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TRANSLATED BY L. DORA SCHMITZ
Jena, August 23, 1794.
I yesterday received the welcome news that you had returned from your journey. We may therefore hope to see you among us again soon, which I, on my part, most heartily wish. My recent conversations with you have put the whole store of my ideas in motion, for they related to a subject which has actively engaged my thoughts for some years past. Many things upon which I could not come to a right understanding with myself have received new and unexpected light from the contemplation I have had of your mind (for so I must call the general impression of your ideas upon me). I needed the object, the body, for several of my speculative ideas, and you have put me on the track of finding it. Your calm and clear way of looking at things keeps you from getting on the by-roads into which speculation as well as arbitrary imagination—which merely follows its own bent—are so apt to lead one astray. Your correct intuition grasps all things, and that far more perfectly than what is laboriously sought for by analysis; and merely because this lies within you as a whole, is the wealth of your mind concealed from yourself. For, alas! we know only that which we can take to pieces. Minds like yours, therefore, seldom know how far they have penetrated and how little cause they have to borrow from philosophy, which, in fact, can learn only from them. Philosophy can merely dissect what is given it, but the giving itself is not the work of the analyzer but of genius, which combines things according to objective laws under the obscure but safe influence of pure reason.
[Illustration: MONUMENT TO GOETHE AND SCHILLER IN WEIMAR]
Although I have done so at a distance, I have long watched the course which your mind has pursued, and have observed, with ever renewed admiration, the path which you have marked out for yourself. You seek for the necessary in nature, but you seek it by the most difficult route—one which all weaker minds would take care to avoid. You look at Nature as a whole, when seeking to get light thrown upon her individual parts; you look for the explanation of the individual in the totality of her various manifestations. From the simple organism you ascend step by step to those that are more complex, in order, in the end, genetically to form the most complicate of all—man—out of the materials of nature as a whole. By thus, as it were, imitating nature in creating him, you try to penetrate into his hidden structure. This is a great and truly heroic idea, which sufficiently shows how your mind keeps the whole wealth of its conceptions in one beautiful unity. You can never have expected that your life would suffice to attain such an end,