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world. It repudiates the nihilism of the Tao, the pantheism
of the Yoga and the atheism of Buddhism and affirms a
thorough-going theism. Like Buddhism, Christianity is a
life-system which is concerned in the redemption of man but
where Buddhism would rescue man by annihilating him,
Christianity redeems him by a positive salvation process
based upon the conception of human values which Buddhism
is unable to discover. There is another sharp contrast be-
tween Christianity and the other oriental systems reviewed
in that while Taoism has an empty world and the Vedanta
a worldless self, Christianity affirms a world-soul to which
man stands in living relation but with which he can never be
identified. As man seeks God in whom he lives and moves
and has his being, 1 it is not that he may be Brahmically ab-
sorbed in Deity but rather that his own personality may be
preserved by right relations with an objective God. Sharper
still is the contrast between the inactivity, so characteristic
of the Taoistic and Indian thinking, and the Christian phil-
osophy of activity. Jesus was no ascetic. He was the doer
of mighty deeds. However, the activity of Christianity is
not to be confused with the form of activity repudiated by
other oriental thought but is rather to be conceived as the
performance of a mighty deed whereby the soul, escaping
the world of nature, becomes engaged in the great spiritual
tasks of filling out the proportions of its own peculiar nature.
This is the meaning of the paradoxical teaching of Jesus:
u \Vhosoever shall seek to gain his life (iV^xV) shall lose
it; but whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it." 2 The
renunciation advocated by Christianity rests upon grounds
both theistic and moral and proceeds toward a goal of pos-
itive values for man. With these general characteristics of
the Christian system before us, we shall seek to exhibit its
requirements for, and the use it makes of, renunciation.

1. Acts xvii:28.

2. Luke xvii 133.



1 8 The Ethical Ideal of Renunciation

The sharp antithesis which Jesus makes between the flesh
(aa/o) and the spirit (-Mtv^a) must be our starting point.
The vdp is the life of the natural man which must be re-
nounced in favor of the Tn/ev/xa which is a higher form of life
known as <*>>? aiwno? with the world-order of its own y
TOV 0eov. To enter this kingdom, Christianity requires
by which a man repudiates his whole life of conduct
and thought as completely as a new beginning or a new
birth. 1 Man is required to enter into the Christian life by
the way of baptism which is a symbol of death 2 and pro-
claim his Christian discipleship by the use of the Sacrament
of the Lord's Supper, another symbol of death. 3 The de-
sires and values of the man of nature must give way for the
new desires and values of the man of the spirit. 4 It is this
transvaluation of values which drew the bitter attack of
Nietzsche, the great foe of the Christian system. The val-
ue-judgment under which Christianity proceeds has its seat in
the inner and personal life. "For what shall a man be prof-
ited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or
what shall a man give in exchange for his life." 5 As com-
pared with the soul values, earthly possessions must occupy a
lower plane nor do they contribute to these values. 6 The
abandonment of worldly goods is not because they are essen-
tially evil, as Buddhism declares, but they stand in the way
of a higher good. When the wealthy young man sought en-
trance into the kingdom, he was told by Jesus to sell all he
possessed and distribute the proceeds to the poor. 7 Christian
renunciation may even extend to the maiming of the physical
body. If the hand or the foot or the eye leads estray, it is
to be taken from the body. 8 Separation from one's own fam-
ily and relatives and the very hating of one's own life are



1. Matt. iy:i7 with John iii:3.

2. Rom. vi:5.

3. I Cor. xi:26.

4. Gal. v: 19-22.

5. Matt. xyi:26.

6. Luke xii:i5.

7. Mark x:2i.

8. Mark ix 143! .



Renunciation in Its Historical Development 19

counselled by Jesus, 1 and finally this renunciation extends to
the sacrificing of earthly life itself: "Whosoever doth not
bear his own cross (Roman instrument of execution) and
come after me, cannot be my disciple." 2 Under the figures of
the tower builder and the king going to war, Jesus teaches
that this painful renunciation must be deliberately and
thoughtfully accomplished. 3 Nothing less than the complete
abandonment of the man of nature with his desires and pos-
sessions can satisfy the Christian ideal. "Whosoever he be of
you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be my dis-
ciple." 4 It was under the realization of the thorough-going
renunciation of the Christian system which led Luther to
say: "Have done with thy body, goods, honor, child and
wife; let them go." (Nehmen sie Leib, Gut, Ehr, Kind und
Weib, Lass fahren dahn.) 5

In the teachings of St. Paul, Christian renunciation takes
a specific direction which can be summed up under the phrase
"The Road to Damascus," that is to say the great renuncia-
tion which followed his conversion to Christianity becomes
for him the ideal form. Like the modern Huysmans, St.
Paul sets down his conversion to the mercy and grace of
God and from this conviction he develops his doctrine of the
invalidity of works of merit. The value element in Chris-
tianity for St. Paul is the KcuWn/s ^s 6 but for the attaining
of which he absolutely distrusts human activity. He seems
almost Taoistic in his demand that so far as attempting to
perform the requirements of the ceremonial or moral law,
one had better do nothing: "Neither circumcision availeth
anything nor uncircumcision." 7 The moral law is as helpless
as the ceremonial : "By the works of the law shall no flesh



1. Luke xiv:26.

2. Luke xiv:27.

3. Luke xiv:28.

4. Luke xiv:33.

5. Quoted by Wendt "The Teaching of Jesus," tr. John Wilson, Vol.
II, ch. vii, sec. 3.

6. Rom. vi., 4.

7. Gal. v., 6.



2O The Ethical Ideal of Renunciation

be justified." 1 Having thus cleared the way, St. Paul states
his great thesis of Christianity: "A man is justified by faith
apart from the works of the law." 2 This faith he makes
the gift of the supernatural 3 and teaches the necessity for a
quiescent state in which man renounces all personal merit
and self activity. 4 Like other forms of oriental thought,
Christianity affirms the necessity of practicing non-resent-
ment and non-resistance, but upon theistic grounds. Jesus
teaches the love of enemies and the non-resistance of evil be-
cause such a course exhibits a certain Divine likeness. 5 St.
Paul makes the practice of non-resistance a preparation for
the play of Divine justice : "Avenge not yourselves, beloved,
but give place unto the wrath of God." 6

These renunciatory teachings of Christianity bore fruit
in practical life in many and various ways, often in extreme
forms and also suffered certain modifications as Christianity
took its way from its oriental home of inactivity and quies-
cence to the more active conception of life as held by Pagan
culture in the Roman Empire. The conflict between Pagan-
ism and Christianity was very sharp and when the latter won
the day, humanity experienced one of the greatest revolu-
tions of history. Because of the universal appeal of Chris-
tianity and its conception of its task of converting the whole
race of mankind, this revolution concerned more than Euro-
pean races but effected the human interests of a world. This
revolution meant nothing else than the complete overthrow
of all life's theories which Nietzsche terms the "Transvalua-
tion of all values." This transformation of values made its
mark deeply upon all religious and philosophic thinking of
medievalism and modernity. Where Pagan culture affirmed
the world of nature and made self-preservation the first law,
Christianity denied the world and taught the losing of self.



1. Gal. ii., 16.

2. Rom. iii., 28.

3. Eph. ii, 8.

4. Rom. iii, 19.
5- Matt. 3?ff.
6. Rom. xii :ip.



Renunciation in Its Historical Development 21

For the self-assertive virtues of courage, justice, and tem-
perance as these were conceived by pagan thinkers, Chris-
tianity substituted the submissive virtues of patience,
non-resentment, non-resistance and abstention. Hu-
mility was put in the place of ambition, silence in the place
of eloquence, pity and mercy in the place of the natural vir-
tues of the Greeks. In fact the virtues of the Greek and
Roman morality were considered by such Christian thinkers
as Augustine but splendid vices. In practical life, therefore,
the negative position of Christianity found expression in
many extreme ethical practices as witnessed by such move-
ments as Gnosticism, Monasticism and other forms of as-
ceticism. Especially is it worthy to note the place of the "Via
negativa" of the Mystics, a form of renunciation which pre-
dominated in the medieval period. The "Via negativa" has
its roots in the teachings of Augustine who took the position
that life has no meaning apart from God and union with
God is the highest end of man. 1 Augustine divorced the will
from the human consciousness and found it wholly incapable
of moral or spiritual conquest, therefore there is nothing
which man can do and his salvation is wholly determined by
the arbitrary will of God. For those whom God determines
to redeem there exists the ''Momentous Will." 2 Like St.
Paul, Augustine does away with all works of human merit as
useless. It is by surrender that man comes into union with the
Divine but this union demands the contempt of self: "The
two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly love
of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the
love of God even to the contempt of self." 3 It was left for
Dionysius to coin the phrase "Via negativa" which he con-
trasts with the "Via affirmata" and illustrates it by the figure
of the sculptor who "Cuts away all superfluous material and
brings to light the beauty hidden within, so we negate every-
thing in order that without veils we may know that Un-



1. Confessions, tr., J. G. Pilkingston, bk., I, ch. I.

2. Confessions, bk. viii, chs. 8. 9.

3. City of God, bk. v, ch. 18.



22 The Ethical Ideal of Renunciation

known who is concealed by all the light in existing things." 1
It is this road which leads to that "Union above all thought,
above the states of consciousness, above all knowledge." 2
Those who follow this road will lay aside all mental energies
and by pure contemplation will participate "With unim-
passioned and immaterial mind." 3 This "Via negativa" pro-
vides for Albertus Magnus a state of quiescence and mental
inactivity which appears Buddhistic in character: "Nothing
pleases God more than a mind free from all occupations and
distractions. Such a mind is in a manner transformed into
God; other creatures and itself it sees only in God." 4 Again
in German mysticism, the "Via negativa" holds sway in the
thinking of Tauler who advocates the poverty of the inner
life, entire resignation and the absolute denial of self and
all self-love. 5 The hold which the "Via negativa" had upon
the minds of ethical thinkers through the medieval period is
well summed up by Inge: "God can best be described by
negatives, discovered by the stripping off of all qualities and
attributes which veil him. He can only be reached by di-
vesting ourselves of all the distinctions of personality and the
sinking or the rising into our 'uncreated nothingness,' and
he can only be imitated by aiming at an abstract spirituality,
the passionless 'apathy' of an universal which is nothing in
particular." 6

But while medieval life was seemingly dominated by the
Christian ideals of self-denial and world-abandonment, there
were undercurrents of life and thought which escaping this
domination found expression in the life of the Germanic na-
tions, which were never converted to Christianity as such but
only to the Church. Therefore, along with the poetry of the
Church with its dream of deliverance from world-weariness
and its exaltation of the passive virtues of patience and obed-



1. Mys. Theo., ch. 2:1.

2. Div. name, ch. 14.
3- Ib.

4. De adhaerendo Deo, quoted by Inge, Christian Mysticism. Lecture iv.

5. The Inner Way, tr. A. W. Hutton.

6. Christian Mysticism, Lecture iii.



Renunciation in Its Historical Development 23

ience, there flourished the epic poem with its heroes and its
heroines, its virtues of ferocious courage and hatred of
enemies. It is not without significance that such an exhibition
of heroism and strength as is embodied in the Nibelunaen-
lied should be a product of medieval life. While the epic
was exploiting the hero of strength, the lyric was singing of
the joy of life and the love of the world. Even St. Paul's
discount of worldly wisdom was not generally accepted and
the teachings of Christianity were cast into the rationalistic
moulds of Scholastic theology. It was this counter-move-
ment, which smouldering in the Middle Ages, finally burst
forth and ushered in the modern era with its two great
revolutions: the Renaissance and the Reformation. The
former, with its ardent admiration for the Pagan ideals of
life, was a rebellion against the Christian renunciation of the
world and the denial of self. The latter was a rebellion
against the dead dogmas and authority of the Church but
agreed with the Renaissance in the desire for freedom and
individualism. The Reformation did not turn from the
Christian ideals of self-denial and world-estrangement but
rather from the false ways into which these had fallen.
Luther considered the earth but a vale of tears and de-
manded self-denial of the most thorough-going character. It
was this element in the Reformation which served to check
the Renaissance movement toward a worldly life and artistic
culture, especially in northern Europe. But whatever be
the historical relation of the two movements, they made pos-
sible the rise of the rationalistic spirit which is the character-
istic of the modern era. It is the work of this spirit which
opened a new era for the ethical ideal of renunciation.

B. MODERNITY, RATIONALISTIC WITHDRAWAL FROM

NATURE.

Amid the profound changes wrought by the revival of
learning, the consequent breaking of traditional authority,
the rise of freedom and individualism and the ascendency



24 The Ethical Ideal of Renunciation

of the autonomy of reason, renunciation emerges as a prob-
lem within the nature of man. Up to the dawning of mod-
ernity, it had served to relate man to some external principle
as the nihilistic metaphysics of the Tao, or the Brahman of
the Yoga, the Nirvana of Buddhism or the Kingdom of God
of Christianity or in other words its field was metaphysical
and moral but with the entrance of the modern spirit, its
field became rationalistic.

The great problem raised by Descartes (1596-1650) was
the interaction of mind and body. He conceived of matter
and mind as distinct substances absolutely independent of one
another. The body has extension for its essential attribute
while the mind has thought. The former has nothing of
thought and the latter nothing of extension, therefore, ex-
tended substance and thinking substance have nothing what-
ever in common. The two substances are entirely opposed to
each other and absolutely exclude one another. There can be
no reciprocal action between them, the attributes of each ex-
cluding the other from the very nature of their constitution.
Therefore the seeming interaction of body and mind can not
exist. In this abrupt and dogmatic fashion, Descartes created
the dualism between mind and matter which lead Hobbes and
the Materialists to cry: "There is no spiritual substance" and
Berkley and the Idealists to say "There are no bodies."
However, there is a reciprocal relation between body and
mind which can not be so dismissed and Descartes, while
never identifying matter and mind, does not deny the in-
teraction but ascribes it to the power of God. By this aban-
donment of any attempt to explain upon natural grounds this
interaction of body and mind, Descartes opened the way for
the rise of Occasionalism as formulated by the Cartesians,
Cordemoy and De La Forge and systematically developed
by Arnold Geulincx (1624-69) and Nicolas Malebranche
(1638-1715). Occasionalism is the theory of causae oc-
casionales. Since neither body nor mind can effect each
other in any way, it is God "on the occasion" of physical
stimulus produces the sensation in the mind and "on the oc-



Renunciation in Its Historical Development 25

casion" of a determination of the will, produces the bodily
movements. Geulincx bases his occasionalistic position upon
the Cartesian principle : "Cogito, ergo sum." All knowledge
rests upon the certainty of self and all activity upon con-
sciousness. Any activity of which I have no knowledge is
not mine: "Quod nescis, quomodo fiat, id non facis," (Un-
less I know how an event happens, I am not the cause.) It is
upon this principle that Geulincx builds his system. If I am
not the cause, there must be some cause for this activity. A
decision of the will does effect bodily movements and sense-
stimuli produce sensations in the mind but I am ignorant of
how the will influences the body, and the body, from its
nature, can not effect the mind, therefore both bodily move-
ments and mental sensations are produced by God. Sense-
stimulus or will-decision serve only as the occasion for the
Divine activity. It follows from this metaphysical position
that the individual has no power beyond the mere act of
willing and the ethical system of Geulincx is a natural and
logical deduction from his metaphysical principles. Since
we can effect nothing in the material world, why will any-
thing? God does not require works but dispositions for the
results of volition are beyond our power. u Ubi nihil vales,
ibi nihil velis" (Where thou canst do nothing, there will
nothing.) This is the ethical principle for Geulincx and
from it he deduces our moral vocation which consists in the
renunciation of the world and the retirement into ourselves.
In developing this ethical system, Geulincx makes virtue to
be: "Amor Dei ac Rationis" (The love of God and Rea-
son.) 1 The foundamental principle is the love of reason
which is the law of God in us. Reason gives us the true
knowledge of self and it is the highest virtue to bring our
wills and actions into harmony with this knowledge. Our
love to God must be self-renouncing and obedient but as
an ethical principle, love of reason is to be prefered: "Virtus
potius est amor Rationis." 2 Geulincx discusses the four car-



1. Ethica, Tr. I, cap. I, sec. 2.

2. Ib., Tr. I, cap. I, sec. 2.



26 The Ethical Ideal of Renunciation

dinal virtues or properties of moral excellence (Virtues Car-
dinales sunt Proprietates Virtutis.) These are Diligentia,
Obedientia, Justitia and Humilitas. 1 By Diligentia is meant
the listening to the commands of reason (Diligentia est aus-
cultation.) 2 The result of listening and waiting for the voice
of reason is wisdom (Frustus Diligentia est prudentia) but
wisdom in the sense of prudence. 3 Obedientia is executing
the commands of reason (Obedientia est executio rationis.) 4
It has two parts; to omit what reason prohibits and to do
what reason commands (Partes Obedientia sunt duae:
Facere & Mittere, quod vetat Ratio, facere quod jubet.) 3
Obedientia is the way to human liberty. "Obedientia est Lib-
ertas: Nemini enim servit, qui Rationi servit, sed liberrimus
est hoc ipso: facit quod vult" (Obedience is liberty, for he
serves no one who serves reason but is free himself. He
does what he wishes.) 6 The third cardinal virtue is Justitia
which is conforming the whole conduct of life to what reason
says is right (Justitia est adaequatio rationis.) 7 There are
also two parts of the Justitia : purity and perfection. The
former removes what is excessive and is the right arm of
justice, while the latter supplies what is lacking and is the
left hand of justice (Puritas resecat quod nimis est: estque
velut dexterum brachium Justitia : Perfectio supplet quod
minus est; estque velut sinistra.) 8 That which is excessive
in our lives is vice (Vitium per excessum) and that which is
lacking is also vice (Vitium per defectum.) By equalizing
the excessive and defective, Justitia leads to satiety and satis-
faction (Frustus Justitia est Satietas. ) 9 Our worthiest inner
feelings find satisfaction in justice as Geulincx conceives it.
Finally, Humilitas the recognition of our impotence is ac-



1. Ethica, Tr. I, cap. II.

2. Ib., Tr. I, cap. II, sec. i.

3. Ib., Tr. I, cap. II, sec. I.

4. Ib., Tr. I, cap. II, sec. 2.

5. Ib., sec. 2:2.

6. Ib., sec. 2 14.

7. Ib., sec. 3:1.

8. Ib., sec. 3:1.

9. Ib., Tr. I, cap. II, sec. 3:4.



Renunciation in Its Historical Development 27

cording to Geulincx the sum of all the cardinal virtues (Vir-
tutem Cardinalium summa) and is defined as "Contempt of
self because of love of God and Reason" (Humilitas est con-
temptio sui prae Amore Dei ac Rationis.) 1 It is this cardinal
virtue which leads us into the very heart of the ethical sys-
tem of Geulincx. By "Contemptio sui" he does not mean a
positive contempt of self but a negative contempt; "Con-
temptio, inquam, non positiva, sed negativa." 2 Humilitas
does not require that one condemn himself positively, defame
himself, beat himself, or otherwise do evil to himself: that
indeed is not humility per se : but it is the greatest madness,
for reason per se enjoins no such thing upon us." 3 While
there may be necessity for a positive contempt of self as the
confession of a crime or the cutting away of incurable por-
tions of the body, such a course is not humility which re-
quires the negative contempt of the self. 4 Geulincx divides
this virtue into two parts : "Inspectio & Despectio sui." 5 By
the former he means, like Socrates, "Know thyself" by ac-
curate investigation and by the latter, the despising and the
surrendering of the self to God as the consequence of "In-
spectio sui."

Proceeding to inspect the self, Geulincx begins with self-
consciousness and studies the relation between mind and body.
He is unable to discover any connection or interaction be-
tween them. He wills and bodily movements follow but how
he does not know. He says "Sed motum ego ilium non
facio: nescio enim quomodo peragatur" (But I did not make
that motion; I do not know how it is done.) 6 Further he
says: "Nescio enim, quomodo, & per quos nervos, aut alias
vias, motus e cerebro in artus meos derivetur? nescio quo-
modo ad ipsum cerebrum perveniat? & an perveniat? (I do
not even know how and through what nerves or other ways a



1. Ethica, sec. 2 :i.

2. Ib., sec. 2:1.

3. Ib., sec. 2:1.

4. Ib., sec. 2:1.

5. Ib., sec. 2:1.

6. Ib., Tr. I, sec. 2 :2.



28 The Ethical Ideal of Renunciation

motion from my brain, is directed to my limbs; I do not
know how it reached that very brain, and whether it did.) 1
If there is an union between body and mind, who is the cause
of it? Geulincx does not believe that it can be the individual
for he does not know how the union takes place or that it
takes place at all. As a result of the inspection of self,
Geulincx comes to this conclusion "Jam itaque novi condi-
tionem mean, Nudus sum hujusce Mundi contemplator ; spec-
tator sum in hac scena, non actor." (Thus now I know my
condition: I am only a contemplator of this world; a specta-
tor am I in this scene, not an actor.) 2 How he came into
such a condition, Geulincx declares he does not know and
concludes that God alone causes him to see the spectacle.
The consequence of this inspection of self is "Despectio sui"
This is the other part of humility and its complement ( Altera
pars Humilitas est sui Despectio ; Haec est Humilitatis com-
plementum.) 3 Geulincx defines despectio sui as follows:
"Consistit ea Despectio in mei ipsius derelictione, qua ego
Deo, cujus, ut vidi totus sum" (This contempt con-
sists in the abandoning of myself, by which I surrender all
to God whose, as I have seen, I am entire.) 4 The individual
thus is nothing and God is all. Man has no will and God is
all will. Man is only a tool in the hand of God and hence
man's greatest virtue is to be a willing tool. Certain obliga-
tions follow the (< Contemptio sui." Primarily we must will
nothing: "Ubi nihil valeo, ibi nihil volo. . . nihil valeo
denotat inspectionem sui, nihil volo denotat despectionem
sui." (Where I effect nothing, there I will nothing.


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