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Even as light displays both itself and darkness, so is truth a standard both of itself and of falsity.
ethics ii, 43 note
The mind's highest good is the knowledge of God, and the mind's highest virtue is to know God.
ibid., iv, 28
First Period: North America From Benedict Spinoza to the French Revolution
Europe is dying.
As our Master appeared, Christ has triumphed. And once again, a period has come to the end of its cycle. The history of revelation of God the Son – or the knowledge of God in the feelings of the soul – which has until now dominated the earth, has been fulfilled and closed. With our immortal Teacher, the foundations of the new age have been laid; with him began the history of revelation of God [as] the Holy Spirit, or the purest knowledge of God. When Spinoza was fully formed [ausgebildet], he united once again, like his ancestors Adam and Christ, the conflicts of his age in his divine soul into a living whole. And once again, he saw more than his predecessors and deeper than his contemporaries; for he recognized God who is Life. For God revealed himself to him not in the feelings of the soul, but in the bright light of reason. He who was full of his spirit, was lifted beyond the old quarrels of opinion about the letter of the Gospel, because he comprehended God purely spiritually and honoured him through truth.
[First published in Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung (German Brussels Gazette), 31 October 1847 (Second article).]
In order to be clear about the consequences of such a revolution, we should first acquaint ourselves with its pre-conditions. Let us then recapitulate them.
As we have seen, it is Big Industry which ultimately possesses all the means for the overthrow of the existing social organization that rests on private industry, private commerce, and private property. It is that which creates the revolutionary class and creates unity against the bourgeois class. It is that which makes it subjectively possible for the proletariat to cast off its yoke, by providing it with a consciousness of its situation. Finally, it is Big Industry which also brings about the objective material means for a social upheaval, by creating such a surplus of unutilized instruments of production that it is extremely easy to produce through them abundantly all that we require, once the obstacles which today hinder production at every turn are removed.
What is it which now hinders production? The commercial crises. How do these commercial crises arise? Through over-production. Why is more being produced today than can be consumed? Do all members of society possess a surplus of what they require? No: most do not have even the very necessities of life, much less all that a human being needs for the development of the totality of his inclinations, capacities, and powers; on the contrary, much more will have to be produced in order to satisfy all needs and the needs of all.
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.
First Period: India. From Adam to the Deluge
This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him.
Adam was the last and most noble product of the earth after it stopped bearing fruit. And the fruit which it brought forth into the world multiplied and became ever more noble, each according to its own art. But Adam was the kernel of the spirit, which would reach its perfection in his descendants. His soul was whole; he lived in the Eden of his innocence and bliss. But the time arrived when he felt a discord within himself, as ill-balanced passions arose in him, which put him in conflict with his own self and exiled him from his Eden. So began the apex and the glory of his life, after which he faced his death. This, however, was caused by love, which pushed him to seek his spouse. Because man is only half a life, and his spirit is unfulfilled until he is again united with the woman, which was in the beginning one with him, but later appeared separated from him. So when the two spouses found each other, they loved each other.
Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
First Period: Rome. From Christ to the Migration of the Peoples
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
When Jesus Christ appeared, Rome held dominion over the ancient world. And the old epoch, the history of revelation of God the Father – or the knowledge of God in images of fantasy, which had ruled the earth until then, but progressed until it became the holy root among the Jewish nation – has now come to its conclusion. With Christ a new epoch has begun, the history of revelation of God the Son, or the knowledge of God in the feelings of the soul. At that stage arrived at by mankind in its progress, its essence had to break out into a wonderful blossoming, into a glorious crown.
As Christ became formed, he integrated in his divine soul the many opinions which reigned in his time into a living whole.
If the holy tradition is not a deceiver – if world history is and will be not a liar but the never-contradicting eternal truth, revealed in time as a logical conclusion – then we live at present in a period analogous to that of the deluge of water or the flood of the peoples. This analogy is important; it shows us the character of our era, its world-historical significance, with a certainty which one could not have reached through the previous points of view of historical research. As we find ourselves only called to proclaim the will of God in so far as our knowledge of Him determines our duties, so we shall seek to shed light only on what relates to our proximate future; but so as not to offer a truncated picture of world history, we shall mention the rest and leave its fulfilment to its own time.
What is most important for us is the striving to create new states, which we have also discovered in the two first periods after the rejuvenation; accordingly, even had we not found it amply established in the present, it would have followed from the comparison with the two known main periods. But in order to describe this striving more closely, we have to compare also something else.
It is not necessary that God himself should speak in order that we may discover the unquestionable signs of his will. It is enough to ascertain what is the habitual course of nature and the constant tendency of events. I know, without special revelation, that the planets move in their orbits traced by the Creator's hand.
In Rome and Jerusalem Hess articulated for the first time his project for the establishment of a Jewish socialist commonwealth in Palestine. Under the impact of the wars of Italian liberation and unification, Hess developed his view that human emancipation depends on a double path of liberation – social as well as national. He thus emphatically rejected his earlier views that the future of the Jews lies in integration into a radicalized revolutionary universalistic socialism, and his book is considered one of the first calls for what would later be called a Zionist approach to the future of the Jewish people.
While his political solution thus differs from that enunciated in his early writings, there is a continuity in his assessment of Spinoza, and also in the role he attributes to Jesus in world history. The following passages from Rome and Jerusalem attest to this aspect of continuity in Hess' thinking.
A Judaism reconciled with science [Wissenschaft] can do full justice to Christianity, fully acknowledge its world-historical significance, without falling into the pitfall of the shallow cosmopolitanism of the levelling tendencies of Reform Judaism, and without denying the character of Jewish religion. Today a Jewish historian does not need to relate fanatically or with indifference to a religion which is itself a product and consequently an essential component of Jewish history itself.
With the passing of time the knowledge of God has become confused. The more subtle our wisdom, the more multifaceted has our stupidity become. Had God's grace not endured eternally, what would have become of us? … Men have once again reached the point where they are lost without a compass in a sea of errors, finding themselves in the middle of a Noahite deluge of ideas. Where is the ark, where is deliverance? In a time in which humility is paraded for show, because at heart it nourishes pride, it would sound ridiculous if somebody came forth and announced: here is the ark, here is deliverance! And yet all those who have become conscious of their calling have said exactly that, without appearing to lose their divine standing because of this. This however came about because they have not sworn allegiance to their ephemeral ‘I’, this idol of a million forms, and have reckoned as an achievement what we have to acknowledge solely as the grace of the eternal, immeasurable God: because they were as far from the idol-worship of pride as are those meek ones who aid it with courtly words. Religion, the knowledge of God, the highest good of man, was lost, and the finder should be ashamed to call out in joy: here it is again!? Truly, it is against this humility that his conscience rebels.
Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die.
i corinthians 15:36
In the previous chapter we discovered the foundation of the Kingdom of God. We found that it resides in the harmony of the strivings of those who take part in the holy kingdom. We saw that this harmony comes about primarily through the total abolition of the historical right, which brings about also other reforms. But easy as it is to pronounce this, the more difficult will it be to carry it out. We should not conceal that the foundation of this kingdom will be mediated through a great plight which we are about to encounter. It is our duty to bring this plight to our consciousness, to mitigate it through understanding. Because, little hope as there is that the collision facing us can be mediated peacefully, we should not refrain from contributing according to our ability towards overcoming this split. Our vocation is to promote salvation through understanding and reason. Woe be to us if we should be deterred by any sort of passion from following this divine vocation!
By comparing the two main periods of history we already recognize that the plight confronting us will consist in a great confusion of ideas as an outcome of the revolution of the spirit. But a closer knowledge of it has to proceed from recognizing its causes, which are especially active in our era. It is these that we have to examine.
Moses Hess is a major figure in the development of both early communist and Zionist thought. The Holy History of Mankind appeared in 1837, and was the first book-length socialist tract to appear in Germany, representing an unusual synthesis of Judaism and Christianity that showed the considerable influence upon Hess of Spinoza, Herder and Hegel. In due course many of Hess's ideas would find their way into the work of Karl Marx, and into subsequent socialist thought. The distinguished political scientist Shlomo Avineri provides the first full English translation of this text, along with new renditions of Socialism and Communism, A Communist Credo; and The Consequences of a Future Revolution of the Proletariat. All of the usual reader-friendly series features are provided, including a chronology, concise introduction and notes for further reading, in a work of special relevance to students of politics, modern European history, and the history of Zionism.