self and world, of microcosm and macrocosm. Man can become a unity and totality in himself, because he faces a world that is a unity and totality. And man has a world that is a unity and totality because he is a unity and totality in himself. But, at the same time, man is a part of his world and the world is a part of him. He is both separated from and connected with his world, free from it and bound to it. As a personality, he is closed in himself, and, as having a world, he is open to everything. This tension between being "closed" and being "open" characterizes the development of every personality. The more the openness prevails, the more the personality is in danger of remaining bound to the "mother-womb" of the cosmic whole. The more the closedness prevails, the more the personality is in danger of losing its creative ground and the fulness of life. It is obvious that the danger of the Protestant humanist development of personality, especially on Calvinistic soil, is that of separation, while Catholicism, especially of the Greek Orthodox type, is in danger of losing, or never reaching, a fully developed personal life. Generally speaking, we can attribute the predominance of "openness" to the mother-type of religion (the sacramental type), while the rise of strongly "closed" personalities is connected with the father-type of religion (the theocratic type).
The description given so far has not taken into consideration a basic element in the development of personality, namely, the unconditional demand addressing itself to every potential personality to become an actual personality. Without this element, personalities would develop in the same way as other natural processes—by accident or by necessity. The result of such a process would not be personality but merely another part of nature. The cosmos would devour its own children. Therefore, it is not left to the arbitrary decision of the individual self whether it wants to become a personality. The individual cannot escape the demand to rise above its natural basis, to be free, to become personality. Any attempt to escape this demand confirms the demand by the disintegration which the escape produces in the person. The unconditional demand to be free does not come from outside man, it is not a strange law to which he is subjected by a tyrannical god or a despotic society or a psychological mechanism; it is the expression of his own being, of the ground and aim of his existence. Personality, the possession of control over one’s self, is rooted in the structure of being as being. The depth of reality is freedom, the ultimate power of being is power over itself. And the individual personality is the place within the whole of being where this becomes manifest and actual. The unconditional character of the demand to become personal is the ethical expression of the ontological structure of being itself. This is the religious foundation of the idea of personality. "Vitalistic" philosophy is wrong because it does not penetrate into the level of being in which personality is rooted. It penetrates only into the vital basis of personality but not beyond it. And philosophical "personalism" is wrong because it does not see that personality is not something given but something which has reality only in a free self-realization on the basis of a pre-personal vitality. Only in this latter way is the idea of personality established in its religious sanctity, its ethical dignity, and its ontological profundity. Every religious denial of this idea, every ethical misuse of the personal power in us and others, every ontological dissolution of the wholeness of personal existence, is demonic in its character and destructive in its consequences. The practical and theoretical acknowledgment of personality is an intrinsic element of the Christian message and the Protestant principle.
The experience of the ultimate power and meaning of the personal is expressed in myth and dogma whenever they symbolize the unconditional, the ground and abyss of all beings, in personalistic terms. This kind of symbolism is indispensable and must be maintained against pantheistic, mystical, or naturalistic criticism, lest religion and with it our attitude toward nature, man, and society fall back to the level of a primitive-demonic pre-personalism. The danger of the personal symbol is only that its symbolic character may be forgotten and that a judgment about the depth and meaning of reality may be transformed into a judgment about a special being beside or above us, the existence and nature of which is a matter of proof or disproof. If this takes place, the ground of things itself becomes a thing, a part of the world, and, if it claims absoluteness, it becomes an idol. Facing such an idol, we may revolt and attempt to assume its place, or we may surrender our freedom and dignity as personalities.
Having established and interpreted the idea of personality in its different implications, we now confront a fundamental alternative. It is presupposed that personality is that being which has power over its own being. This leaves two possibilities for any personal life. Either the power of being or the power over being prevails. In the first case, freedom, autonomy, and self-control are weakened or lost and pre-personal elements try to conquer the personal center; but, at the same time, abundance of life, vitality, connection with all powers of being, and dynamic movement increase. Nothing is finished, nothing is subjected to a strict form, life is kept open. In the second case the fulness of life, its natural strength, is weakened or completely repressed; but, at the same time, concentration, self-control, discipline, stability, and consistency are created. Few creative possibilities remain, no "chaos" is left, life has ceased to be open. Since the second type has been promoted as the "ideal of personality", we can say that the conquest of the contemporary ideal of personality in the name of the eternal idea of personality is the aim of the following analyses.
From several possible approaches to the problem of personality we choose three basic issues that have special significance in the present cultural situation. They are: the relationship between personality and things, the relationship between personality and community, and the relationship between personality and soul. This third consideration is the most fundamental one, on which the other two are dependent, for "soul" in the sense in which it is used here designates the prepersonal, vital, unconscious, and collective ground out of which the personality grows. In each case we shall try to carry the analysis to the point where the religious question will become pressing—the question of the ultimate meaning of personality and its relation to the different realms of reality. And we shall ask this question with special reference to the solutions that have been offered and that should be offered by Protestantism.
II. Personality and Thing
The question of the relationship between personality and thing has been dealt with less frequently and less passionately than has the question of the relationship between personality and community. And yet it is an equally important problem, and it has become increasingly fateful for the man of today.
The primitive magical interpretation of reality is based on an experience of the intrinsic power of things. For the primitive man things have a kind of numinous or sacral quality. This gives them a tremendous significance for his whole existence. He feels them always as forces capable of fulfilling or destroying, of shattering or saving, his life. He approaches them with ritualistic methods. Even when he tries to use them, he is bound to their power, their wilfulness, and their protection. He is a part of them, having a limited power of his own but no superiority in principle. He himself is a smaller or greater power among a system of powers to which he must adapt himself.
All this changes when the system of powers is replaced by the correlation of self and world, of subjectivity and objectivity. Man becomes an epistemological, legal, and moral center, and things become objects of his knowledge, his work, and his use. They become "things" in the proper sense of the word—mere objects, without subjectivity, without power, of their own. They lose their numinous power, their sacral quality. They are no longer able to fulfill and to save, nor are they able to destroy and to pervert. Nothing divine and nothing demonic is left in them. They have become means for the personality and have ceased to be ends in themselves.
The process by which things cease to be powers and become mere things has several sources. The first source to be mentioned is the religion of the Old Testament, especially of the prophets. All things are subjected to the God who is their creator. They have no power of their own; they have no sacral quality in themselves. All the numinous power is transferred to the God who alone is God. And this God is the God of righteousness, demanding of everyone the fulfillment of the law and denying to everyone any sacred power. Things are means for the fulfillment of the divine commandments, or they are mirrors of God’s creative power besides which there is no other creativity. From the very beginning of Greek philosophy things are deprived of their sacral power when all power is attributed to the transcendent ground of things. In Plato the inherent power of things is in some way re-established, not in time and space but in the cosmos of eternal essences. The ideal of personality is described in terms of elevation above the real things, in terms of the intuition of their essences. The history of Greek sculpture shows the same development. A continuous process of secularization deprives the gods, men, and things of their divine-demonic substance. They become natural objects presented for aesthetic enjoyment but not for adoration or communion. Lutheran Protestantism has deprived things of their inherent power by making the center of the personality the place where God meets man. Things as we encounter them are "ordered by God." We simply have to accept them in obedient fulfillment of our duties and, for secular Protestantism, in using them efficiently. In Luther himself this attitude is somehow balanced by his great intuition of God’s irrational acting in nature and history and by his own resistance to anything resembling law. But later, after the victory of a rational interpretation of nature, philosophy as well as theology on Lutheran soil lose this insight. The philosopher Fichte calls nature "the visible medium for the fulfillment of duty." And in the theology of Wilhelm Hermann nature appears only as the obstruction to the development of human personality. Just through its fight against nature the Christian personality becomes what it ought to be, and the belief in God is based on the support that he gives in this struggle. In Calvinism things are made powerless, in order to be subjected to the control of the Kingdom of God. They are supposed to serve its divine-human purposes after they have lost their ecstatic quality, their magic power, and their divine-demonic fascination. Wherever remnants of an "ecstatic" attitude appear, they are considered as idolatry and are looked on with abhorrence. All this has led, on the one hand, to a strong antisacramentalism, to an extreme devaluation of things, and, on the other hand, to a most impressive elevation of domineering personalities, contemptuous of nature and things. The secular consequence of this attitude— though in a somehow moderated form—appears in modern bourgeois society and its valuation of natural science and of technical transformation of nature. Not things as such in their quality, in their hierarchy and intrinsic power, are the objects of knowledge but those elements of reality which can be calculated and used for utilitarian purposes. For the sake of their technical use things are deprived of their inherent meaning. The world as a universal machine is the myth of the modern man, and his ethos is the elevation of the personality to the mastery of this machine. These different ways of depriving things of their power in the name of the ideal of personality have merged in the present stage of industrial society and determine the spiritual outlook of our day.
A conspicuous expression of this attitude toward things is to be seen in the way in which applied art uses them and shapes them. The form given to houses, furniture, and all kinds of objects of our daily use is not derived from their inherent power and practical meaning; rather, it is forced upon them from the outside. First, they exist, and then an alleged beauty is put upon them. The lines and colors of most things used for commercial manufacture do not express the true nature of the material of which they are made, nor do they express the purpose for which they are produced. They do not express anything except the bad taste of a society that is cut off from the meaning and power of things. The streets of our cities and the rooms of our houses give abundant and repulsive evidence of the violation of things in our technical civilization. In every ornament produced by this attitude, in the method of trimming things which are supposed not to be beautiful in their genuine appearance, falsehood, facade, and aesthetic betrayal are manifest. That is the necessary result of the loss of vital contact with things.
The present demand for a "new realism" is directed against this distorted subjectivity. It is significant that this demand was first made by technology, although the technical use of things had deprived them of their inherent power more radically than anything else had. Technical products resist arbitrary shapes to a large degree. The machine piston permits no ornaments. It has its intrinsic beauty in its technical perfection. Many of the spiritual leaders in architecture and the applied arts have realized this situation, and they are trying to rediscover the inherent power and beauty of the materials they use and of the products they create. They want to unite themselves with the things, not in order to exploit them but in an attitude of devotion and in the spirit of eros. They are trying to create a new relationship that is based not on violation, willfulness, and arrogance on the part of man but on his desire for community with the power of things. This trend is not confined to a few leaders. It is a large and strong movement, struggling for aesthetic honesty and a new creative dealing with the subpersonal world. The more this movement has advanced, the more it has been realized that everything has levels that transcend scientific calculability and technical usefulness. No thing, not even iron and concrete, is completely determined by its ability to serve utilitarian purposes. Everything has the power to become a symbol for the ground of being," which it expresses in its special way. It is not merely a "thing" but a part of the universal life which, at no point, is completely deprived of freedom, of that freedom which in the personal life comes to its own.
The distortion of the relationship between personality and thing appears not only in the subjection of things to personality but also in the subjection of personality to things. Man who transforms the world into a universal machine serving his purposes has to adapt himself to the laws of the machine. The mechanized world of things draws man into itself and makes him a cog, driven by the mechanical necessities of the whole. The personality that deprives nature of its power in order to elevate itself above it becomes a powerless part of its own creation. This is not an accusation of the machine in the sense of reactionary romanticism; for the machine, like everything that participates in being, is not without an element of individual form, as its most passionate servants often say. They view and feel it sometimes as a living being, with which they have some kind of community and for which they are ready to sacrifice much—and not for merely utilitarian purposes. A new conception of the relation between man and tool, even in large-scale production, an interpretation of the meaning of man’s control of things within a larger religious framework— all this could reduce the slavery of man to the immense machine of mass production and mass consumption. But this possibility is today prevented from realization by forces outside the relation between personality and thing. While the machine takes from the manual worker and upon itself all purely mechanical phases of production, this achievement is largely offset by economic tendencies that are dependent on the possessors of economic power (see the later discussion of the relationship between personality and community).
Personality and thing are united in the "work" in which the power of the thing is discovered and affirmed by the personality and in which the power of the personality is imprinted on the thing. This mutual reception of the personality by the thing and of the thing by the personality means the "fulfillment" of both of them. In creative work the actual freedom of personality and the potential freedom of nature are united. The personal power of self-determination and the determined power of things meet in the form of our work. This is the ethical justification of a full devotion to work, even if it implies the surrender of a fully developed cultural personality. But a sacrifice is also demanded of things: for the sake of a higher unity in which they are forced to enter, they must be restricted in their own natural power. This sacrifice laid upon things in every human dealing with them corresponds to the sacrifice laid upon the personality in every creative work. Both have to give up some of their potential power in order to reach a higher, actual power by entering a new creation. Such considerations are especially significant for our dealing with those living beings, which, although excluded from personal existence, show in their spontaneous reactions an analogy to human self-determination. Here especially is valid what must be said generally about the relationship between personality and thing—that it is, in principle, a mutual service. The true work is a mutual fulfillment, the false work, a mutual violation of personality and thing. The "ideal of personality" in the sense in which we have to conquer it, leads to the exploitation of things and the mechanization of personality; the "idea of personality," as we have to claim it, leads to mutual fulfillment of thing and personality.
III. Personality and Community
Subpersonal beings can be subjected and appropriated by the personality without an absolute resistance from their side. But personality cannot be appropriated at all. It is either destroyed as personality, namely, in its power of self-determination, or it is acknowledged and made a member of a community. The permanent resistance of every personality against any attempt to make it a thing, to appropriate it and deprive it of its self-determination, is the presupposition for the rise of personality as such. Without this resistance of the "thou" to the "ego," without the unconditional demand embodied in every person to be acknowledged as a person in theory and practice, no personal life would be possible. A person becomes aware of his own character as a person only when he is confronted by another person. Only in the community of the I and the thou can personality arise.
Community, however, transcends personality. Community has a special quality, a power of being of its own, which is more than the mere aggregate of all the personalities in the community. It has a life of its own, which can sustain personality but which can also do violence to it. Because of this, a situation arises within the community which corresponds to the relationship between personality and things. In the primitive ritualistic conception of social life, the social groupings, like family, rank, neighborhood, tribe, and ritual community, have a sacral power by which the individual is absolutely subordinated to the community and by which his self-determination is swallowed up in the all-embracing unity of the group. His development into a personality is restricted and often destroyed by the community; yet the community, at the same time, gives to him its life, its fullness and depth, its meaning and content. It is not the individual but rather the tradition—the stream of life that runs through the generations, the sacred custom, the sacral law—that creates and sustains the community. The individual is protected, but only in so far as he is a member of the community. The purpose of the community is not to foster the welfare of the individual but rather to maintain and to strengthen the life of the group, including present and future. The individual is a means, and only as a part of the whole is he an end.
The rise of personality to conscious self-determination occurs when the individual transcends his social ties and subordinations. This can happen in a variety of ways—through the unconditional demand of a religion of law that holds every individual responsible; through the rational criticism of old social structures and the rise of an autonomous culture; through the nominalistic dissolution of social and spiritual unities; through the Protestant appeal to the individual in matters of conscience; through the Calvinistic belief in individual predestination; through the democratic attempt to form a society on the basis of individual reason. In these ways personality becomes the bearer and goal of social life. It subjects the social realities to its own purposes, precisely as it does with the world of things. The sacral powers which had united the society are now secularized and deprived of their meaning. The social groups lose their power to crush and to mutilate personality, but they also lose their power to create and protect it.
A process of social disintegration starts, in which first the community and then the personality is deprived of its spiritual substance. But, since there is no vacuum in social life any more than in nature, other powers enter the space left by the disintegration of the original social unity, especially economic factors, psychological mechanisms, sociological constellations. The personality, after having undermined the community, is undermined itself, even though it be legally recognized and even though, it is aware of ethical demands. The present situation gives abundant evidence of this statement.
Every community is founded on a hierarchy of social powers. According to the sacral interpretation of communal life, the socially powerful personality is the representative of the power inherent in the community itself. The power of this personality does not originate with him as an individual. It is determined by the function he performs for the whole group. This is the original meaning of the idea of the divine vocation of kings. Personal brilliance is not decisive (though it is not excluded if it does not endanger the sacred structure of the whole). The representative of power, even if not especially fitted to wield it, is protected by the "place"—in a certain sense the "sacred" place—that he keeps. The power does not have a private character, it is not created by successful competition between isolated individuals, and consequently it does not produce the opposition of other isolated individuals. Power obtained by birth or sacred succession is silently acknowledged and symbolically expressed. (This, of course, is a structural analysis, not an empirical description. Actually there are always deviations and disturbing trends.)
The rise of personality—in the different ways mentioned above— undermines the sacred degrees of power. Person is equal to person with respect to the most significant "power," namely, that of being a person and consequently a potential personality. This implies the demand for equality in law and for the abolition of sacred privileges. Freedom in the sense of social and spiritual self-determination is fought for. Not the group but the personality is the goal of the group life. Each individual is supposed to have the same opportunity for personal development. But social power does not cease to exist; it belongs to every political structure. And, if it is not a matter of sacred hierarchies, it tends to become a matter of individual will to power. But a domination based on the struggle of strong individuals is lacking in objective responsibility and representative symbolism. The mass of people who are naturally (though not legally) excluded from any serious competition become mere objects of this kind of domination. They are subjected to it, but they do not acknowledge it inwardly. They do not feel that it represents the whole to which they belong. Such a type of social power has a private, profane, naturalistic character, but it is equally coercive for those who are dominated and for those who dominate by subjecting themselves to the rules of the power game. This form of private, objectively irresponsible domination (though exercised often by very responsible personalities) has prevailed in the latest period of Western civilization, above all in the economic field. From the economic field this form of power conquered the political realm by the increasingly powerful apparatus of public communications in press, radio, movies, etc.
This situation places a heavy compulsion upon the ruling economic group. It forces them to stake their whole personal existence on the struggle for economic survival in the universal competition, in obedience either to the laws of the market or to the monopolistic control of the market. They become parts of a dynamic natural force that drives them with or against their will and deprives them of a full human development in their personal life. The poverty of mind and spirit of many of the great economic leaders stands in a surprising contrast to the immense power that is concentrated in their hands. Sometimes this lack of personal growth is the result of a conscious sacrifice; usually it is the consequence of a mixture between social compulsion and personal will to power.
For those who are mere objects of domination this situation means the complete loss of self-determination, it means for them the bondage to the inescapable laws of the business cycle, the horror of permanent insecurity—the other side of the freedom of contract, a spiritual emptiness produced by concentration on the needs of the daily life and by the ever present demon of anxiety. The most significant implication of this development is the fact that labor becomes a commodity which can be bought at will and for any purpose. The relation between man and work, as described earlier, is destroyed. The work ceases to be a meaningful part of life, although it determines the whole life of the worker. The technical mechanization is especially meaningless and depressing for anyone who has not even the consciousness that he contributes to the well-being of the whole group. He cannot have this awareness under normal circumstances, since he must produce for the profit of those who are in power and since his own share in the goods produced is determined by the laws of the market or by the restrictive activity of the monopolies.
The situation in the economic and political realms has strict analogies in the educational and cultural realms. In a social structure of hierarchical character the spiritual form which the individual receives depends upon the degree of social power that he represents. Education shapes the personality in a concrete but limited way, according to the social place in which the individual finds himself through birth and tradition. The purpose of education in this stage of social development is to introduce the new generation into the meaning and reality of the group, its life and its symbols. The ideals determining the education are the traditional ideals of the community, and there is no attempt to go beyond to universal ideals. Autonomous personalities are not permitted to grow. It is the spirit of the group that provides form and meaning, on the one hand, limits and exclusiveness, on the other.
In the degree to which personalities rise over and against this structure of society, new cultural forms are created with a quite different character. They are no longer the expression of a concrete spiritual substance, but they try to express the human as such. They strive toward universality according to the correlation of personality and world. In comparison with the concreteness and exclusiveness of the more collectivistic stages, the humanistic culture is abstract, even when embracing all the concreteness of the past.
There are two elements in the rise of the humanistic personality which demand consideration, the personality as such, on the one hand, and its spiritual content, on the other. The rise of personality has in itself a tremendous significance for the history of culture. It is the way in which mankind realizes the unconditional meaning and value of personality. The humanistic ideal of personality contains as its depth and permanent truth the acknowledgment of the eternal idea of personality. This is its greatness and its indestructible validity. Therefore, theology should be more careful than it usually is in its manner of confronting Christianity with humanism. This applies especially to recent revivals of the struggle between Luther and Erasmus by the neo-orthodox theology. But Luther’s assertion that man’s will is in bondage to demonic structures is meaningful only if man, in his essential nature, is free. Luther’s (as well as Paul’s and Augustine’s and Aquinas’) statement loses its profundity and its paradoxical character if it is identified with philosophical determinism. Only a being that has the power of self-determination can have a servum arbitrium, a "will in bondage," because a being without the power of self-determination has no arbitrium ("capacity of decision") at all. Humanism, of course, if it is nothing more than humanism, does not understand the paradox of the classical Christian doctrine (as much Catholic and Protestant teaching does not either). It does not understand that the Christian doctrine of the bondage and the liberation of man (of sin and grace) speaks of a level of experience which is not even touched by the philosophical statement of man’s essential freedom. In so far as humanism has fought for this freedom, which makes man man and gives him the dignity of being the image of God and the microcosm, humanism is an indispensable element of Christianity.
This leads to the question of the content of the spiritual life of the autonomous personality. What are the principles of its self-determination? What content is to be received in the unity of the humanist personality? The answer can only be: the world as the universe of meaningful forms, for the self-determining personality confronts the world in its infinite possibilities of creative interrelationship. Thus the humanistic ideal of the completely formed personality arises. Humanism has created the ideal of a personality in which, on the basis of a definite individuality, all potentialities of man’s spiritual being are actualized as much as possible. And this ideal controls modern ethics, culture, and education. It has created most impressive personalities in the European Renaissance, in German classicism, in Anglo-Saxon religious humanism. But it has also developed dangerous consequences, not by accident but by its very nature. The humanistic ideal of personality tends to cut the individual off from his existential roots, from the social group, its traditions and symbols. It tends to make him abstract-universal and detached from any concrete concern: everything interests, nothing affects. There is no unconditional concern, demanding, directing, and promising; there is no ultimate meaning, no spiritual center. This, of course, is the result of a long development in which the latent religious power of humanism has evaporated by secularization and naturalistic reduction.
The most disintegrating consequence of the victory of the humanistic ideal of personality is the fact that the latter can be appropriated only by a social class that has the external prerequisites for such an abstract universalism. And even within the class that is able to receive and to mediate this humanistic education, only a small élite use it for a development of their personalities, while the majority adopts the ideal only as a condition for their belonging to the ruling class and not for the sake of giving form to their personalities. But even worse is the consequence of the humanistic "ideal of personality" for the large masses of people. They participate in it only by receiving unconnected pieces of the humanistic culture through the all-powerful means of public communication and as a matter of detached interest or subjective thrill. Even this kind of adult indoctrination is not without some value. It liberates people from all kinds of narrow provincialism and opens world horizons. But, on the other hand, it tends to destroy the sources of concrete experiences and individual formations. It produces a general level of normality and mediocrity above which even more intelligent and creative people rise only with great difficulty. This situation is the opposite of what the humanistic ideal of personality intended. And out of this situation the contemporary reaction against not only the ideal but also the idea of personality has grown, namely, the passionate desire for a return to the primitive level. But now it appears in naturalistic terms as the Fascist ideal of a new tribal existence. The rise of the personality above the community is followed by a fall of the personality below the community.
Many movements revolt against this situation, for instance, socialism, the youth movement, romantic nationalism. They all fight for a new community. Indeed, "community" (the German word Gemeinschaft has richer connotations) has become a program and catch-word for the longing of a whole generation. But a continuous frustration of all these attempts proves the power of the structure against which they struggle: the ideal of personality, the reality of mechanized masses, the emptiness and deformation of innumerable individuals, the dominance of a universal economic machine which is the fate of the masses as well as of every single person. Some of these opposing movements were themselves too much infected by the spirit of their enemy, as was the case with socialism and political nationalism. Or they did not see the power and world-historical significance of the period the end of which they demanded and prophesied, as was the case with the youth movement and all forms of romanticism, religious and secular. The few who try to find the depth and meaning of life within and through the actual structure of our society and culture do so silently and with the consciousness of the preliminary character of everything they are doing. They are looking for a period in which the personality will again be a part of a community with a spiritual center and new powerful symbols.
IV. Personality and Soul
We shall define "soul" in this context as the vital and emotional ground from which the self-conscious center of personality arises. The body, of course, is included in this definition in so far as the body is the immediate expression and the form of the self-realization of the soul. The relation of the conscious center to the psychic foundation of the personality corresponds to the interrelation of the personality with things and community. Wherever the ideal of personality prevails, the soul is gradually deprived of its power and subjected to a rationalized and intellectualized consciousness. The vengeance of the soul for this repression is the chaotic and destructive outbreak of the repressed forces that revolt against the dictatorship of an overburdened and overvaluated self-consciousness. Both the history of Protestantism and the history of idealism give abundant evidence of this statement.
In the pre-Reformation period all aspects of the psychic life are considered and acted upon in their relationship to the divine. A subtle psychology analyzes the hidden impulses of the human soul sub specie aeternitatis ("from the point of view of the eternal"). The doctrine of grace, or, more exactly, of the different graces, gives to every psychological type a special ultimate meaning and moral power. The idea that every grade in the clerical and secular hierarchy has a special indispensable function for the whole removes the danger of an isolation of individuals, groups, and psychic functions. All sides of human existence are drawn into the spiritual life of the whole. It could not, however, be avoided that the quantitative degrees and the refined system of relativities in the relationship to the ultimate should obscure the unconditional, qualitative demand of a personal, central, and total responsibility and devotion. Hence the question of the salvation of the individual remained without an unambiguous answer. In contrast to the Catholic system of psychic and social degrees, the Reformation appeals to the conscious center of the personality, to conscience and decision. It sweeps away the "graces" for the sake of the one grace, the re-establishment of the relation to God; it is not interested in mystical and ecclesiastical psychology; it does not admit the representation of one person by another in relation to God and it destroys the sacral degrees. It makes everything dependent on personal decision and faith. The more inclusive aspects of the psychic and bodily life lose their religious significance and are left to secularization.
The great spiritual revolution which occurred in Luther was the fruit of a century-long discipline of introspection and self-examination. Only on the basis of this "culture of the soul" could Luther’s experience of God grow to such an explosive power. It was the same basis that made the heroic and inspired personalities of the Reformation period possible. With the vanishing of the spiritual substance of the past, moral and intellectual law replaced the original experience of the Reformers and the powerful paradox of their message.
The heroic type of personality of the Reformation period was followed by the rational type in the period of the Enlightenment, by the romantic type in the beginning of the nineteenth century, and by the naturalistic type of personality since the middle of the last century. Within the Protestant, and especially in the Lutheran, churches, Luther’s genuine experience was imposed as a law on every listener in every sermon and in every hour of religious instruction. But since Luther’s presupposition—the late medieval situation—no longer existed, the repetition of Luther’s experience became increasingly impossible, and the doctrine of justification, which represents a breaking-through of every law, became a law itself as unrealizable as the laws of the Catholic church. This law with its moral and intellectual implications was imposed on the people. Church and society were united in enforcing it, in demanding the radicalism of the heroic age of Protestantism as the permanent attitude of everybody. This created a repression of vital forces which was very successful in the beginning. But the repression was always partly opposed, and it became more and more untenable until it finally broke down in the first decades of the twentieth century. The disintegration of the consciousness-centered personality is now proceeding on a terrifying scale. The immediate expression of it is the increase in mental diseases, especially in Protestant countries. Nietzsche and the great novelists of the later part of the nineteenth century and, following them, the Freudian and the other schools of depth psychology brought to light the mechanisms of repression in the bourgeois Protestant personality and the explosive re-emergence of the vital (unconscious) forces. They were prophets of things to come in the twentieth century. Through all this it became manifest that repression is not self-determination and, consequently, not a solid ground for the rise of personality. Repression produces a psychic "underground," which either drives to ward dishonesty or to hardening and inflexibility or to safety valves, allowed by bourgeois society, such as unrestricted economic acquisitiveness, or, finally, to the revolutionary struggle against the repressive psychic and social systems themselves.
It was to be expected that this explosive reaction against the bourgeois conventions would lead to a large-scale disintegration, in comparison with which the former stage would seem highly desirable. This transitional period is unavoidable. But it should be regretted only if it does not lead to a new form of personal life. The new form cannot, of course, be imposed from the outside as another law. It must grow; and the power of spiritual growth is "grace." Grace in the sense in which it is used here has a larger meaning than the "forgiveness of sins" in Protestant theology. Not that a return to the half-magical idea of grace in Roman Catholicism is advocated. The Protestant principle and its criticism of sacramental demonry cannot be weakened. But "grace" must include—as it does in the New Testament—all sides of the personal life, its vital foundation, its psychic dynamics, its individual uniqueness, and its conscious center. In depth-psychology there is frequently more awareness of the meaning of grace and, consequently, more effective "care of souls" than in the ministry of the church. The ideal of personality, in the way in which it has developed in modern Protestantism and secularism, is based on an illusion, on the illusion of "pure consciousness." There is no such thing. Unconscious psychic forces continuously break into our conscious center and direct it just when we believe ourselves to be completely free. The dark ground of pre-personal being, which contains elements of the universal process of life as well as the life-process of the individual, is effective in every moment of our conscious existence. Whether it is repressed or not, it is real and powerful, and its manifestations show the limits of personal freedom. One of these manifestations is the stage that is called "possession," in which the personal center is "split" (the original sense of "schizophrenia") or, more exactly, the consciousness is conquered by a "destructive structure" originating in the "dark ground" of the personality—the unconscious. Under the name of "demoniacs" the possessed were well known to the New Testament and the early church. But Jesus and his disciples and followers did not overcome the stage of possession by proclaiming the ideal of personality but by embodying a "constructive structure," originating in the divine ground, that is, in grace. Grace is, so to speak, the "possession from above," overcoming the possession from below. While the latter destroys the personal center through the invasion of "darkness," the former re-establishes it by elevating the creative power of the ground into the unity of a personal life. Every personality stands between possession and grace, susceptible to both. Personality is the open arena of the struggle between them. The "ideal of personality" is a heroic attempt to over come this situation, to create an autonomy of the personal life in which the demonic is excluded (the word as well as the reality) and in which the divine is not needed. But this attempt was doomed to fail. It was an illusion, as classical Christianity and present-day realism have recognized.
What, then, about the concept of "religious personality"? The term can be used if it is not meant to signify anything more than a man of religious devotion. But this has nothing to do with the ideal of personality, not even when the man’s life is strongly determined by religion or when he belongs to the founders and leaders of religion or among the saints. None of these is a "religious personality." Nor should this term be applied to Jesus or Paul, Augustine or Luther. A "religious personality" in the modern sense of the word is a personality in whom religion plays an outstanding role in the building of the personality structure. Religion is thus considered as an important means for the growth of personality. The end is the development of personality, one of the means is religion. In order to "use" religion in this way, its ecstatic, transcending, divine-demonic character must be removed. Religion must be confined within the limits of pure reason or mere humanity. Possession and grace must be denied. The "religious personality" tries to determine its own relation to the unconditional. But, with respect to the unconditional, we can never in any way gain power over ourselves, because we cannot gain power over the unconditional. Religious self-determination is the negation of religion, for the unconditional determines us. This is the decisive criticism of the "ideal of personality."
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