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clusion, the morality of Rigorism with its cry: "All or
none." 1 Here the self is nothing, life is nothing but duty is
everything; all of which ends in such a severe form of re-
nunciation that it reacts upon itself for its own destruction. 2
In "Peer Gynt" self-realization is the all but like the severe
renunciation of Brand, the "Barrel of self" 3 in which Peer
Gynt lived, lead him at last to the Button Moulder and his
own undoing. Since the empire of the spirit as in "Brand"
and the empire of the flesh, as in "Peer Gynt" have neither
succeeded, Ibsen combines the two in "Emperor and Galil-
lean" with the intention of creating a third empire, "An
empire of Man asserting the eternal validity of his own
will." 4 But in the conflict between the empire of the spirit,
represented by Christianity and the empire of the flesh, repre-
sented by Julian, Ibsen is unable to secure a victory for his
third empire and on the plains of Persia, his empire of
flesh succumbs to the empire of the spirit in the dying cry of

1. Brand, Act ii.

2. Ib., Act iii.

3. Peer Gynt, Act iv, sc. 13.

4. Bernard Shaw, Quintessence of Ibsenism, pg. 56.

Renunciation in Its Historical Development 41

Julian: "Thou hast conquered, Galilean." 1 Thus the will
surrenders to the intellect, the flesh to the spirit and the third
empire fails of realization. Maximus standing over the dead
Julian can only say: "What is it worth to live? All is sport
and mockery, to will is to have to will." 2 In "Rosmersholm"
Ibsen's philosophy of religion with its renunciatory element
is well illustrated. The individualist, radical and free-think-
er, Rebecca, invades the rigorist Rosmer home and seeks to
win the country parson to her ideals. To accomplish her
purpose she does not hesitate to plot the destruction of Ros-
mer's wife who is finally driven to commit suicide. However,
before Rebecca goes the whole way with her plans, she re-
pents, confesses the crime of causing the death of Mrs.
Rosmer, thus renouncing her egoistic ideals and accepting the
"Rosmer view of life." 3 The story ends with Rosmer and
Rebecca expiating the wrongs of their lives by sacrificing
themselves in the same millstream in which Mrs. Rosmer
had cast herself. It is quite evident that while Ibsen is a
strong individualist, he never loses the sense of moral re-
sponsibility and this weighs upon him so heavily that he is
regoristic and therefore unable to escape the element of re-

In the literature of Russia, especially that of Tolstoi and
Dostoieffsky, the misery and sorrow of life are so keenly
felt that renunciation takes root easily. In his earlier life
Tolstoi was a realist. Turning from the teachings of the
Church in which he had been brought up, he gave himself to
the world of sense. Dissatisfaction overtaking him, he be-
gan to feel the emptiness of the world as he saw it. Find-
ing no peace of mind, he became an ardent student of the
teachings of Jesus, especially the Sermon on the Mount. He
became convinced that he had discovered the fundamental
principle of these teachings and of the whole system of Chris-
tianity in Matthew 5:38, 39: "Ye have heard that it hath

1. Emperor and Galilean, Act v, sc. 4.

2. Emperor and Galilean, Act v, sc. 4.

3. Rosmersholm, Act v.

42 The Ethical Ideal of Renunciation

been said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth : But I
say unto you, that ye resist not evil." This Tolstoi inter-
preted as meaning: ''Whatever injury the evil disposed may
inflict upon you, bear it, give all that you have, but resist
not." 1 Non-resistance became the real principle of all Tol-
stoi's teaching. He not only taught this form of renunciation
but practiced it. He passed through, on account of it, a pro-
found spiritual experience. He repudiated his former course
of life and sought to renounce the world of sense. He agrees
with Schopenhauer in doing away with all self-love but is
entirely out of sympathy with his conclusions in respect to the
human race. Where Schopenhauer seeks to extinguish the
race, Tolstoi would have it continue its existence and serve
God through the non-resentment of evil and the activity of

Dostoieffsky portrays renunciation in the career of Ras-
kolnikoff, the leading character in "Crime and Punishment,"
who reaches a point where he must do something or renounce
his life or as he says: "Renounce life altogether and obedient-
ly submit to fate as it is, stifle everything and dismiss the right
to act, live and love." 2 He discarded the thought of renun-
ciation and under the spell of the self-assertive Napoleon, he
proceeded to commit a double murder and then justified it by
his philosophy of self-assertion. According to his line of
reasoning, men are divided into ordinary and extraordinary
men. The former live, from their very nature, in a state of
obedience and have no right to break the law ; while the lat-
ter, from the sheer force of their individuality, are permitted
to overstep all bounds so far as the realization of their own
ideas require. For such men there can be the repudiation of
all law: "Men for whom, to a certain extent, laws do not
exist." This division rests upon nature which separates men
into these two catagories and the morality of the ordinary
man is inferior and that of the extraordinary man is super-
ior. 3 But a doubt begins to take shape in the mind of Ras-

1. My Religion, ch. I.

2. Crime and Punishment, ch. iv.

3. Ib., ch. v.

Renunciation in Its Historical Development 43

kolnikoff that he may not belong to the superior class, a
doubt which, under the compunctions of conscience, finally
sweeps the ground from under his major morality and at the
suggestion of Sonia, he confesses his crime and willingly goes
to Siberia. Here is a complete break-down of the ideal of
self-realization and a definite repentance and repudiation of
the self. Dostoieffsky leaves Raskolnikoff seeking Christian
regeneration. 1

While the I9th Century thus witnessed a pronounced re-
vival of renunciation, it is also true that this Century pro-
duced the most violent opposition to the idea. This op-
position centered principally in two egoistic thinkers, Nietz-
sche and Sudermann. With the former self-realization
through disobedience is posited over against renunciation,
while with the latter, it is self-realization both in joys and
sins. Both thinkers agree in repudiating renunciation in
every form and in setting up in opposition a thorough-going
egoism. Wagner and Ibsen did the same in the earlier
periods of their thinking but both return from the revolt to a
religious basis, but not so with Nietzsche and Sudermann,
they never return. W T ith Sudermann, the opposition to re-
nunciation is found in his portrayal of an individualism which
brooks no denial of self in any form. His heroes are not
so much immoral as unmoral. They repudiate the law rath-
er than disobey it. They revolt against all social standards
and know nothing of repentance or confession of wrong do-
ing. Paul, in "Dame Care" finds his individuality in commit-
ting arson and when he confesses his crime in the law court,
there is no sense of sin but rather the sense of joy for he says,
speaking of his crime, "This deed has given me happiness.' 1
In "Magda" the Protagorean view is taken that "Man is
the measure of all things." Magda does as she pleases in
the world, a world, which to her, has no law. She says to
her father, when he asks concerning what she considers to
be true : "True to myself," "I am what I am," "I do what

i. Crime and Punishment, Epilogue ch. -ii.

44 The Ethical Ideal of Renunciation

I do." To her pastor, she declares that to be happy, you
must sin and be greater than your sin. In "The Cat's
Bridge" Regina has really no sense of right or wrong, while
Beata in the "Joy of living" cries out in her individualism
u Must every instinct end in remorse?" Sudermann's attack
upon the rigoristic ideal of renunciation is intended to make
it appear that such an ideal is misleading and unnecessary and
he does this by setting up his uncompromising ideal of in-
dividualism that it may make its own appeal. This opposi-
tion of Sudermann, is very mild as compared with the open
and bitter attack of Nietzsche upon all depreciatory ideals
of human life. Like Schopenhauer, he made the will the
very essence of man but where Schopenhauer conceived of
this essence as the Will-to-live and human happiness to con-
sist in over-coming it, Nietzsche developed the notion of the
Will-to-power and made human happiness to consist in the
very exercise of this power and in "The feeling that power
increases." For this reason, Nietzsche was at bitter war
with everything which found any weakness or evil in the will.
He hated science and religion because he believed that the
former belittled man and the latter treated him as though
he were sick and placed God over him. Nietzsche argued
that all moral standards are man-made and must be con-
stantly changing. Anything which tends to fix a standard of
morality is an enemy of man because such a standard hinders
the free action of his natural instincts and powers. By the
means of will man must rise above all ethical standards, even
above the conception of good and evil. By the will man may
become the superman. Nietzsche is an immoralist, material-
ist and empiricist The superman, which he never really por-
trays, is the goal of the earth. "Man is a bridge connecting
ape and superman. . . . The superman will be the final
flower and ultimate expression of the earth." 1 With such a
goal conceived for humanity, Nietzsche sweeps away every-
thing which tends to give man a depressing view of himself.
He must "Be hard" to all want, pain or misery in the world,

i. Also Sprach Zarathustra, I.

Renunciation in Its Historical Development 45

absolutely devoid of all pity or sympathy. As is to be ex-
pected every idea which has the appearance of renunciation
draws the fire of this immoralist. The despectio sui of
Geulincx, the return of Wagner to the religious position, the
Christian view of life, all are sharply denounced and often
with but little critical estimation. The Third Essay in the
Genealogy of Morals is given over to the discussion of the
question "What do ascetic ideals mean?" Nietzsche answers
that for Schopenhauer the ascetic ideal means "To get rid of
torture," 1 by which he means, that for the philosopher or the
educated classes, the ascetic ideal is a form of self-assertion
by which independence is secured. 2 But having permitted
the philosopher to have a "Hard and cheerful will to renun-
ciation," he proceeds to show that all others who practice or
advocate renunciation are "Sickmakers" who treat life as a
wrong way which we had best retrace or an error which
should be disproved by our deeds. Such an ascetic ideal,
Nietzsche considers a self-contradiction in that it is the Will-
to-power lording over life itself and "Is prompted by the
self-protective and self-preservative instinct of degenerating
life." 3 In other words, the ascetic ideal is the means by
which the instinct of self-preservation attempts to counteract
the effect of some partial physiological stagnation. Nietzsche
thus seeks a physical explanation of this ideal and makes its
priest but the victim of delusion, the product of the Will-to-
power, operating in the realm of human sickness and weak-
ness. Renunciation is, therefore, only a hypnotic means of
getting rid of a physiological depression. Self-contempt is
only an attack of bad conscience or to sum it up "The ascetic
ideal in the service of an extravagance of feelings." 4 Espec-
ially does Nietzsche pour out his contempt and wrath upon
Christianity which he believes places a premium upon weak-
ness and has brought about a transvaluation of all values in
that it has placed the weak in the ascendency and fostered

1. Genealogy of Morals, Tr. W. A. Haussmann, Third Essay, sec. 6.

2. Ib., Third Essay, sees. 7, 8.

3. Ib., Third Essay, sec. 13.

4. Ib., sec. 20.

46 The Ethical Ideal of Renunciation

slave-morality. The ascetic ideal for Nietzsche is only a dis-
ease of the common herd of mankind. It stands in the way
of the few strong men, the "Lucky cases of man," who
have the healthy Will-to-power, as a dangerous source of con-
tamination. But why does man will nothing? Nietzsche
answers this question by declaring that such is the nature of
the Will-to-power that even if man be deluded with the idea
of life as a horror, something to be willed away, yet "Rather
would man will the Nothing, than not will." 1 This bitter
attack of Nietzsche upon all ascetic ideals serves, at least,
to emphasize the very important part which renunciation has
played in the life of mankind. For this reason, Nietzsche
is of particular value in this historical survey. While he
fails to make out a good case for immoralistic individualism,
in that he is the victim of the weakness of all subjectivism
and is unable to satisfactorily substantiate his theory of the
rise of morality, yet he serves us well in being the connecting
link between our historical investigation of the renunciatory
ideal and its critical estimate.


Our historical review of renunciation as an ethical ideal is
now sufficient to indicate something of its universality and
persistency in human life, the forms in which it appears and
the ends which it seeks. Nietzsche was appalled by the extent
and endurance of renunciation. He went so far as to say
that an observer from another planet could "Infer that our
earth is the essentially ascetic star." 2 In the same connection
he notes: "How regularly, how universally, how almost at
any period, the ascetic priest makes his appearance ; he does
not belong exclusively to any race; he flourishes anywhere;
he grows out of all classes." 3 This observation of Nietzsche
is scarcely exaggerated. We have already seen the great fas-
cination of renunciation for the oriental mind, especially in
China and India. While its domination is not so marked in

1. Gen. Morals, sec. 28.

2. Ib., pt. III., sec. ii.

3. Ib., Third Essay, sec. 28.

Critical Estimate of Renunciation 47

the Occident with its ideals of life and activity, nevertheless
it is a fundamental principle of Christianity, producing mo-
nasticism and mysticism. Even rationalism did not escape its
influence as is seen in the teachings of Geulincx and Male-
branche. It becomes the great weapon of the pessimism of
Schopenhauer and his school. It introduces the melancholy
note into the music of Richard Wagner, so pro-
nounced in "Tristan and Isolde" and "Parsifal." It
accompanies the sympathism of Russian thought, par-
ticularly attractive for Tolstoi and Dostoieffsky. These
are only the principle fields in which it appears for
scarcely any phase of human life is free from its
presence in some form, either to be accepted or dismissed.
In form, too, it greatly varies. For the Taoist it takes the
form of nihilism, nothing exists, therefore nothing needs to
be done. For the Brahman it is a worklessness where-
in all motive and purpose disappear from activity. For the
Buddhist and Schopenhauer it is life turning upon itself be-
cause non-existence is to be preferred to existence. In all
these forms, the end of renunciation is the complete extinc-
tion of the individual human being because he is a stranger
in the world, without a home and without a work. For Geu-
lincx and the Occasionalists, the form is that of a rationalistic
withdrawal from nature because man has no work to per-
form. He has no will to effect anything, and is but a specta-
tor in his world with the ethical vocation of loving God and
reason. For Christianity and the Russian Sympathists, the
form is rather self-denial with the purpose of building up a
spiritual existence upon the ruins of self-love and self-en-
deavor. This form admits that man has a home in the world
and a work to accomplish but both home and work are of an
unearthly character.

Now how shall we explain the existence of this ideal, so
universal, so varied in form and for the most part so in-
imical to human existence in the world? Nietzsche offers a
physiological explanation which we can not accept. Here
is a power holding sway over great masses of mankind, often
bringing to them a form of satisfaction and inspiring them

48 The Ethical Ideal of Renunciation

to lofty deeds. Man has proven himself as capable of deny-
ing himself as of affirming himself. To say with Nietzsche
that ascetic ideals are due to the effort of the self-preserving
instinct to overcome some "partial physiological stagnation
and languishment," 1 is to underestimate the strength and
value of these ideals and to offer a puerile explanation. We
must look for more adequate grounds for the renunciatory
ideals and we discover these in fields both negative and posi-
tive. According to the former, life neither contains nor con-
tents man and on the latter basis the ideal of renunciation
is a means by which man can affirm his higher nature and
assert his essential superiority to the world of sense and

i. It is Nietzsche who calls our attention to the "Lack"
element 2 in the consciousness of humanity and thus renders
us a service in suggesting the question so fundamental in our
problem, viz. why is man, the seeming child of nature, so dis-
satisfied and discontented with his natural life in the world?
That such is the fact is revealed by his logic by which he seeks
to recreate his world from sense impressions; by his aesthe-
tics by which he desires to improve upon nature and in so
doing give play to an inner impulse which goes out beyond
nature; by his ethics wherein he is continually adjusting and
re-adjusting himself with humanity and by his religion
wherein he conceives of God and is ever after unable to be-
lieve that nature can contain or content him or satisfy his
ideals. Again we must make Nietzsche an unwilling con-
tributor to our negative position because he points out that
man has "Suffered from the problem of his significance," 3
but we part company with him as to the meaning of this sig-
nificance. Nietzsche, keeping man wholly ensconced in nature,
makes this significance to reside wholly in the will, a char-
acteristic of which he says, is to will something even if it be
nothingness. 4 We take the position, however, that man is

1. Gen. Morals, pt. Ill, sec. 13.

2. Ib., sec. 28.

3. Ib., pt. Ill, sec. 28.

4. Ib.

Critical Estimate of Renunciation 49

both nature and spirit, deriving from the former his will and
from the latter his ideals. It is in the realm of the spirit
where his real significance lies. While man is a child of na-
ture in the realm of sense, he is a child of the spirit in his in-
ner life and it is for this reason that nature can never con-
tain nor content him. The introduction of this spiritual
conception, places man at once in an ambiguous position.
He is not at home in nature nor yet fully cognizant of his
place in the spiritual order. ''Man's midway position as
well as the mixture of sense and spirit in his consciousness
make it needful for him to inquire concerning his place in
the world-whole and to posit his inner life in contrast to
his outer existence." 1 It is this conception of man's rela-
tion to a higher order which lead Schiller to see
the "Grace and Dignity" in humanity and while not over-
looking the intolerable condition of the human lot, believed
that man by discovering his true nature and seeking to realize
it, could rise above nature and attain to a good, in compari-
son with which the world of immediacy dwindles into noth-
ingness.- That our problem of renunciation is due to this
characteristic of humanity is born out by the history of re-
nunciatory ideals. Why will man turn upon his world as in
Taoism and the Vedanta and willingly negate it? The an-
swer lies in the fact that the inner life is unsatisfied, hungry
and empty but has not realized its place in the real world-or-
der or even its relation thereto. Why will man turn upon his
own life as in Buddhism, unless it be that it appears value-
less? Why do Geulincx and Malebranche see no work for
man to do, unless it be that he lacks something to make his
life effective? Why will Schopenhauer and his school see
nothing but hopeless despair for miserable humanity, unless
it be that there is the failure to see anything but want? Why
this everlasting return of Ibsen, Wagner, Tolstoi and Dos-
toieffsky from realism, individualism and materialism, to

1. Shaw, The Value and Dignity of Human Life, pt. I, sec. i.

2. Eucken, Prob. Human Life, Tr. W. S. Hough and W. R. Gibson,
Pg- 476.

50 The Ethical Ideal of Renunciation

their repudiation and the positing of something of a religious
character, unless it be that the spiritual life is demanding
recognition which man, from his very constitution, is willing
to give sooner or later. Negatively, therefore, nature can
never content nor contain man. The problem which emerges
is that of attaining spiritual self-hood in a world of sense and
immediacy. Renunciation has a service to render in the
solution of this problem. While it has been frequently mis-
used where all life and work, as such, have been repudiated,
yet the nature of the problem demands the proper use of this
subtle art of repudiation. It is in the positive field of the
affirmation of the self in its spiritual nature and in its rela-
tion to a new order of life, where renunciation comes to its
own rights and proves itself a necessary and important fac-

2. Corresponding to the "Lack" element, observed by
Nietzsche, which places man in the negative relation with
nature, there is the "More" element observed by Schiller and
Eucken. If nature can not contain or content man, it is be-
cause man is more than nature. Schiller found this "More"
element in the realm of Aesthetics while Eucken sees it in
the spheres of logic, morality and self-consciousness. 1 Na-
ture being unable to account for this sense of the "More"
without involving itself in dire contradictions, leaves it to be
grounded in the ego of a spiritual character. The rise of
this spiritual life is not constant. As Eucken observes, his-
tory indicates that there are periods of affirmation when the
consciousness of the spiritual prevails and then periods of
negation when the consciousness of nature and immediacy
holds sway. 2 This can be accounted for on the ground that
there is no sharp line between the world of spirit and sense
in man. However, the spiritual will not down and in its
struggle for realization and affirmation it uses renunciation
to subdue the world of sense. That man actually follows
such a course of precedure is confined by experience and his-

1. Eucken, Life's Basis and Life's Ideals, Tr. A. G. Widgery, pg. H3ff.

2. Eucken, Life of the Spirit, Tr. F. L. Pogson, pg. 103.

Critical Estimate of Renunciation 51

tory. Man refuses to receive the world in a passive or
uncritical spirit, thus indicating his superiority over it and
manifesting the dignity and validity of his inner life. The
nihilism of the Tao may be unreasonable and repulsive, yet
we are compelled to admit that it illustrates the naive strug-
gles of the ego to examine and estimate its world and find-
ing it empty and being unable to discover a positive order,
it turns and reduces its world to nothingness. We can not
ignore this power of the self to affirm something even if that
something be nothing. This struggle with the sense-world
underlies the worklessness of the Yoga and the Nirvanism
of Buddhism, for with all the weak pessimism of these sys-
tems, the Yoga dedicates the self to Brahman in one supreme
deed, while Buddhism would save the self by the "Eight-
fold path." Geulincx, while advocating the "Despectio sui,"
retains the dignity of being a spectator in the world. Schop-
enhauer relates the self to the world-will and thus gives it the
distinction of intellectual victory over the Will-to-live. The
self can even affirm itself by slaying itself. Ibsen has the
Button-moulder say to Peer Gynt: "To be one's self is to
slay one's self." 1 Christianity announces the same principle
when it declares: "Whosoever shall lose his life shall pre-
serve it." Renunciation is in reality self-affirmation. By the
very act of renouncing, the ego proclaims its dignity and
superiority and enters into the realization of its own self-
hood. As Descartes realized his ontological self in the dic-
tum "Cogito, ergo sum," man can realize his ethical self by

1 2 4

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