Page 111 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 8 (1949-1950)

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WAXMA N — MOSES HES S — 1 8 1 2 1 8 7 5 ־־
During his exile in Paris in the fifties of the last century, Hess
occupied himself with studies in anatomy and anthropology, and
as a result, his whole point of view of society was changed. He
became convinced that nations form a permanent element in the
structure of humanity, and that real progress can be attained
when each nation will be free to contribute the best that its
peculiar national spirit has to offer for the welfare of all. I t was
then that he thought of his own nation and of its possible contri-
bution to the progress of humanity and he wrote his famous work,
Rome and Jerusalem
In this work, written in the form of a series of letters to a
friend, Hess elaborated his view on the role of the Jews and
Judaism in the history of humanity and on their destiny. This
view was in turn based on his philosophy of history and his view
of the world in general, first outlined in
The Sacred History of
, but considerably augmented and changed later.
The gist of these views, as reflected in
Rome and Jerusalem
, is
as follows: Following Spinoza, he considers the world, irrespective
of its apparent multiplicity and variety of phases, a unity. There
is no essential division between matter and spirit; it is all one
— an undivided whole. This whole, or the all-embracing force
which unifies the multiple phenomena of the universe, is God.
Yet, He is not outside of the world, but within it — its very
essence and substance. This Force or God expresses Himself in
numerous ways; hence the creation of the numerous phenomena
of the world.
Hess emphasizes creation. Unlike Spinoza, he rejects the me-
chanical view of the world and insists that the process of creation
goes on continuously, for he does not believe in the eternity of
matter nor in the constancy of atoms, as these are subject to
growth and decay. The fundamental force then is not only ere-
ative, but also vital; and the universe as a whole is likewise a
live being, divided into three spheres — the cosmic, organic, and
the social or the human. In each of these spheres goes on a process
of purposive development, beginning with the atoms, the centers
of gravity in the cosmic, cells in the organic, and revelations of
creative ideas in the social sphere. The aim of this development
is the ultimate harmony of all antagonistic elements, a harmony
which is conducive to peaceful cooperation of all for perfection.
Hess was not a systematic thinker; consequently he overlooked
the difficulties involved in his theory, especially the question
whether that force possesses personality and will. He believed
that his view was the real Jewish conception, and in truth we can
find parallels in Jewish thought to the general trend.
From his view of the world, Hess proceeded to develop a view