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Simmel, (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1997).
(372) analogies to the individual's relations to his God that they would seem almost to be nothing more than their condensation and transformation. The whole wonderful fulness of the former is reflected in the many ways in which we "sense" the divine. The compelling and punitive gods, the loving God, the God of Spinoza who cannot return our love, the God who both bestows and deprives us of the inclination and ability to act—these are precisely the tokens by which the ethical relation between the group and its members unfolds its energies and oppositions. I call attention to the feeling of dependence, in which the essence of all religion has been found. The individual feels himself bound to a universal, to something higher, out of which he came, and into which he will return, and from which he also expects assistance and salvation, from which he differs and is yet identical with it. All these emotions, which meet as in a focus in the idea of God, can be traced back to the relation which the individual sustains to his species; on the one hand, to the past generations which have supplied him with the principal forms and contents of his being, on the other, to his contemporaries, who condition the manner and extent of its development. If the theory is correct which asserts that all religion is derived from ancestor-worship, from the worship and conciliation of the immortal soul of a forbear, especially of a hero and leader, it will confirm this connection; for we are, as a matter of fact, dependent upon what has been before us, and which was most directly concentrated in the authority of the fathers over their descendants. The deification of ancestors, especially of the ablest and most successful, is, as it were, the most appropriate expression of the dependence of the individual upon the previous life of the group, even though consciousness may reveal other motives for it. Thus the humility with which the pious person acknowledges that all that he is and has comes from God, and recognizes in him the source of his existence and ability, is properly traced to the relation of the individual to the whole. For man is not absolutely nothing in contrast to God, but only a dust-mote; a weak, but not entirely vain, force; a vessel, but yet adapted to its contents. When a given idea of God is, in essence, the origin and at the same time the unity of all the varieties of
Just as his contemporary Unamuno (1954) was the agonist of Christianity,Simmel is the agonist of modern culture. His agony cuts as deeplyas can be possibly imagined. His great sensitivity enabled or, perhaps,condemned him to experience the spiritual currents of his time more profoundlythan his contemporaries did, and his brilliant intellect allowed or evencoerced him to express those currents with acute clarity. He wasthe premier German philosopher of life in his generation, that is, he didmore than most others to propagate the rebellion of life, yet he understoodthat the fate of life was to submit itself, even if only temporarily, toits own products. An uncompromising will to truth prevented him fromseeking comfort in the aestheticism of dwelling in the exhausted forms,but he also had to acknowledge the special or, as he called it, "peculiar,"quality of form, its demand to constrain life. So, he could not embracethe modernist rebellion against the principle of form, its normative autonomy. And, further, he could not, like Emile Durkheim, take normative constraintfor granted as constitutive of actual culture because, somehow, it wasnot. In his thought, just as in Unamuno's, lucidity bred agony andparadox, from which he could not escape, but which he could express bya strategic distancing in the form of cultural history and criticism.
Simpson, "Toward a Theory of America," in , ed.
(374) goodness, justice, patience, etc., rather than the possessor of these attributes; he is, as it is sometimes expressed, perfection in substance; he is goodness itself, and love itself, etc. Morality, the imperatives that control human conduct, has, so to speak, become immutable in him. As practical belief is a relation between persons which fashions an absolute over and above the form of relation; as unity is a form of relation between a group of persons which raises itself to that personification of the unity of things in which the divine is represented; so morality contains those forms of relation between man and man which the interests of the group has sanctioned, so that the God who exhibits the relative contents in absolute form, on the one hand, represents the claims and benefits of the group, as against the individual, and, on the other, divests those ethical-social duties which the individual must perform of their relativity, and presents them in himself in an absolutely substantial form. The relations of persons to each other, which have grown out of the most manifold interests, have been supported by the most opposite forces, and have been cast into the most diverse forms, also attain a condition in the aggregate whose identification with and relation to a Being above and beyond them we call religion—in that they become both abstract and concrete, a dual development which gives religion the strength with which it again, reflexively, influences those relations. The old idea that God is the Absolute, while that which is human is relative, here assumes a new meaning: it is the relations between men which find their substantial and ideal expression in the idea of the divine.
If investigations like this, touching the fundamentals of being, are usually accompanied by the hope that their significance should be understood sufficiently comprehensively, the reverse must here be the case, and the wish expressed that the arguments here set forth must not be permitted to intrude upon neighboring domains, beyond their own limited boundaries. They are not intended to describe the historical course of the origin of religion, but only to point out one of its many sources, quite irrespective of the fact whether this source, in conjunction with others, also from the domain of the non-religious, gave birth to religion, or whether
Simpson, "Globalization and Religion," , ed.
(362) of the true soldier to his army—all these relations, with their infinite variety of content, looked at from the psychological side, may have a common tone which can be described only as religious. All religion contains a peculiar admixture of unselfish surrender and fervent desire, of humility and exaltation, of sensual concreteness and spiritual abstraction, which occasion a certain degree of emotional tension, a specific ardor and certainty of the subjective conditions, an inclusion of the subject experiencing them in a higher order—an order which is at the same time felt to be something subjective and personal. This religious quality is contained, it seems to me, in many other relations, and gives them a note which distinguishes them from relations based upon pure egoism, or pure suggestion, or even purely moral forces. As a matter of course, this quality is present with more or less strength, now appearing merely like a light overtone, and again as a quite distinct coloring. In many and important instances the developing period of these relations is thus characterized; that is to say, the same content which previously or at some subsequent period was borne by other forms of human relation, assumes a religious form in other periods. All this is best illustrated by those laws which at certain times or places reveal a theocratic character, are completely under religious sanctions, but which, at other times and places, are guaranteed either by the state or by custom. It would even seem as if the indispensable requirements of society frequently emerged from an entirely undifferentiated form in which moral, religious, and juridical sanctions were still indiscriminately mingled, like the Dharma of the Hindus, the Themis of the Greeks, and the f as of the Latins, and that finally, as historical conditions varied, now one and now the other of these sanctions developed into the "bearer" of such requirements. In the relation of the individual to the group also these changes can be observed; in times when patriotism is aroused, this relation assumes a devotion, a fervor, and a readiness of self-surrender which can be described only as religious; while at other times it is controlled by conventionality or the law of the land. For us the important thing is that it is, in every case, a question of human relations, and that it is merely a change, as it were, in the
(363) aggregate condition of these relations when, instead of purely conventional, it becomes religious, and instead of religious, legal, and then, in turn, voluntary, as a matter of fact, many socially injurious immoralities first found a place in the criminal code because of the resentment of the church; or, as illustrated by anti-Semitism, because a social-economic or racial relation between certain groups within a group can be transferred to the religious category, without, however, really becoming anything else than a social relation; or, as some suppose, that religious prostitution was merely a development of sexual life which was earlier or elsewhere controlled by pure convention.
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Methods in the Study of Religion.
In like manner the reverse of this relation, with, however, the same germ, is seen in the attitude toward heretics. That which arrays great masses in hatred and moral condemnation against heretics is certainly not the difference in the dogmatic content of teaching, which, in most instances, is really not at all understood. It is rather the fact of the opposition of the one against the many. The persecution of heretics and dissenters springs from the instinct which recognizes the necessity for group-unity. Now, it is especially significant that in many instances of this kind religious variation could very well exist in conjunction with the unity of the group in all vital matters. But in religion the social instinct for unity has assumed such a pure, abstract, and, at the same time, substantial form that it no longer requires a union with real interests; while non-conformity seems to threaten the unity—that is to say, the very life-form—of the group. Just as an attack upon a palladium or other symbol of group-unity will evoke the most violent reaction, even though it may have no direct connection with it at all, so religion is the purest form of unity in society, raised high above all concrete individualities. This is demonstrated by the energy with which every heresy, no matter how irrelevant, is still combated.
Weber used the focus of religion affecting all aspects of life.
Simmel ends "The Conflict" equivocally and far more soberly than hedid "The Crisis." No longer does he repose any trust in a "unifieddynamic" of life to heal even temporarily the modern agony, which is nota struggle between two forms of culture but of life against what is deemedto be its own inherent structure, an attempt of life to deconstruct itself. In "The Crisis" he had suggested the most "perilous" project: "tosalvage the values of the former life and carry them over into the newlife." (Simmel, 1976a:260) At the end of "The Conflict" heobserves that "the link between the past and the future hardly ever seemsso completely shattered as at present, apparently leaving only intrinsicallyformless life to bridge the gap."(Simmel, 1976b:241) But then he adds that"it is equally certain that the movement is towards the typical evolutionof culture, the creation of new forms appropriate to present energies." That has not happened in the generations since his death. Indeed,those generations have witnessed ever renewed attempts of life to enslaveform. One need only think of the totalitarian rejections of the independenceof law and their milder counterparts in the industrialized democraciesto grasp the expansion of the rebellion against autonomous and demandingform, or of mass entertainment in which life seeks an undemanding appreciationof itself through the replication of its vanity. The rebellion oflife has become far more extensive since Simmel's time. Indeed, onemight conclude that autonomous form is not a need of the vital spirit butone of its greatest goods, which must be self-consciously affirmed if itis to exist at all.
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