Illogic Primer Quotes Clippings Books and Bibliography Paper Trails Links Film

Miguel de Unamuno on Renouncing Versus Engaging

Tragic Sense of Life, trans. J.E. Crawford Flitch (Dover: 1954), orig. 1921, pp. 289-91.

Instead of renouncing the world in order that we may dominate it … what we ought to do is to dominate the world in order that we may be able to renounce it. Not to seek poverty and submission, but to seek wealth in order that we may use it to increase human consciousness, and to seek power for the same end. ¶ It is curious that monks and anarchists should be at enmity with each other, when fundamentally they both profess the same ethic and are related by close ties of kinship. Anarchism tend to become a kind of atheistic monachism and a religious, rather than an ethical enconomico-social, doctrine. The one party starts from the assumption that man is naturally evil, born in original sin, and that it is through grace that he becomes good, if indeed he ever does become good; and the other from the assumption that man is naturally good and is subsequently perverted by society. And these two theories really amount to the same thing, for in both the individual is opposed to society, as if the individual had preceded society and therefore were destined to survive it. And both ethics are ethics of the cloister.

And the fact that guilt is collective must not actuate me to throw mine upon the shoulders of other, but rather to take upon myself the burden of the guilt of others, the guilt of all men; not to merge and sink my guilt in the total mass of guilt, but to make this total guilt my own; not to dismiss and banish my own guilt, but to open the doors of my heart to the guilt of all men, to centre it within myself and appropriate it to myself. And each one of us ought to help to remedy the guilt, and just because others do not do so. The fact that society is guilty aggravates the guilt of each member of it. “Someone ought to do it, but why should I? is the ever re-echoed phrase of weak-kneed amiability. Someone ought to do it, so why not I? is the cry of some earnest servant of man, eagerly forward springing to face some perilous duty. Between these two sentences lie whole centuries of moral evolution.” Thus spoke Mrs. Annie Besant in her autobiography. Thus spoke theosophy.