And how could it so far abandon its sphere as to engage in this enterprise? The need on which it is founded, the essential principle of religious sociability, points to no such purpose. Individuals unite with one another and compose a Whole; the Whole rests in itself, and needs not to strive for anything beyond. Hence, whatever is accomplished in this way for religion is the private affair of the individual for himself, and, if I may say so, more in his relations out of the church than in it. Compelled to descend to the low grounds of life from the circle of religious communion, where the mutual existence and life in God afford him the most elevated enjoyment and where his spirit, penetrated with holy feelings, soars to the highest summit of consciousness, it is his consolation that he can connect everything with which he must there be employed, with that which always retains the deepest significance in his heart. As he descends from such lofty regions to those whose whole endeavor and pursuit are limited to earth, he easily believes—and you must pardon him the feeling—that he has passed from intercourse with Gods and Muses to a race of coarse barbarians. He feels like a steward of religion among the unbelieving, a herald of piety among the savages; he hopes, like an Orpheus or an Amphion, to charm the multitude with his heavenly tones; he presents himself among them, like a priestly form, clearly and brightly exhibiting the lofty, spiritual sense which fills his soul, in all his actions and in the whole compass of his Being. If the contemplation of the Holy and the Godlike awakens a kindred emotion in them, how joyfully does he cherish the first presages of religion in a new heart, as a delightful pledge of its growth even in a harsh and foreign clime! With what triumph does he bear the neophyte with him to the exalted assembly! This activity for the promotion of religion is only the pious yearning of the stranger after his home, the endeavor to carry his Fatherland with him in all his wanderings, and everywhere to find again its laws and customs as the highest and most beautiful elements of his life; but the Fatherland itself, happy in its own resources, perfectly sufficient for its own wants, knows no such endeavor.
JOHANN GOTTLIEB FICHTE
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THE DESTINY OF MAN (1800)
ADAPTED FROM THE TRANSLATION BY FREDERIC H. HEDGE
BOOK III: FAITH
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“Not merely to know, but to act according to thy knowledge, is thy destination.” So says the voice which cries to me aloud from my innermost soul, so soon as I collect and give heed to myself for a moment. “Not idly to inspect and contemplate thyself, nor to brood over devout sensations—no! thou existest to act. Thine actions, and only thine actions, determine thy worth.”