“I see the night of death softly illuminated in rolling waves,” wrote Feuerbach in Thoughts On Death And Immortality. “I see the far edge of the ages, the limit of the self in every tree. In every apple seed, I gaze at the dark remoteness of my own death, and have even heard my death sentence pronounced by a waterfall.”
Ludwig Feuerbach asserted that the individual, human soul is a highly focused point of Universal Spirit. Over time, the intensity of this focused point of Spirit loses energy, and this dissipation leads to death and to a return to nonconsciousness and to the great Spirit which exists beyond the Space and Time.
“I FEEL only because my entire being is concentrated, as it were– pushed and pressed into a single point of Time.” A conscious individual’s entire Being is “unified in one Now.” Feuerbach compares the situation to the focusing of the sun’s rays by a lens… “As sunlight ignites when it is concentrated and compressed, so the fire of experience is kindled only by the compression of my entire Being into the focal point of a moment.” As time passes, however, we become… “exhausted by the burning solar heat of consciousness,” and it “fatigues and consumes the single human.” He doesn’t explain the mechanics of this process, but simply asserts that the process exists.
Another big assertion put forth by Feuerbach is that anything which Exists will have Meaning. “A Meaningless Existence is as nothing,” he wrote. When something’s Meaning comes to an end, so does its Existence. “Every human has a Destiny,” declared Feuerbach, “a Purpose and rational determination of his existence.” Destiny, felt Feuerbach, is “principally manifested in the Individual as drive, desire, talent, inclination.”
Besides Meaning, one of the defining features of Existence, according to Feuerbach, is Experience. “I have Existence only in Experience,” he wrote. And to have Experiences we must have Time… “Time is inseparable from Experience.” […] “Where there is no Now, there is no Experience.” And where there is no Experience, there is no I.
Feuerbach believed that that humans, in order to have experiences, must experience stimuli in limited Durations…
“Experience exists only with intermissions, temporal segments, epochs,” he wrote. “It disappears in that which is self-identical.” By “self-identical,” Feuerbach seems to be imagining something such as a frozen Universe– a situation in which no passage of Time is sensed and no changes are noticed; in this situation, Experience would become impossible.
Citing the example of Pleasure, he maintained that “a continuing, an uninterrupted Pleasure would no longer be Experience and Pleasure.” For Feuerbach, “Pleasure is only a Pleasure because it passes away.”
Our existence as individuals depends upon Time and Space. Wrote Feuerbach… “You are an Individual only in a sensory Existence, only as you exist temporaly and spatially. As much as you are sensory, so much are you an Individual.”
As a human Being, “you exist only in Time and Space. You begin in them, but you also end in them. They are the boundaries of your Being. As an Individual, you cannot exist outside of Time and Space.” […] “You are a determinate temporal and spatial Being; and, in this unity of temporality and spatiality, you are ensouled and corporeal– in other words, a living Individual.”
Time provides the human Being with the backdrop for Duration to occur. And Space provides us with the backdrop for the making of physical distinctions, boundaries. Without the canvasses of Time and Space, human Beings would only experience the shock of the Infinite, in which, “the interval of a determined length of Time does not enter to separate the point-of-origin and the end-point of your Being.”
Feuerbach did not believe that the personality of a particular individual continues to exist after the death of the physical, within-time-existing body. Instead, he felt that, on the other side of death, the soul –freed from the boundaries of our spatial-temporal bodies– is united into something larger and deeper than itself.
“At death you sink back into the eternal sleep and unconscious peace of nothingness,” he conjectured. “To this extent, death is not SOMETHING, not a positive reality or a determinate thing, but is only the exclusion, the deprivation of consciousness, the loss of the focal point, self-forgetting.”
When we die, we lose our ability to any longer be a Subject. We become only Object. And as Feuerbach so directly puts it, “that which is only an Object is dead.” In fact, the becoming of only an object is for Feuerbach pretty much the definition of death.
We no longer have consciousness after death because we no longer contain the dichotomy of Subject and Object within us. While alive, our personal “I” is distiguished from “the I that is Spirit.” We human Beings objectify the Universal Spirit which is within us, and which will outlast our Individuality… “You are conscious of yourself as a particular individual only because the purely universal essence in you is object for you.” […] “You are conscious of yourself in the self-consciousness of the universal essence, Spirit.”
This Subject-Object duality is, then, the souce of Consciousness. “Consciousness is division– only that which can oppose itself to itself within itself.” No longer possessing the opposition of Subject and Object within us, we become dead.
“As a person, as an object, you are distinguished from the I that is Spirit, and this distinction has its sensible appearance and manifestation in death, in which you become a mere object.”
When we were infants, said Feuerbach, we had little or no knowledge of ourselves, and thus little or no self-consciousness. He describes this period of life as a time during which… “your consciousness of yourself was originally outside of you; others were your consciousness, were the knowledge of you.” Only later, “when you objectified yourself bodily and externally, did you also become inwardly independent”— and truly self-aware. Because others have been involved in the holding of the consciousness of ourselves, Feuerbach declared that “others are entwined and woven into your inmost life, into the unity of the consciousness of your own particular personhood, to such an extent that your knowledge of yourself is mediated by others.”
“Your Self’s womb was the consciousness of the others by whom you were embraced before you enclosed yourself,” maintained Feuerbach. This situation repeats at Death. “Death is nothing but the action whereby you again give back and hand over your consciousness to others. Your knowing once again steps out of you and into the Other. As in the beginning, your own knowledge again becomes only others’ knowledge of you, a knowledge that is now recollection, memory, remembrance.”
“Personal Being is terminated with the termination of Knowing,” wrote Feuerbach. And yet, some portion of us does not die, for “Spirit is eternal; consciousness is everlasting and infinite; freedom and will are withdrawn from all of nature and therefore from death.”
Wrote Feuerbach… “When you depart from all creatures, and all nature and creatures become nothing for you. At this point, you exist in the eternal One that is God himself, and you experience the highest virtue of Love.”
When it came to God and religion, Feuerbach was quite unhappy with Christians for being so preoccupied with the fate of their personal souls, and complained that, to many Christians, all things “seem to turn only on THEIR deliverance and reconciliation, on THEIR salvation and immortality.” For such self-centered Christians, “God is only on the periphery of their religion; individuals themselves are its focal point. Individuals acknowledge a God beyond themselves only in order to possess in him a boundless space in which they can spread out and expand for all eternity their limited, particular, pitiable individuality.”
“For them, everything depends on the their distinction from others, and nothing depends on the reality of the Good, in and for itself– or on Essence, Truth, or Love.” […] “If they still cannot distinguish themselves after death, then they say that there is nothing after death.”
Feuerbach felt that, before the Protestant movement, the Individual figured more and the Church less. According to Feuerbach, “Heaven and Hell were the essential objects”— not the amount of bliss awaiting the individual soul after the death of the body. He prefered to believe that, for the Medieval mind, justice and the good and the evil were more important than “the eternal continuation of the individual.”
Thinking back to my own readings concerning Medieval history, I have to take this assertion with a grain of salt. There’s some truth to it, but on the other hand, Medievals often saw this short and often painful life as merely a tiny prelude to the life eternal, and focused much of their hopes on that future life.
Although Feuerbach spoke often of God, he was adamant that there is no survival of the Individual after death. “Individuals are not immortal and everlasting,” he wrote. “You can expect nothing after death.”
“Death is the total and complete dissolution of your entire being; there exists only one death, which is total.” Speaking of his own assured mortality, Feuerbach declared that “my identity ceases with my last cry.”
The human Being, maintained Feuerbach, should recall “his true and total transitoriness and mortality, and, in this recollection and reflection”... awaken in himself… “the need for seeking the sources of life and truth.”
“True religion, true humility, true and complete surrender to and submersion in God is possible only when the human recognizes death as true, real and entire.”
Feuerbach brings up the interesting point, which I’ve heard elsewhere too, that it is strange that we humans are so afraid of the possibility of Nothingness after death, when, to our knowledge, Nothingness is exactly what we were for countless eons before our birth. “It is strange,” observed Feuerbach, “that humans recoil only from the abysses of the future, but not from those of the past, that they turn away in distress, troubled about being or not-being only AFTER life, but not before it.” … “Already, before life, you were nothing.”
The truth, believed Feuerbach, is that the soul cannot survive the death of the body. “Body and soul in unity constitute your life,” he wrote. “Your Being is only LIVING Being.” The body’s purpose for being is to house the soul. According to Feuerbach, the body is “intrinsically” ensoulable, just a fuel for a fire is intrinsically flammable.
He points-out that unensouled matter is divisible, but the “organic body” which (presumably) houses a soul is not so very. Basically, a human body chopped into twenty pieces is not very likely continue supporting a soul.
He observed a fact that most of us would probably never consider– that the human body typically is not invested with more than one soul– and this in spite of the fact that the number of parts comprising the human body is more or less infinite. Feuerbach then goes on to ask the probably never-before-asked question.. “Why isn’t the eye a human being?”
Feuerbach went on to proclaim that, just as there is only one soul per body, there is only one “ensouled point” in the Universe. “It is absolutely certain that, in all of creation, there exists but one animated and ensouled point, and that this point is Earth, which is the soul and purpose of the great Cosmos.”
For Feuerbach, the annihilation of the Individual at death is just not that big of a deal. “Humans are distinguished from one another no more than apples on the same tree are distinguished.” The existence of apple tree in the environment is more important than the individual apples it produces. Similarly, it is not the individual human who is important, but the tree of all humans– Humanity.
Humanity is a single, unitary entity. Every human Being which is not us, subtracts from our own potential experience of being the sum-total of Humanity. Writes Feuerbach, “every single human who exists outside of me is a hole, a void, a gap in me.”
“Humanity possesses an existence that is independent of these determinate, present individuals, wrote Feuerbach. “Humanity remains uninjured and undiminished by your death. Humanity is eternal.”
Feuerbach does not grant the same special status to non-human species. For example, there is, apparently, no eternal Sheepmanity. “Sheep exist in their unity because it is an externally containing unity, a unity that is not independent in itself but is porous, selfless, and spiritless, because it is nothing but a herd; the unity of the sheep is only their spatial proximity.”
Humans are united “in their knowing,” stated Feuerbach. “But in WHAT they know, they are various and separated.” Why the same cannot be said of sheep, he does not say.
Humans are sensory manifestations. Humanity is NOT something asertainable by the senses. Humanity is beyond Space. Humanity is beyond Time, and thus, Eternal. Being beyond Time and Space makes Humanity similar to Spirit.
Individual humans have boundaries and exist in Space. Many humans can exist but only one Humanity exists, for according to Feuerbach, “only the sensory has a plural.” Humanity, as well as Spirit, being non-sensory entities, can only be singular.
Nevertheless, the human Being is not ONLY sensory. “He exists also beyond the sensory, in consciousness and reason.” When the human Being ceases to exist in Time and Space, only his sensory existence has gone away. “Space and Time are only sensory affirmations, and therefore only sensory negations.” The extra-sensory portion of a human Being, the Spirit, survives death.
This far, at least, a person is right to contend that they extend beyond death. “Thus the individual is truly justified in placing himself beyond this conception of death,” wrote Feuerbach, and “in not considering to be his end the materialist conception that includes only the sensible outcome of sensible reality.” Feuerbach compares the afterlife existence to how a child can be said to be a continuation of the father. On one hand, the child is something completely different, and on the other, he retains some of the sameness of the earlier edition. The child, though something completely individualized and separated from the father, is nevertheless, in a certain manner, still part of the of father, and carries part of the father with him.
After the “I” dies, said Feuerbach, a “New I” emerges, totally distinguished from me.
“Spirit, Consciousness, and Reason are universal, autonomous, and distinct from you,” and survive the death transition.
The Spirit –which is more fundamental to Being than self-consciousness and physicality– “possesses an existence that is independent of the existence of all individuals.” The only true belief in immortality is the belief in the Spirit’s “eternally unfolding itself into new individuals.”
“Individuals are only boundaries, limits; they exist only in separation.” That is why the dimensions of Space are absolutely necessary for human existence. “Individuals must be spatially external to one another and thus must exist spatially.” […] “It is an
essential property of the individual that he exists separately.”
“You exist only while and as long as you distinguish yourself,” wrote Feuerbach. “you are conscious of yourself only in distinction from others.”
But Love draws us toward the Other. It erases boundaries. Our individual Being –-“the Being of the single and the particular” and of “multiplicity and variety” — “is consumed and destroyed by Love.” As Love arises in us, multiplicity and diversity are destroyed.
Feuerbach considers that any movement toward the breakingdown of the boundaries between individuals is a movement toward Death. That is precisely why Feuerbach can make the claim that Love is Death.
“In loving,” wrote Feuerbach, “I love myself in another, I locate myself, my essence, not in myself, but in the object that I love. I bind my Being to the Being of another.”
Love is bound-up with the human life. In fact, Feuerbach contended that a human Being cannot exist without Love. “It is impossible for the human to exist purely for himself,” he wrote. “The human loves and must love.”
To be incapable of Loving is as good as death, according to Feuerbach. “Nothingness is precisely that which is least able to share, is the most isolated, the least compatible, the least sociable reality in the world (that is, it would be if Nothingness existed as fish and trees exist).” […] “If I am not in love, I exist only for myself.”
Being, the opposite of Nothingness, is, for Feuerbach, practically defined by the relationships and the sharing of information. “Being is abundance that is rich in relations,” he wrote. “It is meaningful union, the inexhaustible womb of the most manifold connections. That which exists must exist with, in, and for another. Being is community, while being-for-self is isolation, is inablity to share.”
The human life is… “the uninterrupted process of canceling the boundary between yourself and others, and therefore of canceling your personal being, and with it, your personhood.” The ultimate result of this process is Death– the cancellation of boundaries, the unbinding of a bound system. “Love would not be complete if Death did not exist. Natural Death is “the ultimate sacrifice of reconciliation, the ultimate verification of love.”
Feuerbach believed that we live “only as long as there still remains in you something to not yet communicated, and therefore, only as long as there exists a boundary between you and others which is still to be canceled. When you have communicated everything, when there is nothing left by the last dry shell of your personhood, then you give yourself up. This surrender is Death.”
I find it highly unlikely that such is the way that Death overtakes the majority of human Beings, but nevertheless, this is the romantic view held by Feuerbach.
When Feuerbach described the human need for Love, he refers almost exclusively to the need TO Love, not to any need to RECEIVE Love.
“All Love, all modes of Love, have in common the fact that they are self-surrender, self-sacrifice,” said Feuerbach. He maintained that “the value of Love” can be determined in the following manner… “The more you sacrifice yourself, the greater and more genuine is your Love. For one cannot love without self-sacrifice.”
Feuerbach compared Love to a fire, consuming everything before it. Since he also considered God and Love to be, at least in some contexts, synonymous (“the human loves, but God IS Love”), Feuerbach felt justified in declaring that, “God, as Love, consumes us all.” Thus, according to the philosophy of Feuerbach…
LOVE = DEATH = GOD
“Human love has great variety,” wrote Feuerbach, “and its truth and value are measured by the content and extent of that which is loved.” Because Love, according to Feuerbach, centers upon “self-surrender,” the extent or power of a Love varies according the extent of the object. “The truth of self-surrender,” wrote Feuerbach, “depends on whether the object is of such an extent that it takes up and encloses in itself the total human self, or whether it is so confined that the self has no room in it.”
Using the example of the miser’s love for his money, Feuerbach wrote that, unlike a fellow human, which would be a spiritual equal, money cannot contain all the Love our Self has to give. Thus, “the miser exists in his money, and at the same time outside of it; he is dependent on it and at the same time independent of it; he surrenders himself to an object to which he cannot surrender the Self, and which therefore, always returns and reflects back to him his unsurrended, unfulfilled self. There thus arises in him the terrible contradiction that he is poor in wealth, is empty in abundance. In this way, passion, as a disordered condition, is perverted into the desire to devour the object instead of the desire to let oneself be consumed and devoured by the object.”
“Honor, greed, and such passions are terribly destructive conditions that border on madness, are diseases, precisely because the human does indeed surrender himself, but he does so to things of such a confined and restricted space.”