by Hans C. Syz, M.D.

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monet lily pond

About the Author

Born in Switzerland, Hans Syz studied medicine at the universities of Zurich, Munich, and Geneva before coming to the United States in 1921. He served under Adolf Meyer at the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic of The Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1922 to 1927. There he pursued clinical work as well as experimental studies in the psychophysiological laboratory. At the same time, Dr. Syz' interest was centering on the pioneer group research of Trigant Burrow. A forerunner of the group therapies and other group dynamic approaches, this investigation took place in an ongoing experimental community and was concerned with conflict and alienation in society at large. In 1927 The Lifwynn Foundation was organized in New York to provide a social setting for this research. Dr. Syz served as the Foundation's secretary until 1951, then as president until 1992.


WHEN I WROTE these notes in May, 1916, I was a twenty-one year old medical student engaged in preclinical work in Zurich, Switzerland, where I was born and where I spent my early years. My parents were of old Swiss stock and I was raised in a conventional Protestant setting. Questioning many accepted tenets of my background I passed through long periods of search and conflict preceding the experience reported here.

As will be evident, the notes were not written for publication; they emerged from the need for clarification when I was faced with a powerful experience for which no avenues of communication seemed available other than writing. Thus came about a spontaneous account of a potent event which was stirring and meaningful to me and which had relevance to a whole array of perennial problems of life and existence. In expressing my thoughts I did not adhere to an established philosophy or to the teachings of a preceptor.

I had not re-read these notes for decades, but a few months ago when I went over some of the pages I found their content still meaningful. A number of people whose judgment I value have now seen this material and they have suggested that it be made generally available. The notes are given here without alteration or commentary.

* * * *

May 14, 1916


I should like to put down a few things concerning my present condition. Thursday night, May 4th, I repeatedly awoke with a feeling of great terror combined with a certain train of thought. Naturally I do not know whether the emergence of these thoughts was primary, causing the fear, or whether the fear had bodily origins, bringing about the thoughts. It should also be noted that I did some rowing on Wednesday but not on Thursday, on which day I only took a sunbath in very hot weather. I had already experienced the welling up of similar anxiety and a similar complex of thoughts once earlier this summer in the Tenigerbad, but was able to repress it as soon as it arose.

The content of the arising series of thoughts can be described as the sudden insight into the total relativity of all existence, especially of all forms emanating from man. As this applies also to our forms of thought, thinking as it were dissolves itself--which may in part explain my feeling of terror. This, of course, describes only one side of my inner experience. One could also say that suddenly I sensed deeply the question of the meaning of life in its entirety. Or, the question arose: what is the essential nature of man, of consciousness, of personality? For I have always been occupied with these problems; I simply could not live life as it came. I had to give account to myself for what I did; I sought to discover my real self in order to guide my actions according to my true nature. Thus, many of the things of practical life did not interest me very much. I was not sociable; that is, I could not really or fully enjoy the simple things of life as long as the one big question remained unanswered.

Faced with this one great question, everyday life seemed of very little value, and I was unable to understand how a man could be content to be, for example, simply a coachman; I was amazed at the lack of meaning of such a way of life. And now, the full realization suddenly descends upon me that the question cannot be answered at all, that the various solutions are merely external formulations without any corresponding content in reality.

This outcome may be due to my very critical nature which tested any opinion and its opposite with equal ruthlessness. Were I able to embrace one form unconditionally, I should be saved. But though at present I do not lack sensitiveness, I do not have any strong unilateral feeling.

My greatest current anxiety stems, I think, from suddenly having discovered that the foundation of personality is a nothing, that the human soul is simply compounded of feelings and thoughts, and what I sought beyond this does not exist at all. Thus everything suddenly appears alien, life ultimately incomprehensible. I know that, while my thoughts and conclusions may be logically correct, my mind nonetheless enters a track which is not normal in everyday life. It no longer corresponds to the forms which life happens to follow and demand.

It seems as though there were another type of consciousness besides the ordinary one. Often it appears to me that I have lived in a dream thus far and that other people live in a sleep- consciousness which cannot be abandoned, however, without despairing. Perhaps I am currently striving to escape from dangerous thoughts by escaping into unconsciousness. The strange condition has come upon me especially in sleep and several times I have awakened with great anxiety. During the day I was often quite as usual but never losing a certain anguish, a certain pressure in my head. The whole condition has gradually increased since its inception, although I really fought against it with all my powers. Since last night it has manifested itself primarily as a strong feeling of tension, an inner disquiet to the point of bursting. It would not let me sleep calmly and robbed me of my appetite.

Perhaps I shall be able to overcome this crisis by expressing what moves me. Also, it may have gone this far because I never could talk over my numerous inner struggles with anyone. Unfortunately, I never could bring up such things with my parents as they simply would not have comprehended them. Or, without the possibility of understanding, they simply would have confronted my thoughts with their own educationally slanted views. Large areas of though which have occupied me a great deal do not exist for my parents, and in that respect my being understood by them is precluded. This has caused me great pain.

* * * *

Today, May 15th, my experience no longer put me in such an unhappy condition as had been the case part of yesterday, Sunday. I regained the confidence and hope that after all this crisis would be brought to a favorable conclusion. The extraordinary tension of the day before had subsided, and I felt only something like a pressure, as though the train of thoughts regarding the experience, without becoming conscious, obstructed the free flow of other thoughts. It was as though my being could not give itself undivided and wholly to the thoughts that arose, but was in some of its feeling governed by another central complex.

I now fully understood what Schiller felt in his poem "The Veiled Statue at Sais" ("Das verschleierte Bild zu Sais"), where he presents the confrontation with truth as something so dreadful. I felt that I had penetrated as deeply as man can, that the end-point of all my striving had been reached not by discovering some final fundamental thought but by having arrived at the nature of thought itself beyond which all thinking ceases. This recognition was not intellectual recognition but altogether an experience--complete reality. It is, therefore, extraordinarily difficult for me to express these ultimates in the usual forms of interchange whose purely formal significance was just what I experienced. I know with certainty that no philosophy can take me deeper than this, as my experience took place in a sphere which cannot be contained within a section of any science, but rather encompasses within itself all philosophy, or better, the possibility of all philosophy.

My experience concerns not only the nature of reason and its functions, but encompasses life in general--all of existence. In a sense it contains all of reality, and in whatever way I may express myself, it sets the limits for man's possible knowledge regarding thought, consciousness, life, soul, and meaning of life.

I recognized clearly that all thinking finally is feeling. This again can be said only in forms of thought and hence it is very questionable whether one will be understood.

* * * *

On Monday, May 15th, I was particularly moved by the complete change in the view of man which suddenly had taken hold of me. While before I had seen a substance in man--an "I" which I had tried to bring into ever greater awareness within myself and which I had sought to recognize completely--I now suddenly realized that there is no such "I" at all; this too is only a concept, a form, which comes to be taken for granted by us through habituation. I recognized that the soul or the "I" consists of the states, feelings, and thoughts that variously move us, and that its content is nothing permanent or lasting.

All of reality lies within me only. Something outside of me will, of course, correspond to it but this something in its very nature is totally incomprehensible to me. All that I regard as world, as external reality, is nothing but inner states within me. By linking these inner states with language and other shared forms of expression they are to a certain extent objectified. Existence which actually lies only within ourselves is carried to the outside. It is language which makes thought possible at all. The merging of internal states with external forms is what constitutes thought. And because a very specific character and combination of thoughts is common to a large number of people, these thoughts are taken to be quite natural, without any further question regarding their actual content.

In our times the importance of relativity has of course been discovered at many points, and this takes place somewhat as follows: cognitively one reaches the conclusion that certain forms of thought or opinions (for example, some form of religion) are incorrect. However, this does involve the error, 1) of viewing, for instance, a form of religion as merely an opinion of the person concerned, whereas for him it represents the real, the actually existing situation (or a part of it), 2) of offering one's own view as possessing a higher degree of reality compared to the false, "fantastic" view of the other person, without realizing that one's own views and feelings are of the same ideality as those of the other. One simply does not realize that all that we call world, all our thoughts including the concept of existence (and its accompanying internal state) are throughout of ideal (that is, figmental) nature. Thus I came to experience that existence generally will remain wholly and always a puzzle.

What strikes me as inexplicable is not any particular question, such as the meaning of life, or how one could conceive all the qualities of the grown individual to be contained in the egg-cell, but the incomprehensibility of the most elementary event, for example, the movement of waves on a lake (or the relationship of any event to my consciousness). The development of the ovum does not appear strange to an accomplished scientist. He will describe the whole process and in so doing will believe he has explained it. Another, not so familiar with scientific thought, may nonetheless notice that the scientist simply substitutes specific names for certain manifestations of the developmental process, and then connects and logically aligns these forms of thought with already existing forms of thinking. The phenomena thus come within the reach of rational thought but are not comprehended in any way as to their essential nature.

A more deeply penetrating way of looking at things permits us to realize that man is related to the simplest and most natural events just as he is to those which still appear comprehensible to us. Man has, however, become so accustomed to identifying certain internal states with self-created forms of thought, to objectifying them, and is so actively supported by linguistic convention, that the recognition of the pervasive ideality of all existence becomes very difficult. The final and unconditional truth, the ultimate base, becomes clear to him only through inner experience.

On Monday, May 15th, I had to observe above all the human "I" from this viewpoint. I recognized, or rather felt, how the "I" actually exists only in the fixed forms of thought set by ourselves, but that in fact it is founded on something quite different, that its basis is nothing but motion. I felt that the "I" really consists only of thoughts, feelings, and inner states--beyond these there is no further unmoving core, no encompassing substance. This inner experience may be expressed only with the greatest difficulty. It did not consist of any new view of the nature of the soul but in sensing the nature of that through which we arrive at conceptions, for instance, of the soul, at consciousness, at thinking, at any stable formulation--at a process which in itself really cannot be expressed through any of these formulations.

Truly, it is not possible to penetrate to the inward being of another person. We really do not grasp exactly what feelings live in a fellow man. Even if he expresses them verbally, this stimulates only one's own inner states which are tied to the words of conventional language. Usually we simply identify these inner states with those of the other, without recognizing that in reality the latter are something external to us and by their very nature unreachable. They may even qualitatively represent something very different from our inner feelings in spite of common external expression.

I felt very clearly the utter determinism of man's life, that his entire inner life in a sense runs its course in a reflex manner. This was particularly clear to me Monday night in the chemical-physiological laboratory where I noticed and understood every move of my fellow laboratory students in this light. Everyone is willing to assume an unconditional causality in animals. But even here, behind its higher functions, the "person" of the animal manifests itself as the substance from which certain acts are assumed to flow purposefully. This view imposes itself especially in those instances where the ways of the animal appear to be intelligent or purposeful, where it is a matter of ordering or inhibiting "natural" instincts.

In man, feeling and acting are accompanied by consciousness, and this maintains in us a belief in our own freedom. But the clearest consciousness, which also allows the strongest feeling of freedom to arise, is only imagined. It consists in the circumstance that inner conditions brought about by external and internal events are linked with each other in a generally valid way and accompanied by the images of language, thus giving rise to thoughts which we take to be outer reality. Through these thoughts we believe we comprehend events, although they only represent self-created symbols and forms accompanying an otherwise incomprehensible process. We believe we recognize existing things and processes by consciousness and thought, whereas we really have no possibility of grasping the nature of things. Many of the concepts arising from artificial delimitation will perhaps always be retained for practical reasons (for example, the "I" of conventional language). But one will have to realize the ideality of many of the forms of thought derived the ideality of many of the forms of thought derived in this way, in order not to get entangled in too marked contradictions.

The concept of "freedom of will", for example, is wholly built on the idea of "I", wholly of symbolic nature, and when naively taken as reality, it is completely untenable. The "I" supposedly administers its will by free choice, as though it could use it somehow as a tool. Here it immediately becomes evident that the separation between "I" and "will" , their delimitation and characterization, their juxtaposition, the treatment of will as though it were a separate personality - this does not occur in the actual flow of events. It is merely a formulation which man has imposed on events.

Through simple rational thought on this theme one may reach the following conclusion: if free will stands for complete arbitrariness, one is not speaking of freedom but of lawlessness. To assume this is impossible, for we would have to desist from all thinking, from any statement about whatever lies within the scope of thoughts. Hence, will cannot be regarded as an isolated lawless entity, but is generally assumed to be dependent on the "I". It is in a sense regarded as the outflow of the personality, and as such it cannot any longer claim freedom. That is, the problem shifts, and the question arises: is the "I" free? With this the artificial division of "I" and "will" becomes clearly apparent - "will" after all being an important component of the "I".

We speak of freedom only in relation to action, or to the will upon which action is based. Will, however, exists not as an isolated entity, but must be aligned within and is dependent on other patterns. These complex patterns in turn--established either through their own lawfulness or external influence--are what make up our "I" and it is not possible to assume a further, independent, let alone dominating "I" beyond them. Free will can only be interpreted as a very specific direction of will that really accords with our own nature and is not determined by a variety of external chance events. It is the outflow of the "I" which, of course, is wholly determined by inner and outer factors.

It must be clear how thoughts come to us, one linking to the other, or evoked by external situations. Caprice, that is lawlessness, the absence of causality, cannot be assumed here; it would not deserve the name of freedom anyway. We are often not capable of perceiving the basis from which our feelings and thoughts arise but recognize more easily that our behavior is simply the expression, the result of internal excitation and external circumstances. In view of the tremendous richness of the forms thus arising and their infinite possibilities of combination, it usually is difficult to comprehend that all this necessarily has a cause and is absolutely determined. I did not arrive at this conclusion rationally, but I felt it, I experienced it directly by virtue of a somewhat different attitude towards life that gave me a deep insight into the nature of consciousness to which we owe all concepts with which we operate rationally. This consciousness is what we cannot get outside of. There is no "I" standing above it, guiding and influencing its laws at its own discretion. But we may seek to know the limits of this consciousness, and if we have a sense of its nature, we may seek expression thereof in the forms created by it.

We do not walk, we are being carried; this was what I experienced quite directly.

* * * *

Monday night, May 22nd, we attended a very beautiful organ recital in the cathedral where Durigo sang, and under the feelings and thoughts that arose, the tension and pressure which for some time had been with me dissolved. I now experienced with total clarity as ultimate and actual reality that which over a period of perhaps ten years had from time to time taken possession of me as the highest of feelings. I might express it as an inmost feeling of infinity or of the general relativity through which the appearances and things of life that are usually taken for granted suddenly appear quite foreign and in essence incomprehensible. My experience was in a sense what under different circumstances is described as ecstasy; there, too, man has a different attitude toward existence. He gets an intimation of the merely relative nature of what usually passes as reality, but then interprets this intimation specifically in relation to established religious forms.

The intimation in question actually stands above all religion in so far as religion purports to be more than inexpressible feeling, namely a demarcation, a specific conceptual formulation. The experience I had, after all, embodies the nature and limits of concept and thought, and thus of what is real for us (also in the sphere of religion). It cannot be expressed and transmitted to others directly but only through these forms. This naturally poses exceptional difficulties, as verbally expressed thoughts have primarily a cognitive-rational effect and only rarely manage to convey the feeling, the inner and wholly real life from which they spring. It is quite impossible for "normal" man who is completely adjusted to prevailing forms--and who usually is the thoroughly average man--to see the world also from the other side. All too long has he uncritically absorbed reality as his surroundings see it. His being is already too habituated to and absorbed in a particular form of existence to even conceive of, let alone experience, its symbolic nature. He, therefore, will not be able to understand a view that differs from his own, or he may even relegate it to the realm of pathology, which is the most convenient, but also a very narrow course of action.

The separation of body and mind may be necessary and practical for common language and thought. However, the view that sees as realities, different in a deeper sense, cannot be maintained. Our body, its various parts and organs, is just as much part of our "I" as the mental functions. The two realms are in most intimate mutual relationship. We assign them to a particular domain of being according to the relations and forms in which they appear to us. It is our organizing thought which somehow assigns two basic substances - one material, one mental - to an extremely intricate process. This demarcation possesses reality only for those who live within these forms of thought. But it is not possible to regard the body as something natural and the mind as something supernatural. We perceive something as natural only because it is commonly couched in definite forms of thought, because we have recognized a definite lawfulness in its manner of appearance, because it stands in a constant and familiar relationship to us.

Thus gravity, for example, is taken as something completely natural. We recognize that it always operates according to the same rules and is active in and around us at every moment. Yet, who can really tell what gravity is? Who really grasps what this attraction of masses, operative at infinite distances, actually means? Matter influenced across empty space without a mediating link? Does not this make it evident that the term "force" is merely a concept, a label or form that we have attached to something completely unknown to us, to a "something" just as amazing, just as supernatural as any mental phenomenon, for example a thought? The difference lies primarily in the nature and number of relationships that are known to us concerning these different phenomena. Our understanding of their actual nature is entirely missing in both. Any ordering of these phenomena in the forms of our language means an estrangement from absolute reality, compensated, however, by letting the phenomena enter into the only reality possible for us, and of whose nature (that is, its ideality) we should become aware.

The example of gravity, whose nature is beyond our understanding (in spite of its ever-present and lawful workings and possible explanatory and descriptive theories), will be understood by many people, but many will find it impossible to extend this perspective to the very ordinary appearances and events that confront us in daily life. They believe that existence is arranged and delimited according to familiar terms such as mind, matter, energy, mechanism, etc., not only in their thought, but also in a reality beyond or above thinking. As we tragically cannot transcend ourselves and are able to express ourselves regarding these ultimates only in the forms given by our language, we can view them only symbolically.

Events in and around us are in their essential nature completely incomprehensible, something the true content of which we never will get at. The life within has effects outside of us, and the forces of the world impinge upon us. There is no reason to believe that the workings of the cosmos are of a different nature from the workings within ourselves--everywhere related force and form. The religious expression of this view would be pantheism: in everything we find divine action, God in all that occurs. But this, too, is only a form through which we attempt to grasp what is past comprehension. Theism, too, is such a form, and as such (when it does not fossilize) is as valuable as any other formula, especially as from our standpoint it also may be justified by another consideration: having penetrated somewhat into the nature of personality and consciousness, and having recognized in them a specifically ordered interplay of energy and form, which process ultimately remains incomprehensible, one could assume a similarity in the totality of events, namely a personal, conscious quality.

From the basis of my experience many contradictions are resolved that we otherwise cannot understand. From this background I grasped the nature and greatness of Christ with particular clarity. I am convinced that the inner experience which was the mainspring of his personality and life must have been very similar to my experience, notwithstanding that--according to different circumstances--it expressed itself in different forms. The deepest meaning remains the same.

The center in Christ's life was God, who for him was not a concept or doctrine which can be believed, but a reality, a living presence. The person of Jesus embodied an intense feeling of what lies beyond the forms that for us represent reality. Consciousness (or subconsciousness) of the nonrational was always present within him. This gave his inner life direction, not as a system of thought, but as experience, as his reality. Only secondarily did he give it commonly understandable forms in accordance with the spirit of his time and his own capacity of expression. The basic motive to which we can return I would call--in accordance with my way of discriminating--the experience of the ideality of reality. From this basis, to put it differently, Christ drew the power for his personality and work. This underlying experience was somehow always present within him, effective as a guiding agent.

If one strips the incidental from the endeavors, from the deeper creations and statements of religious men, of artists and other creative people, one can easily understand that there are attempts to grasp and in some way express a basic truth which may be implicitly interwoven as a latent thought. From this point of view it becomes possible to fully understand the certainty and spontaneity with which Jesus followed his unusual path. Many people never grasp this and believe him to be very different from us humans, a "godlike" being; or they scornfully shrug him off as a visionary. True, Christ was an idealist, but so are all of us, and his "ideals" were as real to him as what we believe to be reality. As Christ did not compulsively pursue ideals (which only we from another viewpoint call "ideals") but lived in them as his reality, the great simplicity and spontaneity of his speech and action become easily understandable. This is the reason why he generated so strong an influence. Men after all sensed the great truth with which they were confronted, its kinship to their own inner life. Christ found ways to express his primordial experience in forms accessible to other men; he linked his insight to life and drew the practical inferences from it. As an ever present reality his insight gave him the strength for its unimpeded realization. These factors--deepest experience, ability to express it in life, and consistency and wholeness of thought and action--are characteristics of the great person. When some of these characteristics are missing, nothing remains but to join an acceptable and available way of life. One has to adjust to given compromises, if one neither feels the necessity nor has the ability in any area to overcome them.

Thus it is easy to understand that Christ regarded with a certain indifference the forms of his surroundings, that is, the prejudices, opinions, customs, institutions, in short all that his contemporaries had taken over from their ancestors and had woven into their life as reality. His standpoint was simply at a higher level. His work was in certain respects a transcendence of these forms. Expressed in today's language, he had a feeling of the merely relative meaning of all forms. Although justifiable and even absolutely necessary, these forms nonetheless imply a limitation; they can become one of man's strongest bondages, if shortsightedly regarded as absolute reality in one of their specialized, one-sided manifestations. Actually they may have strayed far from essentials and have lost the connection with the deeper life. In this sense, Christ was far more revolutionary than is commonly thought, as seen for example in his attitude towards the recognized authority of the scribes, towards the ritual forms (prayer, fasting, alms, Sabbath, etc.), his relationship to tradition and the mighty authority of the laws (".. but I say unto you."), his freedom regarding prevailing custom (the publican, the adulteress). But with all this he did not exceed certain limits. He found for himself suitable forms which he was able to tie in with those already in existence. He did not formulate his standpoint in such isolation as to lose touch with life.

This indifference to and nondependence upon forms are closely connected with a deep appreciation of just this formative quality in man. From the feeling of the true (namely limited) significance of form springs comprehension of its various manifestations. Hence the wide vision with which Christ approached men, whom he did not divide and judge according to any scheme or formula. The rigid separation of men into good and bad, converts and unbelievers, plays a major role in religions, including Christianity, although it is not in accordance with Christ's spirit at all. His greatness exists in seeing beyond incidental forms (that is, evaluating them according to their true significance), which does not have to mean acceptance of every form.

From this elevated viewpoint he was able to regard every other human being as equal to himself, to love him, even in his distorted expressions. Christ's love is the altogether simple, practical result of his deepest experience. The social interaction among people, this most important expression of life, is inhibited, narrowed, made superficial, through all kinds of forms, and is led in a direction not at all reaching, but rather contradicting, the deepest nature of man. Christ showed as a natural expression of his personality a way of interaction through which the restricting influence of form may be overcome. Where his love is active, people can again make immediate contact with each other. His love is, however, more than what is known as humanitarianism, more than pity and compassion with which good Christians often believe they may rest content. It is rather a frame of mind, a mode of viewing the world and man, an approach which consistently takes "judge not" as a premise, and builds on that. This form of love is altogether natural when it is a feeling-attitude, the result of inner experience.

One tries to recapture this inner experience through enacting the religious forms used by Christ. Of course this is not fully possible for anyone, and thus one is often left with mere external religious dogmas to which love, also as a dogma, is only superficially related, lacking its actual source of strength. Hence it does not become the deep feeling-conviction or all-pervasive method, but at a critical moment turns into a fiasco. It consists of a behavior learned for all kinds of situations following up various love commandments of Jesus. We are lucky nonetheless that there are ways through which we may attain the frame of mind that leads to the love of Christ. But these ways do not have to consist in copying the forms in which Christ expressed his religious experience which today are far from guaranteeing the presence of this experience itself.

In a unified concept and unfolding of life it is necessary to consider and organically encompass all the realities that face and closely concern us, including the phenomenon we label "death." Death, that is, the fear of death, is one of the strongest forces in our life, and every man seeks somehow to overcome this fear. Some do this by the assertion, by the belief that death actually does not exist, that what is meant by dying--cessation of life, of consciousness, of personality--all this does not take place when death occurs. It only appears so, but in reality the individual continues to exist. This opinion maintains itself on the basis of the customary cleavage of body and mind, but gets entangled in vivid contradictions within its own contentions as soon as it claims to be more than intuition or feeling, namely, a detailed, logical, intellectual definition.

Another way of overcoming the fear of death appears in the effort simply to forget about it, to ignore it. One talks as little as possible about death, seeks to remove it from our life as a determining factor, tries to keep away all thoughts from this theme. If nonetheless forced to consider it, this will be done in forms that are generally current and thus the phenomenon of death appears as something wholly self-evident, not at all strange. Incessant mental pursuits, work, entertainment, and other diverting activities may be means of keeping away from the dreaded deeper contemplation of the secret of death.

The fear of death must indeed be overcome if we want to let our capacities come to full development and enactment. To overcome it by any kind of forgetting, however, is only superficial, fictitious. It does not hold up against stronger storms, nor does it suffice for someone who is searching more deeply. The other way of overcoming the fear of death - its reinterpretation or even denial - fulfilled its purpose and was an organic part of the world of thought and feeling from which it sprang, a world which however is no longer with us. Our sense of reality and truth demands that we conceive of things exactly as they present themselves - consideration of practical living cannot force us to compromise.

I, for one, could never share the common opinion that sees nothing incomprehensible in death, that seems fully to understand this phenomenon. When other people spoke of death as though its nature and import were perfectly clear to them, I had to say to myself that I did not understand this phenomenon. In spite of being used to the sight of dead people, death itself remained an incomprehensible puzzle to me. Now I know that I then felt that all thoughts men may have on death and in which they live as self-evident reality, are only inadequate expressions, a giving form to something of which the essential content is unreachable.

Death is only one particular and especially important event which can draw our attention with great force and clarity to the incomprehensible, the puzzling, that is equally manifest in all other events of the world. Certainly we must incorporate the idea of death into our system of thought, into our consciousness, but this must occur from within. Especially he who searches more deeply, who wants to shape his life to a unity, who must maintain a certain consistency, cannot rest content with fitting the very important phenomenon of death haphazardly into his thinking. He must harmoniously integrate it in his world view and align it with his ways of thought.

Death appears to us as the demise of the body, the cessation of life, the vanishing of consciousness. Inevitably it is perceived that way by man, even if he then tries in his thoughts to arrange this event in some other way. The uninfluenced behavior of a man unexpectedly confronted with a death, shows clearly how in death he sees the complete opposite to life. Even believing Christians show mourning at the death of a close relative and not the joy that would be expected from their beliefs. Man's instincts and consciousness rear up against what opposes and contradicts them, against death. It cannot be the task of anyone to suppress the urge to life - no one would succeed in this anyhow. There are other ways of overcoming the fear of death than to kill the joy of life. Considering all circumstances as they present themselves, it should be possible to eliminate from within this fear which stems from our thought and narrows our spirits.

We do not know what follows death. We see it as the transition into unconsciousness, the cessation of reality. This is the source of man's anxiety. He has lived himself into his reality as something absolute to such an extent that the thought of its cessation becomes impossible, terrifying, unbearable. But one can reconcile oneself to this thought if one is able to view reality also from another side, if one knows that reality in fact depends on our imaging and thinking, that existence has taken the shape valid for us only through our consciousness which operates according to inherent laws and in adjustment to external forces. The lawfulness of consciousness appears to be tied to the body, and looking for delimiting explanations, one could consider consciousness as a function of that part of our "I" we call our body. Perhaps one cannot prove that a separately existing consciousness is impossible, but on entering upon such abstractions our thinking ceases, and it becomes evident that he who is still dogmatic at this point does not have a clear understanding of the nature of consciousness and the limits of thought.

Thus the seed of reality lies in an ordering principle of our "I." Reality takes on form, and if we descend to ultimate grounds it loses its great importance. We, too, are part of what lies beyond all understanding. Only for a short while have we ascended from the unknowable and...assumed form wherein we may behold all else. When this order dissolves, we again descend into unconsciousness, submerge in the primordial, and our forces operate in new relationships.

These of course are only hints, thoughts that can develop strength only by proceeding from experience. I had such experiences, felt something of the nature and the limits of reality and could also assign the phenomenon of death with these feelings. From this standpoint death, integrated into the totality, utterly lost its terror and was no longer aversive to me.

Such experience, such immediate life, is not always present. But the insights arising in those moments can maintain their effect in a life that proceeds in accordance with customary norms and familiar trends of thought, if one succeeds in incorporating these insights appropriately into prevailing ways of thinking. If we thus reach a reconciliation with death not by repressing the thoughts concerning it, but by properly fitting them into our consciousness, we do not any longer have to seek explanations for the unknowable to which only the misguided fear of death can drive us. Rather, we may again turn fully and with sober joy to life.

The spiritually active will at times ask the question: does life actually have meaning? Many will simply turn the question down as superfluous and beyond the realm of common thought, declare it to be meaningless, and rid themselves of it in adjustment to the surrounding world which is not confused by such thoughts. Referring to sound common sense, they will answer this question in the positive. They are even able to give a detailed ex-position of the meaning of life, for example with regard to a certain development which would show the striving towards a dominant final goal. Or from a religious standpoint they see the demands and promises of their creed as the final objective to be reached, even presuming to find it only in another coming life.

Not everyone is satisfied with disposing of the question in this manner, and one tries to arrive at a real answer by other means, namely by testing the known facts without preconceptions and therefrom drawing one's conclusions. What goal does mankind strive for? Is there really a final purpose that could give meaning to our life? Is there a final value upon which our value systems can be built? Here one must submit that we cannot know what is decided, what still may come to pass, what man is still to attain. Nonetheless, the factual examination of the above questions must ultimately arrive at a pessimistic conclusion. It is very questionable whether man as a whole will develop towards a specific goal. It seems more probable that single nations or whole cultures will reach a certain peak of development, live through a golden age, perhaps even achieve a desired total integration, but that this again will be followed by periods of disintegration and decay. So that finally we are faced with nothing but changes of forms and their bearers, without any change principally directed toward one goal. And even if this-concluded from the history of man up to now- should not happen, if mankind really were to continue growing in a very specific direction, we must still consider that this earth will at some time turn cold. Mankind then must slowly become extinct, and thereby all the values created by it will vanish. Hence there would be no absolute final purpose, nothing permanent that would endow our lives with meaning.

Indeed, meaning really cannot enter into our life from the outside. Human feeling distinguishes different values, and accordingly thought can determine a definite order and suborder of values which direct behavior (or which may result from the observation of behavior). Thus the notion of purpose arises-purposeful development, movement, change. But one cannot extend arbitrarily this kind of observation to all of mankind or even to the world at large, as this way of looking at things is only a practical mental device with which we can accompany our own feeling and acting. Seen in isolation without reference to man, it does not readily have validity for phenomena of different nature, for example "change" or "process" in general, so that "world events" may not be viewed at all in such a perspective. Thus it is erroneous to assume a future purpose outside of mankind, according to which purpose it would develop. Without taking account of its limits and relativity one cannot simply extend practical thought to the total situation. But if one wants to consider the totality in the perspective of purpose, it is a mistake to conceive of this purpose as a particular, lasting content that eventually will be attained in the course of millennia.

Not outside of us, but within us lies the meaning of life. In life itself lies its meaning. That life is lived at all, that is its meaning. In the instincts, feelings, instincts lies the purpose. From them can be derived an order of values accessible to thought which may take the forms of ethics. These can then treat its content in a theoretically consistent manner and post it as a goal outside of us (yet to be achieved). This is never to be thought of, however, as an absolute, final purpose. If we look beyond the irreducible premises of ethics for motives to which these premises may be traced, we shall not find this ultimate purpose in an even further removed, all embracing final goal, but only in ourselves, in our internal conditions, in the interplay of our powers. Thus every moment in itself gains meaning. Seen from this viewpoint, there is no longer any principal difference among the lives of individuals: measured in absolute terms all life lacks meaning; from the only possible, relative standpoint there is value and purpose in every human life.

Whether the ethics of an individual are shared by a large or small group of fellow men, whether he contributes much or little to the attainment of a (relative) goal, is not of any fundamental importance here. In case we should not rest content with ethics evolved from our predisposition and circumstances, but seek to deduce it from a conceptual foundation, this foundation must be rooted in a profound (of course one-sided) formulation of life, as we see in life itself the attainment of purpose. From such a formulation, guidelines can then be drawn for the dif-ferent areas and facets of life. This does not mean that an abstract, logically consistent ethics should be erected on a particular idea, overturning all other value judgments. Ethics after all exist prior to being conceptually formulated.

All formulations, all translations into forms of thought, show a certain independence, a certain constancy. This is true `also for ethical forms and demands which continue to exist even if they are no longer in accord with the tendencies from which they once developed. In order that ethics-in practice as well as in theory-do not become lost in incidentals, entangled in estranged forms, their conceptual point of departure has to be taken as deeply as possible. Then they do not remain a worthless abstraction, but represent an attempt to synchronize concept with life as it is, to understand and gather at a nodal point the given forces and operations of life. In this way we are enabled to erect also in our thinking goals and ideals that take account of reality and correspond to our true nature. Thus we may avoid incoherent conceptual side roads (which might be logically deduced, but in this process have lost touch with actuality), behind what has been uncomprehendingly conserved.

Conscious life consists in form taking shape out of the unknown. Form is to be tried in all its possibilities-that is the ultimate purpose. From the basic proposition that the unfathomable in its variations has the possibility of assuming its own form, and that form reaches its highest value only as expression of a corresponding content- from this basis further guidelines may be obtained. This does not immediately set up a specific content, but rather gives a method according to which existing factors should be understood and directed. All existing tendencies are thus taken into account, and positive ethics are born that do not waste effort in seeking to repress and stifle irrepressible forces. Rather they place forces in new light, and guide them along a healthy course in accord with a superior regulating principle. Thus we may arrive at ethics which really can be lived, as they do not ignore facts because of a false sense of guilt. Being theoretically consistent, their practical application does not have to rest on compromises only.

* * * *

THIS SPRING I found it particularly painful that contemporary man lacks style, lacks a sweeping guiding orientation. Each of us is wasting much energy in finding his own style, and in so doing we still have not found any bond connecting us to the great majority of people. Even he who easily joins some kind of movement does not get the feeling of really being internally connected with the totality of his own people. Earlier-perhaps eight years ago-I used to ask myself if there were not some specific way of looking at things that was absolutely right, if it really were not possible that all men, being built and functioning in the same way, could share the same basic outlook. I then saw that such a sameness was unattainable, that feeling and thought were not the same in everyone, and that an assumption of a basic truth connecting everyone must meet with great difficulties. In this way no unity was possible, yet I hoped it would be attainable by one means or another. I thought that if it were possible to grasp the world, our thoughts, etc., in a different perspective, to comprehend it from a new point of view, behold it in another way-these otherwise inextricable contradictions would have to unsnarl and join in a new unity. Such a new way of looking at things results from my experience which allowed me to sense deeply the ideality of reality, life appearing as a symbol.

From this viewpoint the variations of thoughts, opinions, and styles of life become comprehensible. They no longer appear as different realities standing isolated and irreconcilable beside each other, but only as different forms of expression in which the otherwise incomprehensible becomes manifest. This varies according to the individual. It enters the most varied relationships symbols change, the internal laws of which further complicate matters. If one has access only to the view which uncritically assigns absolute, self-contained value to the forms current among us, fundamental differences will appear regarding many questions, especially those of ultimate importance. The contradictions will simply not let themselves be disentangled, as though in actual fact different kinds of realities were confronting each other. Proceeding, however, from a different basis of experiencing and viewing the nature of imagination and thought and the reality resulting therefrom, even the deepest contradictions resolve in a higher encompassing unity.

Art, philosophy, science, are attempts at making comprehensible to us the incomprehensible flow of events. This creative activity is not just occasionally evoked in supernormal man through misery and struggle but is a general necessity of life. The world around us and the within us are simply not as fixed and demarcated as we habitually assume. It is the sameness and relative constancy of our forms of expression, particularly language, which mislead us to believe this. Reality is not by our normal modes of thought but merely expressed in fragments. Sensitive individuals feel clearly that available forms are insufficient for their inner life. They encounter an altogether different, deeper reality than most of their fellows and they have to master this as yet unapprehended reality. They have to make it comprehensible and usable in order to maintain the balance of their mental life, their consciousness. If such a capacity for giving form is present, it will show itself in a work of art or some other creative act.

However, most people possess so much ability to adjust to prevailing forms that they are not forced to create new ones. Creativity traces back to the same motivating principle that finally also is the basis of religion, the intuition or experience of the formal character of all that enters into our consciousness. If we regard this as the ultimate source of religion, then a shift takes place in the otherwise fundamental distinction between the religious and the irreligious person. A principal distinction would then rather have to be made between people who are geared entirely to the absolute value of what appears real to us, and others who somehow (not at all just in forms of thought) show a deeper understanding. But here transitions and gradual differences appear on every hand and distinctions really based on principle are hard to draw.

There is a tremendous overrating of the capacities of the intellect in certain circles today, not only subjecting all existing conditions to warranted criticism but beyond this bogging down in a veritable intellectual dogmatism. From youth on the intellectual approach is inculcated into us to such an extent that many of us completely absorb the conviction of its all-sufficiency and somehow never get beyond this limitation. If the intellectual method is consistently carried through, however, one would arrive at a philosophical consideration of those deeper problems which in my view finally should lead to a delineation of the limits of this method. It should lead to a final awareness, to an ultimate experience, which we could perhaps call mystic or religious. For instance, the philosophy of Plato with its praise of the idea culminates in such an experience.

The overrating of the conceptual method is also clearly evident in different religions, for example, in reformed Christianity. Although the deepest source of religion can be seen in the feeling for the limitations of all conceptual definition, the rational method still occupies too large a space in many religions and thus contradictions arise. The issues of religion are elaborated rationally and dogmatism comes about, a form of belief with definite conceptual content. Other expressions of religion disappear, namely those not only based on reason but on art, for instance. The mystical element recedes into the background. The general feeling of the primal event is forced into an exactly delimited religious formula which now represents a sharply separated, self-sustaining area of human life and, therefore, cannot any longer be a penetrating and orienting force.

The excessive emphasis on reason seems to be a char-acteristic of the male who by nature has at his disposal more free energy than the female. He, therefore, has been able to develop the intellectual aspect of his nature to a greater extent. This perhaps has made possible the higher development of culture, but on the other hand the life of the male has lost in wholeness. In comparison the life of the female-as that of the child-appears more original, unified. She still possesses a surer feeling for the actual value and integration of the realities streaming forth from thought. Not that the female has arrived at the rational insight into the limits of reason which is the given philosophical method of the male. Instinctively she protects herself against any overrating of thought; she inherently does not get lost in such disjointed one-sidedness.

Similarly a more original mode of life may be seen in the early stages of man as exemplified in his myths. In these we have recognized certain "false" personifications and may feel justified in smiling about them. In doing this we do not remember that in our own thought, language, and life, we continually undertake similar personifications, and that those of the old cultures perhaps were more to the point in some respects. The ancestor, worshipping the sun or moon as his god, thereby still displays the original feeling that recognizes everywhere the same inherent workings. Whether out in the world or within man, all existence is recognized as a unity, an intimately interwoven play of forces which cannot be separate and are all equally incomprehensible. And thus we, too, in the deepest sense are an inseparable constituent of the cosmos, equal in our nature to all other events.