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Julius Langbehn, Rembrandt as Educator (1890)

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It is a highly refined and entirely individualistic, but also deeply meaningful, trait of the German national soul that old German law – especially with the already mentioned institution of compurgators – regarded the purely personal conviction as a legal argument; in other words, that here personality and subjectivity assume objective value, as it were. Precisely because this usage is so old, and precisely because it is diametrically opposed to the now dominant Roman legal notions, it proves in what high regard the German holds personality as such, and how essentially foreign modern science – which aims at objectivity, though frequently produces nothing but a lack of color and character – is to his heart. “He who is missing himself can only be healed if he is prescribed himself,” wrote the deeply thoughtful and deeply sensitive Novalis; put into modern German, one would say: “He who is suffering from objectivity can only be healed by being prescribed subjectivity.” Now, to the extent that we are dealing with an artistic age that is dawning in Germany, the leading spirits – the historical ideals that are critical for such an age – must be looked for among the people’s artistic heroes. The future path and direction of German education will evidently be marked out by those men who, during the entire course of German history to date, appear as the bearers of the highest education. In them is given the fixed mathematical points, so to speak, that make it possible to project the general outlines of the coming German education; if one connects these points in a line and extends them, one arrives at the proper goal. It is remarkable, however, that until now it was not scholars but artists who constituted the greatest highpoints of German education by far. Walther von der Vogelweide and Dürer, Shakespeare and Rembrandt, Goethe and Beethoven – [they] should be regarded as such highpoints, not Renaissance philologists or natural scientists of today.

The model for today: Rembrandt
Every true education is educative, formative, creative, and also artistic; that being so, one must gladly welcome the fact that our Volk is now slowly turning away from the one-sidedly dominant science and toward art. This is the mental axial shift that is taking place first of all within German life; the only question now is in what form and under which banner it is to be carried out.

If the Germans are an individual Volk by preference, only the most individual of artists can serve as their spiritual guide in the sphere of art, for such a man is most likely to point them back toward themselves. And among all German artists, the most individual is – Rembrandt. The German wants to follow his own head, and nobody did more so than Rembrandt. In this sense, he must almost be called the most German of all German painters, and even the most German of all German artists. Needless to say, his outward importance does not yet accord with such an elevated and unique inner worth; he is appreciated, but not enough. Rembrandt is the prototype of the German artist; as a model he is therefore in perfect harmony with many desires and needs that the German Volk of today has in mind – even if some of them are unconscious. Under circumstances different from the present ones, some other great German could and would have to take on this role; now that the Germans are suffering in their education from specialization and hackneyed patterns, the pronounced universalist and individualist Rembrandt can help them. He can lead them back to themselves. He is the relevant historical ideal for the time at hand; he is the fixed point from which new, promising educational forms can start. Rembrandt, however, was

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