Thomas Carlyle.

Sartor resartus; and, On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history online

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by miracle, and fly heavenward. Far otherwise! In that Fire-whirlwind,
Creation and Destruction proceed together; ever as the ashes of the
Old are blown about, do organic filaments of the New mysteriously spin
themselves: and amid the rushing and the waving of the
Whirlwind-Element come tones of a melodious Deathsong, which end not
but in tones of a more melodious Birthsong. Nay, look into the
Fire-whirlwind with thy own eyes, and thou wilt see.' Let us actually
look, then: to poor individuals, who cannot expect to live two
centuries, those same organic filaments, mysteriously spinning
themselves, will be the best part of the spectacle. First, therefore,
this of Mankind in general:

'In vain thou deniest it,' says the Professor; 'thou _art_ my Brother.
Thy very Hatred, thy very Envy, those foolish lies thou tellest of me
in thy splenetic humour: what is all this but an inverted Sympathy?
Were I a Steam-engine, wouldst thou take the trouble to tell lies of
me? Not thou! I should grind all unheeded, whether badly or well.

'Wondrous truly are the bonds that unite us one and all; whether by
the soft binding of Love, or the iron chaining of Necessity, as we
like to choose it. More than once have I said to myself, of some
perhaps whimsically strutting Figure, such as provokes whimsical
thoughts: "Wert thou, my little Brotherkin, suddenly covered-up within
the largest imaginable Glass-bell, - what a thing it were, not for
thyself only, but for the world! Post Letters, more or fewer, from all
the four winds, impinge against thy Glass walls, but have to drop
unread: neither from within comes there question or response into any
Postbag; thy Thoughts fall into no friendly ear or heart, thy
Manufacture into no purchasing hand: thou art no longer a circulating
venous-arterial Heart, that, taking and giving, circulatest through
all Space and all Time: there has a Hole fallen-out in the
immeasurable, universal World-tissue, which must be darned-up again!"

'Such venous-arterial circulation, of Letters, verbal Messages, paper
and other Packages, going out from him and coming in, are a
blood-circulation, visible to the eye: but the finer nervous
circulation, by which all things, the minutest that he does, minutely
influence all men, and the very look of his face blesses or curses
whomso it lights on, and so generates ever new blessing or new
cursing: all this you cannot see, but only imagine. I say, there is
not a red Indian, hunting by Lake Winnipic, can quarrel with his
squaw, but the whole world must smart for it: will not the price of
beaver rise? It is a mathematical fact that the casting of this pebble
from my hand alters the centre of gravity of the Universe.

'If now an existing generation of men stand so woven together, not
less indissolubly does generation with generation. Hast thou ever
meditated on that word, Tradition: how we inherit not Life only, but
all the garniture and form of Life; and work, and speak, and even
think and feel, as our Fathers, and primeval grandfathers, from the
beginning, have given it us? - Who printed thee, for example, this
unpretending Volume on the Philosophy of Clothes? Not the Herren
Stillschweigen and Company; but Cadmus of Thebes, Faust of Mentz, and
innumerable others whom thou knowest not. Had there been no
Moesogothic Ulfila, there had been no English Shakspeare, or a
different one. Simpleton! it was Tubalcain that made thy very Tailor's
needle, and sewed that court-suit of thine.

'Yes, truly; if Nature is one, and a living indivisible whole, much
more is Mankind, the Image that reflects and creates Nature, without
which Nature were not. As palpable life-streams in that wondrous
Individual Mankind, among so many life-streams that are not palpable,
flow on those main-currents of what we call Opinion; as preserved in
Institutions, Polities, Churches, above all in Books. Beautiful it is
to understand and know that a Thought did never yet die; that as thou,
the originator thereof, hast gathered it and created it from the whole
Past, so thou wilt transmit it to the whole Future. It is thus that
the heroic heart, the seeing eye of the first times, still feels and
sees in us of the latest; that the Wise Man stands ever encompassed,
and spiritually embraced, by a cloud of witnesses and brothers; and
there is a living, literal _Communion of Saints_, wide as the World
itself, and as the History of the World.

'Noteworthy also, and serviceable for the progress of this same
Individual, wilt thou find his subdivision into Generations.
Generations are as the Days of toilsome Mankind: Death and Birth are
the vesper and the matin bells, that summon Mankind to sleep, and to
rise refreshed for new advancement. What the Father has made, the Son
can make and enjoy; but has also work of his own appointed him. Thus
all things wax, and roll onwards; Arts, Establishments, Opinions,
nothing is completed, but ever completing. Newton has learned to see
what Kepler saw; but there is also a fresh heaven-derived force in
Newton; he must mount to still higher points of vision. So too the
Hebrew Lawgiver is, in due time, followed by an Apostle of the
Gentiles. In the business of Destruction, as this also is from time to
time a necessary work, thou findest a like sequence and perseverance:
for Luther it was as yet hot enough to stand by that burning of the
Pope's Bull; Voltaire could not warm himself at the glimmering ashes,
but required quite other fuel. Thus likewise, I note, the English Whig
has, in the second generation, become an English Radical; who, in the
third again, it is to be hoped, will become an English Rebuilder. Find
Mankind where thou wilt, thou findest it in living movement, in
progress faster or slower: the Phoenix soars aloft, hovers with
outstretched wings, filling Earth with her music; or, as now, she
sinks, and with spheral swan-song immolates herself in flame, that she
may soar the higher and sing the clearer.'

Let the friends of social order, in such a disastrous period, lay this
to heart, and derive from it any little comfort they can. We subjoin
another passage, concerning Titles:

'Remark, not without surprise,' says Teufelsdröckh, 'how all high
Titles of Honour come hitherto from fighting. Your _Herzog_ (Duke,
_Dux_) is Leader of Armies; your Earl (_Jarl_) is Strong Man; your
Marshal cavalry Horse-shoer. A Millennium, or reign of Peace and
Wisdom, having from of old been prophesied, and becoming now daily
more and more indubitable, may it not be apprehended that such
Fighting-titles will cease to be palatable, and new and higher need to
be devised?

'The only Title wherein I, with confidence, trace eternity, is that of
King. _König_ (King), anciently _Könning_, means Ken-ning (Cunning),
or which is the same thing, Can-ning. Ever must the Sovereign of
Mankind be fitly entitled King.'

'Well, also,' says he elsewhere, 'was it written by Theologians: a
King rules by divine right. He carries in him an authority from God,
or man will never give it him. Can I choose my own King? I can choose
my own King Popinjay, and play what farce or tragedy I may with him:
but he who is to be my Ruler, whose will is to be higher than my will,
was chosen for me in Heaven. Neither except in such Obedience to the
Heaven-chosen is Freedom so much as conceivable.'

* * * * *

The Editor will here admit that, among all the wondrous provinces of
Teufelsdröckh's spiritual world, there is none he walks in with such
astonishment, hesitation, and even pain, as in the Political. How,
with our English love of Ministry and Opposition, and that generous
conflict of Parties, mind warming itself against mind in their mutual
wrestle for the Public Good, by which wrestle, indeed, is our
invaluable Constitution kept warm and alive; how shall we domesticate
ourselves in this spectral Necropolis, or rather City both of the Dead
and of the Unborn, where the Present seems little other than an
inconsiderable Film dividing the Past and the Future? In those dim
longdrawn expanses, all is so immeasurable; much so disastrous,
ghastly; your very radiances and straggling light-beams have a
supernatural character. And then with such an indifference, such a
prophetic peacefulness (accounting the inevitably coming as already
here, to him all one whether it be distant by centuries or only by
days), does he sit; - and live, you would say, rather in any other age
than in his own! It is our painful duty to announce, or repeat, that,
looking into this man, we discern a deep, silent, slow-burning,
inextinguishable Radicalism, such as fills us with shuddering

Thus, for example, he appears to make little even of the Elective
Franchise; at least so we interpret the following: 'Satisfy
yourselves,' he says, 'by universal, indubitable experiment, even as
ye are now doing or will do, whether FREEDOM, heavenborn and leading
heavenward, and so vitally essential for us all, cannot peradventure
be mechanically hatched and brought to light in that same Ballot-Box
of yours; or at worst, in some other discoverable or devisable Box,
Edifice, or Steam-mechanism. It were a mighty convenience; and beyond
all feats of manufacture witnessed hitherto.' Is Teufelsdröckh
acquainted with the British Constitution, even slightly? - He says,
under another figure: 'But after all, were the problem, as indeed it
now everywhere is, To rebuild your old House from the top downwards
(since you must live in it the while), what better, what other, than
the Representative Machine will serve your turn? Meanwhile, however,
mock me not with the name of Free, "when you have but knit-up my
chains into ornamental festoons."' - Or what will any member of the
Peace Society make of such an assertion as this: 'The lower people
everywhere desire War. Not so unwisely; there is then a demand for
lower people - to be shot!'

Gladly, therefore, do we emerge from those soul-confusing labyrinths
of speculative Radicalism, into somewhat clearer regions. Here,
looking round, as was our hest, for 'organic filaments,' we ask, may
not this, touching 'Hero-worship,' be of the number? It seems of a
cheerful character; yet so quaint, so mystical, one knows not what, or
how little, may lie under it. Our readers shall look with their own

'True is it that, in these days, man can do almost all things, only
not obey. True likewise that whoso cannot obey cannot be free, still
less bear rule; he that is the inferior of nothing, can be the
superior of nothing, the equal of nothing. Nevertheless, believe not
that man has lost his faculty of Reverence; that if it slumber in him,
it has gone dead. Painful for man is that same rebellious
Independence, when it has become inevitable; only in loving
companionship with his fellows does he feel safe; only in reverently
bowing down before the Higher does he feel himself exalted.

'Or what if the character of our so troublous Era lay even in this:
that man had forever cast away Fear, which is the lower; but not yet
risen into perennial Reverence, which is the higher and highest?

'Meanwhile, observe with joy, so cunningly has Nature ordered it, that
whatsoever man ought to obey, he cannot but obey. Before no faintest
revelation of the Godlike did he ever stand irreverent; least of all,
when the Godlike showed itself revealed in his fellow-man. Thus is
there a true religious Loyalty forever rooted in his heart; nay in all
ages, even in ours, it manifests itself as a more or less orthodox
_Hero-worship_. In which fact, that Hero-worship exists, has existed,
and will forever exist, universally among Mankind, mayest thou discern
the corner-stone of living-rock, whereon all Polities for the remotest
time may stand secure.'

Do our readers discern any such corner-stone, or even so much as what
Teufelsdröckh is looking at? He exclaims, 'Or hast thou forgotten
Paris and Voltaire? How the aged, withered man, though but a Sceptic,
Mocker, and millinery Court-poet, yet because even he seemed the
Wisest, Best, could drag mankind at his chariot-wheels, so that
princes coveted a smile from him, and the loveliest of France would
have laid their hair beneath his feet! All Paris was one vast Temple
of Hero-worship; though their Divinity, moreover, was of feature too

'But if such things,' continues he, 'were done in the dry tree, what
will be done in the green? If, in the most parched season of Man's
History, in the most parched spot of Europe, when Parisian life was at
best but a scientific _Hortus Siccus_, bedizened with some Italian
Gumflowers, such virtue could come out of it; what is to be looked for
when Life again waves leafy and bloomy, and your Hero-Divinity shall
have nothing apelike, but be wholly human? Know that there is in man a
quite indestructible Reverence for whatsoever holds of Heaven, or even
plausibly counterfeits such holding. Show the dullest clodpole, show
the haughtiest featherhead, that a soul higher than himself is
actually here; were his knees stiffened into brass, he must down and

Organic filaments, of a more authentic sort, mysteriously spinning
themselves, some will perhaps discover in the following passage:

'There is no Church, sayest thou? The voice of Prophecy has gone dumb?
This is even what I dispute: but in any case, hast thou not still
Preaching enough? A Preaching Friar settles himself in every village;
and builds a pulpit, which he calls Newspaper. Therefrom he preaches
what most momentous doctrine is in him, for man's salvation; and dost
not thou listen, and believe? Look well, thou seest everywhere a new
Clergy of the Mendicant Orders, some bare-footed, some almost
bare-backed, fashion itself into shape, and teach and preach,
zealously enough, for copper alms and the love of God. These break in
pieces the ancient idols; and, though themselves too often reprobate,
as idol-breakers are wont to be, mark out the sites of new Churches,
where the true God-ordained, that are to follow, may find audience,
and minister. Said I not, Before the old skin was shed, the new had
formed itself beneath it?'

Perhaps also in the following; wherewith we now hasten to knit-up this
ravelled sleeve:

'But there is no Religion?' reiterates the Professor. 'Fool! I tell
thee, there is. Hast thou well considered all that lies in this
immeasurable froth-ocean we name LITERATURE? Fragments of a genuine
Church-_Homiletic_ lie scattered there, which Time will assort: nay
fractions even of a _Liturgy_ could I point out. And knowest thou no
Prophet, even in the vesture, environment, and dialect of this age?
None to whom the God-like had revealed itself, through all meanest and
highest forms of the Common; and by him been again prophetically
revealed: in whose inspired melody, even in these rag-gathering and
rag-burning days, Man's Life again begins, were it but afar off, to be
divine? Knowest thou none such? I know him, and name him - Goethe.

'But thou as yet standest in no Temple; joinest in no Psalm-worship;
feelest well that, where there is no ministering Priest, the people
perish? Be of comfort! Thou art not alone, if thou have Faith. Spake
we not of a Communion of Saints, unseen, yet not unreal, accompanying
and brother-like embracing thee, so thou be worthy? Their heroic
Sufferings rise up melodiously together to Heaven, out of all lands,
and out of all times, as a sacred _Miserere_; their heroic Actions
also, as a boundless everlasting Psalm of Triumph. Neither say that
thou hast now no Symbol of the Godlike. Is not God's Universe a Symbol
of the Godlike; is not Immensity a Temple; is not Man's History, and
Men's History, a perpetual Evangel? Listen, and for organ-music thou
wilt ever, as of old, hear the Morning Stars sing together.'



It is in his stupendous Section, headed _Natural Supernaturalism_,
that the Professor first becomes a Seer; and, after long effort, such
as we have witnessed, finally subdues under his feet this refractory
Clothes-Philosophy, and takes victorious possession thereof. Phantasms
enough he has had to struggle with; 'Cloth-webs and Cob-webs,' of
Imperial Mantles, Superannuated Symbols, and what not: yet still did
he courageously pierce through. Nay, worst of all, two quite
mysterious, world-embracing Phantasms, TIME and SPACE, have ever
hovered round him, perplexing and bewildering: but with these also he
now resolutely grapples, these also he victoriously rends asunder. In
a word, he has looked fixedly on Existence, till, one after the other,
its earthly hulls and garnitures have all melted away; and now, to his
rapt vision, the interior celestial Holy of Holies lies disclosed.

Here, therefore, properly it is that the Philosophy of Clothes attains
to Transcendentalism; this last leap, can we but clear it, takes us
safe into the promised land, where _Palingenesia_, in all senses, may
be considered as beginning. 'Courage, then!' may our Diogenes exclaim,
with better right than Diogenes the First once did. This stupendous
Section we, after long painful meditation, have found not to be
unintelligible; but, on the contrary, to grow clear, nay radiant, and
all-illuminating. Let the reader, turning on it what utmost force of
speculative intellect is in him, do his part; as we, by judicious
selection and adjustment, shall study to do ours:

'Deep has been, and is, the significance of Miracles,' thus quietly
begins the Professor; 'far deeper perhaps than we imagine. Meanwhile,
the question of questions were: What specially is a Miracle? To that
Dutch King of Siam, an icicle had been a miracle; whoso had carried
with him an air-pump, and vial of vitriolic ether, might have worked a
miracle. To my Horse, again, who unhappily is still more unscientific,
do not I work a miracle, and magical "_Open sesame!_" every time I
please to pay twopence, and open for him an impassable _Schlagbaum_,
or shut Turnpike?

'"But is not a real Miracle simply a violation of the Laws of Nature?"
ask several. Whom I answer by this new question: What are the Laws of
Nature? To me perhaps the rising of one from the dead were no
violation of these Laws, but a confirmation; were some far deeper Law,
now first penetrated into, and by Spiritual Force, even as the rest
have all been, brought to bear on us with its Material Force.

'Here too may some inquire, not without astonishment: On what ground
shall one, that can make Iron swim, come and declare that therefore he
can teach Religion? To us, truly, of the Nineteenth Century, such
declaration were inept enough; which nevertheless to our fathers, of
the First Century, was full of meaning.

'"But is it not the deepest Law of Nature that she be constant?" cries
an illuminated class: "Is not the Machine of the Universe fixed to
move by unalterable rules?" Probable enough, good friends: nay I, too,
must believe that the God, whom ancient inspired men assert to be
"without variableness or shadow of turning," does indeed never change;
that Nature, that the Universe, which no one whom it so pleases can be
prevented from calling a Machine, does move by the most unalterable
rules. And now of you, too, I make the old inquiry: What those same
unalterable rules, forming the complete Statute-Book of Nature, may
possibly be?

'They stand written in our Works of Science, say you; in the
accumulated records of Man's Experience? - Was Man with his Experience
present at the Creation, then, to see how it all went on? Have any
deepest scientific individuals yet dived-down to the foundations of the
Universe, and gauged everything there? Did the Maker take them into His
counsel; that they read His groundplan of the incomprehensible All; and
can say, This stands marked therein, and no more than this? Alas, not
in anywise! These scientific individuals have been nowhere but where we
also are; have seen some handbreadths deeper than we see into the Deep
that is infinite, without bottom as without shore.

'Laplace's Book on the Stars, wherein he exhibits that certain
Planets, with their Satellites, gyrate round our worthy Sun, at a rate
and in a course, which, by greatest good fortune, he and the like of
him have succeeded in detecting, - is to me as precious as to another.
But is this what thou namest "Mechanism of the Heavens," and "System
of the World"; this, wherein Sirius and the Pleiades, and all
Herschel's Fifteen-thousand Suns per minute, being left out, some
paltry handful of Moons, and inert Balls, had been - looked at,
nicknamed, and marked in the Zodiacal Way-bill; so that we can now
prate of their Whereabout; their How, their Why, their What, being hid
from us, as in the signless Inane?

'System of Nature! To the wisest man, wide as is his vision, Nature
remains of quite _infinite_ depth, of quite infinite expansion; and
all Experience thereof limits itself to some few computed centuries
and measured square-miles. The course of Nature's phases, on this our
little fraction of a Planet, is partially known to us: but who knows
what deeper courses these depend on; what infinitely larger Cycle (of
causes) our little Epicycle revolves on? To the Minnow every cranny
and pebble, and quality and accident, of its little native Creek may
have become familiar: but does the Minnow understand the Ocean Tides
and periodic Currents, the Trade-winds, and Monsoons, and Moon's
Eclipses; by all which the condition of its little Creek is regulated,
and may, from time to time (_un_miraculously enough), be quite overset
and reversed? Such a Minnow is Man; his Creek this Planet Earth; his
Ocean the immeasurable All; his Monsoons and periodic Currents the
mysterious Course of Providence through Æons of Æons.

'We speak of the Volume of Nature: and truly a Volume it is, - whose
Author and Writer is God. To read it! Dost thou, does man, so much as
well know the Alphabet thereof? With its Words, Sentences, and grand
descriptive Pages, poetical and philosophical, spread out through
Solar Systems, and Thousands of Years, we shall not try thee. It is a
Volume written in celestial hieroglyphs, in the true Sacred-writing;
of which even Prophets are happy that they can read here a line and
there a line. As for your Institutes, and Academies of Science, they
strive bravely; and, from amid the thick-crowded, inextricably
intertwisted hieroglyphic writing, pick-out, by dextrous combination,
some Letters in the vulgar Character, and therefrom put together this
and the other economic Recipe, of high avail in Practice. That Nature
is more than some boundless Volume of such Recipes, or huge, well-nigh
inexhaustible Domestic-Cookery Book, of which the whole secret will in
this manner one day evolve itself, the fewest dream.

* * * * *

'Custom,' continues the Professor, 'doth make dotards of us all.
Consider well, thou wilt find that Custom is the greatest of Weavers;
and weaves air-raiment for all the Spirits of the Universe; whereby
indeed these dwell with us visibly, as ministering servants, in our
houses and workshops; but their spiritual nature becomes, to the most,
forever hidden. Philosophy complains that Custom has hoodwinked us,
from the first; that we do everything by Custom, even Believe by it;
that our very Axioms, let us boast of Free-thinking as we may, are
oftenest simply such Beliefs as we have never heard questioned. Nay,
what is Philosophy throughout but a continual battle against Custom;
an ever-renewed effort to _transcend_ the sphere of blind Custom, and
so become Transcendental?

'Innumerable are the illusions and legerdemain-tricks of Custom: but
of all these, perhaps the cleverest is her knack of persuading us that
the Miraculous, by simple repetition, ceases to be Miraculous. True,
it is by this means we live; for man must work as well as wonder: and
herein is Custom so far a kind nurse, guiding him to his true benefit.
But she is a fond foolish nurse, or rather we are false foolish
nurslings, when, in our resting and reflecting hours, we prolong the
same deception. Am I to view the Stupendous with stupid indifference,
because I have seen it twice, or two-hundred, or two-million times?
There is no reason in Nature or in Art why I should: unless, indeed, I
am a mere Work-Machine, for whom the divine gift of Thought were no
other than the terrestrial gift of Steam is to the Steam-engine; a
power whereby Cotton might be spun, and money and money's worth

'Notable enough too, here as elsewhere, wilt thou find the potency of
Names; which indeed are but one kind of such custom-woven,
wonder-hiding Garments. Witchcraft, and all manner of Spectre-work,

Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; and, On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history → online text (page 18 of 43)