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Thoughts Personal & Superpersonal 
Knowledge & Skepticism

Rembrandt, "Two Philosophers in Conversation," 1628 [1]

Rembrandt, “Two Philosophers in Conversation,” 1628

701 words

Editor’s Note:

The following text is an excerpt from a collection of unpublished notes entitled “Thoughts Personal and Superpersonal,” transcribed by Kerry Bolton. The title of the selection is mine.

The three forms of knowledge as the three forms of Causality-Principle.

Superstition is basically human. The other two are Culture-human, found only in men under the impress of a High Culture, thus they are the creations of the High culture itself. Superstition always exists, the others only during the life-course of the high Culture. Religion is the beginning and the end of knowledge-form of a High culture. Science is the counterpoint to Religion; for seven centuries it is the bass, and then for a brief period, it ascends into the treble, carries the culture-melody, and then dies out forever, followed closely by its parent-religion. Superstition exists before culture, underneath it, and after it. All knowledge succumbs in the end to superstition.

Here is the key to Skepsis. The skeptic has no knowledge; he needs none. Explanations do not interest him, nor suffice him. Self-expression alone, and that in deeds, is his need.

***

The skeptic is the bravest man. He needs no rationalized equipment like the religionists and the scientificoes. He suffices in his feelings of race, honor, inner imperative and mission. Explanations are meaningless in this realm. Explanation is breaking down into simple things, but honor and the mission are themselves elements, cannot be broken down.

***

The skeptic can see the outer world as void, enigmatic, meaningless. He is not overmastered by his fear. He does not run to gods of his own creation, nor to natural laws, to give his life an intellectualized meaning, to hide from Fate.

***

The skeptic has no need of these intellectualized devices for escaping from metaphysical fear, for one simple, reason: the strength of his ascendant instincts themselves overcome his world-fear. The skeptic is the man with absolute confidence in himself—metaphysical self-confidence. This is the highest formula for honor and race, and for the heroic world-outlook. His substitute for knowledge—which is always mediate—is feeling, which is immediate. He feels his aim in life, and he feels his life-ethos. Beyond this, he feels the sublime accident-quality of everything outside the data of his feeling.

***

This type of skepticism has nothing in common with what the clerical people call skepticism. They mean not believing in their particular distillate of fear-antitoxin. Absolute skepticism however, is the disbelief in all explanations, simply because of the precedent inability to believe in the power of the intellect to achieve satisfactory results in the realm of the last and deepest things.

***

Intellect is a practical thing: it is a weapon, a tool. It is for the purpose of accomplishing terrestrial things, making steel, building bridges and ships, navigating the senses and skies, producing food. But it can only work in submission to something higher, just as a tool can only be plied by a hand. This something higher is the instinct, which demands that the problem be solved. The solution of the ultimate problems however, can only be bungled by intellect. Indistinct of higher men refuses to accept any such botched product as an explanation of Life and World. This instinct refuses all explanations, because they are all so pathetic, and even the possibility of an explanation, because the world is so sublime.

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Intellect is to the beast-of-prey man what claws and teeth are to the tiger. Intellect is the most flexible and powerful of all tools and weapons. This is its distinction, and in this let Intellect be humbly satisfied.

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It is also a shield: it can protect one from traps. It is also a tonic; it can remind a tired and suffering soul of that which it well knows, and can thus renew it.

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The Instincts of the Northern Barbarian, the highest order of intellect sharpened to the keenest edge by historicism and a resolute skepsis: these are the human treasures which we higher men of the period 1950–2050 bring to the Destiny of Europe, and which we put into its service in all religion.