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The Idea of Europe

 | 
Catriona Seth
, 
Rotraud von Kulessa

46. Spiritual Advent

Texte intégral

1In 1799, the German romantic writer, Novalis (1772–1801)i—or Georg Philipp Friedrich von Hardenberg, to give him his full name—wrote a long fragment, which was only published after his death, and in which he sees the triumph of Christianity as a possible way out of the wars tearing Europe apart.

2Now let us turn to the political performance of our own time. The Old World is in conflict with the New and the deficiencies and indigence of present systems of government have been made manifest through terrible phenomena. If only, in politics as in the sciences, closer and more diverse connections and contacts between European States were the first historical purpose of war, if only a new force would come into play to arouse a still-slumbering Europe, if only Europe wished to reawaken. If only a State of States a political theory of knowledge, was imminent. Could hierarchy, this symmetrical basic form of the State, be the principle which unites States as intellectual intuition forms the political self? It is impossible that worldly powers can attain equilibrium, only a third element which is both worldly and transcendental at the same time can fulfil this task. No peace can be concluded between the warring powers; all peace is only an illusion, only a truce. From the standpoint of the politicians and of the general consciousness, a coming-together is inconceivable. Both sides have great and essential claims and must reconcile them, driven by the spirit of the world and of humanity. Both are ineradicable powers of the human heart, here the worship of the Antique, the attachment to a historic system, loving the memorials of our forefathers and the glorious old dynasties of the State, experiencing the joy of obedience; on the other hand, the delightful sensation of Freedom, the boundless expectation of more powerful spheres of activity, the predilection for the new and the young, the informal contact with all fellow-citizens, the pride in universal human values, the pleasure of personal rights and of collective ownership and the potent understanding of citizenship. No person would wish to annihilate another, all conquest would be insignificant because the innermost heart of this empire does not lie behind battlements and cannot be stormed.

3Who knows if there has been enough of war, but it will never stop if the palm branch is not grasped since only a spiritual power can achieve that end. Blood will stream over Europe until the nations are conscious of the frightful madness into whose spirals they are dragged, until the moment when, hearing and being calmed by holy music, they walk in colourful processions to former altars, take up the works of peace and celebrate peace in a great love-feast, dropping hot tears on the smoking battlefields. Only religion can awaken Europe and secure its people, establishing Christianity, visible on earth in new splendour, in her old office of maintainer of peace.

4Novalis, Christianity or Europe (1799).

Read the free text in the original language (1799 edition):
http://www.zeno.org/​Literatur/​M/​Novalis/​Essay/​Die+Christenheit+oder+Europa

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