G. Fr Daumer, Die Religion des neuen Weltalters. Versuch einer combinatorisch-aphoristischen Grundlegung
Written: January and February 1850;
First published: Reviews from the Neue Rheinische Zeitung Politisch-ökonomische RevueNo. 2.
"An otherwise free-thinking man in Nuremberg who was not at all insensitive to the new had a monstrous hatred of democratic intrigues. He was a devotee of Ronge, whose portrait he had in his room. But when he heard that Ronge had sided with the democrats he removed the portrait to the lavatory. He once said: 'Oh, if only we lived under the Russian knout, how happy I would feel!' He died during the disturbances and I presume that although he was already old, it was despondency and grief at the course of events that led him to the grave." (Vol. II, pp. 321-22.)
If, instead of dying, this pitiable Nuremberg philistine had gleaned his scraps of thought from Correspondent von und fur Deutschland, from Schiller and Goethe, from old schoolbooks, and modern lending-library books he would have spared himself the trouble of dying and Herr Daumer the hard work of writing his two volumes of "combinatory and aphoristic foundation". We, of course, should not then have had the edifying opportunity to become acquainted with the "religion of the new age" and at the same time with its first martyr.
Herr Daumer's work is divided into two parts, a "preliminary" and a "main" one. In the preliminary part the faithful Eckart of German philosophy expresses his profound concern that even thinking and educated Germans have let themselves be led astray for the past two years and have given up the inestimable achievements of thought for mere "external" revolutionary activity. He considers the present moment appropriate to appeal once more to the better feelings of the nation and points out what it means so light-mindedly to abandon all German culture, through which alone the German burgher was still anything at all. He summarises the whole content of German culture in the pithiest sayings that the casket of his erudition contains and thus discredits German culture no less than German philosophy. His anthology of the loftiest products of the German mind surpasses in platitude and triviality even the most ordinary reading book for young ladies in the educated walks of life. From Goethe's and Schiller's philistine sallies against the first French Revolution, from the classic "Dangerous it is to rouse the lion" down to the most modern literature, the high priest of the new religion zealously digs up every passage in which German pedantry stiffens with sleepy ill-humour against the historical movement it loathes. Authorities of the weight of a Friedrich Raumer, Berthold Auerbach, Lochner, Merit Carriere, Alfred Meissner, Krug, Dingelstedt, Ronge, Nurnberger Bote, Max Waldau, Sternberg, German Maurer, Luise Aston, Eckermann, Noack, Blatter fur liternrische Unterhaltung, A. Kunze, Ghillany, Th. Mundt, Saphir, Gutzkow, a certain "nee Gatterer" and the like are the pillars on which the temple of the new religion rests. The revolutionary movement, which is here declared anathema in so many voices, is confined for Herr Daumer on the one hand to the tritest prattle about politics as carried on in Nuremberg under the auspices of Correspondent von und fur Deutschland, and on the other hand to mob outrages of which he has the most fantastic idea. The sources on which he draws are worthy of being placed on a par with those already mentioned: side by side with the oft-named Nuremberg Correspondent figure the Bamberger Zeitung, the Munich Landbotin, the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung and others. The same philistine meanness that sees nothing in the proletarian but a disgusting, corrupt ragamuffin and which rubs its hands with satisfaction at the Paris massacres in June 1848, when more than 3,000 of those "ragamuffins" were butchered--that same meanness is indignant at the raillery of which sentimental societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals are the object.
"The frightful tortures," Herr Daumer exclaims on page 293 of Volume I, "that unfortunate beasts suffer at the cruel, tyrannous hand of man are for these barbarians 'trifles' that nobody should bother about!"
The entire class struggle of our times seems to Herr Daumer only a struggle of "coarseness" against "culture". Instead of explaining it by the historical conditions of these classes, he finds its origin in the seditious doings of a few malevolent individuals who incite the base appetites of the populace against the educated estates.
"This democratic reformism ... excites the envy, the rage, the rapacity of the lower classes of society against the upper classes--a fine way of making man better and nobler and founding a higher stage of culture!" (Vol. I, p[p]. [288-] 289.)
Herr Daumer does not even know what struggles "of the lower classes of society against the upper classes" it took to bring forth even a Nuremberg "stage of culture" and to make possible a Moloch-fighter a la Daumer.
The second, "main", part contains the positive aspect of the new religion. It voices all the annoyance of the German philosopher over the oblivion into which his struggles against Christianity have fallen, over the people's indifference towards religion, the only object worthy to be considered by the philosopher. To restore credit to his trade, which has been ousted by competition, all our world-wise man can do is to invent a new religion, after long barking against the old. But this new religion is confined, in accordance with the first part, to a continuation of the anthology of maxims, album verses and versus memoriales[memorial verses] of German philistine culture. The suras of the new Koran are nothing but a series of phrases morally palliating and poetically embellishing the existing German conditions--phrases which, though divested of the immediately religious form, are none the less interwoven with the old religion.
"Completely new world conditions and world relations can arise only through new religions. Examples and proofs of what religions are capable of are Christianity and Islam; most clear acid palpable evidence of the powerlessness and futility of abstract, exclusive politics are the movements started in the year 1848." (Vol. I, p.313.)
This weighty proposition immediately brings out the shallowness and ignorance of the German "thinker" who takes the small German and specifically Bavarian "March achievements" for the European movement of 1848 and 1849 and who demands that the first, in themselves very superficial, eruptions of a gradually developing and concentrating major revolution should bring forth "completely new world conditions and world relations". The "world-wise" Daumer reduces the whole complicated social struggle, the first skirmishes of which were fought between Paris and Debrecen, Berlin and Palermo in the last two years, to the fact that "in January 1849 the hopes of the constitutional societies of Erlangen were postponed indefinitely" (Vol. I, p. 312) and to fear of a new struggle that could once more be unpleasantly shocking for Herr Daumer in his occupations with Hafiz, Mohammed and Berthold Auerbach.
The same shameless superficiality allows Herr Daumer to ignore completely that Christianity was preceded by the total collapse of the ancient "world conditions" of which Christianity was the mere expression; that "completely new world conditions" arose not internally through Christianity but only when the Huns and the Germans fell "externally" on the corpse of the Roman Empire; that after the Germanic invasion the "new world conditions" did not adapt themselves to Christianity but that Christianity itself changed with every new phase of these world conditions. We should like Herr Daumer to give us an example of the old world conditions changing with a new religion without the mightiest "external" and abstract political convulsions setting in at the same time.
It is clear that with every great historical upheaval of social conditions the outlooks and ideas of men, and consequently their religious ideas, are revolutionised. The difference between the present upheaval and all earlier ones lies in the very fact that man has at last found out the secret of this process of historical upheaval and hence, instead of once again exalting this practical, "external", process in the rapturous form of a new religion, divests himself of all religion.
After the gentle moral doctrines of the new world wisdom, which are even superior to Knigge inasmuch as they contain all that is necessary not only on intercourse with men, but also on intercourse with animals--after the Proverbs of Solomon comes the Song of the new Solomon.
"Nature and woman are the really divine, as distinct from the human and man.... The sacrifice of the human to the natural, of the male to the female, is the genuine, the only true meekness and self-externalisation, the highest, nay, the only virtue and piety." (Vol. II, p. 257.)
We see here that the superficiality and ignorance of the speculating founder of a religion is transformed into a very pronounced cowardice. Herr Daumer flees before the historical tragedy that is threatening him too closely to alleged nature, i.e. to a stupid rustic idyll, and preaches the cult of the female to cloak his own womanish resignation.
Herr Daurner's cult of nature, by the way, is a peculiar one. He manages to be reactionary even in comparison with Christianity. He tries to restore the old pre-Christian natural religion in a modernised form. Thus he of course achieves nothing but Christian-Germanic: patriarchal drivel on nature expressed, for example, as follows:
"Nature holy, Mother sweet,
In Thy footsteps place my feet.
My baby hand to Thy hand clings,
Hold me as in leading strings!"
"Such things have gone out of fashion, but not to the benefit of culture, progress or human felicity." (Vol. II, p. 157.)
We see that this cult of nature is limited to the Sunday walks of an inhabitant of a small provincial town who childishly wonders at the cuckoo laying its eggs in another bird's nest(Vol. II, p. 40), at tears being designed to keep the surface of the eyes moist (Vol. II, p. 73), and so on, and finally trembles with reverence as he recites Klopstock's Ode to Spring to his children. (Vol. II, p. 23 et seqq.) There is no mention, of course, of modern natural science, which, with modern industry, has revolutionised the whole of nature and put an end to man's childish attitude towards nature as well as to other forms of childishness. But instead we get mysterious hints and astonished philistine notions about Nostradamus' prophecies, second sight in Scotsmen and animal magnetism. For the rest, it would be desirable that Bavaria's sluggish peasant economy, the ground on which grow priests and Daumers alike, should at last be ploughed up by modern cultivation and modern machines.
It is the same with the cult of the female as with the cult of nature. Herr Daumer naturally does not say a word about the present social position of women; on the contrary it is a question only of the female as such. He tries to console women for their civic destitution by making them the object of a rhetorical cult which is as empty as it would fain be mysterious. Thus he seeks to comfort them by telling them that marriage puts an end to their talents through their having to take care of the children (Vol. II, p. 237), that they retain the ability to suckle babes even until the age of sixty (Vol. II, p, 251), and so on. Herr Daumer calls this the "devotion of the male to the female". In order to find the necessary ideal women characters for his male devotion in his native country, he is forced to resort to various aristocratic ladies of the last century. Thus his cult of the woman is reduced to the depressed attitude of a man of letters to respected patronesses--Wilhelm Meister."
The "culture" whose decay Herr Daumer laments is that of the time in which Nuremberg flourished as a free Reichsstadt, in which Nuremberg's industry--that cross between art and craftsmanship--played a role of importance, the German petty-bourgeois [Kleinburgertum] culture which is perishing with the petty bourgeoisie. If the decline of former classes such as the knighthood could offer material for great tragic works of art, philistinism can achieve nothing but impotent expressions of fanatic malignity and a collection of Sancho Panza maxims and rules of wisdom. Herr Daumer is the dry, absolutely humourless continuation of Hans Sachs. German philosophy, wringing its hands and lamenting at the deathbed of its foster father, German philistinism--such is the touching picture opened up to us by the religion of the new age.