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Julius Langbehn, Rembrandt as Educator (1890)

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type of Wissenschaft that believes itself to be omnipotent at times, is coming to an end. The education that is now predominantly given to Germans is only a transitional stage in their overall spiritual development. They are a nation of art and should therefore prove themselves as such both internally and externally; old Sebastian Frank, in his World Chronicle, already called them “so skilled and quick in all artistic endeavors that they are second to none.” The vague premonition of such a development is already found in Goethe, indeed, in the music-loving Luther, if you will. Until the age of 40, the former, as we know, had the serious intention of devoting himself to the fine arts; and the main accomplishment of the latter, the translation of the Bible, was essentially an artistic achievement. The personality of Goethe, especially, is in this case characteristic of the German people today. To be sure, the spiritual structure of the latter is at this time still a scientific one, but it will not be so forever; rather, it would seem that an age of art is now at hand. Small but unmistakable signs confirm this. Just as one can tell the direction of the wind from the position of a blade of grass, the change in the mental climate that is taking place in Germany today is also manifested in the fact that the “professor,” as a type, is disappearing from the stage and novels of everyday life to make room for the “artist.” Triviality, too, has its laws, and – harmoniously enough – they parallel those of genius. In this case they both proclaim nothing but good. They promise liberation from the age of paper, they proclaim a return to light and joy in life, to unity and refinement, to sincerity and inwardness.

If the German people [Volk] returns once more to the true spirit of the image and of creativity, it will have an education; in that way it can become whole again. “Therefore let man educate himself in everything to beauty; let every act be to him an artistic endeavor,” Schinkel said. It is exactly the extreme confusion and aberrations in the conceptions of education universally employed by the Germans that suggest that a radical change will soon take place in them. As a more recent poet put it, “Where there is chaos, creation is near.” In this case, the spirit of new creation can only be the one that lives in German artists when the word “artist” is understood in its broadest and best sense. They are the representatives of an education of the heart, while the scholar, as such, worships in principle – and often exclusively – an education of reason.

With regard to the decline of the scientific education that is predominant today, on the one hand, and the emergence of a coming artistic education, on the other, it makes sense to ask about the means to promote, regulate, and bring these developments to a clear conclusion, as best as possible. The German people [Volk] in its current education is overripe; in essence, though, this over-ripeness is merely an immaturity, for barbarism is always immature vis-à-vis education, and systematic, scientific, educated barbarism has always been at home in Germany. “You know our Germany; it has not yet stopped being uneducated,” Reuchlin once wrote to Manutius, words that an honest German could still write to another today. Overcultivation is in fact even cruder than a lack of culture. It is here, then, that potential new pedagogical forces must be put to use; to be precise, they will have to work in a way that is precisely contrary to previous and normal education. The people must not be pulled away from nature, but toward it. Through whom? Through itself. And how? By falling back on its own elemental powers. The people itself creates the medicine it needs, or it gropes for it.

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