27 April 2012

Books Are the Departed Souls of Men

The philosopher Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach (1804-1872), from his collection of aphorisms Abälard und Heloise (Ansbach: Carl Brügel, 1834), p. 2. My own translation:
Books awaken the same emotions in us as people, and are only abstract in the impressions they make. Why? Because books are the departed souls of men, or perhaps even something more. They certainly have at least as much life and vigour in them as living humans because they are spiritual individuals, just like real people, repulsing or attracting us.

To deal with books is to deal with spirits. The higher the spirit and the life, the more fleeting the medium in which they express themselves. More spirit and life live in the ephemeral petals of the flower than in thick granite blocks, despite the fact they are a thousand years old.

The fates of some books are so strange, the way they maintain themselves, so extraordinarily, that a providential angel must be watching over them. But the guardian angel working upon them is not external, but rather an indwelling power, its own good, its own excellence, and the necessity of existence that is bound up with it.

It is with books as it is with maidens. The best and most worthy often remain sitting for the longest time. But at last someone comes who recognizes their worth and draws them out from dark obscurity and into a bright, beautiful sphere of activity.