Personal Life and Natural Life

Sec. II.

Natural life is neither an idea nor an expression absolutely foreign to Scripture. It is true that the Old Testament has no word for nature. Even the LXX. nowhere uses the term cf>vai<;. But in the New Testament, $uat? occurs frequently. In its largest sense, it signifies the kind and manner of being, proper to an existence in consequence of an internal tendency to become, which precedes its actual manifestation; or the constitution inherent in it of itself, apart from any other kind of determination, or even of self-determination superadded, than the nature itself thus constituted.1 Thus rj deia cf>vai< ; (2 Pet. i. 4) is applied to God, who is what He is and appears, by virtue of a spontaneously powerful conscious becoming so; but usually the term is used of brutes and men, who have become what they are and appear in the manner of creation and procreation, (Jas. iii. 7,) where fj tf>vat,< ; 77 avdpwirlvr j indicates the class of being to which men belong, with reference to their innate eminence above all kinds of brutes. With this use of i/>vat?, in contrast with that which is attached to it from without, is associated the adjective i£vatiio? (Rom. i. 26), i.e. what is according to the implanted inborn constitution. The contrast is applied somewhat differently, 2 Pet. ii. 12, comp. Jude 10. In this case the brutes are called <ftviwcd, as natures whose life is passed in necessary expenditure of the being implanted in them. In the former case, cf>vai<;, comprehending in itself, according to the nature about which it is used, that which is corporeal, psychical, and spiritual, was the opposite of art,—of grace,—of what was abnormal; here it is the opposite of the \0yiK0v, of action with intelligence and freedom. The two opposite relations meet, if by nature we understand that which anticipates man's will, and thus interpret it—that which is already in existence in him when he first comes to self-consciousness.

1 V. Hofmann, Schriftb. i. 564.

In this sense Hofmann distinguishes between natural life and personal life. Man is both: he is the conscious Ego, and the occupant of a nature thus and thus qualified, in which he already finds himself before he becomes personally conscious of any self-determination. In his personal life he is free: the spirit of God which dwells in man from the creation, is to him actually a present ground of self-consciousness and capacity of self-determination; and according to the effect of his personal conduct, is determined his relation to God, and his eternal destiny. In his natural life, on the other hand, man is not free: he stands here under the determining operation of the divine spirit dwelling in him; and according to this is moulded the fonn of his personal conduct, and his historical position, serving to the spontaneous carrying out of the will that rules the world. That which is natural in man, that which is inborn in him, together with all the conditions appertaining to it, is ordained of God: man is free,—as Ego, but necessary,—as nature ministering to herself by him as a means.

Apart from the divine spirit implanted in man by way of creation, which I do not find taught in Scripture (but with which the view presented in Ps. cxxxix. 5, Acts xvii. 28, and other places, may easily be confounded), all this is scriptural undeniably, and consistent with experience. That man, in entering into the position of conscious self-determination (Isa. vii. 15, comp. Deut. i. 39, 2 Sam. xix. 35), finds himself placed here as Ego in an individual condition of life, and established into relations of life individually and generally historical, which are constituted thus and not otherwise, without his knowledge and will, is manifest. This sphere of life, which is linked on to man, and into which he is born, began without man's co-operation, and in respect of his being or not being, is withdrawn from the freedom of man. It is a sphere of unfreedom, in which the Ego is found as a centre, and related and referring itself to which, it determines itself in accordance with, or in opposition to, that which is godly. In this self-determination man is free; but in the determination of that which he has in himself, and around himself, he is not free. It is not his operation, although he not merely experiences influences therefrom, but also exercises influences thereupon. For "man's personal relation to God, to which he determines himself, stands in a constant reciprocal relation with the operation of God which determines him in his nature, by virtue of which the moral self-determination of man even reaches into that region for which, as nature, he is determined, and on the other side has the prior determining operations of God of the latter kind, as their precedent ground."1

It is not to be denied, that this distinction of person (Ego) and nature, with a view to indicate the idea, has something of inconvenience about it. "Nature" thus becomes a homonym, inasmuch as one and the same word serves to denote two ideas that are not congruous. For when we elsewhere say, that the soul, according to its essence, belongs to the side of the spirit, and not to that of nature, then spirit and nature are apprehended as contraries: spirit as that which constitutes the person personally living, and influencing all life, even the psychical; nature as the corporeal, and unconsciously, or even consciously, i.e. psychically, but not personally, living. And the meaning of our dictum is this, that the human soul, as distinguished from the brute soul, is not merely that it is the individuation of the entire life of nature, but that it is the principle of the bodily life, personal, and proceeding from the spirit, which constitutes the person. Here, on the other hand, where we contrast man's person (Ego) and his nature, we comprehend by nature, not merely the corporeity, but also soul and spirit, inasmuch as the Ego of man is objective to them also, and is distinguished from them.2 And not only so: soul and spirit, as well as corporeity, have their determined natural constitution even before the personal conduct of man begins: they are, indeed, the whole threefold natural condition of man, which is developed out of the basis of unconsciousness, and subsequently becomes the substratum and means of free conscious selfdemonstration. We thus comprehend the idea of nature at one time in a narrower sense, at another time in a wider sense. But, moreover, the language of Holy Scripture itself does not escape this homonymy: for a3, on the one hand, it names the brutes Ovgiku. as belonging to the impersonal world (2 Pet. ii. 12), so, on the other hand, it names man, in the epitome of his creatively constituted being, 77 cf>vai<; 77 avdpayirlvrj (Jas. iii. 7);

1 Thus v. Hofmann, I.e. i. 312.

1 Thus also v. Hofmann, Schriftb. i. 296, comp. 313.

and from the idea of tyvais it so little excludes the spiritual side of his being, that it speaks, moreover, of a Oela <f>vats (2 Pet. i. 4), and thereby understands not the divine doxa, but the entire essence of the personal God (fleioV^?). We are not therefore departing from the biblical usus loquendi, when we understand by nature, all in us which is prior to the beginning of our personal life, including soul and spirit in their condition as transmitted to them in the way of birth, precisely as Scripture names the entire nature of man in its condition transmitted by inheritance and implanted in us, in some measure per synecdochen,

Thus, then, we call natural life, man's mode of being as comprehended in its own permanent constitution and individual manner of being, which, without his will and knowledge, he has from nature—i.e. under God's ordering from birth, and which is peculiar to him, even without its being the ground of his exaltation as Ego, or of his free choice of this or that conscious relation. The personal life is most closely fenced in by this natural life—i.e. the demonstration of the man as Ego—by this being which is inherited without his knowledge and will, and living itself forth without his having in any conscious manner an influence thereupon, and allowing it to have an influence upon him. The person is the man in all grades of his being, and in all conditions, even those whicfi are without consciousness—in the embryonic state, and the state resulting from sickness; but personal life is first present, and only present, when the capacity of the man to apprehend himself as Ego—as contrasted with that which he has in himself, and experiences —comes forth into activity out of the bondage of the germ and of potentiality. In the man of mature age, with whom we are here concerned, is no longer found the natural life in such nearly pure abstractness of its conception as in the child; and yet it is easy to him, although natural life and personal life are artificially involved, to distinguish the manifold appearances of the former from the manifold relation which the Ego assumes to them.

1 Schriftb. i. 559; comp. Philippi, Glaubenslehre, iii. 218, where likewise is conceded that Hofmann does not merely understand by aip% (as e.g. Meyer) the materially psychical, and thus the lower, but the whole sensuous spiritual nature as it is inborn in man, as burdened with siu and death.

Man has not only a corporeal, but, moreover, a spiritualpsychical nature. The spirit is indeed also comprehended in the individuality transmitted to us by birth (fyveadat,, nasci); and, besides, in the general human corruption transmitted to us from Adam. Now it is assuredly the spirit itself, by virtue of which man is a person, and can apprehend himself as Ego. The thought of Ego is of the spirit; but in man's apprehension of this thought, everything which he has in himself, even his spirit, is objective. And this is possible in a twofold manner: either so that man apprehends himself as Ego within the natural life itself; or so that he elevates himself above it, and releases himself from it. Philosophy, as is well known, distinguishes between the empirical and the higher Ego. Scripture distinguishes between them both in the profoundest ethical relations. When the apostle (Eph. ii. 3) says that we formerly had our conversation in the lusts of our flesh, iroiovvre< ; ra dekrjfiara Ttj<; aapKb? Kal Twv Siavouov, he means that our personal life was wholly absorbed into the natural life, which, even according to its spiritual aspect, was determined by the impulse or the direction of the sinful nature1 continually inheriting itself. On the other hand, in Gal. v. 17, when he says to the Galatians that spirit and flesh are contrary the one to the other, iva firj a &v deKrjre, ravra iroifjre, he supposes an Ego which is withdrawn from the nature-life, and has as its basis a spirit with a renewed constitution of nature.

For the nature-life of man, as it proceeds from birth, is in the position of ill-regulated harmony, and therefore of commotion, which is opposed to the likeness of God. In the language of theosophy, as has already been, observed (Div. III. Sec. II.), there is found for it the appropriate and scripturally consistent expression turba, the opposite of as if of a wildly excited

sea (Isa. Ivii. 20), or of a constantly flowing poisonous spring (Jer. vi. 7). Even in the etymon of Vvh the condition of the sinner is conceived as disharmony; for this word has, as the Arabic shows, the primitive idea of a loosening and dissolution: thus he is called loose, and indeed loosed from God, who, because he has lost his hold upon God, is in the condition of a characterless freedom from restraint, and of fierce convulsion;

1 This impulse is called by v. Hofmann nature-will, in distinction from personal-will, Schriftb. i. 517.

according to Isa. lvii. 20, like a sea opened up by the storm.1 And even the most general name for the wicked, jn, points to this turba; for Wn signifies as well to rage as to become evil (Isa. viii. 9). The spirit, moreover, is swallowed up in this nature-life, penetrated throughout by the principle of opyrj. Because it is withdrawn from God's love, it has therefore lost God's image, and therewith the truth of its nature. Therefore man abides as he is by nature, when he apprehends himself as Ego, imprisoned within the nature-life. He abides so, because even his spirit has fallen into the power of the turba. There proceed, e.g. from the flesh, enticements to sensuality: the spirit, no longer having control over itself, does not yield to this without effort and power of resistance; and the man is placed in the midst of the sensually stimulated flesh as a centre,—that is, OeKrjfia T^? aop/<oy. Or the man is in the condition either to sin or to die; but his ^v^r), which has become superior to the spirit, clings to the body, and trembles at the sight of death; and the man is placed in the midst of this death-shunning yfrv^r), craving in an un spiritual manner after self-preservation as a centre,—that is, OeKrjfia rrjs yfrir^rjs in the sense of Matt. x. 39. Or there arise in the spirit suspicious, loveless thoughts: the spirit becomes continually torn asunder by them, and the man is placed in the midst of this impulse of ungodly thoughts as a centre,—that is, OeXrina r&v Siavoiwv. The OeXeiv in all these cases is of the spirit, but of the spirit absorbed into the aap^,—into the "v/fi/^i),—into its own corrupted <f>vais; and of its Ego establishing itself here or there in the midst of this naturelife as a centre. But if, for example, he who is attracted to sensuality by his flesh, confesses that he who yields to these allurements disorders his body, and always incurs tormenting stings of conscience,—these are thoughts of the spirit, on the foundation of which the Ego seeks to resist, although it may be without result, or even without the right motive. But already there is a distinction between that which wishes to establish itself as a centre in the sinful nature-life, and the Ego that wishes to oppose itself thereto. There is a difference in the Ego itself, which on the one side is imprisoned, on the

1 Accordingly, yBn appears to be akin to B'jn, B'3T; but the Arabic refers for this word to another fundamental meaning,—to wit, to be slack, loose, in opposition to pli', which originally means to be hard, firm, close.

other side wishes to set itself at liberty. In what way this difference expresses itself when grace has effected it, is shown by the cry of the father of the child possessed with a dumb spirit (Mark ix. 24), Tnarevoa, fiorjdet fiou rf} airurrla; and Joseph flying from the wife of Potiphar with the loss of his garment is a type of the better Ego, which withdraws itself from the seductive power of the nature-life, and leaves behind all that it has attached to itself. But we must here break off, that we may not stray over into the subject of the fifth division, where, considering the pneumatico-psychical life of the regenerate person, we shall return to this dualism, even then still unabolished, although overcome.

These are facts of experience of which we speak, although they are the more mysterious the longer we reflect on tliem. This mystery of the Ego, which is distinguished from the spirit, .and disunites itself in itself, is the mystery of human freedom.