Ethics Chapter 1 Attitude Part 7

A brief description of the above has been outlined below:


Reverence is the attitude which can be designated as the mother of all moral life, for in it man first takes a position toward the world which opens his spiritual eyes and enables him to grasp values.

The irreverent and impertinent man is the man incapable of any abandonment or subordination of self. He is either the slave of his pride, of that cramping egoism which makes him a prisoner of himself and blind to values, and leads him to ask repeatedly: Will my prestige be increased, will my own glory be augmented? Or he is a slave of concupiscence, one for whom everything in the world becomes only an occasion to serve his lust. The irreverent man can never remain inwardly silent. He never gives situations, things, and persons a chance to unfold themselves in their proper character and value. He approaches everything in such an importunate and tactless way that he observes only himself, listens only to himself and ignores the rest of being. He does not preserve a reverent distance from the world.

Irreverence can be divided into two types, according to whether it is rooted in pride or in concupiscence. The first type is that of the man whose irreverence is a fruit of his pride, that of the impertinent person. He is the type of man who approaches everything with a presumptuous, sham superiority, and never makes any effort to understand a thing “from within.” He is the “know-all,” schoolmaster type who believes that he penetrates everything at first sight, and knows all things “ab ovo.” He is the man for whom nothing could be greater than himself, who never sees beyond his own horizon, from whom the world of being hides no secret. He is the man Shakespeare has in mind in his “Hamlet”:

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” He is the man possessed of a blighting incomprehension, without yearnings, like Famulus in Goethe’s “Faust” who is completely filled by “how wondrously far he has gone.” This man suspects nothing of the breadth and depth of the world, of the mysterious depths and the immeasurable fullness of values which are bespoken by every ray of the sun and every plant, and which are revealed in the innocent laughter of a child, as well as in the repentant tears of a sinner. The world is flattened before his impertinent and stupid gaze; it becomes limited to one dimension, shallow and mute. It is evident that such a man is blind to values. He passes through the world with a blighting incomprehension.

The other type of man who lacks reverence, the blunt, concupiscent man, is equally blind to values. He limits his interest to one thing only: whether something is agreeable to him or not, whether it offers him satisfaction, whether or not it can be of any use to him. He sees in all things only that segment which is related to his accidental, immediate interest. Every being is, for him, but a means to his own selfish aim. He drags himself about eternally in the circle of his narrowness, and never succeeds in emerging from himself. Consequently, he also does not know the true and deep happiness which can only flow from abandonment to true values, out of contact with what is in itself good and beautiful. He does not approach being as does the first type in an impertinent way, but he is equally closed up within himself and does not preserve that distance toward being required by reverence; he overlooks all things and seeks only that which is momentarily useful and expedient to him.

The man possessing reverence approaches the world in a completely different way. He is free from this egospasm, from pride and concupiscence. He does not fill the world with his own ego but leaves to be the space which it needs in order to unfold itself. He understands the dignity and nobility of being as such, the value which it already possesses.

Reverence is the indispensable presupposition for all deep knowledge—above all, for the capacity to grasp values. All capacity to be made happy and uplifted by values, all sanctioned abandonment of values, all submission to their majesty, presupposes reverence. In reverence, the person takes into account the sublimity of the world of values—in it is to be found that upward look toward that world, that respect for the objective and valid demands immanent to the values which, independently of the arbitrary will and wishes of men, call for an adequate response.

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